Tom Marquand and Desert Hero Aiming to Create History in Betfred St Leger
His Majesty King Charles III will be looking to emulate his late mother Queen Elizabeth II by winning racing's oldest Classic, the English Betfred St Leger at Doncaster Racecourse on Saturday.
The Royal colours were carried to victory in five British Classics during the late Queen’s reign and Desert Hero is now third favourite at 5-1 with sponsors Betfred to give King Charles and Queen Camilla their first Classic success.
Desert Hero, trained by William Haggas and ridden by Tom Marquand, provided the King and Queen with a first Royal Ascot success in the King George V Stakes earlier this year. He followed up with victory in the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at the Qatar Goodwood Festival at the beginning of August and in doing so earned his shot at the Doncaster showpiece. Desert Hero, who was also bred by Queen Elizabeth II, will be looking to become the first Classic winner for a reigning monarch since Dunfermline won the Betfred St Leger in the Queen's Silver Jubilee year of 1977.
Tom Marquand has been aboard Desert Hero for three of his four career victories, including his two most recent successes at Royal Ascot and at the Qatar Goodwood Festival. Marquand landed his first British Classic in the 244th Betfred St Leger aboard Galileo Chrome in 2020, when a last-minute stand in for regular rider Shane Crosse, who was unable to take the ride due to a positive test for Coronavirus the day before the race.
Marquand said: “It took me a few minutes to remember what my first memory of the St Leger was. It was Joseph O’Brien getting beat on Camelot when he went for the third leg of the Triple Crown. It was something that tied in so strongly with me winning my first St Leger. I think I was probably 13 or 14 and for whatever reason I sent Joseph a message on Facebook because everybody was giving him stick. When I won the St Leger for him, he actually sent me a screenshot of that message the night after I won it for him, and he remembered it. That was the most mind-blowing moment because I sent it in complete naivety.”
He added: “It would be amazing (to win a second Betfred St Leger), and I think the magnitude of it possibly being Desert Hero for the King and Queen is not lost on me after I had that experience at Royal Ascot. I didn’t acknowledge the significance of it beforehand. As a jockey you just want to go out and win, you don’t think past what happens getting over the winning line. I think this time it is a little different, the Doncaster crowd are notoriously passionate about their racing and love a big day out. If it was to come off, it would be magical.
“He ticks all the boxes of what you want from a Betfred St Leger horse. He has speed, he stays, he relaxes right and he’s with the right team, so fingers crossed we get a good trip around.”
Tickets are still on sale for the Betfred St Leger, with general admission adult tickets starting from just £21 when booked online in advance. Groups of 6 or more can also save any extra £2 on tickets and kids under 18 go FREE! Visit www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk for more information or call the team on 01302 304200 to discuss the numerous hospitality and general admission packages available.