Racing: Blade gets slice of the big time

St Leger meeting: Little and largesse are the keynotes as the small Smart team make a successful sales pitch
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The Independent Online
IN A week in which sport needs to show there is still a place for the small man as well as Rupert Murdoch, Town Moor provided some hope yesterday.

Bryan Smart and John Stack, the trainer and jockey team, plus owner John Ford, a BT customer-services manager, are not at the top of the racing tree. In fact, they haven't even got onto the trunk yet, but yesterday was their moment.

Boomerang Blade won the St Leger Yearling Stakes for them, a race of absurd value for the quality of horses in competition, but nevertheless a contest which offers huge reward for the smaller man. The filly collected pounds 178,500 for her efforts. Smart's Sherwood Stables in Lambourn had taken the riches and redistributed them to the poor.

Boomerang Blade's race was a charge limited to horses purchased at Doncaster's St Leger Yearling Sale. Keeneland this auction is not. It is more Munchkinland. Some of yesterday's contestants were plainly not very good at all, and Boomerang Blade was, on one criterion, the worst of the lot. She was bought back for pounds 5,000 at the sales and was consequently the cheapest beast in yesterday's encounter.

This, of course, did not fill the filly with an inferiority complex. She went out well and came back sweetly, as her name might suggest. Her reward was only marginally less than Smart earned on his other great day, Sil Sila's victory in the 1995 Prix de Diane (French Oaks).

The trainer, a former jump jockey of modest success, could not have been more ebullient had he been sweeping up another Group One win. He did not feel the need to apologise for winning the richest two-year-old event in Europe with a little filly who will never scale the heights. "This is a race for the working trainer and the working man," he said. "It's fantastic and just what we need in British racing.

"The owners of these horses can't go for Guineas and Classics where they're taking on the best-bred horses in the world. Today the atmosphere was so great we thought we were going for the Derby.

"We need races like this to keep owners in. I bought three horses yesterday [at the Sales] and I've got orders for another two tonight. They might not get to this race, but it gives people hope and a dream.

"The build-up starts when you enter them just after you've bought them and goes on from there. This game's about people like John and myself, working men going for the working-class Derby. We might never get the chance to do this again, but at least we've done it once. We've won it."

The prestige race of the day, the Park Hill Stakes, was more like racing as we know it, as the fillies' St Leger was fought out by the monoliths Michael Stoute and Luca Cumani.

The latter's Kadaka was the last to leave the stalls, but she soon scooted to the front. For a long time it seemed she was destined to stay there. Doncaster's straight appears a never-ending story and certainly it must have seemed that way as Jimmy Fortune struck for home with just the stalking Delilah a danger. Remorselessly, the filly with the blinker shades of a bandit crept closer and, at the line, her neck was the difference between the two.

There was an aptness about the man welcoming back Delilah, as the racing manager who spoke on behalf of Highclere Racing was Tim Jones. "Michael [Stoute] was quietly confident she would run a big race," he said. "It was nice when the rains came because we know she loves it."

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