Racing: Death of Hawk Flyer casts shadow on St Leger meeting

Doncaster St Leger Meeting: Loss of Stoute's young prospect on Newmarket gallops leaves leading trainer without runner in last Classic race of Flat season

The St Leger meeting opens at Doncaster today with the cruel news that Hawk Flyer, one of the market leaders for the 227th running of the eponymous Classic on Saturday, died yesterday on the Newmarket gallops.

The three-year-old shattered a pastern so badly during a routine piece of exercise that vets had no option but to speed the friendly bullet. His connections, trainer Sir Michael Stoute and owner Saeed Suhail, have already enjoyed one top colt, the Derby hero Kris Kin, this season but that will be only partial consolation for the loss of a fine young prospect.

Stoute, by some distance the season's leading trainer, will now be unrepresented in the sole home Classic not on his CV but then the race has never been his luckiest contest; his 18 runners to date have produced no better than four runner-up spots and even Shergar was beaten. Ladbrokes reacted to yesterday's sad events by hardening favourite Brian Boru to 2-1.

This week's events on Town Moor mark a definite shift of seasonal emphasis. While the advent of global warming may have to bring a revision of the old adage that winter comes in with the tail of the last horse in the Leger, the slide to autumn has begun, even if it is so far a dry, golden one. The ground at Doncaster is mostly good to firm and artificial watering is being considered.

And while the four-day meeting does not have the glamour of Ascot or York, it certainly offers variety. This afternoon, for example, racegoers can puzzle over one of the most competitive sprint handicaps of the year, the richest juvenile race of the European season and an action preplay over the St Leger course and distance.

Rather like Marmite or Fisherman's Friends, cavalry charges like the Portland Handicap can be an acquired taste. They are almost a numbers game, something of a lottery (as the fact that they are oft-sponsored and promoted by bookmakers testifies), contested by more or less the same gang from week to week with differing results. The trick, relished by some, pooh-poohed by others, is to determine whose turn it is on a given day. But as far as the Portland is concerned punters have been getting it right recently, with three winning favourites - Halmahera, Compton Banker and Astonished - in the past four years.

Consecutive winners are not common - Hello Mister (1994-95) was only the third after Shalfleet (1935-36) and Tag End (1928-29) - but Halmahera returns for another go after inching home 12 months ago. And although he has not won since he is much respected, on the basis of both his trainer Kevin Ryan's record with handicappers at the fixture and his good effort at Ripon last time out.

The likely market leader Fantasy Believer and Corridor Creeper must also go on the short-list but top of it is Baltic King (2.55, nap). This relatively lightly-raced three-year-old is still open to progress and the underfoot conditions and distance, the unusual intermediary of five and a half furlongs, should suit him well.

Michael Owen may have a pressing engagement against Liechtenstein at Old Trafford this evening but his heart, at least, will be at Doncaster where his filly Treble Heights contests the Park Hill Stakes. The race is often called the 'fillies' St Leger', rather a misnomer given that the real thing is open to females. Today's event is not even restricted to three-year-olds any more; Treble Heights was second last year.

In a field of well-bred staying distaffers all trying to boost their paddock worth with the valuable Group race (3 in this case) black type so beloved in sales catalogues she may have to settle for lesser honours again. Brian Boru's Ballydoyle stablemate L'Ancresse (3.30) will appreciate her sights being lowered after contesting five Group 1s on the bounce and although the front-running daughter of Darshaan's style will not make it easy for her up the long, daunting straight, she may just have sufficient class in hand.

The racing is not the only feature at Doncaster this week; the stabling complex adjacent to the track hosts the first domestic yearling auction of the season. The massive purse for today's £200,000 St Leger Yearling Stakes comes from its association with the sale; the race is restricted to its graduates (more than 500 unraced youngsters are catalogued this time) and the carrot of its inflated prize money has proved a fine boost to trade.

For all its artificiality, though, it is producing decent fields. Last year's edition featured subsequent top-level performers Somnus, who won, and Airwave, fourth. Several of today's contenders hold fancy engagements - Cape Fear, for instance, is in the Middle Park and Dewhurst - but today may be the day for Axis (2.20, nb), second in a hot nursery at York last time.

Two trainers traditionally worth following this week are Barry Hills, who can take the opening nursery with Asia Winds (1.45) and John Gosden, whose Cape Vincent (4.30) can put his experience to use against Dubai Destination's brother Destination Dubai in the mile maiden.

Arts and Entertainment
'A voice untroubled by time': Kate Bush
musicReview: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Life and Style
Cooked up: reducing dietary animal fat might not be as healthy as government advice has led millions of people to believe
healthA look at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
News
peopleJustin Bieber accuses papparrazzi of acting 'recklessly' after car crash
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
people
Voices
voices
Sport
Roger Federer is greeted by Michael Jordan following his victory over Marinko Matosevic
tennisRoger Federer gets Michael Jordan's applause following tweener shot in win over Marinko Matosevic
Arts and Entertainment
Oppressive atmosphere: the cast of 'Tyrant'
tvIntroducing Tyrant, one of the most hotly anticipated dramas of the year
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
News
Ukrainian Leonid Stadnik, 37, 2.59 meter (8,5 feet) tall, the world's tallest living man, waves as he poses for the media by the Chevrolet Tacuma car presented to him by President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko in Kiev on March 24, 2008.
newsPeasant farmer towered at almost 8'5'' - but shunned the limelight
News
Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in ‘The Front Page’, using an old tech typewriter
media
Life and Style
Could a robot sheepdog find itself working at Skipton Auction Mart?
techModel would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian
film
Sport
Angel Di Maria poses with Louis van Gaal after signing for Manchester United
sportWinger arrives from Real Madrid and could make debut on Saturday
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Hooked on classical: cellist Rachael Lander began drinking to combat panic attacks
musicThe cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow...
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Pensions

£65000 - £75000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

School Receptionist

£70 - £100 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: School Receptionist - Part ...

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

IT Infrastructure Project Manager

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A large and well established business is look...

Day In a Page

Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis