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The Pertemps St Leger, Doncaster 2020: my report

What goes around comes around. When Tom Marquand was replaced by Frankie Dettori on well-fancied English King ahead of the Derby at Epsom, some feared that the twenty two-year-old rising star jockey might have missed a golden opportunity to land a first British Classic in 2020.

As it turned out, English King disappointed in fifth while Marquand, widely-praised for the philosophical manner in which he received the bad news, finished runner-up to Serpentine on outsider Khalifa Sat, a ‘spare’ mount.

Wind forward three months, and it was Marquand getting the call-up as sub to take over from Shane Crosse, 18, intended rider of Galileo Chrome in the Pertemps St Leger, when the apprentice was found to be positive for Covid-19 during a regulation test just ahead of the trip to Doncaster for British flat racing’s final and oldest Classic.

So instead of donning the cap traditionally presented to the winning jockey after the colt made it four wins in a row with a narrow defeat of Berkshire Rocco in the 243rd staging, Crosse was starting a period of isolation.

The irony of the situation was not lost on Marquand, partner of equally in-form jockey Hollie Doyle, who said:

“I can’t stress enough how bad I feel for him [Crosse] because we’ve all been in a situation where things haven’t gone our way, and we’re both relatively young so I really can relate.

“He’ll be sat at home in pieces no doubt; I guess the one thing is in racing that it always come back around so no doubt he’ll have his day, and I look forward to seeing him do it. I’ll speak to him later.”

Galileo Chrome is the latest feather in the cap of trainer Joseph O’Brien who was celebrating his first win in a British Classic having already been successful in a string of major races elsewhere, including the Irish Derby and Melbourne Cup, since giving up a stellar riding career to set up training at a base previously occupied by his parents, Aidan and Anne-Marie, and his grandfather Joe Crowley in County Kilkenny, Ireland.

Having won the St Leger on Leading Light (2013) – and been a close second on Camelot the year before – O’Brien is the second person in the last century to both ride and train a St Leger winner after Harry Wragg who steered Sandwich (1931) and Herringbone (1943) to victory before saddling the 1969 winner Intermezzo.

With seven runners spread spectacularly across the course entering the closing stages – there may be some good joke-photographs doing the rounds when the ‘Rule of Six’ comes into place – all the principals looked to have a chance of success.

Jockey Martin Dwyer felt that well-touted Pyledriver’s stamina did not last out the distance as he finished third; Frankie Dettori, on fourth-placed Santiago, thought the result might have been different had the good going been softer; stamina was also considered the issue for Hukum (5th).

Elsewhere at Doncaster, in front of the enforced eerily silent stands, the tendency of the Richard Hannon team, father and now son, to regularly use the Champagne Stakes as a shop-window for its star juveniles continued – think colts like Don’t Forget Me (1986), Toronado (2012), Threat (2019) – as Chindit, ridden by jockey Pat Dobbs, looked like a chip off the old block after success over Albasheer.

The Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Future Champions Day (October 10) is now the plan when he’s likely to face another unbeaten and much-heralded Hannon-trained two-year-old Etonian.

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Racing Broadcaster  Journalist and Host.

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