St Leger: Franny Norton aims for Doncaster glory aged 49

Posted by on September 13th, 2019

St Leger week started with a hoo-haa over Theresa May's honours list, but big-race owner Paul Dean has his own ideas on knighthoods.

Sir Ron Priestley, rated a lively contender against Logician, Sir Dragonet and co. in flat racing's oldest and final Classic race of the season staged at Doncaster, is among a string of horses Dean has named after friends to whom he's also granted 'his own kind' of knighthood.

The late Mr Priestley was an early customer in the betting shop opened in the 1960s by Dean, one of the racehorse owners who was firmly on the Mark Johnston bandwagon well before his prolific operation at Middleham, North Yorkshire became as high profile as it is today.

And talking of awards, Sir Ron Priestley's jockey Franny Norton, 49, will perhaps soon be deserving of an equine name-check, if not a long-service gong, having been a standing dish in the jockeys' changing room for decades.

The Scouser, a champion amateur boxer who turned down the chance to go to the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur in order to concentrate on becoming a jockey, has had to punch his way to racing's summit.

A notably successful apprentice rider, he initially found the going heavy as a fully-fledged rider, but a subsequent teaming up with Johnston, who also saddles outsider Nayef Road, has proved a revelation.

However, though Norton's ridden in three Classic races - in two stagings of the 1,000 Guineas and in the 2014 St Leger - he's never been successful at the sport's highest Group One level.

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