TODAY’S winner of the Ladbrokes St Leger will be hard-pressed to match the acclaim that was afforded to Estimate after the Queen’s history-making horse won the Socialites Electric Cigarettes Doncaster Cup.
It was the well-backed Estimate’s first victory since the fabulous filly made racing history in June last year by becoming the only horse owned by a reigning monarch to win the Ascot Gold Cup in the long history of the blue riband race.
Yet the success also provides Her Majesty with a welcome quandary that might take her mind off next week’s vote on Scottish independence – should she play safe and retire her great champion to stud at the end of this year or be bold and undertake an audacious trip to Australia for the Melbourne Cup?
Understandably, the Queen’s racing manager John Warren was giving little away in the winner’s enclosure after Estimate showed great tenacity to beat Whiplash Willie with the hat-trick seeking Times Up unplaced after having every chance in the home straight.
Asked whether this would be Estimate’s final season, Warren said: “I would say if I asked the Queen the direct question, I think she would almost for sure say ‘don’t you think she’s done us well enough?’. It will be the Queen’s decision, but it’s almost sure (she will retire) I would say.”
On a potential trip to Australia, Warren said: “The most important thing would be the welfare of the filly herself. She fundamentally now has her breeding career in front of her and it’s very important to protect the process of that.
“If you get a filly to start off on the wrong leg in her first year at stud, if she’s not cycling correctly and doesn’t come into season until late, you end up with a very late foal and have to miss a year the following year.
“There are a lot of complexities that have to be taken into account regarding the welfare of the filly in terms of her breeding prospects.
“The tempo of the race in Australia is not quite what this filly is about. This filly is about sticking it out and Australia can be a bit stop-start.
“The French race (Prix du Cadran) is probably the right race for her, but the ground could be bottomless in Paris, so that will have a bearing. There are only three options – Ascot (Champions Day), Paris and Melbourne. My hunch is she probably won’t go to Australia. I know the Queen’s most important thing will be about the welfare of the filly.”
The Queen’s biggest win at Doncaster since Dunfermline won the 1977 St Leger, winning jockey Ryan Moore said he was always confident about the outcome.
“She was never going to get beat,” said the jockey who will be seeking his first St Leger victory today aboard Kings Fete before flying to Punchestown to be reunited with Kevin Ryan’s Dante and French Derby hero The Grey Gatsby in the Irish Champion Stakes.
As for trainer Sir Michael Stoute, he was relieved to see Estimate back to her best – this, after all, is a horse who was last in the Goodwood Cup six weeks ago before finishing second in the Lonsdale Cup at York’s Ebor festival.
“She’s a lively filly that has a lot of energy and gets bored every now and again. She can be a little bit narky,” said Stoute before pointing out, with a little twinkle of mischief in his eyes, that he was referring to the horse not the owner.
“Her resolution can never be questioned, but she is a character, and they (the staff) do a great job with her. I think we have to consider it (Melbourne Cup), but I won’t make the final decision. I’m not paying.”
Stoute, who greeted Estimate back to the winner’s enclosure with a clenched fist and one of his characteristic loud hollers, had earlier teamed up with Moore to win the Ladbrokes Mallard Stakes with Stomachion.
There was a dramatic climax to the Polypipe Flying Childers Stakes as Cotai Glory threw away almost certain victory by unseating George Baker close to home, gifting the race to Richard Hannon’s Beacon and William Buick.
Irish raider Agnes Stewart was much too good for her rivals in the John Smith’s Extra Smooth May Hill Stakes for trainer Eddie Lynam and jockey Billy Lee.
However, this will always be remembered as the day when the Queen and her horse Estimate reigned supreme on Town Moor.