Saturday is St Leger day at Doncaster and everyone will be looking forward to the 5th and final Classic encounter of the British flat racing season. The St Leger is the oldest of the 5, having first been run way back in 1776 when King George III was still on the throne.View Today’s Betting Markets Now!
Some superb horses have won this great race, including Solario, Sun Chariot, Nijinsky, Reference Point, Sixties Icon and Kingston Hill. Those of you who are already getting a little grey around the temples may be old enough to remember a thrilling renewal in 1985, which is well worth taking another look at.
Oh So Sharp went into the race having already won the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks. She was described by Timeform as being “a big, lengthy filly and a grand mover with a raking stride” Sired by Kris and out of a dam called Oh So Far, she was owned/bred by Sheikh Mohammed and trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil.
No horse had won the Fillies’ Triple Crown since Meld in 1955, who survived an objection from a young Lester Piggott after Nucleus found no luck in-running. Few horses even attempt to win all 3 Classics open to fillies, such is the difficulty in beating some of the world’s top thoroughbreds over 1m (the 1,000 Guineas), 1m 4f (the Oaks) and 1m 6f (the St Leger).
It was clear though that Oh So Sharp was something special and she would begin the race as an 8/11 favourite. The most-likely challenger looked to be stablemate Lanfranco, winner of the William Hill Futurity and the King Edward VII Stakes.
Piggott had the ride on Lanfranco. He quickly responded to a lack of early pace and took the lead. Oh So Sharp, under Steve Cauthen, took up a handy position in 3rd. The pace quickened somewhat, after the first half mile, but with no other runners looking to take on Lanfranco for the lead, it was by no means fast.
Lester knew that this was playing into the hands of Oh So Sharp and he put his foot harder on the gas after a mile. He was unable to stretch his rivals though (just 6 horses contested the race) and no jockey was sending out distress signals as they rounded the bend.
The race began to hot-up as they entered the straight. Piggott looked around to see where Oh So Sharp was and found the big filly right on Lanfranco’s tail, travelling ominously.
With about 2.5f remaining, Cauthen pushed the button on Oh So Sharp and the ‘Battle Royale’ was underway. She soon had her nose in front but could not get clear. Phardante joined Lanfranco and both still looked major threats.
A long and arduous season seemed to be catching up with Oh So Sharp, who hung right (slightly impeding Phardante) but still managed to keep a good racing rhythm. The winning post came just in time and this fantastic filly took the Fillies’ Triple Crown amidst the roar of the Doncaster crowd. The victory meant that Cecil became the first trainer to win £1 million, in a single campaign.
Cauthen described her as “without doubt, the best filly I have ridden.” and she was immediately retired to become a broodmare. Her progeny had some success, but none could get even close to matching the feats of their magnificent mother.
Sadly, no fillies will contest the 2016 St Leger Stakes. Like Oh So Sharp, Minding is a 1,000 Guineas and Oaks winner, but Aidan O’Brien never seriously considered going for the Triple Crown with her and has his sights firmly trained on Longchamp and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
We may never see another filly win all 3 British Classics, but none who were lucky enough to be at Doncaster 31 years ago, will forget the Incredible Oh So Sharp.