The 2023 St Leger at Doncaster provided a fairytale, but for substitute jockey Tom Marquand on Galileo Chrome rather than the underdog Pyledriver.
Joseph O’Brien becomes the first man to ride and train a winner of the final annual and oldest British Classic, but the late jockey change made the win even more sensational.
Regular rider Shane Crosse tested positive for coronavirus in the week. Little more than a day before the St Leger, Galileo Chrome needed someone else to get the leg up on him.
Step forward Marquand, the man who lost the ride on Epsom Derby hope English King to Frankie Dettori. Revenge on the Italian jockey came on this September afternoon at Town Moor.
Dettori rode favourite Santiago, who came to win the St Leger up the stands’ side rail. He wouldn’t go past there for Aidan O’Brien, however, as Galileo Chrome stayed on for a neck victory over 16/1 shot Berkshire Rocco.
Andrew Balding’s runner reversed Queen’s Vase form with Santiago, who lost out on minor honours in a photo with Pyledriver. Both were a length down on the runner-up.
Galileo Chrome was only winning a Group 3 in Ireland a couple of weeks ago. Mere days before the St Leger he was still 20/1 in places with the bookies, but came back at a fifth of those odds.
Analysis: Galileo Chrome and Marquand St Leger success some story
Jamie Clark, Horsebetting.com Editor
I have never seen a St Leger betting market with bookmakers so open in many years in the hours leading up to the race. Late money came for Santiago as punters piled into the Frankie factor but to no avail.
My initial reaction to Galileo Chrome was he would surely stay in the Emerald Isle for the Irish St Leger. If you look at tomorrow’s Group 1 staying feature at The Curragh, he would probably win that too.
Credit goes to Joseph O’Brien for being bold enough to try Doncaster. Hukum was a huge disappointment, perhaps letting himself down on the sound ground after winning the Geoffrey Freer at Newbury on a softer surface.
He was only fifth for trainer Owen Burrows, owner Hamdan Al Maktoum and jockey Jim Crowley. The other St Leger market principals were all there or thereabouts.
Where many of these horses who fought out the finish go next is interesting. There is a Group 2 on Arc weekend, the Prix Chaudenay over 1m 7f, but handling cut is usually required.
It was surprising that the going in early autumn in Britain was good to firm in places at Doncaster. The sound surface may have found a couple out.
Pyledriver wandered all over the track in the closing stages. That may have cost him, but stamina was always doubtful.
None of the first four, covered by less than 1 1/2 lengths, failed to stay. Marquand’s drive and desire on Galileo Chrome, a spare ride remember, really is a fine story.
Joseph O’Brien had success at Doncaster’s St Leger Festival earlier in the week with Pista in the Park Hill Stakes. That was a triumph on the upgrade, and there was more of the same with Galileo Chrome.