Did you know that the Doncaster St Leger, run last Saturday, is the oldest recorded classic-type race in the world, coming into being in 1776, and named after Politician and Army Officer, Anthony St. Leger, who was the prime mover in getting the race firmly established on the Racing Calendar. The race is run, traditionally, in the month of September, over a distance of almost two miles, and is open to both colts and fillies in the three-year-old bracket. In the years that followed its inception, the other British classic races eventually came on stream, the two Guineas races, the Derby, and the Oaks, which, with the St Leger, came together to make up the traditional number of five classic races each season.
Over the years since a mythical prize gradually became established called the Triple Crown, which, for the colts, meant winning the 2000 Guineas, the Derby, and the St Leger, and for the fillies, the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks, and the St Leger. Interestingly, in the very first St Leger in 1776, the winner was a filly, named Allabaculia, who became one of the few of that sex to win the race in all the years since. Having said that, it is a fact that after WW2, Triple Crown winners have been thin on the ground, with only three accomplishing the task in all that time. Representing the colts was the almost invincible Nijinsky in 1970, who won his three races with consummate ease, as did the two flying fillies, Meld in 1955, and Oh So Sharp in 1985.
After the first St Leger, which was run on Cantley Common, the race took on a life of its own, so it was decided in 1778 to move it to its present home in Turf Moor, Doncaster, and there it has remained ever since, apart from when necessary due to course improvements,and wars etc. The courses utilised for this purpose were Newmarket, Manchester, Thirsk, York, and Ayr.
The records for the race show that during the 18th century, two men, Trainer John Scott, and jockey Bill Scott, brothers, between them notched up 25 successes in the famous classic, much more than some of those involved in recent years.These figures show that Lester Piggott won the race on seven occasions, Gordon Richards (5), Frankie Dettori (5), and Joe Mercer (4).
It has often struck me that most of our own prominent races are in name a mirror image of all of the bigger races in Britain, with just the word 'Irish' added as a prefix, you know, Irish Derby, Irish Oaks, Irish National etc.
While it is obvious that all of those names were insituted during colonial times, one wonders will we Irish ever see a day when we will have our own names for these important races.
Both St Legers, Irish and English, were run last Saturday, at the Curragh and Doncaster respectively, and, as it happened, English trainer John Gosden had an across the sea double in the races with Duncan and Masked Marvel. In the Irish version, which had no three-year-old runner, it ended up in a thrilling dead-heat between Duncan and Jukebox Jury, with the hitherto champion, the O'Brien trained Fame and Glory, well beaten before the turn-in. This run from the O'Brien runner can be best forgotten, for it seemed too bad to be true, and maybe the horse has had enough, for this season anyway. This in no way takes away the glory from the dead-heating winners, Duncan and Jukebox Jury, who fought out a thrilling head to head from two out, and flashed past the post together. After a long look at the photo, the judge could not separate them, and it appeared that both parties were satisfied with the final result. The Doncaster racewas as unpredictable as ever, with the best backed horses out with the washing in the final furlongs. Both Sea Moon and Baby Bunting, who were all the pre-race rage, both came home in their own good time, without a hint of troubling the judge. After Buthelezi had made the most of the running, the O'Brien horse Seville went on three out, apparently going well under young Joe O'Brien. However, he could not cope with the late challenges of both Masked Marvel, with Willie Buick up, and Michael Owen's Brown Panther, ridden by Fallon, with the former prevailing near the line to give a fine StLeger double to trainer John Gosden, and a fitting end to a great weekend.
Your Friday Trio for this week is:- Tazeez (3-10 San.) danger Penitent, Endowing (3-45 San.) danger Oscan, and Witnessed (4-20 San.) danger Ziefhd. Have a great weekend, keep safe, and good hunting!