AS one of the driving forces behind the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Stakes, it was particularly apt that retired Yorkshire jockey Dale Gibson should be first past the post.
Yet Gibson’s personal satisfaction following this unexpected win on Les Eyre’s Bob was eclipsed by the fact that this annual charity race – the established day one highlight of the Ladbrokes St Leger Festival – raised £100,000 for two racing charities.
Gibson, who is also the Professional Jockeys’ Association Liaison Officer, was always travelling comfortably on the 7-1 winner but the pair had to dig deep to repel the renewed challenge of Janaab, ridden by Kelly Harrison, as the winning post loomed.
The 46-year-old rider, who lives in Boston Spa, said: “It’s great to win but the horse is very strong and he’s done most of the work.
“I was actually quite confident halfway through the race as he was travelling so well and it’s nice to win for Les Eyre as I rode a lot of winners for him when I was riding.
“I’ve put lots of effort into the organisation of this race and it’s great that we’ve managed to raise another £100,000 for the Northern Racing College and Jack Berry House.
“I got involved in the race shortly after I retired about five years ago, but was never actually planning to get back on a horse again. It’s obviously nice to win, but the most important thing is the fundraising that we’ve managed to achieve for a couple of really important causes.”
Eyre was also delighted after the race and revealed that the winner is not the easiest to get right at home. The trainer is enjoying his first season back in Britain since returning from Spain to take up training at Catwick, near Beverley.
“We only decided to run him in this race about a week ago as he’s quite hard to keep right back at the yard,” he said. “He’s been a grand horse for us out in Spain though and he’s carried that form through since we’ve come back. He’s owned by Victor Chandler so I know he’ll be happy about this.”
Celebrities present on Town Moor yesterday included Sir Alex Ferguson, who wanted to lend his personal support to retired trainer Jack Berry, the driving force behind the Injured Jockeys Fund and the inspiration behind the £3m rehabilitation centre which is being built in his name in Malton.
In another major boost, it was announced yesterday that the The Reuben Foundation is to help fund a special hydrotherapy pool at the centre for injured jockeys.
As for yesterday’s support races, Boroughbridge-based jockey Paul Mulrennan took the John Smith’s Original Scarbrough Stakes on Mecca’s Angel for Michael Dods.
However, Dods will resist the temptation to supplement Mecca’s Angel for the Prix de l’Abbaye after his rapier-like filly left a trail of decent sprinters in her wake.
Reckless Abandon, the winner of two Group One races in 2012, appeared to have no excuses in second but may be suited by stepping back up to six furlongs, while Steps was third.
“She was very impressive. We’ve been struggling this season as I don’t want to ruin her on fast ground,” said the Darlington trainer. “She’s been ready to run for three or four months and we had her in at York and Beverley but the ground went too fast.
“We were happy with conditions. Her home work has been excellent, Paul rode her last Friday and said it was the best she’d ever worked. She worked with Spinatrix who nearly won the Great St Wilfrid and she flew past her so we knew she was in good form.”
Hambleton trainer Kevin Ryan’s year to remember continued, meanwhile, when Salateen made every yard of the running in the 1stsecuritysolutions.co.uk Nursery Handicap. He was the first of six winners on the day to be drawn in stall two and looks an exciting prospect.
From halfway, it was obvious he was in a different league to the others and Jamie Spencer did not have to work hard leading him to a length and three-quarters win over Goring.
“I was going to run him in a Listed race later in the week, but I just thought the ground might be a bit better today,” said Ryan.
“It’s all about next year and whether he has one more run or not I’m not sure, but it will be back up in class if he does. He’s a stakes horse.”
However, it would be remiss if the final word of another unforgettable day did not go to Tim Adams, chairman of the Leger Legends Race Committee, who said: “I’d just like to say that none of the race committee had a penny on that as Dale told us he couldn’t win!”