ED CHAMBERLIN: We’re all holding out for a Hero like the King! William Haggas’ team are in outstanding form and royal runner can win the St Leger
- Desert Hero bids to become the first Royal winner of a Classic since 1977
- King Charles and Queen Camilla expected to attend race at Doncaster
The challenge couldn’t have been greater. I’ve always loved broadcasting on St Leger day because it has everything you need — thrilling sport, an enthusiastic crowd and the inescapable sense of history.
But 12 months ago, we walked a tightrope. How could we balance a blockbuster day of racing, which also featured the culmination of Irish Champions Weekend, while paying our respects to Her Majesty the Queen, who had died the previous Thursday?
I was in good hands with broadcasting legend Brough Scott alongside me as the perfect sounding board.
He went down memory lane comfortably but also confronted the challenge the sport faced after losing its ‘best friend’ — the new King was known to be lukewarm about racing.
He had an early winner — Just Fine at Leicester on a Tuesday in October — but Royal Ascot would be his acid test. The late Queen had been the meeting’s heartbeat for decades but could King Charles maintain it? The first day, when he looked nervous and the crowd was subdued, wasn’t encouraging. The ice was broken the following day.
Desert Hero bids to become the first Royal winner of a Classic since 1977 on Saturday
Desert Hero lit up Royal Ascot in June to the delight King Charles and Queen Camilla
A racegoer near the ITV position hollered, ‘Three cheers for the King!’ when he was in the paddock and the crowd responded. Then came Thursday and the dashing win of Desert Hero, a success that electrified the atmosphere.
Plenty within racing roll their eyes at the Royal involvement but their interest is critical, with the buzz, profile and investment it brings to the sport.
When I do an insert for ITV News, as may be the case today, you know it’s an important event. The future looks bright.
Desert Hero certainly has a chance of winning today’s big race and William Haggas’s team are in outstanding form. The problem, though, is that John Gosden supplies three challengers, including Frankie Dettori’s mount Arrest. Chesspiece runs for Simon and Ed Crisford. Then there is Aidan O’Brien’s four-pronged attack, after he reached 4,000 career winners last Sunday.
A staggering 417 of those have been at Group One level and Continuous, who will be ridden by Ryan Moore, is the stable first choice.
In 2018, I remember speaking to Aidan at length about the Leger and how he’d use the Great Voltigeur at York as a stepping stone.
He explained how horses would be given an easy time mid-summer before he built them back up. The following day, Kew Gardens finished third in the Voltiguer but a month later he landed the Leger. Continuous actually won his warm-up race, so how good might he be now?
But such are the riches at Ballydoyle that Continuous isn’t even close to being their best three-year-old.
That accolade belongs to Auguste Rodin, who we hoped in the spring would be chasing history in the St Leger, but his no-show in the 2000 Guineas scuppered that ambition.
His performance in the Irish Champion Stakes seven days ago was sensational. John Magnier, one of his owners, once told me how he and his Coolmore partners are at a stage in life where they want to watch their horses attempt to do special things.
They are driven by the idea of winning the Triple Crown, a feat not achieved by a colt since Nijinsky in 1970, but Auguste Rodin might still do something unique. What price he chases the Japan Cup after the Breeders’ Cup Turf? Watch this space.
Ed Chamberlin is an ambassador for Sky Bet
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