When the globe's oldest Classic provides the Saturday peak of Doncaster's September meeting, which opens on Town Moor this afternoon, it will be no surprise if the prize is surrendered to racing's Headquarters. This has been the case for 10 of the last 16 St Legers.
If anything, the East Anglian dominance has become more concentrated during this decade. In 1990 and 1991, Team Newmarket were defeated, but, on both occasions, filled the rest of the frame as well as providing more than half the field. The penultimate St Leger saw them send out the first four in a seven-strong field, while, 12 months ago, all but John Dunlop's Azzilfi of the nine runners was a citizen of the turf's capital.
This year's running is no different as the front three in the betting market are all housed at Newmarket. One of them, Luca Cumani's Midnight Legend, was yesterday confirmed as the mount of John Reid. The other two, Sacrament and Red Route, are trained by the town's top guns in Michael Stoute and Henry Cecil respectively, and, for all the mutual congratulation and unconcerned smiling this pair exhibit in the winners' enclosure, it must never be forgotten they are painfully competitive.
Cecil is currently third in the trainers' championship behind Stoute, and has already done his sums at candle-side about making up the deficit. He believes Red Route must win on Saturday and that Distant View and Eltish must drop gold into the purse via the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes and Royal Lodge Stakes respectively.
Yesterday the trainer was able to deliver heartening news about his Ascot-bound beasts. 'Distant View has had a nice rest since Goodwood (where he won the Sussex Stakes) and physically he's done very well,' Cecil said. 'He could be the best miler I've ever trained. Eltish is now back in strong work and I'm very pleased with him.'
However, it is Red Route who will have to start the blitzkrieg this weekend. The colt may not exactly be facing massed ranks of opposition though, as, for the eighth time in 10 years, the Classic will be contested by a single-figure field.
Indeed, if Moonax and Party Season compete instead in Friday's Troy Stakes, Saturday may offer more window box than field and a contest of just six runners.
As expected, the doubly-entered Pearl Kite and Wind In Her Hair run today in the fillies' Leger, the Park Hill Stakes, the centrepiece of the opening day along with the Scarbrough Stakes and the 22- runner Portland Handicap.
Tomorrow, the Doncaster Cup is likely to see a rematch between Cuff Link and My Patriarch, who fought out a controversial finish at York last month. Cuff Link won the race but lost the stewards' room contest that day during a spate of official decisions which suggested the summer silly season is not confined to newspapers.
In the same race, Morley Street, who has reached the crutch and medals stage of his campaigning career will have his last race in Britain before he bows out at Merano in Italy next month.
On the same card, State Performer, who finished a fine fourth in the 2,000 Guineas to Mister Baileys when trained by Hilal Ibrahim, kicks the mothballs out of the way for his first run since and for a new trainer, John Gosden.
Next year's 2,000 Guineas' aspirants step out on Friday when Sri Pekan and Chilly Billy aim to go the way of Don't Forget Me and Rodrigo de Triano by winning the Champagne Stakes on the trail over the winter to success down on the Rowley Mile.
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