TED DURCAN is used to big race success. He won the 2007 Epsom Oaks on Light Shift, the horse that rekindled the late Sir Henry Cecil’s career, and he won the St Leger itself a decade ago on Godolphin’s Mastery.
Yet the 45-year-old says his win aboard Central City in the Clipper Logistics Leger Legends Stakes, the day one highlight of Doncaster’s St Leger festival, was just as satisfying as his previous Classic successes.
Why? Victory in this longstanding charity race featuring retiring riders helped to raise funds to support the ongoing work of the Northern Racing College and Jack Berry House, the Injured Jockeys Fund rehab centre in Malton.
Nearly £1m has been raised since the annual race’s inception in 2010 and Durcan, who now works for veteran Flat trainer Sir Michael Stoute, timed his run to perfection on the Ian Williams-trained Mastery before bounding clear of North Yorkshire jump jockey Andrew Thornton who was aboard the runner-up Detachment.
Even Thornton, who was renowned for his competitiveness, said he’d never been more pleased to finish second at the end of this mile race featuring 16 former jockeys determined to give something back to the sport that made them.
Those present included legendary Flat jockey Lester Piggott who hailed Leeds-born Berry as “the hardest working man in racing” – he said the sport is fortunate to have such an ambassador – and National Hunt racing’s winning-most rider, Sir AP McMcoy, who won the 2015 Legends race.
“To see AP and Lester, this is special, right up there,” said Durcan. “We were racing for two great causes and it’s fantastic that there’s a day like this – there’s no other race like it.
“He was a smashing horse to ride. I know he’s only been running over six and seven furlongs, but Ian was adamant he would stay. He travelled lovely and it worked out. The horse I had was a smashing ride for a race like that.
“It’s a great afternoon. It’s really well organised and they raise huge amounts of money, so hats off to everyone, all the organisers and the sponsors.”
As for Thornton, who won the 1998 Cheltenham Gold Cup on Cool Dawn, the North Yorkshire horseman was phlegmatic. “I thought I had it and nearly did it,” he said.
“I was beaten by one better on the day. I loved it and it’s all for a good cause.”
Earlier, John Quinn’s sprinter El Astronaute, victorious at York last month, was just pipped by Global Applause in the final stages of the Scarbrough Stakes, a Listed five furlong sprint.
There was Yorkshire success, however, when Arctic Sound showed a decisive turn of pace to land the maiden for Middleham trainer Mark Johnston and in-form jockey James Doyle – the two-year-old looks a good prospect.
Meanwhile, John Gosden, this year’s leading trainer, has confirmed that his unbeaten filly La Ti Dah will line up in the St Leger on Saturday after ruling out Sunday’s Group One Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.
Owned by composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber and his wife Madeline, the filly was a sharp winner at York’s Ebor festival and is now second favourite for the big race behind the Aidan O’Brien-trained Kew Gardens.
Richard Hannon hopes to dispel the notion that he is simply a trainer of milers when he saddles each-way chance Raymond Tusk in the final Classic of 2018.
Though he has enjoyed Classic success in the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, and won multiple Group One mile races with the likes ofToronado and Olympic Glory, Hannon is irked at the mere suggestion that he’s not so prolific when it comes to middle distance horses.
“It is frustrating when you do get pigeon-holed, but it is nice to be good at something!” he said.