Tales of the St Leger
As the 2021 Cazoo St Leger gets ever closer, here’s a look back at some memorable stories from recent years of the oldest Classic in the world
1. Mastery sprang a 14/1 surprise in the 2009 St Leger. He was the Godolphin second string, Frankie Dettori having opted to ride the favourite Kite Wood. Mastery was no forlorn hope, for he had beaten 20 rivals when winning the Italian Derby.
The following year he won a huge prize in Hong Kong, with Dettori aboard this time.
2. In 2012 Camelot was the 2/5 favourite to become the first Triple Crown winner for 42 years, but he could only manage second place behind the 25/1 outsider Encke. This gave Godolphin a sixth St Leger victory. Encke was never out of the first three in nine races.
His later career was overshadowed by a doping scandal, but his Leger performance was proven drug-free.
3. Leading Light, a 520,000 guineas yearling, was well beaten on his first outing but justified his lofty purchase price later with victories in eight of his other eleven races, including the 2013 St Leger.
There he had the Oaks winner Talent back in second place. He went on to take the following year’s Ascot Gold Cup, holding off a prior winner, The Queen’s Estimate, in a tight finish.
4. 2015 saw the most dramatic St Leger for years, when Simple Verse just got the better of Bondi Beach in a controversial finish. The stewards’ inquiry, part of which was watched by an enthralled TV audience, judged that sufficient interference had taken place in order to reverse the placings.
A later appeal overturned that decision and the original finishing order was restored.
5. The result of the 2016 St Leger was heartening for the small owner-breeder. The winner, Harbour Law, had changed hands for just £30,000 the year before.
The 22/1 shot produced a great turn of foot in the final furlong to become the first Leger winner trained by a woman, Epsom-based Laura Mongan.
It was all the more remarkable because she had only a couple of dozen horses in her yard.
6. The most recent of Aidan O’Brien’s six St Leger triumphs was Kew Gardens, who was a clear winner in 2018. This tough stayer was a model of consistency who finished in the first three 13 times in 17 races and earned £1.4m in prize money.
Next time out he was only four lengths behind the mighty Enable over a distance short of his best.
7. The grey Logician extended his unbeaten run to five when taking the 2019 St Leger under Frankie Dettori, who was winning the race for the sixth time.
The odds-on favourite, a son of the great Frankel, had the race in the bag a furlong out and ran on strongly to set a new course record.
8. The 2020 St Leger was run behind closed doors, and in a tight finish Galileo Chrome made it four wins from four outings that season.
It was a lucky spare ride for Tom Marquand, for the horse’s regular jockey was tested Covid-positive the day before the race and had to give up the mount.