In today’s Racing Post Lee Mottershead suggested that the St.Leger meeting was in need of a tweak; 3 days instead of 4; better prize money all round, especially for the group races and the poorly funded Portland H’Cap.
For this piece I will take for granted that my idea for a classic Triple Crown more in-keeping with the present tilt of today’s breeding industry - substituting the St.Leger in favour of a 3-year-old only Eclipse – making the Triple Crown the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and Eclipse – will never bear fruit. I also suggested making the St.Leger the most valuable race in Britain and the third part of an older horses Triple Crown – Prince of Wales Stakes (or Coronation Cup if preferred), King George & Queen Elisabeth Stakes and St.Leger.
I think Lee’s first suggestion is sensible, though only if each of the three days has a seven or eight race card. But I would scrap the traditional Thursday, Friday, Saturday format for the more radical Saturday, Sunday, Monday. My reasoning is thus. Firstly, though you cannot gainsay the weather in this country, having the St.Leger on the Saturday would allow the runners, in what is the titular race of the meeting, the best of the ground. Though this argument holds more water during the National Hunt season, it bothers me that the best race of the meeting must always be run on poached ground, the last day of a three or four day meeting. Surely the best horses should be permitted the best racing surface.
Also, and again this argument holds better for National Hunt than the flat, if it rains biblical fashion on the Saturday, or frost or snow causes abandonment, there are two further days on which to run the main race or indeed the entire card. If last week’s monsoon had carried on through Thursday, Friday and into Saturday we could have had the wholly unsatisfactory situation of having the St.Leger postponed, resulting in the race being run on a less satisfactory course and at a time less convenient to trainers and owners alike.
My suggestion will also allow for a better class of racing on the Sunday and Monday, two days of the week when the racing fare and betting turnover are at their weakest, thus killing two birds with one perfectly aimed stone.
What Doncaster did not take advantage of last week was to advance the cause of female flat jockeys by staging the final race in the Silk series before the I.T.V. cameras were rolling, thus denying Megan Nicholls the publicity her overall victory in the series deserved. In fact I would go further by suggesting that the Leger meeting would be a perfect venue for the signature race for professional female jockeys I believe the sport is in need of. Lee Mottershead’s other point was the lack of International horses and jockeys and if the top female riders from around the world could be assembled for this signature race the issue of where were the foreign trained horses and jockeys would be addressed, not that this solution is exactly what Lee was wishing for.
Finally, though this year’s renewal of the oldest classic was a magnificent sight, won by an above average horse, it does not dilute my point that the St.Leger is the poor relation of the classic series. If you were planning the flat season afresh, if you were inventing flat racing as a new sport, and thought a classic triple crown would be the height of racing’s achievements, you would not run four out of the five classics by the first week in June and have the final leg four months later. St.Leger winners almost exclusively become National Hunt stallions, so to say the race, despite of all its long history and place in racing’s heritage, sits alongside the Derby and Guineas as a provider of top stallions, is plain wishful thinking
Keith Knight is a workaday writer of fiction, worker in the real world but foremost a horse racing fanatic. The joy of the sport is the horse - all horses.