Love is +500 with BetOnline to win the 2020 St Leger at Doncaster on September 12 and thus become the first horse since Oh So Sharp in 1985 to claim the Fillies’ Triple Crown. The proviso is that she is being targeted at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and could bypass the final British Classic of the season.
The horse is trained by Aidan O’Brien, who also trains the two runners shorter than Love in the St Leger betting. They happen to be the winners of the Irish and English derbies, Santiago and Serpentine. The stable’s jockey bookings for their St Leger team will tell us much, as Ryan Moore has first dibs on the top prospect.
The Triple Crown of British Flat racing for three-year-old female horses comprises the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Oaks at Epsom and the St Leger. In a normal year, the three Classics for fillies span May to September. The race distances range from one mile to one mile and six furlongs.
Only nine fillies have won three Classics in the same season, while 15 horses have won the colts’ equivalent. The fillies’ version was not identified in the past because the best three-year-old females ran in the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby. Love is the third favourite in ante-post betting for the St Leger.
All the winners of the race since 2010 had finished first or second over one mile and four furlongs or more. Every winner over the last 10 years was in the first four last time out. All but one winner in the last decade had an adjusted Racing Post Rating (RPR) of at least 125.
Love qualifies on the basis of the three major trends, but so do Santiago and Serpentine. At the time of writing, the respective RPRs are 138, 131 and 134. As such, Love will have a few pounds in hand at Doncaster.
Fillies have a 3lbs allowance in the St Leger, which gives Love a weight advantage over her stable mates. Group race allowances have passed the test of time even though some pundits and punters believe horses should run off level weights in championship races.
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Moore is O’Brien’s no.1 jockey and usually rides what connections believe is their best chance in major races. The Coolmore operation often has multiple entries in Flat races, and O’Brien trains Love, Santiago and Serpentine for the syndicate. The race-day betting market is often informative because the owners are not averse to a hefty bet on one of theirs.
Horse racing is not an exact science; however, if Moore’s mount for O’Brien in the St Leger shortens in the betting just before the off, that is a big clue to who the owners believe is their best horse.
Despite the allowance, only seven fillies have won the St Leger since the end of the Second World War. O’Brien guided Minding to wins in the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks in 2016, but the horse did not run in the St Leger. The trainer prepared Camelot for wins in the 2,000 Guineas and Derby in 2012, but that horse finished second in the St Leger. History is against Love, but she is exceptional.
The combined price for O’Brien’s three market leaders in the latest St Leger betting is about -200, which means you can back the field at +150. The Irish champion trainer has won the race six times and could also run Dawn Patrol and Tiger Moth, although both horses have plenty to find on ratings. Mogul is another possible entry after an impressive win at Glorious Goodwood, albeit at Group 3 level.
The betting market suggests Santiago at +275 is the stable’s best runner. However, the Irish Derby was not a vintage renewal this year, and Santiago was soundly beaten by Stradivarius in the Goodwood Cup despite receiving 17lbs. On balance, Love has produced the better form.
Serpentine (+350) was either fortunate or the best horse by far in the Epsom Derby. The horse was given an easy lead and never came back to the field, winning the race by five-and-a-half lengths. However, a number of horses considered to be unlucky in the Derby have not since endorsed the form.
By process of elimination and assessment of the form, there is an obvious conclusion: Love is the best three-year-old filly in training in Britain and Ireland. In an unusual year for horse racing, she can achieve the rare feat of completing the Fillies’ Triple Crown by winning the 2020 St Leger. After that, Love could also go on to run in the Arc.