For jockeys, trainers and owners the pinnacle of British Flat racing is to win one of the five Classics – the 2000 and 1000 Guineas at Newmarket, the Oaks and Derby at Epsom Downs and the St Leger at Doncaster.
The fifth and final Classic of the season, the St Leger, takes place on Saturday and boasts some top class three-year-olds, many of which you’ll remember from this year’s Derby.
Only two horses in the last 50 years have won the Derby and the St Leger (the brilliant Nijinsky and 1970 and Reference Point in 1987), which probably goes some way to explaining why Serpentine, the winner of this year’s renewal at Epsom, runs in France this weekend rather than at Doncaster.
However, four of the last 10 winners of the St Leger were also runners in the Derby. Here we take a look at how three of the contenders for Saturday’s big race fared in the greatest Flat race of them all at Epsom two months ago.
Everyone loves an underdog.
Whether’s it’s Leicester City being crowned 5,000-1 Premier League champions, a 17-year-old Boris Becker winning Wimbledon against the odds or golf’s John Daly taking the US PGA Championship in 1991 – we all have our favourite sporting stories.
And it’s the story which makes Pyledriver the people’s horse going into the St Leger.
Yes he’s won on a big stage before, twice. And yes he’s likely to line up on Saturday with odds as short as 5-2. But the reason he’ll go to post as the horse many racing fans hope will win has nothing to do with whether they’ve backed him or not.
His owners also owned Pyledriver’s mother, La Pyle, who was bought as a hurdler, underperformed and then put up for auction. However, the owners changed their mind at the last minute after being encouraged to breed from her.
Pyledriver is her first foal and, after winning on debut at 50-1, went on to win the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot in June this year.
Because of the back story and the impressive nature of his victory at Ascot, there was much hype ahead of his tilt at the Derby at Epsom Downs in July (delayed from its usual slot in the calendar due to COVID-19).
But, while his performance on the day might have disappointed – he was 11th of 16 – there was nothing below par when he won the coveted Great Voltigeur Stakes at York just over three weeks ago at York.
Victory in the St Leger would be a fairytale – not least for the trainer William Muir and jockey Martin Dwyer, who are father and son-in-law.
Half a length and a place behind Pyledriver in the Derby on July 4th was Mohican Heights.
Trainer David Simcock will no doubt have been disappointed with the way he started that day, stumbling out of the stalls and never really getting close enough to make a significant impact.
Unlike other Derby runners in this we’ve got nothing more to judge him on, as he hasn’t set foot on a racecourse since.
What we do know is that he was third to Pyledriver at Royal Ascot and has four lengths to find on that form, albeit this race is over an extra two and a half furlongs.
Jamie Spencer, who partnered Mohican Heights to his last victory at Salisbury more than a year ago, takes over the reins from Andrea Atzeni.
If you’re ruling out Mythical just because he’s not Aidan O’Brien’s first or even second string in the St Leger then you’ve clearly not been paying enough attention at the back of the class.
When Serpentine won the Derby he was a 25-1 shot and the fourth fancied of six runners on the day.
Granted, Mythical was the 100-1 outsider of them all that day, but if there’s one thing you don’t do it’s completely rule out a horse trained at Ballydoyle. Especially in the big races.
In truth Mythical ran like a 100-1 shot at Epsom, finishing back in 13th having been slow to get into stride and never getting near the front.
But the jockey on board on Saturday in the St Leger is the same man who hit the front with Serpentine and stayed there to win the Derby in one of the most extraordinary performances in recent memory.
Who says he can’t get the best out of Mythical and win a second Classic in just two months?