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Top European Lead-Up Races in Focus


Particularly from a betting angle, it’s good to keep in mind what the top Melbourne Cup lead-up races are.

Those offering ballot exemption are important for obvious reasons. They include the Bart Cummings, the Caulfield Cup and the Andrew Ramsden. As of this year, the Ebor Handicap in England also offers exemption to its winner.

We’ll be looking at the top Aussie lead-up races very soon. For now, having already checked out the chances of two top Newmarket trainers, we assess the best Melbourne Cup prep races in Europe.

Ebor Handicap

Handicaps and Group 1’s are very different things in Britain. The Ebor may not be a Group 1, but it’s the best and richest handicap race in the territory.

This year’s race has handed ballot exemption to the winner but it’s worth keeping an eye on the form of all of those in the race with the Melbourne Cup in mind.

The 2800-metre race is mightily competitive. Keep the runners carrying bigger weights in this race in mind for Flemington.

Irish St Leger

Coming up on Sunday, September 10 is the Irish St Leger. Unlike its English counterpart, this race is not just for three-year-olds. Run over 2800 metres, this is a weight-for-age Group 1 and is of very high quality.

The Curragh race was used as the prep for 2020 Cup winner Twilight Payment. That horse was of course trained by double Cup winner Joseph O’Brien.

That’s not to say that potential Melbourne Cup runners in this race have to be Irish-trained. Newmarket’s Roger Varian has been targeting his 2022 St Leger winner Eldar Eldarov at this race. He is a high-class horse and will be of interest in both this race and the Cup itself should he make it over.

St Leger

The St Leger at Doncaster is the oldest ‘Classic’ race. Run over 2900 metres at Group 1 level, this is for the three-year-olds only. Joseph O’Brien’s 2017 winner Rekindling was fourth in this race before taking the Cup.

This year’s event goes off on Saturday, September 16. We would be served well by keeping at eye on this race, but also its own lead-up event.

Over 2400 metres during York’s Ebor Festival is the Great Voltigeur Stakes. The Group 2, also for 3yo’s, is the top trial for the St Leger. The reason it is of interest to us of course is that Cross Counter was second in that race before winning the Cup in 2018, while Deauville Legend won it last year and went off the Cup favourite.

The Voltigeur then is interesting, as geldings like Deauville Legend are allowed. It’s all about colts and fillies in the St Leger itself, a classic race in every manner of the word and

Gary Christie
105 articles
For more than 20 years, Gary has been immersed in the worlds of sports writing and betting. As well as writing on the subjects of sports and horse racing, Gary has spent years privately handicapping horse races around the world in order to bet professionally. While having appeared on TV and spoken publicly at racecourses, Gary has a passion for writing. He produces articles every day for various territories including North America, UK, Europe and Australia.
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18+ | Please play responsibly | What’s gambling really costing you? | Terms and Conditions apply | Commercial content