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Masked Marvel the best value in Leger

Sea Moon is a worthy market leader in what looks sure to be an excellent renewal of the season's final classic today, the Doncaster St Leger.

While neither of the last two Legers have thrown up especially high-class winners, today's nine-runner field boasts some pretty smart prospects and with just four runs to his name, the Michael Stoute-trained Sea Moon is the least exposed.

Beaten a short head on his debut last year, he has since won three in a row, culminating in an eight-length rout of his Great Voltigeur rivals at York in August. Seville and Genius Beast, third and fourth respectively that day, re-oppose here.

Coming from Ballydoyle, it is impossible to write off Seville, but his effort at York was a let-down so 9/1 is a fair assessment of his chance in the season's final Classic.

If Sea Moon, a half-brother to the 2003 Leger winner Brian Boru, is as good as he looked last time, he is going to take some stopping, but he's trading as low as 5/4 and faces a far better brand of opposition in this Group One.

Blue Bunting has lots of appeal at up to 4/1. The Godolphin filly's colours have been lowered just once in her past six starts, and she has proven her class by winning the 1,000 Guineas, followed by the Irish and Yorkshire Oaks.

Given that she looks to have stamina in abundance, the one-mile-six-furlong trip will be right up her street, so she may be an each-way bet to nothing at her current odds.

At up to 8/1, though, Masked Marvel is the best value. Representing last year's successful partnership of John Gosden and William Buick, the Montjeu colt won at Goodwood in May before acquitting himself well when eighth in the Derby.

He then stepped up to a mile and five at Newmarket, when he cut out much of his own running to deny the fast-finishing Census, which is as low as 9/2 with some firms. Given that Masked Marvel still managed to score on that occasion, despite the race not being run to suit, the discrepancy in the prices of those two is not justified.

He won't be too far away in this.

In the day's big handicap, the Portland, Zero Money is out to continue his stunning recent form. Revitalised by blinkers, he was collecting for the second time in succession when hosing up over five furlongs at Haydock last week.

Off an eight-pound higher mark now, he may well follow up over the same trip here and it's possible that he is decent value for a place at 13/2. However, the one that appeals most is the sole Irish-based challenger, Nocturnal Affair.

David Marnane's South African import was beaten just a few lengths in a Grade One handicap by the brilliant sprinter JJ The Jet Plane last year. On his Cork debut for Marnane, who won this race with Santo Padre two years ago, Nocturnal Affair ran a blinder to be second to Roicead when conceding two pounds.


Roicead then went on to confirm the suspicion that he is a Group-class sprinter by finishing third in last month's Flying Five behind the smart Amour Propre, so a pound hike in the ratings for Nocturnal Affair is justified.

With the excellent Joseph O'Brien taking three off now, the five-year-old is fancied to take advantage of a stands' side draw at odds of up to 16/1.

O'Brien could get his day under way with victory on his father's Daddy Longlegs in the Champagne Stakes. Entifaadha, the Acomb winner at York, sets the standard on form, but O'Brien senior would have a good line on that through his own Furner's Green -- seventh at York -- so his decision to run Daddy Longlegs is significant.

Later on, Eddie Lynam saddles Duff in a seven-furlong Group Two, but Richard Hughes' mount has it all to do on official figures.

Premio Loco, second in this last year, could be poised to go one better this time around.

Best Bet: Masked Marvel

Irish Independent