Today marks the first day of the Ladbrokes St Leger festival at Doncaster, featuring England’s oldest Classic: the St Leger (1m6f) . Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend as I will be travelling home (the joy!). However, I do believe it is a perfect occasion to provide a short recap of my last visit to the Doncaster sales and York racecourse; just a little hint of flavour, showcasing the horse racing culture up north.
My arrival on the penultimate day of the Ebor festival, featured by the prestigious Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes, was accompanied by a solid shower. The good old English downpour reminded me of the scenes at Royal Ascot, where umbrella’s where blown up into the skies like balloons, and women were in a hurry to find shelter.
However, there was one mare that did relish the rain and that was Knavesmire heroine Mecca’s Angel. Run on ground described as good, a change from the previously declared good-to-firm going, the 2016 Nunthorpe Stakes provided a true clash of titans. Favourite Limato came as close as two lengths at the wire, but never posed a serious threat to the ‘Angel of the North’.
When finally seeing this mare perform in real life, after having witnessed her win last year on Television, the chills ran down my spine all those months ago, came back in full force. Plans for the Michael Dods trained grey include the Prix de l’Abbaye, run at Chantilly, and possibly the Champion Sprint Stakes at Ascot mid October; I’m certainly keeping my toes crossed, hoping she will make a final appearance in England before retiring to stud.
Emotions were running high on the closing day of the festival, with Heartbreak City landing the richest Flat handicap in Europe for the Here For The Craic Partnership. Teenage jockey Adam McNamara landed the biggest win of his career so far, cruising to an easy four-length-victory for trainer Tony Martin. It was a case of bear hugs, back slapping and laughter in the paddock, with the partnership rushing to exchange high fives with the young hoop.
Another jockey having a stellar day was William Buick, who completed a treble, steering Scottish to a Strensall Stakes victory, Wall Of Fire to win the Melrose Stakes, before a notable trump from Blue Point in the Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes.
To complete my adventure up North, I paid a visit to the newly led Goff’s Doncaster Sales, which saw a record 3% rise in the average (£44,078) and a total of six horses going for over £200,000 at their Premier Sale. Stallion Dark Angel stole the show, by providing this year’s sale top two, with the highest price being offered for a colt out of stakes mare Swiss Dream, who changed hands for £280,000 on behalf of Shadwell.
Personally, the Doncaster Sales showed capable of sourcing more than just ‘early types’: a welcoming atmosphere, characterised by sunburn, ice creams and cold beers, will definitely have me coming back next year round.