Thursday 23 November 2017

Simple Verse reinstated as winner of the English St Leger after successful BHA appeal

Simple Verse (centre) and Bondi Beach come together during the St Leger
Simple Verse (centre) and Bondi Beach come together during the St Leger

Graham Clark

Connections of Simple Verse have won their appeal against the demotion of the filly from first place in the Ladbrokes St Leger at Doncaster.

A disciplinary panel of the British Horseracing Authority reversed the decision of the local stewards to promote the Aidan O'Brien-trained Bondi Beach into top spot in the final Classic of the season on September 12.

A stewards' inquiry was called on the day as the pair appeared to bump twice in the closing stages and there was only a head between them at the line. Following a tense wait, during which jockey Andrea Atzeni and Bondi Beach's rider Colm O'Donoghue argued their respective cases in front of the stewards live on Channel 4, the announcement was made that Simple Verse had been placed second.

The decision shocked her trainer Ralph Beckett, owners Qatar Racing and Atzeni. Straight away they announced their intention to appeal.

Beckett and Atzeni were supported at the hearing at High Holborn in London by David Redvers, racing manager for the owners, Graeme McPherson QC, instructing solicitor Andrew Chalk and Qatar Racing representatives John Maxse and Kevin Darley.

O'Brien and O'Donoghue represented Bondi Beach alongside John Kelsey-Fry QC and instructing solicitor Kevin Power.

Beckett and Qatar Racing are also currently involved in a high-profile hearing with the Illinois Racing Board across the Atlantic in an attempt to have Secret Gesture reinstated as the winner of the Beverly D. Stakes following her relegation to third place at Arlington Park in Chicago.

Beckett said: "For me, under our rules, we always had an excellent case, given what has been going on on our racecourses for the last five years in similar instances.

"I thought our brief (McPherson) was excellent and argued it very well and I was confident the panel would see it our way. But obviously you can never be sure.

"It's not quite the same, and it's never going to be quite the same, in the sense of when you have it taken away on the day.

"It was horrendous at the time and it's been a pretty miserable 11 days for those who live and work with me. It's not been much fun."

Simple Verse had been supplemented for the Leger at a cost of £50,000 after winning a Group Three at Glorious Goodwood, which itself had represented a step up in class following a Salisbury handicap win in June.

Beckett said: "It was a big call by us to supplement her in the first place, as she was a filly who only won off 82 in June.

"We had all our ducks in a row and to have it taken away was sickening - to get it back is terrific, but to do it like this is not the way you want to do it. Justice has been done, but I'm never going to feel about this win the way I did the two Oaks."

He added: "I'm quite happy with the rules as they are, I would make the suspensions for jockeys longer. If you want to cut down interference on the track, we need to be tougher on the jockeys. That would be my view."

"They (Doncaster stewards) completely ignored Bondi Beach in relation to any interference made and there was no reference to it in their report.

"The first piece of interference two furlongs out was the most compelling, and for me that was the most important part as it was two furlongs out. The incident at the half-furlong pole was set off by Bondi Beach leaning on her."

Atzeni had been very emotional when the original verdict was made, admitting to being in tears in the stalls before the race following the Leger - which he won on Captain Morley in the Qatar Racing colours.

The rider said: "I feel a relief, it's a big thing as you don't win Classics every day, they are very hard to win, especially on a filly. For me to win a Classic for Sheikh Fahad in my first year (as retained rider) is massive for everyone involved.

"On the day I was heartbroken and was very sad. However, there are worse things in life and at least we got it back and we can move forward now.

"I think I got more text messages and phone calls losing it than when I won it last year (on Kingston Hill).

"Those little messages can really lift you up."

Redvers said: "On behalf of Sheikh Fahad, I'd like to thank the legal team who have done an amazing job and pay tribute to the phenomenal training performance by Ralph Beckett, as it's our first Classic winner (in Britain).

"There is no question it has been a tough 11 days for Sheikh Fahad, it is testament to him to present the trophy (for the Qipco Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown in Ireland) after having the greatest success of his career taken away from him on that day.

"We have a very nice filly and the season is not over yet."

Press Association

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