A total of 15 horses stood their ground at the latest declaration stage for the Ladbrokes St. Leger Stakes (3.45) at Doncaster on Saturday, but Aidan O’Brien’s Galileo colt Idaho is already odds-on (1.97) on Betfair. Idaho finished second in the Derby and third in the Irish equivalent before forging clear in the closing stages to win the Great Voltigeur Stakes by 1¾ lengths from stable companion Housesofparliament at York last month. He’s entitled to improve for that run, his first since June and appears versatile, ground-wise so, if he stays the extra 2 furlongs and 132 yards on Town Moor, he looks the one to beat.
However, Aidan O’Brien has already voiced his concerns about the St. Leger distance for Idaho and it could be that Housesofparliament – who won Bahrain Trophy, over 1 mile 5 furlongs at Newmarket in taking style on his previous start – appreciates the extra yardage more than his stable companion. Of the other O’Brien entries, Sword Fighter was beaten, but far from disgraced, in the Goodwood Cup, against the older horses when last seen in July and will not fail through lack of stamina, while Red Verdon finished much closer to Idaho at the Curragh than he did at Epsom and is another who should relish the step up in distance, especially on rain-softened ground.
All of a sudden, Idaho may not be the ‘good thing’ he appears and, while he may still win, a lay at 2.0 on Betfair might be the shrewdest play.
Selection: Doncaster 3.45 Lay Idaho (2.0 on Betfair)
In the 6.30 at Sedgefield on Thursday, Trafalgar Rock is 2-2 over hurdles and, at the time of writing, favourite at 2.02 on Betfair to complete a hat-trick. However, while the Mount Nelson gelding won easily enough on his debut at Uttoxeter in June, the form hasn’t worked out and he had to work much harder to beat 100/1 outsider Playingwithnumbers at Worcester five weeks ago. Once again, the horses from that race that have run since have done little, or nothing, for the form, so Trafalgar Rock could be vulnerable under a double penalty. He was a consistent, if fairly moderate, performer on the Flat for Mark Johnston and has clearly settled in well at Dr. Richard Newland’s yard, but it’s easy to pick holes in his hurdles form so far. Conditional jockey Charlie Hammond replaces Sam Twiston-Davies, which is hardly a positive, so Trafalgar looks a decent lay bet at 2.18 on Betfair, despite his trainer’s excellent record at the track.
Selection: Sedgefield 6.30 Lay Trafalgar Rock at 2.18
The Hungerford Stakes, run over 7 furlongs at Newbury, was upgraded to Group 2 status in 2006 and, in the last 10 years, has produced just two winning favourites, although seven winners in that period were returned at single-figure prices. This year’s renewal is competitive enough, with 14 runners set to line up on Saturday, but ante post favourite Home Of The Brave (9/4) looks to have an outstanding chance of making it three wins from four starts this season.
Hugo Palmer’s 4-year-old made all, or most, of the running when winning the Listed King Richard III Stakes at Leicester in April and the Group 3 John of Gaunt Stakes at Haydock in May and only gave best in the hundred yards when going down by 1¾ lengths to Dutch Connection in the Group Lennox Stakes on his most recent outing at Goodwood last month. The winner subsequently ran creditably in defeat when fifth of 15, beaten 2 lengths, in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last Sunday and Home Of The Brave sets a decent standard. An immature, lightly framed type, he appears much stronger this year and can keep up the good work.
Selection: Newbury 4.10 Home Of The Brave (9/4) to win
The top five in the Official World Golf Rankings are missing from the Travelers Championship, which gets underway at TPC River Highlands, Cromwell, Connecticut on Thursday, but there was never any doubt that defending champion Bubba Watson would tee it up this week. Watson, 37, misses the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Rio to do so but, granted his impressive record in the Travelers, punters may be glad that he does.
After missing the cut on his first attempt in 2006, Watson has finished in the top ten on five of his subsequent eight attempts at the Travelers, including playoff wins in 2015 and 2010, tied second in 2012 and fourth in 2013. The big-hitting left-hander has had a steady, if unspectacular, season, making 14 out of 14 cuts, including in all four majors and the Players Championship, and winning the Northern Trust Open at the Riviera Country Club in February for the second time. As the highest ranked player in the field this week, he looks a worthy favourite at 14/1 and worthy of support.
Selection: Travelers Championship – Bubba Watson to win outright (14/1 generally available)
The Qatar Sussex Stakes (3.10) at Goodwood on Wednesday features the first three home in the St. James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot, Galileo Gold, The Gurkha and Awtaad, who reoppose on identical terms. The Gurkha has since been turned over, at odds-on, in the Coral-Eclipse, over 1 mile 2 furlongs, at Sandown and, with the going at Goodwood likely to remain on the fast side of good, Galileo Gold (2/1) looks a worthy favourite to confirm the form.
In fact, Galileo Gold is the only one of the trio to have won on the prevailing good to firm going, with The Gurkha only having won on good or softer and Awtaad only having won on yielding or softer, so it would be no great surprise if the Paco Boy gelding increased his advantage over his nearest market rivals. Of course, he also takes on the older horses for the first time in his career, but he has 6lb and upwards in hand according to official ratings, not to mention his 8lb weight-for-age allowance, so he looks destined for the lion’s share of the £1,000,000 in guaranteed prize money.
Selection: Goodwood 3.10 Galileo Gold (2/1) to win
The 145th Open Championship gets underway at Royal Troon on Thursday and ante post favourite Dustin Johnson (10/1) can complete a memorable hat-trick. The big hitter from South Carolina landed his first major with victory at the U.S. Open at Oakmont, followed up with a come-from-behind win at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and arrives in South Ayrshire in irresistible form.
Not only that, but he boasts an excellent Open record, having made six of seven cuts and finished in the top 15 four times, including a tie for second in 2011. Royal Troon is traditionally a course where scores are made on the front nine so, with his power from the tee and precision with his shorter clubs, not to mention his reputation as a fast starter, Johnson could get off to a flyer. He also has the ability to flight the ball to counteract wind conditions, which are invariably unfavourable to the players on the back nine, and so defend his score on the back nine.
Selection: Open Championship – Dustin Johnson to win outright (10/1 generally available)