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American St Leger preview

One of the best cards of the American racing year takes place on Saturday at Arlington in Chicago. Making his debut on the blog is American racing form student, Davy Lane, @loscharruas, and he'll be covering each of the big races.

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American St Leger

Although eight have been declared, Dandino finds himself up against only one significant local challenger in Dark Cove. The near US$250,000 winning purse may not have attracted more than one other challenger from Europe, but the American St Leger is now a proven pit stop on the road to Melbourne. This may not be appreciated by many Americans who see their industry apart from other jurisdictions, but ultimately it could nudge some American owners and trainers into thinking about how they too can find a stayer that passes the Flemington winning post like a runaway train. Europunters should grab the general 2/1 offered about Dandino and include the horse in any and every weekend multiple.

What about the others?

Code of Conduct's dam is by Green Dancer, a classic French pedigree. Wayne Catalano is a champion trainer at the Chicago tracks. He will be ridden by Florent Geroux, a hungry French kid trying to make the donuts state side. If only you could persuade your bookie to pay on the first six places.

Dark Cove has an impressive strike rate, winning four of his last six races, including the Group 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland. This is versatile horse. He can lead or he can surge from wide. His sectionals over a mile and a half are comparable to Dandino, but he has never been stretched in Group 1 company and his stamina has never been tested over a longer distance. If Dandino is using this as a training exercise, Dark Cove has a shot. Joel Rosario is hot and his presence will impress Chicago punters. If Dandino had a jockey other than Ryan Moore, I'd pause before attempting to spilt the two. The relative weakness of the rest of the field should spare Ryan Moore traffic on the turn for home. I recall Dandino's sprint for 2nd in the Canadian International at Woodbine last year and I have since watched Dark Cove's last three races. Dark Cove does not outrun Dandino down the stretch.

The Chris Block trained Ioya Bigtime finished second in this last year, and as been thereabouts all season, but always three or four places and 5 or 6 lengths behind Dark Cove. His best form is behind him.

James Graham was the leading jockey at Arlington in 2011. The Irish lad could give Each Way punters some value on Najjaar. Najjaar was only half a length behind Dark Cove over 1M 4F in May and only a length behind Dullahan in the 10F Arlington Handicap last month. Najjaar is improving and will not be overawed by Dandino or Dark Cove. Although 6/1 on the US Morning Line, he's as high 12/1 with Paddy Power and Bet 365. That's value. A 15 length defeat to Bodemeister in last year's Arkansas Derby suggests one should approach such a wager cautiously, however.

The dark horse of the race has to be Ojos del Hielo. Chicago trainer Larry Rivelli has an Easterby-like eye for a horse. Ojos del Hielo is a sprinter recently converted into a miler. If the race is run slow, this chesnut colt may think the first mile was just a warm up. He may then have the speed to blow the field away down the stretch. This horse was twice placed in Group 1s in Panama, finishing a close 3rd behind Private Zone (remember him from Meydan at the Dubai World Cup) over 6 Furlongs last year and second over 9 Furlongs in the Group 1 Panama Independence last November. The next horse finished 20 Lengths back. Ojos del Hielo is not my idea of the winner, but he was responsible for the most impressive track work last week at Arlington. English Each Way enthusiasts should ponder the double carpet odds.

Chris Block has two in the race. Suntracer is the more serious contender, both because of his form and because of the jockey booking. He was not disgraced losing by 1 3/4 lengths to the odds-on Dark Cove last time out in the Grade 3 Stars and Stripes over 1M 4 F at Arlington. A closer look at the race shows Dark Cove fading as Suntracer closed. The extra one and a half furlongs could be all Eddie Castro needs to reverse those placings. Suntracer is drawn 5, just outside Dandino. This will be benefit him. I strongly advise Each Way Europunters snap the 14/1 offered by William Hill before Saturday.

Finally, Wigmore Hall. This is his fourth visit to Chicago in as many years. This character has long looked a spent force, though he was fairly competitive last time out at York. Invariably, Jamie Spencer will hold him up and push him around the outside. On paper, he should be placed, but Dark Cove, Najjaar and Suntracer will not concede their positions so easily.

Prediction:

Dandino will shadow Dark Cove. Both maybe forced to run faster than ideal if Ojos del Hielo is not held up. Dark Cove will come under pressure first. Suntracer will swoop late for place. Ojos del Hielo will fade in the final furlong.

1st 4. Dandino 9/5 US ML; 2/1 Paddy Power Best Price
2nd 5. Suntracer 8/1 US ML; 14/1 William Hill Best Price
3rd 1. Dave Cove 3/1 US ML; 5/1 William Hill Best Price

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