ST LEGER 2023

It’s not their fault, but they ruined the script. Three year old Continuous is a fine and progressive colt, Ryan Moore an internationally renowned master jockey, and Aidan O’Brien a phenomenon of the training game. But winning this Betfred St Leger, a 3rd for Moore, a 7th for O’Brien was not either of the stories the world had been waiting for. 

These were to be either a last Classic for Dettori or a first for the King. The scene was set, the weather held. Their Majesties arrived in the paddock and did a walkabout with the crowd along the rail. Dettori held court with his connections and we awaited the appearance of the royal colt Desert Hero and Frankie’s farewell conveyance Arrest.

Desert Hero is a brightly coloured chestnut who has developed into a powerful equine athlete but admiration for him was slightly tempered by the sight of the massed ranks of the O’Brien runners, a quartet of them in this nine-runner field. Denmark held his blinkered head high like a coach horse, whilst Continuous and his two other “domestiques” Alexandropoulos and Tower of London were the fine specimens their pedigrees promised them to be. Arrest was the last to show and the first to go out on the track. The “Frankie Factor” saw him backed down to favourite. But it’s the battle not the betting that matters.

It took a bit over three minutes to run and the hope of one of the two “perfect” scripts getting written lasted for at least two and a half of the three. Dettori settled the hard pulling Arrest in fifth, Tom Marquand on the now quite sweat-lathered Desert Hero next to him with Continuous testing Moore’s arms just behind them. Up front Denmark and Arrest’s stable mate Gregory set the pace with Chesspiece and Alexandropolous behind them. Swinging into the long pitiless straight everything was still to play for.

Arrest was the first to threaten. You could see power beneath Dettori as he stalked up the outside. Gregory was holding on but the others were folding. Continuous looked for room on the inside and Desert Hero had a fight on his hands. A cheer went up for “Frankie” but Moore and Continous were through. Fully two furlongs out they cut clear for home and only calamity could revive the fairy tales.

Arrest ground on to be just under three lengths adrift at the line and Desert Hero buckled down hard to get home ahead of Gregory and Tower Of London with the rest trailing. It was yet another triumph for the Moore/O’Brien combination. The trainer gave his usual turn of thanks to all his team and said that Continuous might well go for the Prix de L’Arc De Triomphe next month and his jockey was free with his praise

“He’s a very genuine horse,” Moore said. “He won a Group 3 race as a two-year-old on awful ground and he’s getting better, he’s got a great will to win, travels and has a turn of foot. He’s got a lot of guts.” 

Afterwards, the King came down for a debrief and sought out Dettori for consolation. The little Italian gave generous press interviews in which he once again teased with the chance of a comeback. He has done us more than proud. It’s the other gentleman the game would be extra happy to see again.  

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