Trainer Hazel Kemp was delighted with the performance of Slippy Maggie in the first round of the St.Leger at Perry Barr on Sunday, but less impressed with the comments made by the GBGB trainers representative Pete Harnden on RPGTV later that evening.
She said: “I think Pete Harnden is doing a great job in representing trainers, but I think he was out of order when slagging off the St.Leger for the decreased prize money. He described it as ‘a lesser Leger’. Yes, we all wish it was £25,000 to the winner and our dogs cost as much to buy as anybody else’s.
“But these are very unusual times because of what is going on with the media rights thing and so much more being diverted into graded races instead of opens. I worry where it is all going to end up.
“Also, a couple of the well known trainers have chosen to boycott the race, apparently because of the money. But it shouldn’t be about the money, it should be about the sport. The St.Leger is one of the reasons we are all in this game. Nobody says, “We won a £25,000 competition’, they say ‘We won the St.Leger’.
“It is the sport that misses out when you undermine these big races. I remember we won the Yarmouth Derby with Any Dak. There was no sponsor that year and we won £12,000 and not £15,000. Does that mean it shouldn’t count? I read somewhere that the Scottish Derby was once run a one-off race, do we discount that as well? What happens if next year’s Derby in only worth £50,000. Do we boycott that too?
“The last thing we need is to lose these competitions, they are part of our heritage. The track would have just put on seven graded races and we all lose out. I watched the last whose little bitch finished second in Slippy Maska’s race. She was so excited that her little bitch had qualified for the semi finals of the St.Leger that she was nearly in tears. That is what this game is all about, not money.”
Mrs Kemp’s Kent St.Leger winner is 11-4 second favourite to land the competition with Calico Ranger the 5-2 ante post favourite. What does she make of the draw?
She said: “It is not ideal. We know Maggie will have to come through her field. We know she has a lot more early pace than she is showing, but she does things her way. In an ideal world, we want to be up against five fast trappers and see if she can pick them off one by one. She doesn’t always get it right, but it is so exciting to see her try. The obvious danger appears to be the six who should get a clear run. We’d gladly settle on a qualifying place.”
To follow – the full Leger semi final form along with the thoughts of racing manager Martin Seal