St Leger Festival Betting Tips – 12th, 13th, 14th & 15th September 2018

The final Classic of 2018 is fast approaching as the Flat racing season moves towards its conclusion. All eyes will be on Doncaster on Saturday afternoon as the leading three year olds who excel over longer trips do battle for the big prize. However, the meeting is about much more than just its showpiece race and the big one is complemented by a whole four day festival of racing.

Punters have a combination of races to enjoy at Doncaster and there is something for everyone. We’ll see everything from sprints to long distance slogs with competitors ranging from promising young up and comers to experienced stagers. With so much great action ahead, we’ve picked out the best betting options from the St Leger Festival below.

The first day isn’t one that receives a huge amount of attention and whilst there are plenty of betting opportunities we’re diving straight into day two. The Wednesday action isn’t televised and whilst you can watch via a live stream, the meeting only really hits galloping pace come Thursday.

Ladies’ Day: Thursday 13th September 2018

Time Race Distance Tip
3:00 Park Hill Stakes 1m61/2f God Given to win at 7/1 with Coral
3:35 Weatherbys 2-Y-O Stakes 61/2f Louis Treize to win at 7/1 with Ladbrokes

After a fairly low key start including some racing legends of the past, the St Leger Festival really gets going on Thursday. As with every Ladies Day during the Flat racing season, a lot of attention will be paid to the festival goers themselves but the real action takes place on the track with a couple of races worth paying attention to in particular.

Park Hill Stakes

3:00, Group 2, 1m61/2f

The Park Hill Stakes whets the appetite for the St Leger. Open to horses aged three and older, this is a stern test of stamina at the best part of two miles. The 2018 renewal has attracted entries from many of the leading yards and looks to be a very competitive betting heat. Andrew Balding’s quality four year old, Horseplay, and Pilaster, Roger Varian’s red hot three year old head the betting but there hasn’t been a winning favourite for five years and only three have obliged in the last 10.

The most interesting option in the betting is God Given. Luca Cumani’s filly came into her four year old season lightly raced and she’s proven to be a consistent performer over the summer. She’s been beaten by Horseplay and Pilaster in her last two starts in Britain and couldn’t reward favourite backers on her first attempt at this trip. However, Cumani believes she’ll be able to thrive over longer distances going forwards while the softer ground should suit so back God Given to gain revenge over her rivals and win at great odds of 7/1 with Coral.

God Given to win at 7/1 with Coral

Weatherbys Racing Bank £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes

3:35, Class 2, 61/2f

The feature race on Ladies’ Day, the Weatherbys Racing Bank Stakes carries with it a mammoth prize fund of £300,000 with the best part of half of that going to winning connections. The size of the prize tempted entries for 66 different juveniles but only 22 will make the cut and the competition only gets stiffer from then on.

Most recent winners had already got off the mark (although few at this trip or longer) and many finished in the places last time out. Louis Treize hasn’t been seen since July but his two starts to date saw him finish second and first over six furlongs. The way that he saw off the competition last time out at Newcastle suggests that he will have no problems with this slight increase in trip.

It’s too early to tell whether Richard Spencer has a top class colt on his hands but he’s certainly shown enough so far for us to believe he has a very good chance of landing this lucrative prize so back Louis Treize to win at 7/1 with Ladbrokes.

Louis Treize to win at 7/1 with Ladbrokes

Gentleman’s Day: Friday 14th September 2018

Time Race Distance Tip
3:35 Doncaster Cup Stakes 2m2f Idaho to win at 11/4 with Betfred

In the spirit of equality, after Ladies’ Day on Thursday comes Gentleman’s Day on Friday. Expect sharp suits among the crowd and some high class horses on the track especially in the feature race of the day, the Doncaster Cup.

Doncaster Cup Stakes

3:35, Group 2, 2m2f

The Doncaster Cup is the pick of Friday’s racing. Run over two miles and two furlongs, this contest forms part of the Long Distance division of the British Champions Series which means it is a valuable prize in its own right. Many trainers also see this race as a good chance to test their stayers out against a competitive field before trying them out in the biggest long distance races on the calendar.

With only nine horses entered, the Doncaster Cup is not going to be a big field event but what it may lack in size it always makes up for in terms of competition. Only three of the last 17 winners went off at odds longer than 11/2 with the bookies and the fact that 15 of those 17 winners had already tasted success at least 1m6f shows that this is a race for horse with proven stamina.

The current bookies’ favourite, Idaho, doesn’t need to prove his stamina to anybody. After a successful season last time around running exclusively over 1m4f, Idaho has been stepped up in trip during this summer and Aidan O’Brien has been pleased with the results. Idaho’s last two appearances were in top class races over at least two miles. Not only did he finish third in each race but he was only beaten by Stradivarius, the best stayer around at the moment, and two other excellent stayers – Torcedor and Count Octave. In the absence of such top class opposition here this is a great chance for Idaho to finally claim his first win at Group level at 11/4 with Betfred.

Idaho to win at 11/4 with Betfred

St Leger Day: Saturday 15th September 2018

Time Race Distance Tip
3:35 St Leger 1m61/2f Latrobe to win at 8/1 with BetVictor

It’s always been a good week of racing by the time we reach the weekend of the St Leger Festival but there is definitely a feeling that this is what everybody has been waiting for. The St Leger is one of the feature races of the entire season let alone Saturday at Doncaster but who will come out on top this year? There is one more Classic up for grabs and we think we’ve got a cracking tip for the meeting’s flagship race.

St Leger

3:35, Group 1, 1m61/2f

The St Leger is the final Classic of the British racing season and the only one open to both colts and fillies. There is no doubting the prestige of the St Leger but there is a feeling that it’s increasingly becoming a race for specialists as the horses at the very top of Flat racing tend to stick to the shorter distances. With hopes long since dashed of Saxon Warrior winning the English Triple Crown after his 2000 Guineas success, we’re left with the usual selection of steady improvers in the St Leger field.

Capri was the standout option in the betting for last year’s St Leger. The bookies’ favourite proved his class 12 months ago but the two renewals before were won by 22/1 and 8/1 shots. The shortest options in the betting all have questions to answer so it could be worth taking a shot on another slightly longer odds winner with Latrobe, currently priced at odds of 8/1 with BetVictor.

Latrobe’s odds have come out a little since a very poor performance last time out at York. He was always going to be up against it over the shorter trip that day but his chances were over before the off as he got very hot and bothered on the way to the stalls. Providing he is nice and calm at Doncaster, the step up to 1m61/2f should see the best of him. The best of Latrobe was enough to win the Irish Derby in some style and could well be enough to land the St Leger at a generous price.

Latrobe to win at 8/1 with BetVictor

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

Champagne Stakes

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.

Doncaster Cup

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.

History

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.