“Some you win, some you lose,” was the verdict from Aidan O’Brien as the St Leger appeal went against Ballydoyle in favour of Ralph Beckett and his connections.
The Doncaster stewards had controversially awarded the fifth Classic to Bondi Beach after he suffered interference from first past the post Simple Verse. They had decided that two collisions on the straight had sufficiently affected the result of the race in favour of the filly. The appeal board decided that despite interference, the second home had sufficient time to get past and win the race. They clearly felt that the filly won on merit, despite the incidents not because of the incidents.
The decision of the Doncaster stewards came as an almighty shock at the time, though a reversal on appeal remained highly unlikely. Whatever doubts may remain over the final decision, two clear positives remain. One of those is the pure class of Aidan O’Brien.
The gentleman has conducted himself throughout in a thoroughly professional manner. Of course it helps that he has had such success over the years and that the loss of a Classic to him therefore has less of an impact. But his immediate comments after the appeal did much to aid the image of our wonderful sport.
“It’s great for connections of the mare. Life goes on,” was his verdict on having the St Leger snatched away. It came as no surprise that O’Brien should act in such a magnanimous fashion. Despite dominating Flat racing for well over a decade, the master of Ballydoyle remains humble, respectful and thoroughly even-handed in both victory and defeat.
Another huge positive to come out of the ensuing farce is the ultimate success for the wonderful trainer Ralph Beckett. The highest praise I could bestow on the Hampshire handler, is that he’s becoming as good a trainer of fillies as the late great Sir Henry Cecil. So close in the final Classic of the season in 2013 when Talent chased home Leading Light, he also saddled Look Here to a third place finish in 2008.
Beckett was devastated at the steward’s decision at Doncaster, and though he now has his St Leger, the whole process will clearly have tainted the success. After winning the appeal he said: “To have it taken away on the day was horrendous. There are only five Classics. It was a big call by us to supplement in the first place. To get it back is terrific but to get it back like this is not how you want it. I have been lucky enough to win three Classics but I am never going to think about it in the way I do about the two Oaks wins.”
It’s sad that the ordeal has clearly left a mark, but I’m sure that in time Beckett will reflect in a more positive light at the terrific piece of training that took a handicapper rated 77 in May, on a journey to St Leger success just three months later.