Sanders and Spencer take a final salute in gladiatorial contest for crown of honour

A title. That's all it is. A title, or label. It confers no other reward. And in future it will probably mean even less than it does now. But Seb Sanders and Jamie Spencer could not have contested the jockeys' championship with greater ardour if it carried £1m in prize-money.

Today their epic duel will at last be resolved at Doncaster, the final meeting of a season that began back in March. Since then the rivals have had over 2,000 rides between them, but flew to Musselburgh yesterday deadlocked on 187 winners apiece. By the end of the afternoon, Sanders had inched one ahead, thanks to a typically gritty performance on Alma Mater. The pair then took off for the evening shift, at Wolverhampton, with all still to play for.

In all, they were slugging it out from 1pm to 9.20pm, riding modest animals in races so poor that, for the most part, one or other found himself on the favourite. Today's card, in contrast, is so competitive that it is perfectly possible that neither will ride a winner. A tie remains a strong possibility. Either way, they have kept it alive to the bitter end.

Not that there is any bitterness between them. They have conducted themselves honourably throughout. But this is the first jockeys' championship to be settled by a manic autumn campaign of floodlit evening racing, relentless and mediocre. Spencer, champion on an easier schedule in 2005, has already avowed that he will never again expose himself to such physical and mental attrition in pursuit of a mere bauble.

Having been prevented from defending his title this time by injury, Ryan Moore doubtless remains hungry enough to run the treadmill next year, and probably for a few seasons beyond. It is difficult, however, to envisage others among the recognised elite ever making a priority of the championship, on these merciless terms.

Yet for now – for just one more electrifying afternoon – the prize remains beyond price. If this is indeed the beginning of the end for the jockeys' championship, it is certainly going out with a bang, not a whimper.

The last contest to go to the final afternoon was 20 years ago, when Steve Cauthen thwarted Pat Eddery, 197 to 195. Cauthen was so shattered that he vowed never to pursue the title again.

In soaking up a still tougher autumn, Sanders and Spencer have shown such prodigious stamina and dedication that neither deserves to lose out. Spencer must be counted the moral winner, having accumulated his tally from fewer rides, and missed 50 days through suspension. And, truth be told, at root he is the better jockey. As champion, he is to the manner born.

But it is no paradox to assert that Sanders makes fewer mistakes, and nobody could begrudge such a reward to a man whose meek professionalism is exemplified by his plans for tonight. Though the floodgates of exhaustion will surely open as he leaves Doncaster, whether in joy or despair, he will proceed to Wolverhampton – effectively the first meeting of the all-weather season – in order to meet his obligations to Sir Mark Prescott in the very last race of the night.

If that seems mildly sadistic, on the part of Prescott, then equally there could be no better token of the heroic masochism by which both Sanders and Spencer have forged this unforgettable contest.

Heaven to provide November bliss

There is little doubt that Jamie Spencer's final book of mounts is superior to that of his rival. But even he cannot count on riding a winner at Doncaster today.

Both have place chances in their first encounter (12.30), but Generous Thought looks far more progressive than Mudhish in an open race for the nursery (1.30). With Soft Morning a doubtful runner the coast is clear for Gull Wing to score at Listed level (2.00). The weights favour Sanders in their next clash, as Borderlescott gave 8lb to Zidane when just foiled in a photo for the Stewards' Cup in the summer, but neither could cope with Greek Renaissance (2.35) last time and that colt retains scope for further progress.

In the last big race of the campaign, the Totesport November Handicap, Sanders is likely to find John Terry lacking the commitment of his footballing namesake. Spencer, in contrast, rides the favourite, an unbeaten, progressive Galileo colt for some reason named Pippa Greene. The form of his second success has worked out particularly well, but he runs off a 15lb higher mark this time, and a big field of veteran handicappers will present this inexperienced animal with an uncomfortable new challenge.

HEAVEN KNOWS (nap 3.10) by contrast should now be well equipped for the job, having come to hand steadily after a delayed return to the track this summer. Everything fell into place at Newbury last time, where he won going away after being left with plenty to do. A brother to Notnowcato, he has always looked the type to disclose his class with maturity and could conceivably win by daylight.

The last race is a singularly unattractive betting medium, though Spencer could clutch at a rather stronger straw than Sanders, Inchnadamph having run well in the Cesarewitch last time, as he always does. Backbord's hurdling form would make him interesting, but his fitness must be taken on trust. Who knows? This pair of unexceptional plodders could yet shoulder a momentous burden.

Pouvoir up to the task over jumps

As a rule, the jumpers would already be commanding centre stage, and Channel 4 also has its cameras at Wincanton, where Pouvoir (2.50) can pay a compliment to the exciting Gwanako, who pulled him so far clear of the rest at Chepstow last month.

Abragante (3.25) is palpably well treated for his return to fences, having left this kind of rating well behind when making giant strides over hurdles. Ornais (2.20), meanwhile, has always promised to make a chaser and can make the most of his allowances on his first run over fences.

Sir Tristram worthy of finest memorial

In reporting his death this week, the Racing Post saluted Sir Tristram Ricketts as "racing's consummate civil servant". But the unmistakable warmth of the tributes recorded to the Levy Board chief executive made quite plain that the most important word in that description was "civil".

Sir Tristram was a truly delightful man. In a world not lacking mean spirits he towered above petty squabbles. But his loftiness was merely physical – if vividly so, as might be observed whenever he had the opportunity to throw those long limbs towards the ceiling in his YMCA dance routine. He had altitude, but no airs. He wore his many talents humbly, and engaged easily with people of all backgrounds.

The ghastly haste with which illness claimed him has shocked his many friends in racing. His wife, Annie, and their children will receive heartfelt commiserations from across the industry. The best memorial now, perhaps, would be for all factions to cherish his example, and temper their avarice accordingly. However unlikely, that would be a legacy worthy of the man.

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
News
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Sport
football
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
News
news
News
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
news
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living