Racing: St Leger field slims down further as Simpson's runner is stranded

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The Independent Online
THE FIELD for the St Leger was reduced by one last night when scrutiny of the race conditions revealed Rod Simpson's Nipper Reed to be ineligible. Only entire colts may contest the fifth Classic - and scrutiny of Nipper Reed shows him to be a gelding.

'Oh dear, you're right, we're down to 10,' Charlie Murless, spokesman for Doncaster racecourse, said when the discrepancy was pointed out.

Nipper Reed, unplaced in a claimer on his only start, would have been underpriced at 5,000-1 for the race on 11 September, as Simpson was happy to admit last night. He had not intended running the horse at Doncaster and its continued declaration for the St Leger had been a misunderstanding.

For Doncaster, Nipper Reed's non- participation is unfortunate, but hardly disastrous. For Simpson, however, and in particular Nipper Reed's owner, the error could prove very costly. He has paid a total of pounds 1,975 at three entry stages to keep his gelding in the race, and though Simpson may rightly question why Weatherbys, racing's 'civil service', did not notify him, a refund seems most unlikely.

Such confusion was an unfortunate end to a day during which Murless had strongly defended the size and quality of the St Leger field. 'What one wants to do is look at past records rather than seize on one particular statistic,' he said.

'Sure, we would like to see more entries but there is a supplementary entry stage (six days before the race), a co- ordinated one-on-one campaign will be conducted on likely possible contenders and we'll see how we go from there.'

One target for his gentle persuasion could be Luca Cumani, though the trainer believes it is a 'very outside chance' that his Kithanga will be supplemented. 'Trouble is, it's very expensive at pounds 25,000,' he said yesterday, 'and if the horse gets a pricked foot or a temperature, it's down the drain. '

The St Leger's initial entry stage is in February, which Cumani believes to be far too early. 'So long as they insist on closing these races so far in advance, this is the result they will get, especially in races for slow-developing horses. There is probably any number of horses that could run in the Leger but weren't entered because they hadn't shown anything. '

Paul Cole, who won the St Leger with Snurge in 1990, concurs. 'Trainers are under a lot of pressure to keep costs down, one's got to be very careful what you put a horse in,' he said.

Simpson, of course, must wish he hadn't bothered.