ANDREA ATZENI has spoken of his relief after finally being awarded the Ladbrokes St Leger – 10 days after passing the Doncaster winning post in first place aboard Simple Verse.
After one of the closest finishes in the illustrious history of the world’s oldest Classic, Atzeni and his mount were demoted to second place after stewards deemed that they had caused interference to Bondi Beach, who was runner-up on the day. Just a head separated the horses as they flashed past the post.
However, the decision of the Doncaster stewards was reversed by the British Horseracing Authority yesterday after upholding an appeal that was lodged by Simple Verse’s owner Sheikh Fahad and incandescent trainer Ralph Beckett.
The appeal panel were not persuaded that the first clash between the two horses improved the final position of Simple Verse. They also concluded that the coming together of the protagonists just yards from the finishing line had “little or no effect” on the outcome.
Sardinian-born Atzeni had been very emotional when the original verdict was made – Bondi Beach’s rider Colm O’Donoghue put up a very eloquent case in the original inquiry – and admitted to being in tears in the stalls before the race following the St Leger.
The decision means he has won successive St Legers – he was victorious in 2014 on the now retired Kingston Hill – while Simple Verse is the first filly to win the Classic since the George Duffield-ridden User Friendly in 1992.
“I feel a relief, it’s a big thing as you don’t win Classics every day, they are very hard to win, especially on a filly. For me to win a Classic for Sheikh Fahad in my first year (as retained rider) is massive for everyone involved,” said Atzeni. “On the day I was heartbroken and was very sad. However, there are worse things in life and at least we got it back and we can move forward now.
“I think I got more text messages and phone calls losing it than when I won it last year on Kingston Hill. Those little messages can really lift you up.”
Ladbrokes director Mike Dillon said he hoped that the Simple Verse team could be presented with their prize at Doncaster’s Racing Post Trophy meeting on October 24.
Malcolm Jefferson’s runaway Aintree winner Cyrus Darius makes a much-anticipated steeplechasing debut at Perth today.
After emphatic wins in lesser company at Newcastle and Hexham, the six-year-old took a significant step up in class in his stride with a brilliant 10-length triumph in the Grade Two Top Novices’ Hurdle at the Crabbie’s Grand National meeting.
“He looks well, he’s in good order and he’s ready to run,” said the Norton-based trainer. “He was always going to strengthen up over the summer and I think he has. We thought we might as well get him started as it sounds like they’ve got some good ground up there.”
Kieren Fallon returns to action in the UK for the first time since May with two rides at Haydock tomorrow.
The six-times champion jockey partners Deep Resolve for Richmond trainer Alan Swinbank in the opening race, and Siege Of Boston for Deborah Sanderson in a five-furlong nursery.
Swinbank said: “ He’s ridden a lot of winners for me since I started and we get on very well.”
Fallon, 50, took a break from riding in Britain in May after injuring his foot in the stalls and went over to compete in America when he recovered.