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Champions Series Stars To Stud: Simple Verse

21 Feb 2018

In the latest of our weekly series we look at the filly who made history with the manner of her St Leger win in 2015.

Andrea Atzeni celebrates after winning the St Leger on Simple Verse, with owner Sheikh Fahad to his left. Victory was only confirmed 11 days later. Picture:

Career details:

First run in 1776, the St Leger is the oldest British Classic and has a rich history. There has perhaps never been a more dramatic renewal than the 2015 edition when Simple Verse was reinstated as the winner 11 days after originally crossing the line first.

Having been supplemented for the final British Classic of the season at a cost of £50,000, the filly travelled strongly but collided twice with Bondi Beach in the closing stages during a ding-dong battle.

She was the more tenacious of the pair, under Andrea Atzeni, and beat her Irish rival by a head.

Wild celebrations of the winning connections were abruptly cut short when an inquiry was called and the stewards’ reversed the placings. They deemed the interference caused on the run to the line was sufficient enough to award Bondi Beach the spoils.

It was the first time a horse had been disqualified from first place in the St Leger since 1789.

It was a controversial decision and, 11 days later, after an appeal, the placings were reverted back to the original result with Simple Verse being handed the race following a successful appeal by connections.

It was a historic moment – Simple Verse becoming the first horse to win a British Classic, be disqualified from victory, and then reinstated on appeal.

No such enquiries were necessary a few weeks later when she followed up in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies and Mares Stakes at Ascot on Champions Day.

She was delivered with expert timing by Atzeni to get up in the closing stages and win by three-quarters of a length from Journey, who would return a year later to win the race in runaway fashion.

Simple Verse’s story up until that point had been one of relentless progression.

Unraced as a two-year-old, she made her debut at Lingfield on February 15 and finished sixth in a ten-furlong maiden. Next time out she got beaten at Kempton and the chances of her ending the season a dual Group 1 winner looked remote to say the very least.

Bit by bit, though, she thrived for Ralph Beckett and a Group 3 success at Goodwood encouraged her connections to have a tilt at the St Leger.

Simple Verse began her 2016 campaign with a creditable second in the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket when probably in need of the run and burdened with a 5lb penalty.

A fourth in a muddling Investec Coronation Cup followed, but then came a lacklustre effort in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Simple Verse was then off for almost three months before returning to the St Leger meeting at Doncaster for the Park Hill Stakes.

She proved that a combination of her and Town Moor made for pulsating finishes – getting up late on under Oisin Murphy after looking to have no chance of catching the leader, Pretty Perfect, a furlong out.

Simple Verse followed that by finishing a keeping-on third to Sheikhzayedroad in the QIPCO British Champions Long Distance Cup at Ascot.

Kept in training, she ran a cracker on her return when touched off by Dartmouth in the Yorkshire Cup and looked set for a prosperous time over staying distances. However, she subsequently disappointed in the Gold Cup and was retired three months later because of “various issues” .

Simple Verse, owned by Qatar Racing, won six times from 15 starts and earned motre than £965,000 in prize-money.

Career highlight:

The 2015 St Leger took Simple Verse’s connections to the highest of highs and, for 11 days afterwards, the lowest of lows.

Betting for the seven-runner renewal revolved around Storm The Stars and Bondi Beach, who were sent off 2-1 joint-favourites, with Fields Of Athenry next in the market at 100-30. Simple Verse (8-1) was the only other to go off at single-figure odds.

It was a compelling contest which resembled equine bumper cars in the final, two furlongs.
Bondi Beach leaned in on Simple Verse in the straight and she pushed her way out.

Half a furlong out, they collided again.

Simple Verse dug the deeper and won by a head. The immediate impression was that the best horse had won on the day, even if it took 11 days for that to be confirmed.

What they said:

Ralph Beckett said on her retirement: “She was a terrific servant to all her connections. The highlight of her career was undoubtedly the 2015 St Leger, but to drop back to a mile and a half and win the Fillies and Mares five weeks later showed how versatile, as well as tough and talented she really was. We will miss her, but look forward to training her progeny.”

After she had been reinstated as the winner of the St Leger, the trainer had said: “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.

“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.”

Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Bondi Beach, said: “I am delighted for Ralph Beckett and Sheikh Fahad on his first (British) Classic win, we felt we had a fair hearing and some you win and some you lose.”

What should we expect for her offspring?:

Simple Verse was fully effective at up to two miles and gave the impression she would have been effective over even farther (clearly not herself on her final start in the Gold Cup).

Bought for €240,000 as a yearling, she is a daughter of Duke Of Marmalade, the five-time Group 1 winner at up to 1m2f, and the fourth foal of a dam who was an unraced daughter of useful 1m4f performer Bluffing.

It should be a case of the further the better for her offspring but, if they take after her, they could be slow burners who need time and a distance of ground to show their best.

Simple Verse was a strong, well-built individual in her racing days. The demands of Doncaster and Ascot suited her. Duke Of Marmalade also enjoyed big-race glory at the latter track.