The St Leger is the final of the five English Classics of the flat racing season. It’s a chance for some of the very best three-year-old stayers to show what they are capable of by landing a highly prestigious race. The St Leger is just one race from the four-day festival that bears its name though.
Doncaster racecourse is ready to take centre stage, the horses are preparing and we’re helping punters to get ready for the battle against the bookies with our pick of the very best bets for the St Leger Festival. And that all starts here on day one!
Leger Legends Day: Wednesday
|1:10||British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes||Class 2||1m|
|1:40||bet365 Nursery Handicap||Class 2||7f|
|2:10||bet365 Scarbrough Stakes||Listed||5f|
|2:40||Mondialiste Leger Legends Classified Stakes||Class 5||1m|
|3:15||bet365 Sceptre Fillies' Stakes||Group 3||7f|
|3:45||Each Way Extra At bet365 Handicap||Class 2||1m2f|
|4:15||Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap||Class 4||5f|
The first day of the St Leger Festival at Doncaster is headlined by the Group 3 Sceptre Fillies' Stakes. Like the majority of the other races on the card, the feature has a favourite who looks a little shaky and some standout options at tempting odds a little further down the betting. We’ve picked out the best value bet from all seven of Wednesday’s races right here.
1:10 British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes
Doncaster, Class 2, 1m
The St Leger Festival begins with a race over a mile for two year olds. At this stage of the season we have already seen some eye catching performances from the current crop of juveniles including in the Betway Maiden Stakes at Sandown a couple of weeks ago. Maximal and Latest Generation were second and third respectively that day (behind the hugely promising One Ruler) with the latter ready to kick on and claim a first win at Doncaster. His run was very impressive as it was his debut and with Maximal being pulled at the final declarations stage, Latest Generation is the one to be on board.
Elsewhere, there are some very well bred debutants in the field including Arthur’s Realm for Ed Dunlop. Connections feel they have a very good horse on their hands in this son of Camelot and after a decent display on the Newmarket gallops he is very much one to watch.
Last Generation to win at 5/4
1:40 bet365 Nursery Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 7f
We have another race for two year olds up next but those in the field for this have a fair deal more experience than those competing in the opener. Despite the extra form for bookies and punters to look at, these nursery handicaps are always very difficult to predict. The best course of action tends to be looking for a horse who has shown glimpses of good form but looks to have been well treated by the handicapper.
The best option in that regard is Party Game who is available at 7/1 on his nursery debut. Party Game ran well for Ben Haslam on debut at Newcastle over the same seven furlong trip as this contest before improving on his turf debut over six furlongs at Ayr. He’s shown an impressive lack of greenness in the very early stages of his racing career and could well be up to the task of winning this.
Party Game each way at 7/1
2:10 bet365 Scarbrough Stakes
Doncaster, Listed, 5f
The Scarbrough Stakes is a race that usually produces thrilling finishes and racing fans are hopeful of more of the same for the 2020 edition. There were a disappointingly high number of withdrawals when final declarations were made but there is more than enough talent left in the field to suggest that we could be in for another quality edition.
Moss Gill heads the betting at 11/4. James Bethall’s four year old is dropping down in class having contested the Nunthorpe Stakes and on the face of it the quality of his run when third in that race should be enough to win this. However, is has a particularly good record at York and may not carry that form to Doncaster.
That opens the door for Dakota Gold. The six year old has worked his way into good form over the summer and was only denied a double by the highly promising Starman at York earlier in the month. Connections are looking to take advantage with a quick turnaround and may well be rewarded with their frontrunner making all to earn another win at 4/1.
Dakota Gold to Win at 4/1
2:40 Mondialiste Leger Legends Classified Stakes
Doncaster, Class 5, 1m
Flying Dragon and Late Arrival sit jointly at the top of the betting for this Class 5 contest, with most bookies unable to separate them at odds of 5/1. Indeed, there doesn’t seem to be much between them in terms of their recent form so the fact that Late Arrival is five pounds better off may make all the difference. The three year old has done a lot of good work for Simon and Ed Crisford this season and has been unlucky not to lose his maiden tag already. This could be a great opportunity for that elusive first win.
Late Arrival to win at 5/1
3:15 bet365 Sceptre Fillies' Stakes
Doncaster, Group 3, 7f
The Sceptre Fillies’ Stakes plays the role of the feature race of the first day of the St Leger Festival. This is always a decent enough contest including some good fillies but the fact that there have been no winning favourites in the last nine renewals tells its own story. Jubiloso is out to break the hex for favourite backers but you would have to be brave to back her at a general price of 11/2 given that she hasn’t been seen since finishing dead last in the Duke Of Cambridge Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Those who fancy backing something at a tasty price in the hope of another big winner should consider the 16/1 available about Foxtrot Lady but it is Cloak Of Spirits who is the best bet at odds of 7/1. Richard Hannon’s three year old has battled away in some very good races without earning a win this season and with just a little bit of luck she can finally get the victory that her form deserves at Doncaster.
Cloak of Spirits each way at 7/1
3:45 Each Way Extra At bet365 Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 1m2f
We have a bit of a puzzle for punters next up in the shape of the Each Way Extra At bet365 Handicap. This 1m2f contest is set to feature a field of 14 and it is possible to make a case out of many of them. There is some very good value in this race, with arguably the best of the lot provided by Sky Defender at 9/1.
Mark Johnston’s four year old does have the burden of top weight but he has been running off a mark of 104 for some time now and largely coped admirably. That was especially true when he put up a real fight to the progressive Lucander in a similar handicap at York. He had a crack at a Group 3 last time out and was by no means disgraced so he can do the business on his return to the handicap sphere.
Sky Defender each way at 9/1
4:15 Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap
Doncaster, Class 4, 5f
The final race of the day is another tricky-looking handicap. It is fair to say that none of the horses in the field for this Class 4 contest are at the top of their game but the joy of handicapping is that horses can sometimes spring back to form. Could Eeh Bah Gum be about to do just that? He will need his best performance on ground that is just the wrong side of good but his handicap mark is falling nicely and he may be able to spring back to form.
Eeh Bah Gum to win at 4/1
Ladies Day: Thursday
|1:10||Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Conditions Stakes||Class 2||1m2f|
|1:40||"Carrie Red" Fillies' Nursery Handicap||Class 2||6½f|
|2:10||bet365 May Hill Stakes||Group 2||1m|
|2:40||Weatherbys Racing Bank £200,000 2-Y-O Stakes||Class 2||6½f|
|3:15||bet365 Park Hill Fillies' Stakes||Group 2||1m6½f|
|3:45||Price Promise At bet365 Handicap||Class 2||7f|
|4:15||Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap||Class 4||5f|
There are races for two year olds everywhere you look at Doncaster on Thursday. A combination of nurseries, conditions races and Group level contests will keep the participants and punters on their toes whilst providing plenty of chances to win. Elsewhere on the card there are more value packed handicaps so a great deal to get stuck into with Thursday’s tips.
1:10 Sky Sports Racing Sky 415 Conditions Stakes
Doncaster, Class 2, 1m2f
It has been almost one year since Logician rewarded favourite backers with a fine victory in the St Leger of 2019. At that stage hopes were high about just how good John Gosden’s colt could be with many believing that he could be even stronger as a four year old. However, he has not been seen on a racecourse since that win having battled peritonitis, an illness which can be fatal.
His owner, Khalid Abdullah, is delighted to have his star back on track even if everybody is committed to taking things nice and easy for the foreseeable future. Nice and easy is probably a fair way to describe Logician’s return to competitive action as a horse with the potential to win multiple Group 1s competes in a modest conditions race. Logician is the clear favourite at a best price of 2/13 and should leave his opponents in the shade as he gets back to what he does best.
Logician to win at 2/13
1:40 British Stallion Studs EBF "Carrie Red" Fillies' Nursery Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 6½f
Connections of all 17 runners in this nursery handicap will hope that their horse has what it takes to work their way up through the handicap ratings and compete for some big prizes in their careers. It remains to be seen just how well they go in that quest, for now though it’s all about working out whether to stick over the sprint trips or start working up towards a mile.
The six and a half furlong trip is the ideal testing ground for many of these, including Jianzi who saw out six furlongs very strongly in her second race at Pontefract at the end of July. That may well have only been a modest maiden but the nature of her performance suggested that she should improve for more experience and given a slight step up in trip. Therefore, the 16/1 available about her chances looks very good for an each way bet.
Jianzi each way at 16/1
2:10 bet365 May Hill Stakes
Doncaster, Group 2, 1m
We stick with juveniles for the next race on Thursday at Doncaster but the calibre of those competing goes up several notches in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes. As always, there are some very good two year olds in this year’s edition with the market particularly sweet about the chances of Zabeel Queen and Indigo Girl. You can make a case for most of the nine fillies in the field though so there does look to be value about the 10/1 available on Dubai Fountain.
Mark Johnston’s charge was not up to the task of taking on the colts last time out in the Solario Stakes but simply competing against the quality of opponents she faced that day should do her the power of good. It won’t take a huge amount of improvement for her to reverse the form with Star Of Emaraaty from their meeting in the Sweet Solera Stakes or to seriously challenge the market leaders so consider her for an each way bet.
Dubai Fountain each way at 10/1
2:40 Weatherbys Racing Bank £200,000 2-Y-O Stakes
Doncaster, Class 2, 6½f
Yazaman sets the standard for yet another two year old race on Thursday. William Haggas’s colt has been competing against some of the best horses of his age group over the summer without landing a knockout blow on any of them. The market expects him to improve his record to two wins from six but Yazaman won’t have things all his own way by any stretch of the imagination.
Dark Lion is another who has competed at a higher level than this. He’s also run in some relatively low grade races this season as connections seems to have struggled to pitch his level correctly. Generally speaking, he’s won when he should have and struggled when the competition is too deep. This contest could be the Goldilocks race for Dark Lion in that he has the quality to win but is available at a tempting price of 8/1.
Dark Lion each way at 8/1
3:15 bet365 Park Hill Fillies' Stakes
Doncaster, Group 2, 1m6½f
The St Leger isn’t the only race contested over 1m6½f this week at Doncaster. The Park Hill Fillies’ Stakes is another highly regarded prize in which three year old fillies have the chance to race against their elders. A handful of three year olds have claimed this over the last 10 years and the market has a pair of them – Aplinista and Believe In Love – as the most likely winners.
Of the two, Believe In Love is the one to support at odds of 7/2. Roger Varian has had a wonderful run with this filly this summer. After being kept busy over the winter, she has now won four handicaps in a row, improving with each performance. She is more than worthy of taking her chance at this level and could well take another big step forward to add some black type to her CV.
Believe In Love to win at 7/2
3:45 Price Promise At bet365 Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 7f
Three year olds with a maximum official rating of 100 qualify for a place in this seven furlong handicap and 13 such horses have made it past final declarations. This year’s St Leger Festival includes some highly competitive handicaps and this is no different with some very tempting options at the odds. Cold Front is one such option at a price of 7/1. It all went wrong for the William Haggas colt when he was tried out over a mile for the first time in a strong handicap at York last time out. The combination of track and trip meant he always looked a vulnerable favourite that day but this is much more to his liking and the price is much more appealing.
Cold Front each way at 7/1
4:15 Jaguar Land Rover Doncaster JCT600 Handicap
Doncaster, Class 3, 6f
Thursday’s racing at Doncaster ends with a sprint handicap. It’s not the strongest race of the week but it could be a good opportunity for Gunmetal to get back to form. David Barron’s seven year old has had a tough time of it this season but his handicap mark is down to a level where it should be workable and he remains a hardy character so he has a real chance of returning to winning ways at odds of 13/2.
Gunmetal each way at 13/2
Gentleman’s Day: Friday
|1:10||British EBF Premier Fillies' Handicap||Class 2||1m4f|
|1:40||bet365 Nursery Handicap||Class 2||1m6½f|
|2:40||Bombardier Flying Childers Stakes||Group 2||5f|
|3:15||bet365 Doncaster Cup Stakes||Group 2||2m2f|
|3:45||bet365 Flying Scotsman Stakes||Listed||7f|
|4:15||Gary Reid Memorial Maiden Stakes||Class 3||7f|
We have a nice range of action on Friday at Doncaster with everything from a 5f sprint to a 2m2f marathon, so there is more than enough to entertain racing fans. The quality of the action is also very good with a couple of Group 2s taking top billing as well as some tight looking handicaps and strong juvenile races. With so much to enjoy we have gone through the card to pull out our best betting tips from the third day of the St Leger Festival. There won’t be any fans in the stands, which is a real shame, but even so, this should be a cracking day of racing for those watching on from the comfort of their own homes.
1:10 British EBF Premier Fillies' Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 1m4f
Only five horses will compete in Friday’s opener, a handicap being run over a mile and a half. From this small field there are few horses who make appeal with most attention being paid to Almareekh as she heads to Doncaster on the back of a hat-trick. As impressive as that feat is, the handicapper may well have got the better of her now which opens the door to Frankel’s Storm for Mark Johnston and Daniel Tudhope. She will enjoy racing on significantly firmer ground than when having a crack at a Group 2 last time out and has enough to out run her handicap mark.
Frankel's Storm to win
1:40 bet365 Mallard Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 1m6½f
Sleeping Lion won last year’s edition of the Mallard Handicap and connections are hopeful that he is peaking just at the right time to mount a successful defence of the race. James Fanshawe’s gelding would be the first five-year-old winner since Camborne in 2013 but has shown recently that he is still capable of running at a high enough level to win this. Rather strangely for a horse who has form running well towards the end of the season, Sleeping Lion loves running on ground that’s on the firm side of good. Drying conditions at Doncaster may well give him the underfoot conditions that he wants so last year’s winner is a good price at 9/2.
The first two days of the St Leger Festival brought a couple of longer odds winners and punters looking for an outsider worth considering for the Mallard Handicap should take the 12/1 available about Hochfeld. After winning a similar handicap at Goodwood, the six-year-old has run with credit in a couple of races that didn’t suit for one reason or another. He’ll also love the ground at Doncaster and is perfectly suited to this trip so is certainly tempting as an each way proposition.
Sleeping Lion to win at 9/2, Hochfield each way at 12/1
2:10 bet365 Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 6½f
The trip for the bet365 Handicap is exactly 1m shorter than the handicap which precedes it but punters could be well served by taking a similar approach to the two. That’s because this is another competitive affair with several horses who make appeal from an each way perspective but it also includes a solid option at the head of the market in the shape of Ghalyoon.
The Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned gelding came into his five-year-old season having only had three races and showed that he there is scope for improvement with a good run on his handicap debut. He was beaten only by a neck that day at Doncaster and returns to Town Moor with every chance of going one better at 4/1 given that he has only gone up 1lb in the ratings.
The best each way option for the race is Broken Spear at 14/1 The four-year-old has been in good form for Tony Coyle over the course of the summer and will battle away right to the line. The win may be slightly out of his reach but off a mark of 84 he has what it takes to earn a place at a very nice price indeed.
Ghalyoon to win at 9/2, Broken Spear each way at 14/1
2:40 Bombardier Flying Childers Stakes
Doncaster, Group 2, 5f
We move from handicaps to a Group 2 contest next up, in the form of this valuable and important sprint for two-year-olds. Some of these could well be competing against one another for a few years to come and few would be surprised if The Lir Jet turned out to be the best of them.
Cieren Fallon has prepared well for his first run on the Qatar Racing-owned colt with a blast on the Newmarket gallops and was reportedly impressed. However, The Lir Jet has a high knee action which is best suited to ground much softer than that which he will encounter at Doncaster so this is a tough ask, especially with things set to continue drying out.
Sacred is another in the field about whom big things are expected. In contrast to The Lir Jet, the William Haggas inmate should find conditions much more in his favour on Town Moor. Various excuses were offered for Sacred’s failure to justify favouritism last time out in the Lowther Stakes including the soft ground and the step up to 6f. He was also slow out of the stalls that day (potentially because that run came on the back of a two month break) and things are expected to go much better for the 11/4 favourite on Friday.
Sacred to win at 11/4
3:15 bet365 Doncaster Cup Stakes
Doncaster, Group 2, 2m2f
Spanish Mission and Eagles By Day are the two the bookies believe have the best chance of winning this staying contest. The former is a solid, high class stayer who in our opinion just doesn’t have the turn of foot required to be a serious player at the top level.
The latter has done well since joining David O’Meara’s yard but he is yet to convince that he is really effective over 2m plus. As good as the pair of four-year-olds are, it’s an improving three-year-old who gets the nod.
Revolver has been raised a whopping 34lbs since entering the handicap ranks at the start of the summer. His incredible winning run currently stretches to six as he continues to take steps up in terms of his performance levels and the trip that he is taking on. Connections have decided that this is a good race to get a first taste of Group level competition and they may well be right with punters lapping up the 15/4 available.
At the other end of the experience scale, the seven-year-old Red Verdon has a chance at 7/1. He returns to Britain on the back of a profitable couple of Group 2 races in France and his chances cannot be written off. He ticks a lot of the stats trends and with Frankie in the saddle we can be sure he’ll be given every chance possible at a nice price.
Revolver to win at 15/4, Red Verdon each way at 7/1
3:45 bet365 Flying Scotsman Stakes
Doncaster, Listed, 7f
Godolphin have some very good two-year-olds with One Ruler among the most highly regarded. This son of Dubawi has been entered in some very good races so far. He finished second in a 7f maiden at Sandown which was won by the ultra-classy Kameko last year before winning another maiden over the same course and distance which went the way of Palace Pier in 2019. The plan continues with a step up to Listed company in the Flying Scotsman Stakes and the bookies make One Ruler the favourite.
Spycatcher is the main obstacle in the favourite’s way and may be the better bet at the slightly longer odds of 7/2. Connections have been a little less restrained with their plans for him, entering him in the Group 3 Acomb Stakes despite the fact he could only finish fourth in his opening race. That Acomb form isn’t the strongest for the grade but the experience will stand Spycatcher in very good stead and he is well placed to come on and lose his maiden tag.
Spycatcher to win at 7/2
4:15 Gary Reid Memorial Maiden Stakes
Doncaster, Class 3, 7f
The Gary Reid Memorial Maiden Stakes brings the curtain down on Friday’s racing at Doncaster. It is a 7f maiden for two-year-olds with the majority of the field making their debut. Those with previous experience should have an advantage as connections of Muy Thai are well aware. The son of Acclamation was only beaten by two horses who already had runs under their belts on his debut. If he improves for that outing as he is expected to, Muy Thai can end Friday’s racing with a win for Richard Hannon … and us!
Muy Thai to win
St Leger Day: Saturday
|1:15||Sky Sport Racing HD Virgin 535 Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|1:50||bet365 Champagne Stakes||Group 2||7f|
|2:25||bet365 Portland Handicap||Class2||5½f|
|2:40||Bombardier Flying Childers Stakes||Group 2||5f|
|3:35||Pertemps St Leger Stakes||Group 1||1m6½f|
|4:05||Matthew Clark Nursery Handicap||Class 2||1m|
|5:15||Magners Dark Fruit Cider Handicap||Class 2||1m4f|
Of course, it is the St Leger itself that takes top billing on the final day of the meeting at Doncaster. We have a particularly competitive renewal of the final Classic of the season ahead and it is well supported by a strong card on Saturday with a nice range of races to get our teeth into. Punters have not had things easy so far in this meeting but there is more than enough opportunity to end things on a high. Unfortunately for everyone involved there will be no fans at the South Yorkshire venue but get your bets on, make yourselves comfy and enjoy all the action from your own home.
1:15 Sky Sport Racing HD Virgin 535 Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 1m4f
We have a 1m4f handicap to start the final day of the St Leger Festival. 12 runners will compete, with several of them holding chances to land the £25,000 first prize available for connections. Of those in with a chance, Aweedram could be the most interesting option as he makes his debut for new trainer, Newark-based Kevin Frost.
Frost will be much happier to add Aweedram to his string now than at the start of the season as the four-year-old seems to have rediscovered some of his old verve. His return to being competitive has coincided with his handicap mark dropping but it has also become clear that a strongly run 1m is ideal for him. That is exactly what Aweedram should get on Friday with the good ground on Town Moor, so he is well placed to get off the mark for the Frost yard.
Aweedram each way
1:50 bet365 Champagne Stakes
Doncaster, Group 2, 7f
Next up we have a cracking race for two-year-olds which has been won by the highly regarded Threat and Too Darn Hot in the last two years. Hopes are high among connections of Albasheer that he can win this race en route to even bigger and better things. The Owen Burrows-trained, Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned colt already holds an entry for next year’s Derby so it’s obvious just how highly he is regarded at home.
Albasheer has made just one appearance so far when he blew away his rivals by almost seven lengths in a maiden at Doncaster. As good as that win was, he is yet to prove himself against a higher level of opponent and heads into the race with less experience than his main rival, Chindit.
Richard Hannon’s charge also won his maiden in taking style before passing a tougher test in the Listed Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot in July. That extra bit of experience may be all that is required to turn this tight looking affair in Chindit’s favour and suggests that he is the one to be on at odds of 13/8.
Chindit to win at 13/8
2:25 bet365 Portland Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 5½f
Trainers and owners around the country head into the season with the hope that their horses will be able to climb the official ratings enough for them to regularly earn a place in the big Saturday handicaps. Competition for races such as the Portland Handicap is usually keen and a full complement of 22 horses will contest the 2020 running here at Doncaster.
The competitiveness of this race means that winning favourites are quite rare whilst seven horses have landed the prize with a starting price of 12/1 or greater in the last 10 years. That suggests that this is a tricky puzzle and we fancy that looking for each way value is the way to go. In that regard there are a couple of horses who stand out.
The first is Mountain Peak who has been running consistently well this season and comes into the race on the back of a good win at Haydock last month. His handicap mark of 99 is about right but Mountain Peak will battle away and can earn at least a place at the cracking price of 14/1. The second horse to consider is Meraas, who has found his mark of 103 a bit high in his last couple of outings. Now that that’s been eased a little, we fancy this consistent sprinter can be competitive again also at 14/1.
Mountain Peak each way at 14/1, Meraas each way at 14/1
3:00 bet365 Park Stakes
Doncaster, Group 2, 7f
The 2020 edition of the Park Stakes is shaping up to be a very interesting one. The betting is headed by a couple of older horses in the shape of eight-year-old Limato and six-year-old One Master. Of the two it is the former who has the best chance of winning should things go to plan.
Henry Candy’s gelding runs well fresh and has been given a nice break since winning the Group 3 Criterion Stakes at Newmarket in June. He is also seen to best effect when contesting strongly run races over this trip and on the sort of firmer ground that he will get at Doncaster so Limato’s billing as favourite is understandable.
The one potential issue for Limato is that he likes to race off the pace and then come home strongly, utilising the turn of foot that has seen him win at the very top level over 6f in his storied career. Frankie Dettori will know exactly how Limato wants the race to pan out and will try to throw a spanner in the works by getting out in front on board Wichita and setting a sedate pace. Aidan O’Brien is a master tactician in this sort of tricky race and it would be no surprise to see his three-year-old get the better of the favourite and win at best odds of 7/2.
Wichita to win at 7/2
3:35 Pertemps St Leger Stakes
Doncaster, Group 1, 1m6½f
The eponymous St Leger is the feature race of the four day Festival that bares its name. This is the most historic Classic of the lot, having first been run way back in 1776, and one of the highlights of the entire Flat racing season. It hasn’t always live up to the billing but if the build up to this year’s renewal is anything to go by, the race itself is going to be a cracker.
Pyledriver and Santiago are currently locked together at the top of the St Leger betting markets. The former has earned his lofty position in the betting thanks to a taking win in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at the other end of Yorkshire at York, but as good as that win was, it is Group 2 form compared to the Goodwood Cup which Santiago contested in July.
Aidan O’Brien could have been forgiven for using that race as simply a warm up for the St Leger, testing Santiago out over the 2m trip. However, he sent Ryan Moore out with instructions to try and go and win the race. That was always a tough ask against Stradivarius and Nayef Road but Santiago’s game performance showed that he will have no issues at all with the trip of the St Leger whereas his main market rival is yet to prove he can get the trip. Chiefly for that reason, it’s Santiago who is the most appealing of the two.
A little further down the betting and there has been an almighty gamble on Galileo Chrome. He was available at 12/1 just a couple of days ago but will likely be sent off somewhere around 11/2 on Saturday. Joseph O’Brien’s charge has shown a likeable attitude as he’s been stepped up in trip and is certainly one to watch out for.
Santiago to win at 11/4
4:05 Matthew Clark Nursery Handicap
Doncaster, Class2, 1m
After the St Leger comes a race which could include a couple of horses to keep an eye on over the middle distances next year. This nursery handicap has been won by some nice animals in recent years and Lone Eagle could be the latest to take a step forward. He was made to work a little harder than the market thought to win his maiden last time out but the soft ground wasn’t to his liking at Goodwood. He will definitely like the good ground at Doncaster and looks to have enough class to make his mark of 84 look generous.
Lone Eagle to win at 11/2
5:15 Magners Dark Fruit Cider Handicap
Doncaster, Class 2, 1m4f
The curtain comes down on another St Ledger Festival with the Magners Dark Fruit Cider Handicap. With just five runners this doesn’t quite live up to the billing of many of the other handicaps over the last four days but things are competitive enough at the top of the betting with Mankayan, Al Muffrih and Spanish Archer all well fancied.
Of that three, narrow preference goes to Mankayan who looks to be progressive and can score at 6/4 for Charlie Fellowes and Stevie Donohoe. That price looks solid to us and hopefully we can end things with one more winner!
Mankayan to win at 6/4
About the Meeting
Even the most causal of horse racing fans knows about the St Leger. Held in September it’s the final British Classic of the flat racing season and remains a hugely prestigious contest. Some, however, may not know that there is a four day festival built up around the St Leger.
There are many highlights in the St Leger Festival beyond the main event itself, as well as a host of activities for race goers to enjoy away from the track. First time visitors to the festival at Doncaster Racecourse feel like they’ve found something of a hidden gem given how much hype there is around other flat racing festivals compared to the St Leger Festival, whilst there are some great options for punters who prefer to take in the action from the comfort of their own home.
St Leger Stakes
The St Leger Stakes is the race after which the entire festival is named and the one that makes the headlines around the world. Run over a distance of one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards, it is the longest of the five British Classics and the only one that is open to both colts and fillies. The St Leger is also the oldest of the Classics having first been run in 1776.
Winning all three Classics used to be the hallmark of the very best horses on the flat but things have changed significantly recently. The very best horses on the turf tend to do most of their racing over shorter trips and it is rare for a horse to even try to win the Triple Crown, whilst the last horse to win all three was Ninjinsky in 1970. Camelot did come close in 2012 though when he narrowly failed to follow up wins in the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby.
Although some horses who failed to make an impact in the Derby have gone on to win the St Leger in the last few decades the main races to consider when looking for St Leger form at the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York and the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. Whatever route a horse takes to the St Leger it is pretty much vital that they have run over at least a mile and two furlongs.
There have been plenty of notable winners over the years ranging from the 200/1 shot Theodore way back in 1822 to Galtee More at the other end of the scale who was victorious at odds of just 1/10. The biggest winning margin was a whopping 12 lengths when Never Say Die stormed to victory in 1954, while Masked Marvel has come closest to breaking the three minute barrier when taking the win in 2011 in a time of three minutes and 44 hundredths of a second!
Other Key Races
Potential St Leger winners of the future are given the chance to compete in a high class contest at Doncaster courtesy of the Champagne Stakes. This Group 2 race for two year olds is run over a distance of seven furlongs and six yards and plays the role of a warm up for the St Leger as it also take place on the final day of the festival.
There are any number of potential routes for the Champagne Stakes winner to take but most of the leading contenders will go on to compete in the Dewhurst Stakes which takes place the following month at Newmarket.
The Doncaster Cup was first held in 1766 so is one of the few races still going strong that is actually older than the St Leger. In those early days it was actually run over a gigantic distance of four miles but has since been cut significantly and now takes place over two miles, one and a half furlongs. The Group 2 race is open to horses aged three and older and forms the final leg of the Stayers’ Triple Crown along with the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup.
May Hill Stakes
The May Hill Stakes is another very historic race that forms part of the St Leger Festival. This Group 2 race for two year old fillies is run over 1 mile and takes place on the second day of the festival. There’s a decent price (£70,000 in 2018) up for grabs but this is more about setting the platform for future success than anything else.
2017 winner, Laurens, showed that the May Hill Stakes has the ability to give birth to stars of the future as she kicked on to win the Fillies’ Mile the following month before claiming multiple Group 1 wins later on.
Park Hill Stakes
The Park Hill Stakes is another well regarded Group 2 race taking part at Doncaster in September. It’s run over around 100 yards longer than a mile and six furlongs and is open to fillies and mares aged three and older.
Fittingly for a race that takes place on the festival’s Ladies Day, the Park Hill Stakes is colloquially known as the Fillies’ St Leger. That gives a hint as to the prestige of this race which has been won by some quality staying fillies and mares over the years.
The St Leger Festival has a lot going for it. One of the biggest selling points that the organisers use to market the event is the incredible amount of history that horse racing has in Doncaster. There are few more historic places in horse racing than Doncaster Racecourse which has been hosting regular racing meetings since the 16th century. Horse racing was far from universally popular in those early days as locals were very upset with the “ruffians” who were attracted by the races but things have changed immeasurably since.
In more recent years the racecourse has undergone a massive redevelopment costing around £34 million. From there fans are treated to all the mod-cons as they enjoy racing on the same spot as those pioneers of the sport many hundreds of years ago.
A Complete History of the St Leger Festival
There aren’t too many flat meetings that come with greater status than the St Leger Festival. The four day event gets more exciting with each day that passes and the progressive card reaches a climatic ending with the St Leger Stakes itself featuring during the grand finale.
These days around 25,000 people show up every St Leger Saturday to catch a glimpse of the festival’s showpiece event. It stands proudly as the oldest Classic on the British racing scene as well as the only one held in Yorkshire. You could write an entire book on the St Leger alone but here we’ll focus on some of its main highlights as well as the history of some members of its supporting cast.
1766 – Doncaster Cup Debuts
The St Leger may be the oldest of the Classics but it’s not the oldest race of the Festival. The Doncaster Cup, or rather as it was back then, the Doncaster Gold Cup, predates the flagship event by 10 years and is the venue’s oldest surviving event. Initially it took place over a gruelling distance of four miles but a large reduction to two miles and five furlongs followed in 1825.
1776 – St Leger is Born
The race that makes this entire meeting possible, the St Leger Stakes, first appears on the scene at Cantley Common, Doncaster, on 24th September 1776. The mastermind behind the race was Anthony St Leger, an army officer and Member of Parliament for Grimsby. To begin with people referred to the race simply as ‘A Sweepstake of 25 Guineas’ but it’s rather nameless status only lasted two years.
An unnamed filly won the inaugural race, owned by the two-time Prime Minister Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquees of Rockingham, who jointly organised the race with Anthony St Leger. Fillies at that time received a two pound allowance over colts and geldings who set off weighing eight stone. At a much later date the winning horse acquired the name Allabaculia, most likely a derivative of Ali Bey Kuli, the 18th century adventurer.
1778 – St Leger Named and Moved to Town Moor
As mentioned above, nobody called the St Leger by its present name when the race was first introduced. This all changed following a dinner party in the Red Lion Inn, situated in Doncaster’s Market Place. The initial suggestion was the name the race after party host and joint race organiser, the 2nd Marquees of Rockingham but he himself proposed that Anthony St Leger should be the one honoured. The very same year the race moved from Cantley Common to its present location at Town Moor.
1800 – Champion Wins Epsom Derby and St Leger Double
The St Leger didn’t begin as a particularly well-known event across the country but at the turn of the new century it found itself rising to prominence. For this, the race has a horse named Champion to thank as he registered the first Derby-St Leger double. Owner Christopher Wilson had so much faith in his horse pulling off the double that he ran out of paper making so many bets on the three year old colt. For the next 47 years, Champion stood as the only horse to have won both races.
1813 – Distance Changed to 1m 6f
Having started off as a two mile contest, the St Leger remained this way for few decades before being trimmed by a little over a furlong. Its new distance was one mile, six furlongs and 193 yards and it has remained around this mark ever since, only tweaked by the odd minor alteration.
1822 – Theodore Wins at 200/1
Despite winning his previous four races coming into the St Leger, Theodore remained a very much unfancied 200/1 option from the 23 St Leger entrants. He did initially begin trading at around 20/1 but rumours spread during the race build-up that he was lame. Fully believing the rumours, even owner Edward Petre allegedly sold off his bets placed on the horse. How he was left to rue that mistake as his horse made all the running at Doncaster, becoming the longest-odds champion the race has ever seen.
1823 – Champagne Stakes Gets Underway
The Champagne Stakes first made its way to Doncaster in 1823 as a one mile contest open to all genders. It has since had its distance altered to six furlongs, then seven furlongs while fillies were excluded from competing in 1988. Under its original format the Scott brothers enjoyed a tremendous amount of success, collecting 19 wins between them as trainer (John) and jockey (Bill).
1839 – Park Hill Stakes Added
Not only does Anthony St Leger have a race named after his but the estate he formerly owned, Park Hill, also becomes an additional to Doncaster’s September schedule. Run over the same distance as the Doncaster’s main event, it has long been referred to as the Fillies’ St Leger.
1842 – Beeswing Wins 4th Doncaster Cup Aged 9
Once heralded as the greatest mare in Britain, Beeswing did plenty to justify her high standing. A true crowd favourite, she won an incredible 51 of 63 starts, four of which came in the Doncaster Cup. Her first taste of victory arrived in 1837 while a hat-trick followed between 1840 and 1842. Winning as a nine year old on her last ever appearance, the mare stood for over 150 years as the oldest Cup champion before Persian Punch’s triumph in 2003.
1853 – Western Australian Wins First Ever Triple Crown
The idea of the Triple Crown hadn’t existed prior to this date but it quickly emerged following West Australian’s unprecedented success as a three year old. One of the best British horses of the 19th century, he won both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby before making the journey up north. Ten years earlier Cotherstone did the same but lost out as the odds-on favourite in the St Leger. West Australian avoided suffering the same fate as he become the first horse to win all three of the leading three year old races.
1855 – Portland Handicap Created
Initially the Portland Plate, as it was previously known, took place on a round course opposite a coaching inn called the Red House before being transferred to Doncaster’s straight track. Throughout its long history several horses have claimed two victories in the race but in 2004, Halmahera became the first ever to manage three in a row.
1857 –Park Hill Result Sparks Blink Bonny Riot
Blink Bonny’s appearance in the St Leger drew in crowds from far and wide, desperate to get a glimpse of the extraordinary filly. Many left disappointed though as the 5/4 favourite for the Classic finished fourth after being ridden poorly by Jack Charlton, allegedly on the orders of the bookmaker John Jackson. Lacking proof of foul-play, tensions didn’t boil over but this changed when Blink Bonny won the Park Hill stakes the following day.
Over the exact same distance, with 10 pounds extra weight, the filly clocked a winning time two seconds faster than the St Leger winner, Imperieuse. Angry spectators immediately surrounded Charlton who only avoided a beating thanks to the intervention of former prize-fighters John Gully and Tom Sayers. The pair did little to calm the mood though with 2,000 angry guests creating a mass-scale disturbance on the course, later known as the Blink Bonny riot.
1862 – John Scott Secures 16th St Leger
West Australian’s trainer, John Scott, had plenty prior winning history in the race and he didn’t stop there after saddling the first ever Triple Crown king. During an incredible period of dominance in the St Leger, “The Wizard of the North” as he was affectionately known, scooped 16 winners, the last of which came in 1862.
Success most definitely ran in the family as his brother Bill Scott remains the all-time leading jockey in the race. William, to use his full name, rode the winning horse on nine occasions between 1821 and 1846, doing so six times on one of his brother’s horses.
1915 – Newmarket Hosts St Leger During First World War
As one of the few racecourses able to continue largely as normal during World War I, Newmarket managed to temporarily house the St Leger. The Suffolk-based course took control of the race between 1915 and 1918, renaming it the September Stakes and running it on the Rowley Mile. By hosting the race, albeit under a different guise, it ensured that the St Leger was able to feature as it had done every year following its inception.
1939 – First St Leger Cancellation as WWII Begins
It managed to survive WWI but the untimely outbreak of WWII forced organisers to cancel the St Leger for the first time. Fortunately the historic race quickly managed to find a series of alternate homes throughout the rest of the conflict. It spent a year at Thirsk and Manchester each, then another three at Newmarket before one final appearance away from home at York. This appears to be the only St Leger Festival race salvaged with all others failing to be rehoused during the war.
1967 – Flying Childers Stakes Introduced
Initially known as the Norfolk Stakes, this race needed a new name when Ascot borrowed that title for one of their sprint events. In 1973, six years after being founded organisers opted to rename it the Flying Childers Stakes, as tribute to the undefeated 18th century horse bred at Carr House near Doncaster. It held Group 1 status following the change in title but has remained at Group 2 since 1979.
1976 – May Hill Stakes Inaugurated
A year after Park Hill Stakes champion May Hill was named the top rated British filly, she had a race named after her at Doncaster. On just its fourth renewal the one mile event moved to Kempton Park but returned to Yorkshire a year later. Almost from the off Henry Cecil made his presence felt in the race, saddling twelve winners between 1978 and 2001.
1978 – Park Stakes Added to Card
The St Leger Festival continues to grow as the Listed level Park Stakes becomes the latest event to take place on the course. Initially sponsored by Kiveton Park Steel, Kiveton was removed from the title in 1996. The race has been reclassified twice during its history, first promoted to Group 3 status in 1986 and then to Group 2 in 2004.
1989 – Disaster in the Portland Handicap Causes Abandonment
Falls in flat races are rare yet we witnessed three horses take a tumble in this year’s Portland Stakes. Two jockeys, Paul Cook and Ray Cochrane, both suffered extensive injuries while Madraco, who broke his leg, was retired to stud. After witnessing such scenes, organisers at Doncaster abandoned the rest of the card, including the St Leger which took place at Ayr eight days later. This was the first time the race moved venue for a reason other than war.
Years later and the primary cause of the fall was still a point of controversy. A Jockey Club inquiry ruled that the laying of a longitudinal drain in the months prior had left voids in the ground under the surface. They fell short of deciding that this was the cause of Madraco’s fall but the High Court decided it was, rejecting the idea that the horse’s leg spontaneously broke. As a result Doncaster Racecourse were ruled liable for the unsatisfactory state of the ground, paving the way for Cook and Cochrane to claim compensation.
2004 – Doncaster Cup Dead Heat
We should be set for another dead heat in the Doncaster Cup around the year 2055 judging by past trends. The race witnessed its first shared victory in 1901, then 1953 before another followed in 2004. Nothing could separate Kasthari and Millenary as they crossed the line in the Group 2 contest. The latter did enjoy the spotlight all to himself the following year though as he secured a three quarter length win while Kasthari had to settle for third.
2006 – York Hosts Condensed Festival
As £55m redevelopment work took place at Doncaster, the St Leger Festival moved to York. Talk of hosting at least the St Leger itself at Ascot had been present prior but organisers were keen to keep the historic race in Yorkshire. Unable to offer the full Festival schedule, York only offered 14 races across a two day card but they did include all the major highlights.
2011 – Masked Marvel Narrowly Misses Sub Three-Minute St Leger
No running of the St Leger at Doncaster has seen a winning time break the three minute barrier. When held at other venues the race has dipped beneath but never on the Town Moor course. Masked Marvel came oh so close this year though when setting a record breaking time of 3:00:44 on good to firm going.
2011 – Sceptre Stakes Added as a New Group Contest
The total number of Group events taking place at the St Leger Festival increased to eight this year thanks to the reclassification of the Sceptre Stakes. The event, named after the former St Leger champion Sceptre, had formerly been at Listed status before this year’s upgrade to Group 3.
2013 – Flying Scotsman Takes Listed Status
Previously known as the Frank Whittle Partnership Conditions Stakes, the name the Flying Scotsman Stakes made its first appearance in 2013. The same year the rebranded race claimed Listed status, taking Goodwood’s Stardom Stakes in the calendar. The name change was inspired by the 90th birthday of the LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman, built in Doncaster.
2015 – Simple Verse St Leger Disqualification Overturned
Connections of Simple Verse thought she had become the first filly in 23 years to win the St Leger during a thrilling renewal. A lengthy stewards’ inquiry took the victory from her though, ruling that she had been guilty of ‘extensive barging’ down the home straight. This was the first time since 1789 that first past the post in the St Leger ended up disqualified. Demoted to second place, the race went the way of joint favourite Bondi Beach.
‘Astonished’ by the decision, Simple Verse’s trainer Ralph Beckett quickly announced his intent to overturn the call. The BHA (British Horseracing Authority) heard the appeal 11 days later and ruled in Beckett’s favour. Panel chairman Tim Charlton ruled that Bondi Beach hadn’t been impacted badly enough for him to have been awarded the victory.