Punters are in for a busy time of it in September as the Flat racing season moves swiftly into its autumn phase starting with the William Hill Sprint Cup, a Group1 contest over six furlongs at Haydock on Saturday September 2.
Class has traditionally been the defining factor in this well-contested sprint course and it's therefore no surprise to Sheds Haydocksee horses that have run well in the Group1 July Cup featuring again over the sharp six furlongs at the Lancashire course.
Weather permitting, the imperious Iffaaj should take all the beating if he turns out at the Lancashire course after an unlucky second to Les Arcs in the July Cup. Arguably the best sprinter in Europe right now, the Godolphin-trained colt won't want the ground too soft if he's to turn out at the Lancashire course.
In his absence the Jeremy Noseda-trained Soldier's Tale would hold strong claims. He is less ground dependent than Iffraaj and after a lengthy absence his connections are hopeful that she can return to the fray in winning form at Haydock Park. Nunthorpe hero Reverence is another to consider if he can harness his sublime talents to the longer trip.
If it's September then racing's rolling caravan must be in Yorkshire for the St Leger, the world's oldest classic which normally takes place at Doncaster. This time around the latter venue is being thankfully re-built at enormous cost and as a consequence the Leger meeting has been shoe-horned into two days at York - September 8 and 9 - instead of the usual four days.
This is no bad thing given the dodgy state of the ground on the Knavesmire and it will be relief when racing returns at Doncaster for 2008. Staged over a mile and six furlongs, the St Leger calls for stamina, courage and class in a prospective winner. A select field of eight or nine are likely to go to post and the hot favourite, Sixties Icon holds strong claims.
He's looked a class apart from most of his rivals when waltzing away with the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood last time, a race which is an acknowledged trial for the St Leger. Of the rest, the Mick Channon-trained Youmzain showed fine speed to land the Great Voltigeur Stakes at the Ebor meeting but that piece of form doesn't looks as strong as the Goodwood success of Sixties Icon.
The Tote Portland Handicap on September 8 is the big handicap race of the truncated Leger fixture and could go the way of the Stuart Williams-trained Hogmaneigh, an easy winner at Sandown last time who could well take in this race en route to a crack at the Ayr Gold Cup later in the month. Anna Pavlova is also a name to look out for in the Park Hill Stakes, a Group race for fillies on the same day.
Over at Leopardstown on September 9 the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes takes place at Leopardstown, and is one of the better clashes of the generations run over a mile and half all season. This time around all eyes will be upon Dylan Thomas as he bids to put a dreadful effort in the Juddmonte International at York behind him over a course that he has won over previously.
The following week racing heads north of the border or the three fine days of the Ayr Western Meeting and the Ayr Gold Cup, the richest spring handicap in Europe is the feature on Saturday September 16.
This year's race, which has been landed in four out of the past five seasons by trainer Dandy Nicholls, features not one runner from the Nicholls yard after an administrative error meant that no horse from the stable was entered for the great spring contest. The air must surely have turned the deepest blue above the Nicholls yard on the day this blunder was discovered.
Still northern trainers, who tend to do better in this race than their southern counterparts, will be gunning to secure the valuable prize once again with Stewards' Cup hero, Borderlescott sure to be among the leading fancies while Kevin Ryan's Mutamared holds good claims and Ian Semple's Scottish raider, Appalachian Trail is another for the short-list. Remember too that is a poor race for three-year-olds who often struggle in the large fields against their more experienced and older rivals.
Over at Newbury on the same day as the Ayr Gold Cup there's the always informative and influential Cambridgeshire trial in the shape of the £100,000 John Smith's Handicap which is required viewing for any prospective Cambridgeshire backers. Last year's winner of the latter race, Blue Monday, was just touched off at Newbury and this year's race may again supply the winner of the first leg of the autumn double.
On a cracking day's racing Leopardstown also stages the Irish St Leger, the only classic run outside of Britain this month and this should provide the fast-improving stayer Yeats with a golden opportunity to add to his Ascot and Goodwood Cup successes. It's had to see any horse being god enough to lower this one's colours.
On September 23 it's the chance for the top milers to strut their stuff in the Group1 Queen Elizabeth 11 Stakes at the newly re-vamped Ascot. George Washington's eclipse at the hands of the workmanlike Caradak in a muddling Celebration Mile at Goodwood represented the low point of three-year-old fortunes against the older horses and it will
Be interesting to see whether the 2,000 Guineas hero can come good again in the Ascot showpiece.
This year's classic generation has been wretched in competition with their elders and the Godolphin team will be hopeful of landing a fourth Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the past decade with their fast-improving Deauville winner, Librettist. A multiple winner this season, he should again go well now that he's shown he can cut it at the top level.
Newmarket is the final port of call in September for three days of the Cambridgeshire meeting on the Rowley Mile. Those keen to glean further Classic clues for 2007 will be hoping that Jeremy Noseda's star filly Sander Camillo turns up for the Cheveley Park Stakes for two-year-old fillies on September 28 while a day later the Prix Morny winner Dutch Art might will most likely be in action with the juvenile colts for the Middle Park Stakes. Whatever the final nature of the fields for races, the outcome of both contests could well have a significant bearing upon next season's spring Classics.
A cracking months' racing comes to an exiting close with the totesport Cambridgeshire on September 30 and there can be no better handicap run all season than this one mile and a furlong contest. Recent York winner Smart Enough looks a likely sort as does his fellow three-year-old Sir Gerard while of the older generation Fairmile makes plenty of appeal after a luckless defeat at Haydock in August.