Seal Of Approval’s fall in the Group Two Park Hill Stakes on this day last year was shocking, but it could have been much worse. Jockey Hayley Turner, thrown hard into the Doncaster turf and then rolled on by her mount, chipped her pelvis and fractured three vertebrae, but was, thankfully, fit to resume her career three months later.
But of course there were repercussions. As Turner nursed her injuries, George Baker, her much-admired weighing-room colleague, took over on the unscathed Seal Of Approval and won plaudits for an exceptional ride to win on Champions Day at Ascot, the rider’s first Group One triumph at the age of 31.
While Turner now endures her least productive season for 10 years, the in-demand Baker enjoys his best ever campaign (119 wins and counting) – and it is the Wiltshire-based six-footer who again gets a long leg up on Seal Of Approval on Thursday afternoon.
If she brings her A-game to Town Moor, Seal Of Approval (2.40, Doncaster) will surely be too good for Criteria and the rest, and there were distinct signs of a revival at Newbury last time, although her in-form trainer, James Fanshawe, will be anxious that the ground does not dry out too much; this mare is best with some ease in the turf.
After a sluggish start, the St Leger festival moves up through the gears as the week progresses and another of today’s highlights, the Group Three Sceptre Stakes, sees the eagerly awaited reappearance of Sir Michael Stoute’s Bragging (2.10, Doncaster), who looked so good when making mincemeat of a decent field of handicappers at York last month.
Today’s most valuable contest by a long way, however, is the £300,000 Weatherbys Stakes, the bloated prize fund inevitably attracting a maximum field. Some classy juveniles have won this over the past decade, but also some from the far side of left field, including last year’s 100-1 outsider, Morning Post, clear bottom on ratings, but totally transformed by first-time blinkers.
Tim Easterby has a good record in these sales races and he might have the answer again with Mattmu (3.15, Doncaster) on a hat-trick and getting better with every run.
Encouraged by ground conditions, trainer Roger Varian has pretty much confirmed favourite Kingston Hill’s participation in Saturday’s final Classic by withdrawing the Derby runner-up from an alternative weekend engagement in France.
Meanwhile, William Buick has confirmed that he will ride Derby third Romsdal for John Gosden, as jockey and trainer bid for their third St Leger victory together in the past five years. Frankie Dettori will partner stablemate Forever Now.
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