Trainer Aidan O’Brien spoils royal party in St Leger as the King and Queen’s colt Desert Hero bows to Arc-bound Continuous
- An impressive winner of the 247th edition of St Leger ran continuously
- He stopped Frankie Dettori’s mount of Arrest and the king’s horse, Desert Hero
- The presence of the King and Queen gave the race an extra sense of occasion
Aidan O’Brien apologized for spoiling the British racing party as Continuous proved an impressive winner of the 247th running of the Betfred St Leger.
So classy was the Ryan Moore-hit 3-1 goal performance that he could now line up in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on October 1.
The packed stands at Doncaster, with many of the 22,000 spectators packed around the parade ring and winners’ area, cheered for two results: victory for the King and Queen’s colt Desert Hero or a fairytale farewell for 52-year-old Frankie Dettori at Arrest in his last classic before retirement.
Fairy tales can happen during racing. Dettori has shown that several times this year during a farewell tour that was charmed by overall victories in the 2,000 Guineas, Oaks, Ascot Gold Cup and Juddmonte International Stakes.
Going into the race it also looked like Desert Hero had a first-class chance of becoming the first Royal Classic winner since the Queen’s Dick Hern-trained Dunfermline won the 1977 St Leger in the hands of Willie Carson.
Continuous came home ahead of Frankie Dettori’s horse Arrest and King’s horse Desert Hero
The presence of the King and Queen gave the race an extra sense of occasion on Saturday
In the end, both stallions lived up to expectations and form, with Arrest, sent from the 11-4 favourite, beaten two-and-three-quarter lengths in second and Desert Hero half a length further back in third.
They simply came across a good St Leger winner, ridden by arguably the best jockey in the world and trained by a man who made a habit of rewriting the record books.
Asked how he felt about being the party pooper, O’Brien, who won his seventh St Leger and saddled his 4,000th career winner last weekend, said: ‘I’m absolutely sorry but it’s sport. It is so special to have the King and Queen here. You could see the buzz around the parade ring and see the passion and goodwill for them. It’s very special.’
Midway through the debriefing, O’Brien was interrupted, hugged and congratulated by Dettori. Asked about the jockey, the trainer said with a smile: “Frankie was incredible. He’s ridden a lot of big winners for us and he’s beaten us more times than I can tell you. I can’t wait for him to retire!’
It looks like Dettori will do that later this season, most likely at a track on the other side of the world. He will do so after winning 23 Classics and he admitted there was a moment yesterday when he thought No. 24 was within reach.
The Italian-born rider, who was proven right when he chose to ride Arrest instead of his fifth-placed John and Thady Gosden-trained stablemate Gregory, said: “I think the top three is pretty decent. When I passed Gregory between the three and two furlong poles I thought, ‘I can win this’, and I got a little excited. Then I looked at Ryan and thought, ‘No, that’s not me.’
‘I wanted to curse Ryan, but he’s such a good friend of mine that I couldn’t. I congratulated him. He was on the best horse of the day. It’s been a good journey. It wasn’t meant to be, but I came close and I loved it.
“Arrest will be a force to be reckoned with next year, but that won’t be my problem.”
It was Denmark, stablemate of the winner, who ensured that the race was held at a high pace. The big players were all close enough to play three furlongs from the finish, but in the next 200 yards Moore made his move on Continuous and it was decisive.
Aidan O’Brien (L) and jockey Ryan Moore (R) celebrate winning the last classic of the season
O’Brien revealed not much had gone right for Continuous in his first three runs this season, but it all came together for the colt when he scored an emphatic victory in York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes last month.
O’Brien said: ‘To watch him at York you’d say he was nailed down for this race.’
Continuous is entered for the Champion Stakes at Ascot on October 21. He will need to top up for the Arc, for which Paddy Power and Betfair now give him a 10-1 odds.
O’Brien said: ‘The boys will think about that, I would say. He handles soft ground, gets a mile and a half well and has class. He has everything that could work in an Arc and he also has a great constitution. The question is whether the two-week setback will be rapid.’