Kingston Hill is a Worthy Favourite for the St Leger
In theory Kingston Hill is the best three year old trained in England and is a worthy favourite for the St Leger, the final Classic of the season that takes place at Doncaster on Saturday. Romsdal was a place behind the favourite in the Derby in which only Australia was too good for these leading contenders for the St Leger. Windshear should relish the distance of the race and looks overpriced on all known form.
The St Leger Stakes is open to three-year-old colts and fillies and is run over a distance of one mile and six furlongs. It is the oldest of the five British Classics and the third element of the Triple Crown which also includes the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby for colts and the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks for fillies.
You have to go back to the 19th century to find the most successful jockey in the race. Bill Scott rode the winner nine times between 1821 and 1846. John Scott trained the winner 16 times between 1827 and 1862 which is an unprecedented record for such a major race. Archibald Hamilton was the successful owner seven times with his run of wins spanning the end of the 18th century and the start of the 19th century.
In 1822 a horse called Theodore won the race at 200/1 which is the biggest priced winner while no horse has started shorter than Galtee More when winning the race in 1897 at 1/10. The fastest winning time in the race at Doncaster was recorded by Masked Marvel in 2011. Never Say Die won the race by 12 lengths in 1954 and holds the record for the largest winning margin.
Fifteen horses have been completing the Triple Crown when winning the St Leger. The most recent was Nijinsky in 1970, ridden by Lester Piggott and trained by Vincent O’Brien. Ten horse have won the 2,000 Guineas and Derby and been beaten in the St Leger, most recently Camelot in 2012. Nine horses have completed the fillies’ Triple Crown, most recently Oh So Sharp in 1985.
The Triple Crown is so elusive as it involves winning races from one mile in May to one mile six furlongs in September. A horse must combine speed and stamina and have the constitution to be in training and be competitive at the highest level over more than four months. The host tracks at Newmarket, Epsom and Doncaster are unique and different n a challenging way. The Guineas is run over a straight course while the other two are run around bends at unconventional tracks.
This year’s race is sponsored by Ladbrokes, one of the biggest bookmakers in the world. However, the company may end their association with Doncaster after this year’s race. The oldest Classic now clashes with Champions Weekend in Ireland that was added to the calendar without any consultation with Ladbrokes. They will do all they can to ensure a successful renewal of the St Leger on Saturday but the may withdraw their support so the race may need a new sponsor next year.
Ladbrokes began sponsoring the St Leger in 2005. The race had lost some of its appeal to the wider racing public outside Yorkshire. The fact that there had been five different sponsors before Ladbrokes took over did not help in maintaining its identity. The race received a further boost in 2012 when Camelot was attempting to win the Triple Crown. He was beaten by Encke but the sense of anti-climax indicated how important the race can be in the context of animal trying to win the Triple Crown.
The British Horse Racing Authority has backed the concept of a Champion’s Weekend in Ireland which seems strange as the idea will have a negative impact on one of the five most important flat races in Britain. The two day festival in Ireland also just about eliminates the chance of the British equivalent taking place on a date more suitable in the context of the season than the end of October.
Kingston Hill will not be aware of all the politics or maybe he will as nobody can be certain if a horse has a brain and works things out logically. They could just run for their life when pointed in the right direction. Kingston Hill is the ante post favourite ahead of the race mainly on the basis of finishing second in the Derby. The winner of that race was Australia, apparently the best Flat horse Aiden O’Brien has trained.
Kingston Hill is trained by Roger Varian, an up and coming handler looking for his first Group 1 winner. His best horse has run three solid races in the best company but a Group 1 eludes him. Varian was enthusiastic about Kingston Hill in the Racing Post in the week leading up to the St Leger. He said:
“There’s still no doubt in my mind he’s a top-notcher and I’d like him to win a Group 1 race to make the point. To win a Classic would be brilliant and I think he has every chance. His attitude and constitution are incredible.”
Kingston Hill is a proper Classic horse but one potential problem could be the distance of the fifth Classic of the season. The extended 14 furlongs is unchartered territory for the horse and the long straight may extend his stamina beyond what is possible. The trainer realises the horse is not proven at the trip but believes his style of racing gives him every chance. Given luck in-running Kingston Hill could be Varian’s first winner at the highest level.
Romsdal will be ridden by William Buick who is looking for his third win in the race. He won back-to-back Legers with Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel for trainer John Gosden who looks like having three runners in the race but Romsdal is his best hope. On pure form Windshear has something to find with Snow Sky. However, his trainer, Richard Hannon, feels the horse wan unlucky in that race and the St Leger has been a target ever since. The race may elude Windshear as Kingston Hill looks a solid favourite.