Who needs history? Live for the day when it comes to the Leger
David Carr sets the scene for a thrilling final Classic at Doncaster
Whether you go with the Latin 'Carpe Diem' or take your guidance from Derek Thompson and 'Enjoy The Moment', the message on Saturday is the same.
Savour the St Leger for what it is rather than take a rose-tinted look back at history, tempting though that may be when there is 241 years to go at.
For instance, this year is the 200th anniversary of the controversial running when hot favourite Blacklock looked to have the race won only for jockey John Jackson to ease up too soon and go down by a neck to Bob Johnson on Ebor.
And it's the 100th anniversary of Gay Crusader beating just two rivals at 2-11 in a wartime substitute at Newmarket.
That 1917 running was actually the September Stakes, as Doncaster wanted to preserve the cachet of the St Leger name, but doom-mongers have been saying the race isn't what it was almost since it was first run, with the ink scarcely dry on the US Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Most recently a columnist labelled it an anachronism in these pages, and wrote: "Its position as a race of significance is rightly questioned."
Tell that to the 30,000 folk who will be gathered to witness this supposed relic on Saturday, or to new sponsor William Hill, whose three-year deal to back a race worth £700,000 was not signed with an eye to selling it on to the Antiques Roadshow.
But the most important numbers shout out from the racecard.
Two Group 1 winners, two Group 2 winners and five Group 3 winners does not add up to a contest in crisis, and this is an event to savour – even if a race with eight beaten favourites in the last ten looks as tricky as ever to call.
Following in Shergar's footsteps
You know it is a competitive race when the Irish Derby winner turns up for only the third time in three-dozen years, yet that horse is not even sure to start favourite.
Capri is no Shergar, beaten at 4-9 here in 1981, but he did beat Cracksman at the Curragh, which nothing has looked remotely like doing in that rival's two outings since.
And he was immediately pointed here by Aidan O'Brien, whose four previous victories show he knows what it usually takes to triumph at Doncaster.
Except that the numbers suggest this is not a usual year, bar the normal multiple representation from Ballydoyle, whose four-strong team also includes Chester Vase winner Venice Beach.
Gosden has two strings to his bow
For a start, there's another runner proven at the top level in Stradivarius, who beat Gold Cup winner Big Orange in the Goodwood Cup last month.
He drops back in trip but that does not worry John Gosden, another with four Legers to his name.
But he also runs Ribblesdale Stakes winner Coronet, the chosen mount of Frankie Dettori – even though she was put firmly in her place by Dettori’s mount Enable in the Yorkshire Oaks.
O'Brien out to emulate Wragg
However, it is a trio of Group 3 winners who have really captured the imagination.
Success for Rekindling would be historic, making Joseph O'Brien the first man to ride and train a Leger winner since Harry Wragg.
Victory for Defoe would underline Andrea Atzeni's status as 'Mr Doncaster'. He's won this in two of the last three years and also swept the last four Racing Post Trophies.
Simply put, there has been only one Group 1 race staged at Doncaster since September 2014 that Atzeni has not won – that was last year's Leger, and as he didn't have a ride it's hard to hold it against him.
Atzeni will have a good idea what the Geoffrey Freer Stakes winner is up against, having ridden Stradivarius at Goodwood and also partnered Crystal Ocean twice this summer.
Ryan Moore was on board when the Sir Michael Stoute-trained colt took the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood in fine style last month and Jim Crowley, who has won the Eclipse and Juddmonte International for Stoute on Ulysses in 2017, now takes over.
It is not hard to picture the champion jockey landing a first British Classic on a stablemate who was a springer in the Derby betting in May but has gone from talking horse to serious prospect.
More Champagne magic?
Godolphin have no runner and must wait at least a year for a record-equalling seventh Leger winner, but they could still enjoy a good day.
Charlie Appleby won the Champagne Stakes in 2013 and 2015 and it is not just the calendar that points to his chance with Mythical Magic, who has looked good in scoring at Ascot and Deauville.
Home Of The Brave and Game Starter are other big Doncaster hopes for a team whose famous blue colours were due to be carried by Hartnell at Flemington on Saturday morning.
Their Australian star was bidding for a third Group 1 victory in the Makybe Diva Stakes – not bad for a stayer who could manage only seventh in the anachronistic St Leger in 2014.
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