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Silver Patriarch: A perfect result that gave Pat Eddery a landmark win

Silver Patriarch provides Pat Eddery with a landmark 4,000th winner in the 1997 St Leger
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First published on Thursday, September 8, 2011


There was an essential "rightness" about this result, one of those all-too-rare occasions when all the tumblers slipped satisfyingly into place and the lock clicked open.

Silver Patriarch had been unfortunate not to win the Derby, his compelling charge through the final quarter-mile failing to reel in Benny The Dip by less than the length of a well-smoked cigarette. A stride after the post, the grey was in front, but races aren't won a stride after the post.

On St Leger morning, Pat Eddery's career tally of winners stood at 3,999. His three rides before the final Classic didn't look like milestone material, but surely Silver Patriarch would get him over the line and into one of racing's most exclusive clubs, members two: Sir Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott.

Peter Winfield's grey charger had been pipped in the Great Voltigeur Stakes by Stowaway, but the extra distance was expected to be in his favour given his undoubted stamina reserves. Stowaway would be a threat nevertheless . . .  until he was withdrawn on the morning of the race after going lame.

All seemed in place for a glorious victory and punters read the signs, backing Silver Patriarch down to 5-4 favourite to beat nine rivals in what hindsight reveals as a particularly dreadful renewal of the great race.

I was among those punters, although only in spirit as I was 3,500 miles away in Washington DC, lugging a heavy rucksack around the US, standing at a payphone in Union Station. Watching the race was out of the question, of course, but a call home did the trick, my mother putting the receiver next to the television and bravely forgoing questions such as "are you all right?" and "are you eating properly?".

The commentary crossed the miles loud and clear, the grey's three-length success sounding suitably comfortable. My winnings paid for another week of travelling, and of toasting Silver Patriarch in various seedy bars.

"The horse deserved this," said trainer John Dunlop. It was the right result all round.


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All seemed in place for a glorious victory and punters read the signs