A selection of correspondence in response to Emma Berry’s Op/Ed ‘Long May The Leger Run‘:
I read your article about the St Leger in the TDN with interest and I agree totally that it would be a great loss to British racing to see the Leger distance changed. When I started training I had horses for Lord Weinstock and Dick Hollingsworth, who only bred middle-distance horses, and I really enjoyed being able to allow their horses the time to develop and mature; they also improved significantly from two to three, so if they showed any real ability at two they were going to be useful at three.
I remember, in the early days, having two two-year-olds for Dick Hollingsworth and not ringing him for ages, as I didn’t know what to say. April came and I rang him one Sunday to say I was pleased with them and they were coming along nicely, to which he replied, “How on earth do you know? I hope you haven’t done any work with them.”
He went on to say that there was no point ringing him before July, as his two-year-olds shouldn’t be doing anything before then. Not many owners would say that to you these days!
I love the St. Leger, not only as a test of stamina but as a test of a horse’s bravery–they have to be tough to win it. It produces horses that go on and mature, having longevity, which is great for the sport and audience participation.
(Trainer of the 1988 St Leger winner Minster Son, now director of racing at Chelmsford City Racecourse)
Shortening Classic races, doping, railing against HISA, the US (more than any other nation, in my opinion) clinging to the ridiculous notion that fillies/mares can’t compete with colts/geldings simply based on their gender–so many things sadden me in regards to racing these days.
I don’t want any races shortened. If anything, I’d like to see some lengthened. This is especially pertinent in the US where many ‘Classic’ filly and mare races are shorter even than their male counterparts. I’d love to see both the Kentucky Oaks and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (just to name two) go back to being 1 1/4 races.
One of the brightest spots (again, in my opinion) is Japan. They keep showing the rest of the world what proper breeding and care can produce–and all drug free. They keep my faith and hope alive.
For me, the biggest light is the horse. Watching these beauties run (especially in the longer races) is what hooked me on the sport and keeps me coming back for more.
I read with interest your article of 8th March published in TDN.
This brought back memories because the question of the St Leger distance, and also if it should be open to older horses, was a much discussed question late 1970s and early 80s. In recent years I had just accepted the race as a NH stallion maker. Interestingly, I once read Tony Morris suggesting his love of thoroughbred breeding may not have developed if this had been the case in his earlier years.
I was always horrified by any thoughts of lowering the distance of the St Leger. However, I was never certain my argument was based on anything but being a traditionalist. Although Peter Willett’s argument is sound from a British breeding perspective, the move from the perception I had had in the 1970s that Australian racing was stamina laden to the current sprint-dominated racing and breeding seems to have worked in extreme and ultimately to, what Australians would consider, the detriment of their more prestigious races.
The other point of interest in your article was why a picture of The Minstrel should be on the copy of a June 1980 copy of Pacemaker. The indexing of my literature clearly works better than I thought and note it was a Richard Stone Reeves painting. Incidentally, on the changing face of racing, note the advert for Moyglare Stud selling a draft of yearlings at Keeneland (and they also sold in Europe as I recall).
EB replies: Yes, indeed, The Minstrel portrait was in regard to the publication of ‘Decade of Champions’ by Richard Stone Reeves and Patrick Robinson, a really special book.
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