David Ord's seven favourite St Leger winners

Oh So Sharp at Doncaster

Galileo Chrome landed this year's Pertemps St Leger and David Ord shares his favourite memories from the Doncaster Classic.


Below are David's favourite St Leger winners but we want yours. Email racingfeedback@sportinglife.com and we'll publish your comments at the foot of the article.


7. 1996 Shantou

It’s hard to believe nowadays but there was a time when the pressure was on John Gosden. He was brought home from America by Sheikh Mohammed and set-up in Stanley House. But despite an armada of expensively-bought, blue-bloods in the famous maroon and while silks to go to war with, winners, and in particular big winners, were not flowing at the anticipated rate.

“How good is Gosden?” the wonderful David Ashforth asked in the trade press. Nowadays the question would be rhetorical.

Shantou was one of the horses who turned things around, providing the trainer with a first British Classic when getting the better of Dushyantor under a jubilant Frankie Dettori.

Gosden was cool, calm and calculated as he reflected on the victory moments later on Channel Four only for a youthful and exuberant Dettori to burst through the press pack to try and lift the trainer from his feet.

“I think I might have been a little lost without him today,” the trainer smiled. “He gave the horse the most wonderful ride. I don’t think many jockeys in the world would have won on him today.”

It was the start of something very special.

Shantou and Frankie Dettori win the St Leger

6. 2001 Milan

You don’t often get traffic problems in a St Leger. Milan did. You don’t often have to display a smart turn of foot to win a St Leger. Milan did. He was no ordinary Leger winner.

Mick Kinane had an awful lot of horse under him two furlongs out at Town Moor – but an awful lot of horses around him too.

The preferred route – up the rails - was closed off and as he switched to the centre, Demophilos took five lengths out of the field. It wasn’t plain sailing still for the favourite – he had to switch inside again – and challenge between horses.

But once in the clear he oozed class as he cut his rival down in a matter of strides and thundered to the line.

He went on give Fantastic Light an almighty scare in the Breeders’ Cup Turf before injury the following spring ended his career. At Doncaster he was a class apart.

Milan powers clear at Doncaster

5. 1992 User Friendly

Here was a brilliant filly. Unraced at two, she started her career in the April of 1992 by winning a maiden at Sandown but such was her progression she rolled into Doncaster chasing a fourth successive Group One prize.

We knew she was good, very good, following wins in the Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. What we didn’t know was would she stay and could she cope with the colts.

The answer to both was a definitive yes.

Local hero George Duffield always had matters under total control, making his move two out as Sonus and Steve Cauthen tried to draw her string.

Clive Brittain’s charge swept past him in four strides and bounded clear to the approval of a huge Doncaster crowd.

Classics should be won by champions. The 1992 St Leger was.

George Duffield celebrates User Friendly's win

4. 1981 Cut Above

Shergar was one of the first behemoths to get me hooked on this great game and he helped me learn a crucial lesson at Doncaster.

His ten-length romp in the Derby at Epsom was stunning, the sort of performance that will never fade from the memory. Neither will his Leger.

I watched the action unfold in stunned silence. Here was the horse who had thundered down the straights at Epsom, the Curragh and Ascot during a glorious summer, rolling around inside the final two furlongs at Town Moor as Cut Above, Glint Of Gold and Bustomi took his measure.

1981 St. Leger Stakes

At the line he was 11 lengths in arrears of the winner in fourth. Beaten by the effects of a long season, the extra two furlongs and three horses he’d have eaten up and spat out in mid-summer.

They’re not machines.

But Cut Above was a good-news story in his own right. A horse representing the ‘old firm’ of Dick Hern, Joe Mercer and Sir Jackie Astor. But this is one of the Legers that isn’t remembered for the name of the winner. Talking of which…

3. 2012 – Encke

This was the day the wait ended. Camelot strode round the parade ring at the Town Moor with the Triple Crown within his grasp.

Not since his illustrious predecessor at Ballydoyle, Nijinsky in 1975, had a colt won all three Classics. And the hard work was done.

He wasn’t going to win the 2000 Guineas for much of the contest at Newmarket until meeting the rising ground and his stamina kicked on. It was much more straightforward at Epsom and here at Doncaster – well it was coronation day.

The space had been cleared by the gates of Ballydoyle for a commemorative statue to be erected in honour of historic achievement and turning in at Doncaster it all looked so straightforward.

Camelot can't get past Encke in the Leger

But everything changed passing the two furlong marker. Encke quickened to the front under Mickael Barzalona and took three lengths out of his rival. Try as he did, Camelot couldn’t reel him in.

The schedule for after-race parties printed in the racecard was spiked and Town Moor fell flat. It was an eerie experience to see the place deflate like a balloon in the space of 15 seconds.

Encke was to gain even more notoriety the following spring when one of seven Mahmood Al Zarooni trained hoses to test positive for a prohibited substance. But the previous autumn he was the ultimate party-pooper.

2. 1987 Reference Point

There was something gloriously uncomplicated about this colt. He’d jump out, go to the front and try to grind it out. More often than not he did.

He had the perfect partner in crime in Steve Cauthen who timed the fractions to perfection to fend off Most Welcome in the Derby and to run his rivals into the ground in the King George at Ascot.

Here was a top-class colt who didn’t need wrapping up in cotton wool, in between those two races he’d beaten all bar Mtoto over an inadequate ten furlongs in the Coral-Eclipse and prior to Doncaster had taken in – and won – the Voltigeur at York.

He wouldn’t race on the bridle for much of a race, Cauthen kidding and nudging him along. He was rowing away three out in the Leger as Mountain Kingdom loomed large in his slipstream.

But getting to – and passing – Reference Point were two different things. By the furlong pole Mountain Kingdom was out of his comfort zone and at the line a length-and-a-half adrift.

He was unlucky to bump into one of the best Leger winners of recent times.

1987 St Leger

1. 1985 Oh So Sharp

But his trainer and jockey had already combined to provide a more memorable one.

Oh So Sharp is the only Triple Crown winner of my lifetime and was a filly to savour.

Her 1000 Guineas win was dramatic, getting up on the line to win it in a three-way photo. Her Oaks triumph authoritative.

But post Epsom she’d twice met with defeat, run down by Petoski in a fantastic King George at Ascot and unable to reel-in Commanche Run who was given a Lester Piggott masterclass in the Benson and Hedges (now Juddmonte International) at York.

The legendary jockey again threatened to play the villain in the next instalment of the Oh So Sharp story. Partnering her stablemate Lanfranco at Doncaster and looking to expose any chinks in the favourite’s stamina.

Three out Cauthen moved Oh So Sharp alongside her Warren Place neighbour and two out past him. But now she was in unchartered territory.

She was never further clear than the three-quarters-of-a-length by which she won the race but try as they might neither the staying-on Phardante or Lanfranco could get back to her.

History was made with a brave performance on a memorable afternoon – one which has never been repeated some 35 years on.

Horse Racing 1985 Oh So Sharp Triple Crown.wmv

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