The St Leger, which will be staged at Doncaster in just over a week’s time, is the oldest of the Classics and happens to be my favourite – being the one that takes place over the longest distance (one mile and six furlongs). If the Derby has long been recognised as a means of selecting the pick of the next stallion crop, the St Leger has become unfashionable by comparison. The winner is assumed to possess stamina instead of speed; while the latter has become the Holy Grail for breeders, the former has become a dirty word - although frankly I think it would be lovely to own a horse that possessed either.
When, like me, your favoured form of racing involves obstacles and a minimum distance of 2 miles, the St Leger begins to look like a more interesting race. And talking of Jump Racing, this week’s news headlines have signalled a seasonal change in the fickle minds of racing enthusiasts: there have been as many stories about top 2 mile chasers as there have been about Group 1 Flat horses – a sure sign that Winter is on its way.
Firstly, we paused to mark the passing of Direct Route at the age of 22. The Howard Johnson trained bay, long retired, won 15 of his 40 starts but is best remembered for finishing second in the 2000 Queen Mother Champion Chase by the shortest of nostrils in one of the most epic finishes in living memory.
Over in Ireland, no one’s telling who will be training Ireland’s top 2–miler Flemenstar; rumours are rife that he could be heading to Tony Martin’s resurgent yard, where no doubt he’d become a popular bet to recover from the mild disappointments of last season after which he reportedly became quite poorly.
Meanwhile, according to Nicky Henderson, Sprinter Sacre (the best 2 mile chaser you, I, our children or our children’s children are ever likely to see) will not be entered for the 3-mile King George VI Steeplechase at Kempton in December. This shouldn’t surprise us a great deal, but it will disappoint those that have backed him as the 6/4 ante-post favourite.
In further shock-news, Henderson warned that his Gold Cup winner Bobsworth is also unlikely to line up for the Christmas feature; favouring, as he does, left handed tracks. No tips for this weekend’s racing – instead I’m going to suggest a long range punt on the Irish trained First Lieutenant to claim the King George VI Chase at 25/1 with Boyle Sports. That’ll keep us warm over the coming weeks.