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By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC horse racing correspondent
St Leger week began with a however owner Paul Dean has his own tips.
Sir Ron Priestley, rated a playful contender against Logician, Sir Dragonet and co. in flat racing’s oldest and closing Classic race of this season staged in Doncaster, is among a string of horses Dean has appointed after friends to whom he is also awarded’his own kind’ of knighthood.
The late Mr Priestley was a first customer in the betting shop opened in the 1960s by Dean, among the racehorse owners that had been firmly on the Mark Johnston bandwagon well before his successful performance at Middleham, North Yorkshire became as high profile as it is now.
And talking Sir Ron Priestley’s jockey Franny Norton, 49, could be part of an, maybe even a long-service gong, having been a standing dish at the jockeys’ changing room for decades.
A champion boxer who turned down the opportunity to visit the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in order to focus on becoming a jockey, the Scouser, has had to shake his way to rushing’s summit.
A notably successful apprentice rider, he originally found that the going heavy because a fully-fledged rider, however a subsequent teaming up with Johnston, who saddles outsider Nayef Road, has established a sin.
However, though Norton’s ridden in 3 Vintage races – in the 2014 St Leger and at 2 stagings of the 1,000 Guineas – he has never been effective at the highest Group One degree of the sport.
Maybe that CV void can be, filled by twice a winner at Goodwood in August, Sir Ron Priestley .
Norton stated: »We have not got to the bottom of him, and he’s always dug deep to me.
« We know what Logician and the others are attracted to the table, but we also know what we’re bringing to the table also, most importantly, if there’s any chinks in their armour Sir Ron can find them because he is tough and he is brave.
« The three in front of him at the betting, are they really that bombproof? I am very positive and I’ll be providing my horse all the positive vibes. »
With Norton being the very senior jockey – just ahead of Frankie Dettori – before many of his opponents had been born and having ridden his first winner May 1989, a victory at this level could be widely acclaimed.
While acknowledging it might be a »good story », he insists he’s philosophical about what might or might not happen.
« If Franny Norton ends his racing career, and he didn’t ride a Group One winner, will I lose any sleep? No I will not, » he said.
« If Franny Norton wins a Group One race or even a Classic, does this make it better? No it does not. Will it put up my livelihood ? No, since I’ll be finished in a few decades anyway.
« But you’re right it would be a fantastic story – people like a rollercoaster, and that is what I’ve had – so, yes it’d be great. »
Up to eight runners are expected to lineup from the St Leger, initial staged four decades in 1776 before the Epsom Derby.
The area ridden by Dettori is led by the Logician, a grey-coloured son of champion Frankel and trained by John Gosden.
Dettori, who is looking for his sixth St Leger victory – in contrast to Gosden for whom success could be number five – stated: »He is still learning, but he struck the line nicely [in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August], and that is going to bring him on further. »
The Dettori/Gosden accessibility has been more like a juggernaut in important prizes throughout the summer – and much more to come, especially Permit in October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris – but that the Irish-based Aidan O’Brien group has been in nearly equally potent type.
Because of this, O’Brien and Gosden are efficiently neck and throat at the prize-money-decided British trainers’ championship – that continues until 31 December – although although Gosden holds a #300,000-plus guide, the 700,000 online at Doncaster, together with benefits right down to sixth place, could simply make all of the difference.
Sir Dragonet, which shot to prominence if operating away with the Chester Vase in May before completing down the field from the Epsom Derby, is greatest fancied of a three-strong O’Brien struggle as the County Tipperary trainer goes to get a third win in 3 decades, seven overall.
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