Thursday 18 January 2018

O'Brien can strike with Midas Touch

Richard Forristal

Richard Forristal

Despite needing to overturn recent form with Rewilding, Midas Touch represents value at up to 15/2 to secure Aidan O'Brien a fourth English St Leger in 10 years at Doncaster today.

Having been beaten four lengths by the favourite when they clashed in the Great Voltigeur last month, the Ballydoyle colt is generally expected to play second fiddle again here. However, Midas Touch remains a progressive, likeable horse, and throughout the year he has looked made for the Leger.

A one-paced fifth in the Epsom Derby, Colm O'Donghue's mount kept on gallantly to take second behind Cape Blanco in the Irish version at the Curragh next time. He then travelled to York amid some expectation, but, in an effort to make the most of his stamina, overly positive tactics proved his undoing.

Midas Touch, whose handler has hit a rich vein of form lately, raced handily under Johnny Murtagh that day, before taking up the lead two furlongs out. Ultimately, that left him a sitting duck for Frankie Dettori to pick off on Rewilding, the Godolphin horse having been ridden patiently from the back of the field.

With Corsica likely to ensure a thorough test from the start here, O'Donoghue will be able to adopt less aggressive tactics. That should allow Midas Touch to exert the full benefit of the step up to one mile and six furlongs.

It's also worth remembering that O'Brien's 2004 hero Brian Boru won this on the back of defeat in the Great Voltigeur. Likewise, last year's winner Mastery was, similar to Midas Touch, comprehensively beaten in the York race by Monitor Closely, only to record a seven-length turnaround at Doncaster under a waiting ride.

Also at Doncaster, Ken Condon bids to emulate David Marnane by attempting to bring the Portland Handicap this side of the Irish Sea. Rising star Marnane took the five-furlong contest with Santo Padre 12 months ago, and Condon is represented by Bay Knight this afternoon.

The Rockingham winner, which is also due to be partnered by Colm O'Donoghue, who steered Santo Padre to victory last year, certainly has an each-way chance, but Bajan Tryst may have its measure. Three quarters of a length behind Bay Knight in the Rockingham, Kevin Ryan's charge has progressed well since that race last month.

In contrast to Bay Knight, which has struggled to make an impact in two outings, Bajan Tryst improved to go down by just a head over today's five-furlong trip at Goodwood next time. He then travelled to Dundalk, where he won, accounting for Luisant, the horse that had split him and Bay Knight at the Curragh.

While he is now four pounds worse off with Condon's runner, Bajan Tryst looks to be on a sharp upward curve, so that discrepancy isn't a concern. At up to 14/1, he is a solid option under Ryan Moore.


Closer to home, Profound Beauty will be a popular choice to justify favouritism for Dermot Weld and Pat Smullen in the Irish St Leger at the Curragh. The nine-time winning mare will be helped by the less testing ground than she encountered when well beaten in the race last year, and comes here in the form of her life.

Nonetheless, there is a slight fear that, at six-years-old, she could be vulnerable to something on the up. That horse may be the English challenger Sans Frontieres.

Jeremy Noseda's four-year-old beat subsequent winner Laaheb when he scored at Newbury last time, and it's of note that he is Olivier Peslier's only ride of the day.

In the National Stakes, Pathfork might have it in his armoury to defy Zoffany. This is a step up in class, but Jessica Harrington's horse has done nothing wrong so far. He can keep improving.

Best bet: Sans Frontieres

Irish Independent

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