Renewed Effort can find reward

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The Independent Online
It is an annual oddity at this time in the racing calendar that the trade papers are stuffed with comments and features about characters somewhat removed from the turf's mainstream. Thus, yesterday, there were sizeable interviews with Lord Swaythling, who will be represented by St Mawes in the St Leger on Saturday, and Humphrey Cottrill, the former Newmarket trainer, whose claim to fame these days is the lung capacity to extinguish the 90 candles on his birthday cake.

The unsung get their opportunity each autumn because the sung are elsewhere. Many of Britain's more significant egos were airborne last week as the Keeneland Sales in Kentucky, which started on Monday, drew Britain's leading trainers.

This exodus means that many of the winning animals at the St Leger meeting, which begins today, are greeted by small men with horsesheets over their forearms who are invisible for the rest of the year.

Some see this as heresy, because in a historical context the St Leger is unsurpassed. The world's oldest Classic, it was first run in 1776 to commemorate Lt-Gen Anthony St Leger. The inaugural running came three years after the citizens of Boston filled the harbour with tea, while George Washington was yet to ascend to presidency.

The trainers do have excuses for their absence today. The Doncaster card is hardly one to have the aesthetes at the gate in their sleeping bags overnight, and the day's point of attraction is the impenetrable Portland Handicap. Those who are going to back the winner of the sprint will know of the fact when they pull back the curtains and a huge, celestial forefinger is pointing into the bedroom.

The Portland has been a dangerous race for many in recent years. Paul Cook and Ian Johnson never rode again after the course opened up with a suggestion it had been built on catacombs, while regular investors in the contest will also have had their livelihoods threatened. A high draw used to be required for success, but in the last two years the very opposite seems advantageous. As ever, it may be that the winner will come from where the fast starters are drawn, but as they are so scattered little help comes from that outlet either.

A remaining pointer is race pedigree and in this category there is none better qualified than BOLD EFFORT (nap 4.10), who was runner-up 12 months ago. The gelding appears to have been awarded his winner's prize already as he recently spent a month in Normandy. That, however, was a working holiday, during which he won at Clairefontaine and was then third in a competitive handicap at Deauville. He may be exceptional value at 16-1.

The other significant event on the card is the Park Hill Stakes, named after the place where Lt-Gen St Leger used to be a resident. Corradini's performance in the earlier Mallard Handicap will provide a pointer to Beauchamp Jade in this, as she finished just in front of the colt when second in the Ebor. The winner, though, may be Time Allowed (next best 3.10), who finished a head behind Eva Luna in York's Galtres Stakes and reopposes on 2lb better terms.