Ladbrokes fury over Leger date clash

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LADBROKES are still seeking consultation with the British Horseracing Authority regarding the news that a new Irish Champions Day will clash with the St Leger meeting at Doncaster next year, which is sponsored by the bookmaker.

Ladbrokes take the view that, as a stakeholder in the world’s oldest Classic, they, along with Doncaster and its owners, Arc, should have been notified of the new venture by Horse Racing Ireland. “We’re very concerned and we’re very disappointed, without putting too fine a point on it,” said David Williams of Ladbrokes on At The Races. “We found out in a press release without any consultation and that was pretty disappointing. It wasn’t that long ago – we took over sponsorship in 2005 – that the Leger had lurched from sponsor to sponsor and it was easy to put the boot into the race, it felt very unloved.

“With the help of Doncaster, who have redeveloped the racecourse, and the support of Arc and the levels of engagement we’ve gone to to try and get people back interested in the Leger, we were really disappointed that that hadn’t been brought to our attention as a key stakeholder. We had 32,000 people on Town Moor last year so to find out it’s being put up against this proposed new festival next year is really disappointing. We’ve got to look at the big picture, we’re trying to get hold of the BHA to see what its view is.

“To not put too fine a point on it, if we think the race is being turned away in the way that it was ten years ago we’ll have to look at our investment because it takes a lot of energy. We’re very proud of the race and we want it to have the profile we think it deserves.”

Meanwhile temperamental Afsare proved in yesterday’s Salisbury’s Sovereign Stakes just what a fine horse he is when consenting to enter the stalls. An attempt to go one place better than last year in this weekend’s Arlington Million had to be shelved for this reason, although the Wiltshire track’s showpiece race of the season provided easy pickings by way of consolation. A wily six-year-old, Afsare has regularly played up at the start or refused to play ball with gate handlers, but the assistance of the behavioural expert Gary Witheford paid dividends and there was never a worry for rider Andrea Atzeni.

The 9-4 favourite slipped into the lead with a furlong remaining and effortlessly opened up a gap of six lengths for his fifth career win, his first at Group level. Trainer Luca Cumani has him entered in the Betfair ­Celebration Mile at Goodwood in a fortnight.

His wife, Sara, said: “He’s the most frustrating horse we’ve ever had anything to do with, as he has got tremendous ability. Luca has been longing to run him back down at a mile for a long time as he has all that speed. You can put him in the stalls 100 times at home and he’s fine, but on raceday he seems to lose it.”