Jockeys' Championship: Title race ends all square after last-gasp winner for Spencer
Sunday 11 November 2007
In the end, after miles of travel and months of slog, the jockeys' championship was effectively decided by a wayward two-year-old at Doncaster yesterday.
Seb Sanders went into the final day one winner ahead of Jamie Spencer but without the quantity or quality of his rival's mounts. In the first race they were eligible to ride in, Spencer's ride Horatio Carter was soon beaten and Sanders looked like coming second on Incomparable when newcomer Omnicat headed him a furlong out.
Bred to be an aristocrat among Thoroughbreds, newcomer Omnicat, like many who have been the subject of inbreeding, may have purple blood but also wayward tendencies. With the race apparently safe he decided that the quickest way back to the stables was by veering sharply to his right. The manoeuvre unseated his jockey Eddie Ahern and, now free from restrain, Omnicat hampered Sanders on Incomparable, stopping the partnership to a walk. Sanders was able to get his mount going again and held on by a length from Orange Pip. It was Sanders' 190th winner of the season, and his luckiest, but he was now two ahead with six races to go.
In the next Spencer looked as if he was going to narrow the gap when leading on Minus Fifteen but Premier Danseur finished with enough of a flourish to get up close home. If Spencer was down he certainly was not buried and kept his hopes alive with victory on Generous Thought in the next. The gap was back down to one.
Two races later, Sanders rode Borderlescott in the Wentworth Stakes. The pair made up ground on leader Galeota in the final furlong and were ahead a stride after the post but on it were still a very short head behind.
Neither Spencer nor Sanders got close in the feature race, the November Handicap, which went to Malt Or Mash, trained, like Galeota, by Richard Hannon. Both were ridden by last year's champ Ryan Moore who finished third this time with 126 wins having missed the opening months with a broken arm. He is odds-on to regain the title next year.
So with one race to go, Sanders was still one ahead but his intended mount, Backbord, was withdrawn, Spencer was on 7-4 favourite Inchnadamph. If the day had started with Sanders' luckiest winners, it ended with Spencer's easiest. He only had to push his partner to lead a furlong out, they then put daylight between himself and the rest.
After a mentally and physically punishing push by both contenders the honours were shared for just the third time – it last happened in 1923 when Steve Donoghue and Charlie Elliott tied. When asked for his initial feelings Spencer said: "I'm tired. It's just such a relief. I cannot wait to shake Seb's hand. He'll be as happy as I am that it's all over." Sanders said: "Coming here today, with the pain of losing a real possibility, and to have been beaten would have been very hard after such a long season. I've been trying for the past seven or eight years, my dream hascome true."
His day was not over. His 'have saddle will travel' policy took him for a couple of rides at Wolverhampton. He won on the last but, because it was a few hours after the turf season ended it did not count for the championship.
The top owner and trainer titles, won by Godolphin and Aidan O'Brien respectively, are determined by prizemoney. Some think that would also be the best way to decide the top jock in which case Frankie Dettori would lead the pack, but the fight between Spencer and Sanders ensured that, for once, the Flat season ended with a bang rather than a whimper.
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