St Leger: Franny Norton aims for Doncaster glory aged 49

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By Cornelius Lysaght
BBC horse racing correspondent
Big-race proprietor Paul Dean has his own ideas, although st Leger week started with a hoo-haa over Theresa May’s honours list.
Sir Ron Priestley, rated a playful competition against Logician, Sir Dragonet along with also co. in flat racing’s oldest and closing traditional race of this season staged Doncaster, is one of a series of horses Dean has appointed after friends to whom he is also awarded’his own kind’ of knighthood.
The late Mr Priestley was a first customer in the betting shop opened in the 1960s by Dean, among the racehorse owners who was firmly on the Mark Johnston bandwagon well prior to his prolific operation at Middleham, North Yorkshire became as high profile as it is now.
And speaking 49, Sir Ron Priestley’s jockey Franny Norton, could be deserving of an equine name-check, if not a gong, was a standing dish at the jockeys’ changing room for years.
A champion amateur boxer who turned down the opportunity to go to the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur so as to focus on becoming a jockey, the Scouser, has had to shake his way into the summit of racing.
A particularly successful apprentice rider, he found that the hefty because a fully-fledged rider, but a subsequent teaming up with Johnston, who also saddles outsider Nayef Road, has proved a sin.
But though Norton’s staged in three Vintage races – in 2 stagings of the 1,000 Guineas and in the 2014 St Leger – he has never been effective at the game’s highest Group One degree.
Maybe that CV void can be, filled by Sir Ron Priestley a winner at Goodwood in August in the St Leger on Saturday.
Norton stated:”We haven’t got to the bottom of him, and he is always dug deep for me.
“We all know exactly what Logician and others are bringing to the table, however we also know what we’re bringing to the table also, above all, if there’s any chinks in their armour Sir Ron will find them since he’s tough and he is brave.
“The three in front of him in the betting, are they that bombproof? I’m quite positive and I will be providing my horse all of the positive vibes.”
Together with Norton being the very flat jockey – ahead of Frankie Dettori – before many of his opponents have been born, and having ridden his first winner in May 1989, a success at this level would be acclaimed.
While acknowledging it could be a”great story”, he insists he’s philosophical about what may or may not happen.
“If Franny Norton ends his racing career, and he didn’t ride a Group One winner, then will I lose some sleep? No I will not,” he said.
“In case Franny Norton wins a Group One race or a Classic, does this make it better? No it does not. Can it put my livelihood up further? No, since I will be finished in a few years.
“But you are right it would be a great story – people like a rollercoaster, and that’s what I’ve needed – so, yes it would be great.”
As much as eight runners are expected to lineup from the St Leger, first staged before the Epsom Derby in 1776.
The area is led from the unbeaten Logician, a grey-coloured son of champion Frankel, commissioned by Dettori and trained by John Gosden.
Dettori, who’s searching for his sixth largest St Leger success – in contrast to Gosden for whom victory will be number five – stated:”He is still learning, however, he struck the line well [at the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in August], and that will bring him on further.”
The Dettori/Gosden accessibility has been much more like a juggernaut in important prizes during the summer – and more to come, notably Permit in October’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp in Paris – although the Irish-based Aidan O’Brien team has been in almost equally potent type.
As a result, O’Brien and Gosden are efficiently neck and neck in the prize-money-decided British trainers’ championship – which lasts until 31 December – although although Gosden holds a #300,000-plus guide, the 700,000 on offer at Doncaster, with rewards down to sixth position, could readily make all the difference.
Sir Dragonet, which shot to prominence if running away with all the Chester Vase in May before completing down the field in the Epsom Derby, is best fancied of a three-strong O’Brien obstacle since the County Tipperary coach goes to get a third win in 3 decades, seven overall.
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