Jeremy Noseda reckons any British Classic to be worth five French ones, which is just as well. For there is no disguising the way others are cheapening the oldest of them all, in which Noseda saddles the odds-on favourite, Sixties Icon, at York on Saturday.
The owner of Youmzain, previously considered the chief danger, thinks so little of the Ladbrokes St Leger that he has insisted his colt instead travel to Longchamp the next day for the Prix Niel. Historically, this is a frivolous race, little more than a sparring session before the gloves come off for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Yet the same preference has been shown for Dragon Dancer, beaten a nose in the Derby and amply equipped for the extra Leger distance.
With several other candidates thwarted by setbacks, a bare dozen accepted at the five-day stage yesterday. And while their lack of depth may suit Marcus Tregoning, who now finds himself with one of the few plausible rivals to Sixties Icon in Jadalee, he is not deceived by his opportunity.
Tregoning has already produced an old-fashioned Derby winner this year in Sir Percy, a Dewhurst winner and 2,000 Guineas runner-up. He has only just resumed work, but his trainer did have him in the St Leger at one time - an option seldom reserved for modern Derby winners, whose commercial prospects at stud are jeopardised by an exhibition of deep stamina.
Tregoning is dismayed by the erosion of orthodoxies nourished by his mentor, Dick Hern, and considers the St Leger victim of a broader malaise. "It's disappointing, the short-sightedness people have nowadays," he said yesterday. "Most don't have the patience for these types of horses, and very much concentrate on the seven- and eight-furlong division. In fairness, it's very difficult in terms of the economics: prize-money levels make it hard to justify the cost of keeping these staying types going until they mature.
"But it is creating a big problem. Once stamina goes from pedigrees, you can't put it back. And I would say that's happening quickly now. It is sad, because staying races often produce a tremendous spectacle, and the diversity of our racing is one of its greatest strengths."
Tregoning could provide no plainer reproach to this myopia than Jadalee, gradually blossoming into a natural contender for Cup races next year. True, he has already been beaten by Sixties Icon, when second at Goodwood last month, but he took his time to get organised round there - as indeed he did subsequently when dourly beating older horses in the March Stakes.
"That was a tough race, but he's a tough horse from a tough family and seems to have come out of it fine," Tregoning said. "In fact he looks a picture. Maybe in a stronger field you might want to take a bit more time, but as it stands he is not far behind Sixties Icon and he'll be better on a more galloping track. He hasn't had a lot of racing - he was always a big, tall sort that would need a bit of time - and he's progressing."
Jadalee is out of a half-sister to Sir Percy himself, and Tregoning cannot suppress his enthusiasm over that colt's condition after his summer break. He emerged sore from the Derby, having also been jarred up in the Guineas, and his trainer will doubtless avoid firm ground with him in future. That may limit his options overseas, but the intention - in keeping with that vintage profile - is for him to remain in training next year.
Tregoning knows and trusts the turf surface at Nad al Sheba and may well send him there next March, but his immediate priority is to choose between the Arc and the Emirates Champion Stakes at Newmarket next month. "I must say he's in terrific form," Tregoning said. "We kept him cantering and he's pretty fired up already, after just one piece of work. It does look like being a very good Arc, but he has loads of speed, so the mile and a quarter of the Champion should be well within his compass."
The going seem likely to determine where Hurricane Run prepares for his Arc defence this weekend. He has the option of joining his stablemate, Shirocco, in the Prix Foy on Sunday, but soft ground would tempt his owners to replace Dylan Thomas in the Baileys Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown the previous day. The one, rather poignant certainty is that Noseda and Tregoning belong to a dwindling minority in identifying the highlight of their racing weekend.
Nap: Farleigh House (Lingfield 1.50)
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