Oh yes, it's grim up North – on the Turf as everywhere else. Did you ever watch a horse gallop over Middleham Moor? If your eardrums aren't perforated by the incessant din of birdsong and sheep, you're liable to choke on the odour of dewy grass and heather. Over the border, things get worse still. At Kelso, you watch races from a wrought-iron Georgian balcony. How about health and safety? Next you'll be telling me they have an open fire in the members' bar.
The host town of the Ladbrokes St Leger has not always reproved the charge so successfully. But this afternoon our most ancient Classic can show up an indefensible prejudice in the sport's big spenders.
Hitherto, Barefoot Lady – fifth in the 1,000 Guineas – has been the North's solitary runner in a British Classic this season. Brown Panther has only marginal claims to making it two today, being stabled not even as far north as the Dee. And, of course, the very fact that his Cheshire yard is so handy for Old Trafford makes Michael Owen little different from so many owners who, with the concentration of so much wealth in the South-east, have horses trained in Newmarket or Lambourn.
These considerations, however, are immaterial to the real superpowers. The Maktoums, admittedly, heeded the emergence of Mark Johnston sufficiently to incorporate him into their operation. But it is outrageous that none of the bloodstock empires otherwise seem prepared to give a chance to Richard Fahey, Kevin Ryan or any of the North's other high achievers. Whenever one of them adds a new trainer to their roster, you can bet it will instead be a well-spoken chap in Newmarket with a Hermes tie for every day of Royal Ascot. Why on earth don't they throw a bone or two to someone like David O'Meara?
As such, the sport would have more to celebrate in Brown Panther than a public relations dividend through his owner. As it is, Owen has already created a colourful subplot by ruthlessly benching Richard Kingscote, in favour of Kieren Fallon. It must be said that young Kingscote regrouped rather frantically after giving a start to Census in their Leger trial. Brown Panther had thrashed the winner – who, conversely, had a terrible run through – at Royal Ascot and was probably still feeling the effects when fading in the German Derby. With the extra distance in his favour, Brown Panther (3.10) looks a fair each-way price to advertise the talents of Owen's trainer, Tom Dascombe.
Red Duke, as a cut above the sort of youngster normally sent to his trainer, confirms John Quinn as one of the best at any point of the compass, never mind in the North. But in the One Call Insurance Champagne Stakes his colt meets a top prospect in Entifaadha (2.05) – trained, as it happens, by an exiled Yorkshireman. Now it is quite obvious William Haggas deserves the patronage of Sheikh Hamdan. But you have to wonder quite how long he might have had to wait for the call, had he not left his native county for Newmarket.Reuse content