St Leger Festival: Spot Plays for Day 1

September 13th, 2023

The St Leger Festival at Doncaster, which is highlighted by the world's oldest classic on Saturday, kicks off Thursday with a pair of Group 2 fixtures for fillies highlighting the program.

May Hill (G2): Race 4 (10 a.m. ET)

This straight one-mile test for two-year-old fillies is a logical next step for #6 Meribella (6-1), who made a winning debut over seven furlongs at Newmarket on Aug. 25. Although I typically would prefer to lean on a filly who had started her career earlier and possessed a bit more seasoning, Meribella appears to have sufficient upside to warrant a strong look.

Rating smoothly in second following an alert break, Meribella responded well when called upon inside the final quarter-mile and didn't need much encouraging to prevail by one length. The mild step up in trip figures to be no problem, and she's beautifully bred being a daughter of Sea the Stars and out of a half-sister to multiple Group 1 winner Poet's Word.

Park Hill (G2): Race 5 (10:35 a.m. ET)

On paper, this is not a strong-looking renewal of the "Fillies' Leger" over an approximate 1 3/4 miles. Prevailing soft conditions and distance will make this a true test of stamina. That might play into the hands of #3 Golden Lyra (6-1), who doesn't appear to have a great turn of foot, but who is sure to outstay most of these.

An Irish-bred with notable German lineage, Golden Lyra has run in spots during her eight-race career thus far, her most recent win occurring over heavy ground in a small stakes at Saint-Cloud last October. Although her 2023 campaign got off to a rough start, she showed an improved effort last month in the Prix de Pomone (G2) at Deauville, finishing 1 1/2 lengths fourth to Melo Melo, who finished a neck behind Warm Heart in last week's Prix Vermeille (G1).