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By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC horse racing correspondent
Proprietor Paul Dean has his own ideas, although st Leger week began over the honours list of Theresa May.
Sir Ron Priestley, rated a lively competition against Logician, Sir Dragonet along with co. in flat racing’s oldest and final Classic race of the season staged at Doncaster, is among a series of horses Dean has named after friends to whom he’s also granted’his own form’ of all knighthood.
The late Mr Priestley was an early client in the gaming store opened in the 1960s by Dean, among the racehorse owners who had been firmly about the Mark Johnston bandwagon well prior to his successful performance at Middleham, North Yorkshire became as high profile as it is now.
And speaking 49, Sir Ron Priestley’s jockey Franny Norton, will be deserving of an, if not a gong that is long-service, having been a standing dish in the jockeys’ changing room for years.
The Scouser, a champion amateur boxer who turned down the chance to go to the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur so as to concentrate on becoming a jockey, has had to punch his way into the summit of racing.
A successful apprentice rider, a later teaming up with Johnston, who also saddles outsider Nayef Road, although he found that the going heavy because a rider, has established a revelation.
However, though Norton’s ridden in 2 stagings of the 1,000 Guineas and in the 2014 St Leger – in 3 Vintage races – he has never been successful at the game’s highest Group One degree.
Perhaps that CV void can be, filled by twice a winner at Goodwood in August, Sir Ron Priestley in the St Leger on Saturday.
Norton stated:”We have not got to the bottom of him, and he is always dug deep for me.
“We all know exactly what Logician and others are attracted to the table, however we know what we’re bringing to the table and, above all, if there’s any chinks in their armour Sir Ron can locate them because he is tough and he is brave.
“The three facing him at the gambling, are they that bombproof? I’m quite positive and I’ll be providing my horse all the positive vibes.”
With Norton being the very senior level jockey – ahead of Frankie Dettori – before many of his opponents have been born, along with having ridden his first winner in May 1989, a success at this level could be acclaimed.
While acknowledging it might be a”great story”, he insists he’s philosophical about what might or might not happen.
“If Franny Norton finishes his racing career, and he didn’t ride a Group One winner, would I lose some sleep? No I will not,” he explained.
“Should Franny Norton wins a Group One race along with even a Classic, does it make it any better? No it doesn’t. Will it place up my livelihood ? No, since I’ll be completed in a couple of years anyway.
“But you’re right it’d be a fantastic story – people enjoy a rollercoaster, and that is what I’ve had – so, yes it’d be great.”
As much as eight runners are due to lineup in the St Leger, initial staged before the Epsom Derby.
The unbeaten Logician, a grey-coloured son of champion Frankel heads the area, ridden by Dettori and trained by John Gosden.
Dettori, who is looking for his sixth St Leger victory – in contrast to Gosden for whom success would be number five – stated:”He is still learning, but he struck the line nicely [at the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August], and that will bring him further.”
The Dettori/Gosden access has been more like a juggernaut in important prizes during the summer – and 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 was in almost equally potent kind.
As a result, O’Brien and Gosden are efficiently neck and throat at the prize-money-decided British trainers’ championship – that lasts till 31 December – but although Gosden holds a #300,000-plus guide, the 700,000 on offer at Doncaster, together with rewards down to sixth position, could readily make all the difference.
Sir Dragonet, that shot to prominence if running away with all the Chester Vase at May before completing down the field from the Epsom Derby, is best fancied of a three-strong O’Brien struggle since the County Tipperary coach goes to get a third win in 3 decades, seven complete.
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