Iron Ron can prove hard to pass

Steve Hughes has selections from three Festival meetings on Saturday

We are spoilt for choice with both Listowel’s Harvest Festival and Doncaster’s Leger meeting concluding their weeks entertainment today and Irish Champions Weekend starting with a huge pot of prize/money up for grabs at Leopardstown. I have some bets for all three cards. Intisaab was placed for the each-way bet on Friday (SP 9/1),

Doncaster 1.50: Marnie James & Bielsa

On a day of low fields at Doncaster the Portland Handicap has held up well with a maximum field of 22 to kick off proceedings.

Marnie James has looked good in two runs since being sold to join the Jedd O’Keeffe yard. Second over this in-between trip of 5 1/2f at York’s Ebor meeting behind the vastly progressive Dakota Gold, he filled third slot behind the same horse in a listed race at the same track over 6f last weekend. All his best form was over 5f previously but those last two runs have indicated more of an emphasis on stamina now and his running style should be suited by this stiffer track.

Bielsa is very inexperienced for a race of this type, but he has won on all three starts and looked pretty professional in the process. He might have the class and attitude to overcome a lack of race craft. He won his first two races in modest novice contests, but the second was at this track in the spring. However he showed his opening handicap mark of 87 to be hopelessly inadequate when winning at Thirsk last month and he ought to find more again to defy that 6lb rise.

Listowel 3.25: Sky Marshal

Although he had a hard race just two days ago here, Sky Marshal is sent out again by his shrewd handler Charles Byrnes here and he still looks fairly weighted on recent form.

A decent stayer on the flat for Ed Walker in England, Sky Marshal produced some promising efforts in the winter, with two placed efforts. His only bad run since came on heavy going at Limerick, but on a sounder surface he has been a master of consistency.

Placed again at Cork and Galway in the summer, he finally got his reward when making most to win at Cork last month. He narrowly failed to make all the running here on Thursday where perhaps the 3m trip just over taxed him. Perhaps 2m4f will suit better and this flat, sharp track on drying ground will all be in his favour.

Doncaster 3.35: Sir Ron Priestley

There is no doubt that the unbeaten Logician is the one to beat here, but at such short odds I can’t row in with the favourite given slight doubts over both trip and going. Instead an each-way wager on Sir Ron Priestley looks a more sensible play.

The colt has shown all the typical tenacity of a Mark Johnston inmate, but with a considerable amount of talent to go with it. He is 5-6 this season (his one defeat coming when going off far too fast on softer ground at Royal Ascot.) Whilst he is not raced against this level of opponent before, he won a Group 3 at Goodwood over this trip last time.

Two wins at Haydock this season show his suitability for a more galloping track too and in the second case he needed real guts to wear down Mind The Crack late on. He is very versatile regarding tactics, his Glorious Goodwood win confirmed he does not need to make the running to win. That could be important as it seems likely Aidan O’Brien’s trio are going to ensure a strong gallop to try and take the favourite out of his comfort zone. That should suit my selection down to the ground.

Leopardstown 4.15: Elarqam

In a rich vein of form all season, this represents a great opportunity for Elarqam to land that group 1 success to set up a potentially lucrative stallion career.

Wind surgery seems to have transformed him this season and he has won two listed races and a Group 2. His York win in July was particularly impressive and he ran a cracker to be a staying on third in the International there last time out, beaten by two top performers in Japan and Crystal Ocean.

A repeat of that run might be good enough here as I have not been totally convinced by the 3yo generation at middle distances this season and Magical is only 2-11 in Group 1 company and her only win against colts came in a sub-standard field in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in the spring.

Recommended bets:

0.75pts each-way – Marnie James – 1.50 Doncaster – 14/1 general (most bookies 1/5 odds 1st 5)

1pt win – Bielsa – 1.50 Doncaster – 5/1 general

1pt win – Sky Marshal – 3.25 Limerick – 100/30 general

1pt each-way – Sir Ron Priestley – 3.35 Doncaster – 11/1 Bet365, Paddy Power

1pt win – Elarqam – 4.15 Leopardstown – 7/2 general

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