CHARLIE SWAN was crowned king of the legends after making all the running on Miami Gator to win the Fudge And Smudge Leger Legends Classified Stakes at Doncaster yesterday.
The brainchild of Jack Berry, the race was staged to raise money for a facility similar to Oaksey House in Lambourn, which caters for retired and rehabilitating jockeys.
When the persuasive Berry comes calling, not many can say no to the former trainer, who saddled 1,657 winners in a career spanning 30 years.
The likes of Pat Eddery, John Francome, John Reid, Steve Smith-Eccles, Tony Dobbin and Kevin Darley were all involved with the biggest legend of the all, Lester Piggott, presenting the prizes.
Swan retired seven years ago after a highly successful career as a National Hunt jockey in Ireland where he was crowned champion on no less than 10 occasions.
Famously known for his partnership with triple-champion hurdler Istabraq, he also won the 1995 Queen Mother Champion Chase on Viking Flagship.
Still only 42, he has only had one ride in a similar event at Kempton since hanging up his saddle but he is now a successful trainer and rides out every morning.
Miami Gator (9-2), trained by Elaine Burke, has been in great heart of late and was bounced out of the stalls by Swan to take an early lead and never saw another rival, beating Legal Legacy and Dale Gibson by a length and three-quarters.
Birthday boy Graham Bradley, who was celebrating his 50th, finished third on Aflaam with Ernie Johnson, who won the 1969 Derby on Blakeney, fourth on Cape Kimberley.
“He was the form horse in the race so I suppose he was entitled to win,” said Swan.
“It’s for a really good cause and plenty of money has been raised, Jack does a great job.
“I’m pretty fit but race riding is obviously different. I’m glad it was only one mile and not two! “I was a bit worried when I saw Brad out of the corner of my eye but he kept going.
“It’s great Lester is here. I remember beating him by a neck about 20 years ago. He is a proper legend.”
Karl Burke, husband of the winning trainer, added: “I’ve known Charlie for a few years and I just told him to bounce him out and let the others catch him.
“I thought a few of the other jocks might be blowing a bit hard at halfway.”
Bradley’s inclusion in the event had caused controversy in some quarters but there is still no doubting his popularity.
On his return to the unsaddling enclosure, Bradley shouted to his native Yorkshire crowd: “At least I kept you in the placepot!”
He added: “He gave me a lovely ride and was quickly away but while Charlie quickened, I just stayed on – softer ground might have helped.”
Pat Eddery, who is second only to Gordon Richards in the list of all-time winners on the Flat, was way down in 14th on Master Of Dance.
Now a trainer, the 11-time champion said: “I loved that, it was great fun. !
Meanwhile, Paul Hanagan celebrated his 30th birthday in style by riding a 91-1 double on the opening day of the St Leger meeting.
Currently leading the jockeys’ championship, Hanagan won on Barefoot Lady (3-1) for his boss Richard Fahey in the AJ Webb & Son Fresh Produce Suppliers Conditions Stakes and David Elsworth’s Myplacelater (22-1) in the Wilson Field Neurocare Conditions Stakes.
His victory on the latter was quite controversial as Jamie Spencer looked to have the race won on Wigmore Hall before appearing to just take it slightly easy in the final few strides.
That gave Hanagan the minimal chance he needed on the filly, who found a great turn of foot to win by the narrowest of margins.
The stewards did question Spencer but were happy with his explanation that if he had used his whip, he would have interfered with Al Zir (third) on the rails.
Earlier, Fahey’s Barefoot Lady maintained her unbeaten record with a nice performance when finding extra to see off Katell by a length and a quarter.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved