After lodging a successful appeal against the decision of the steward’s enquiry, Simple Verse has been reinstated as the winner of the prestigious St Leger.
The three-year-old, who became the first filly in more than 20 years to win the famous race at Doncaster, had originally been relegated into second place behind Bondi Beach after a steward’s enquiry found her and jockey Andrea Atzeni guilty of ‘interference’ during the closing stages of the chase.
An appeal was lodged by Simple Verse’s owners Qatar Racing, principally Sheikh Fahad al-Thani, and heard at the HQ of the British Horseracing Authority in London.
And the panel, led by Tim Charlton, found that the cumulative effect of the ‘coming together’ between the two horses was not significant enough to have an impact on the outcome of the race.
Simple Verse’s trainer Ralph Beckett was overjoyed at the outcome of the hearing, but understandably frustrated that his team’s moment in the sun had originally been taken away from them. “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,” he told Sky Sports’ ‘At The Races’.
“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.”
The steward’s enquiry was originally called after Bondi Beach’s jockey, Colm O’Donoghue, complained of a collision in the immediate aftermath of the race. His heated debate with Atzeni in front of the stewards took place live on Channel 4 television.
Both were also present at the BHA hearing, which lasted for a full three hours, before the panel finally came to their verdict.
It is the first time in more than 200 years that a horse has been disqualified from first place in the St Leger, and the first time in history that a horse has won a British Classic, been disqualified and then reinstated upon appeal.
Having paid a £50,000 supplement to add Simple Verse to the race, it is no wonder that the Qatar Racing team were willing to go the extra mile to ensure justice was served; that and the £393,000 prize money for first place. Compared to the £149,000 reward for second place, perhaps Sheikh al-Thani did the right thing.
Simple Verse’s upward trajectory continues following her victory in the Lillie Langtry Stakes earlier this year, and the 3-year-old has seen her odds shortened to claim another British Classic title in the coming months as a result.
The last word should go to Atzeni though, who was robbed of his second major victory this year by the original decision. “On the day I was heartbroken,” he said. “However, there are worst things in life, and at least we can move forward now.”