St Leger Heroes impact on National Hunt scene

St Leger winner Milan

St Leger winner Milan

They’d finished second and third in the Epsom Derby of 1996, both staying on powerfully from the back to chase home Shaamit.

When Dushyantor and Shantou renewed rivalry at Doncaster in the St Leger later that year, it was the former, and Derby runner-up that was sent off favourite, whilst Shantou was only regarded as fourth best by the betting public. The race mirrored that at Epsom, as the pair made their move in unison on the outer. With no Shaamit to beat on this occasion, the duo had the race between them, pulling clear of the remainder from the furlong pole.

Over this extended trip, it was Frankie Dettori and Shantou that wore down Pat Eddery and Dushyantor, getting on top in the shadow of the post, to win by a neck. The victory was the first British Classic success for John Gosden. He has since captured the St Leger a further three times, with Lucarno in 2007, and Arctic Cosmos and Masked Marvel in 2010 and 2011.

Shantou, who won a pair of Group 1s in Milan along with the Princess of Wales’s Stakes, during his successful career on the track, has become one of the most prized National Hunt Stallions, producing numerous talented stayers over both hurdles and fences.

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Outstanding talents include; Briar Hill, the Grade 1 winning novice hurdler trained by Willie Mullins; Morning Assembly, a Grade 1 winning novice hurdler, and third in the RSA Chase at Cheltenham; and Shantou Village, a talented novice hurdler who may prove to be one of the stars of the winter in the novice chase division.
It’s no surprise when such a high-class stayer on the Flat becomes a stallion known for passing on that stamina laden quality to his offspring.

Just a few years after Shantou won Doncaster’s showpiece, Aidan O’Brien captured his first St Leger with another classy colt that was to become a star of the National Hunt breeding scene. In 2001 it was Milan who stormed to victory in the season’s final Classic. The powerful colt had won the Great Voltigeur at York in August, and was sent-off favourite to follow-up. Pinned on the rail for much of the race, when Mick Kinane finally found space to make his run, the race was quickly over as a contest.

He sustained a career-ending injury early into his four-year-old campaign, and was retired to stud. His career as a stallion has been a dazzling one for those that appreciate the Jumps. Unlike Shantou, Milan has a reputation of producing talented jumpers for all distances. Jezki won the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham in 2014, and followed up by winning the Irish equivalent at Punchestown.

Darlan was taken from us all too soon, having looked set to become an outstanding two-mile hurdler. Trained by Nicky Henderson, this stocky son of Milan had won the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, before tragically dying in a fall at the home of the St Leger, Doncaster.

Along with top two-milers, Milan has also produced the Aintree Grand National third Double Seven, and the dual Welsh National winner Mountainous. He’s also responsible for the Albert Bartlett hero Martello Tower, along with Cross Country star Josies Orders. He has become one of the top half dozen jump racing sires, and his success looks sure to continue over the coming campaign.

Gosden and O’Brien have become the standard bearers when it comes to St Leger success in recent times. They are currently tied on four wins apiece, though none of their subsequent Leger winners have yet made quite the same impact on the National Hunt scene as Milan and Shantou. Both trainers will hope to add to that success on Saturday, with the Master of Ballydoyle undoubtedly holding the stronger hand.

Whether Idaho or any other of the St Leger entrants can leave such an indelible mark on racing is tough to say. Saturday’s favourite is certainly bred to impress. Third in the Epsom Derby back in June, the way he won the Great Voltigeur at York suggests he has the perfect blend of class and stamina.

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