Baker takes a big step forward and tips Stradivarius for glory
Last year's winner George Baker is tipping Stradivarius for the William Hill St Leger, but he admits there is a touch of bias in his choice since he has ridden regularly for the colt's owner Bjorn Nielsen.
Baker is ambassador for William Hill, and his presence at Monday's media event represented another significant step in his recovery from February's life-threatening fall on the ice at St Moritz, as he travelled to London alone for the event and coped well with the rigours of the journey.
A little more than six months on from the St Moritz pile-up, Baker looked in great shape and had clearly grown in confidence considerably since his first tentative return to the racecourse at Goodwood in June.
He has put on weight, but looks all the better for it and does not anticipate any trouble getting it off again if, as he still hopes, he will be able to return to the saddle.
He said: "I was 8st 9lb when I was weighed in hospital and I'm up to 11st 2lb now. But I've been there before when I've been injured. I'm on a healthy diet, but I could get weight off if I needed to."
He added: "Before I left this morning the missus told me to keep things simple and be sure to get a cab from the station, but I was feeling good and so got on the tube. It wasn't too busy and it went well."
Baker admits he has thought a lot about the possibility of never riding again and finds it "a daunting prospect", but his fitness and stamina are improving by the day, with three visits a week to Oaksey House supplemented by regular trips to his local gym as well as golf and tennis lessons.
"I'm feeling much better," he said. "It's been a character-building process, and I'm just glad to be out and about and doing normal things. I'm getting there, doing loads of therapy and pushing myself as hard as I can."
Looking back on his St Leger triumph, of which his perfect recall contrasts sharply with St Moritz and the following six weeks, he said: "It was a very special day. We went there hopeful rather than confident, and we had a bit of luck, with Idaho falling.
"It took a long time to sink in that Harbour Law had won, but it was an amazing thing to do and I'm pleased I remember it so well. I had it on my Sky+ and one of the first things I did when I got home from hospital was to watch it again to remind myself of the good times.
"It's definitely something to aim for – getting back to that sort of level."