St Leger Festival Betting Tips – 11th, 12th, 13th & 14th September 2019

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!

Weather

It’s not been the nicest week of weather in Doncaster leading up to the St Leger Festival. Thankfully, the rain is set to hold off for the four days of racing so if you can make it to the course you should be in for a great time. The pre-event rain may soften the ground up a little but the lack of rain in the forecast suggests that the ground won’t move too far away from good to firm.

Doncaster St Leger Weather Forecast for 2019

Forecast via Met Office

Leger Legends Day: Wednesday 11th September 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
1:50 EBF Conditions Stakes 6f Misty Grey to win
2:25 Pepsi Max Nursery Handicap 7f Powertrain to win
3:00 Scarbrough Stakes 5f El Astronaute to win
3:35 Leger Legends Classified Stakes 1m Hammer Gun to win
4:10 British EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap 1m4f Litigious to win
4:45 William Hill Conditions Stakes 1m2f Loxley to win
5:20 Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap 5f Line Of Reason to win

Horse racing does a great deal for various charities and that giving spirit is in full view on Leger Legends Day. Former stars of the saddle get back on the horse for the feature race of the day, the Leger Legends Classified Stakes. Whilst this isn’t the biggest or best day of racing held at Doncaster, there are some very serious races away from that popular contest, each of which provides a great opportunity to land some profit from the bookies.

British Stallion Studs EBF Conditions Stakes

1:50, Class 2, 6f

This may not look like the highest calibre contest for two-year-olds in the world but the British Stallion Studs EBF Conditions Stakes has produced some classy winners including Khaadem who won last year. Misty Grey is one of those in the field of whom expectations are fairly high. Mark Johnston’s colt has already been busy and although results are nothing to write home about he should be able to do much better in this drop down in class.

Misty Grey to win

Pepsi Max Nursery Handicap

2:25, Class 2, 7f

Those with an eye on potential stars of the future have another race to pay close attention to next up. Previous results of the Pepsi Max Nursery Handicap don’t look much like a handicap, with three winning favourites in the last five renewals and only one winner that you’d call a shock (Show Legend won at 25/1 in 2015).

Focusing on the classiest horses in the field has paid dividends before and could well do so again with Powertrain. Hugo Palmer’s colt won his first race at the third time of asking last time out and could be even better at Doncaster where he is stepping up to 7f.

Powertrain to win

Scarbrough Stakes

3:00, Listed, 5f

The Scarbrough Stakes is a relatively rare chance for two-year-olds to take on older horses. It’s never been won by a juvenile though and that’s not going to change this year with three-year-old Archer’s Dream the oldest horse in the field of seven.

Each of the last 10 winners was aged either three, four or five but it’s a six-year-old who has been catching the attention of many punters. El Astronaute will have to carry more than each of his opponents in this 5f sprint. That’s a result of his participation in Group level races this season but it shouldn’t be too damaging to his chances of winning on this drop down in class and he is very much the one for us here.

El Astronaute to win

Leger Legends Classified Stakes

3:35, Class 5, 1m

The Leger Legends Classified Stakes is one of those rare horse races in which those watching will be more interested in the jockeys than the horses. With all due respect to the horses competing, this is fairly low grade stuff. It is still deserving of its place as the headline act of the first day of the St Leger meeting because of the money for charity it raises and for the chance to see the likes of Luke Harvey, Kieren Fallon and Noel Fehily saddle up once again.

It’s the latter of that trio who could well be smiling come the end of this race. Fehily was a jumps jockey but he is relatively newly retired so should be in decent enough condition aboard Hammer Gun who is a very tough competitor and has some good form at this sort of level.

Hammer Gun to win

British EBF Premier Fillies’ Handicap

4:10, Class 2, 1m4f

The next race of the opening day at Doncaster is a handicap for fillies and mares aged three and older who have an official rating of 100 or below. The potential for this to be a competitive handicap has been reduced somewhat by the fact that only four horses will compete but the booking of Frankie Dettori on board Litigious is eye-catching to say the least. John Gosden’s lightly raced three-year-old is still very much improving and can grab a third win from just four career starts.

Litigious to win

William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Conditions Stakes

4:45, Class 2, 1m2f

We have another relatively small field set to go to post for this 10f contest. Some big yards have entries amongst the six confirmations for the penultimate race of the day. Charlie Appleby has more reason than most to be excited by his prospect in the William Hill Leading Racecourse Bookmaker Conditions Stakes.

Loxley should be competing at a higher level than this and is using this contest as a chance to acclimatise back to British conditions following his attempt to win a Group 1 in Meydan. The trip was too short for him that day in the Jebel Hatta so he’ll relish the extra furlong and should take advantage of the drop down in class.

Loxley to win

Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap

5:20, Class 4, 5f

The top weighted horse in the Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap is the one that most punters will be concerned about. Abel Handy was one of the top prospects from 2017’s cohort of juvenile sprinters but he’s not been able to kick on as connections hoped. If he can cope with the weight on his back, Abel Handy could well score at this level but the best betting option looks to be Line Of Reason. Paul Midgley’s nine-year-old is well drawn, will enjoy the firmer ground and has plenty enough ability to see off the competition.

Line Of Reason to win

Ladies Day: Thursday 12th September 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
2:10 EBF “Carrie Red” Fillies’ Nursery Handicap 6½f Galadriel to win at 13/2
2:40 Park Hill Stakes 1m6½f Dame Malliot to win at 2/1
3:15 Weatherbys £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes 6½f Glasvegas to win at 7/1
3:45 May Hill Stakes 1m Powerful Breeze e/w at 12/1
4:20 Silk Series Lady Riders’ Handicap 6f Tommy G to win
4:55 Magners Rose Handicap 1m2f Good Birthday to win
5:30 DFS Handicap 7f Mutamaasik to win

It’s Ladies Day at Doncaster on Thursday. The second day of the St Leger Festival sees the quality of the racing take a step up and every race on the card has something going for it. We certainly hope to get something from the races by picking out the best bet from each of them.

British Stallion Studs EBF “Carrie Red” Fillies’ Nursery Handicap

2:10, Class 2, 6½f

As with the first day of the St Leger Festival, Ladies Day begins with a contest for two year olds. As the name suggests, this is a contest for fillies. Nursery handicaps should in theory produce very competitive contests but it is relatively common for quality juveniles to outperform their official handicap mark which is exactly what connections of Galadriel are hoping for in this one.

After failing to win over a variety of different distances, Kevin Ryan’s filly got her first win at the fourth attempt last time out over five furlongs. The step up in trip shouldn’t be too much of a concern as that win came on good to soft whereas she will face firmer ground at Doncaster so a second successive win is on the cards at 13/2.

Galadriel to win at 13/2

Park Hill Stakes

2:40, Group 2, 1m6½f

The difference between the Park Hill Stakes and the first race of the day is an extra mile, a lot of extra experience and a much higher level of field. This Group 2 contest is one of the most anticipated races of the entire meeting with racing fans very interested in the battle between Enbihaar (6/5) and Dame Malliot (2/1).

There should be only one winner on paper. Enbihaar has all the class and experience required as evidence with her win in the Lillie Langtry Stakes at Glorious Goodwood. It is the weights that keep his race interesting though with Enbihaar’s younger rival receiving 10 pounds on the favourite. That could make all the difference over this long trip and opens the door to the impressive three year old, Dame Malliot who could give Frankie Dettori yet another big win.

Dame Malliot to win at 2/1

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

3:15, Class 2, 6½f

At this stage of the season many of the brightest juvenile prospects have already shown glimpses of being able to land some of the biggest races to come. That is the case with many of those in the field for the Weatherbys Racing Bank £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes. But as the name suggests, this is a very big prize in its own right. With the best part of £150,000 on the line for the winner it is no surprise that we have a full complement of 22 horses set to go to post in this six and a half furlong race.

There are all sorts of penalties and allowances for this race with many of those towards the top of the betting affected. Connections of Glasvegas are delighted that their colt has avoided such penalties and is therefore very well treated compared to the other well fancied horses. Combine that with his impressive early form and Glasvegas looks a great price at 7/1.

Glasvegas to win at 7/1

May Hill Stakes

3:45, Group 2, 1m

The May Hill Stakes is a Group 2 contest for two year old fillies. Each of those in the field has already proven that they deserve a crack at a race of this calibre but none has yet won a Group 1 or 2 contest. That leaves us with level weights across the nine fillies competing in a race which has produced some shocks including a 12/1 winner last year.

Powerful Breeze is available at that price this year and could be worth an each way bet at least. Hugo Palmer was delighted with the way she got off to a winning start in her first appearance. Whilst there are questions about that form given the poor showing from the favourite Powerful Breeze lived up to her billing by easing away from the competition in impressive style on the sort of good to firm ground she will find at Doncaster so another success could well be on the cards.

Powerful Breeze each way at 12/1

Silk Series Lady Riders’ Handicap

4:20, Class 3, 6f

The Silk Series Lady Riders’ Handicap has attracted a very good 17 entries for what is a decent prize given the relatively low grade of racing. As ever, it doesn’t matter how good the competitors are so long as they produce a competitive race and every race provides the chance to make a profit. That profit may well be secured by backing Tommy G. Jim Goldie’s six year old turned in a good performance at Glorious Goodwood where he was only beaten by Poyle Vinnie and Venturous. He will face the former again at Doncaster and can reverse the form off a mark that should allow him to be competitive.

Tommy G to win

Magners Rose Handicap

4:45, Class 2, 1m2f

There is an eight runner handicap next up at Doncaster. The Magners Rose Handicap hasn’t produced a winning favourite in the last decade and that trend may well continue for another year. You can make a case for a number of those in the field but it is the up and coming Good Birthday who gets the nod. Andrew Balding has been entrusted with some very good horses owned by King Power Racing. He has been getting a tune out of Good Birthday recently so expect another big run in this one.

Good Birthday to win

DFS Handicap

5:30, Class 2, 7f

Ladies Day draws to a close with the DFS Handicap, a seven furlong race which is open to three year olds rated between 81 and 100. Mutamaasik is right towards the top of that rating ceiling following three straight wins. There is still a feeling that the handicapper has been fairly generous to him though so Mutamaasik can prove to be the best horse in the race with a commanding win.

Mutamaasik to win

Gentleman’s Day: Friday 13th September 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
2:10 Sceptre Stakes 7f Di Fede to win at 6/1
2:40 Mallard Handicap 1m6½f Saroog to win at 11/10
3:10 Doncaster Cup Stakes 2m2f Stradivarius to win at 1/3
3:45 Flying Childers Stakes 5f Alligator Alley to win at 5/4
4:20 Flying Scotsman Stakes 7f Visinari to win
4:55 Gary Reid Memorial Maiden Stakes 7f Maori Kinght to win
5:30 @WillHillRacing On Twitter Handicap 6½f Reptuation to win
6:00 Coopers Marquees Classified Stakes 1m2f Sandret to win

Superstitious punters may decide not to have a bet on Gentleman’s Day at the St Leger Festival as it falls on Friday the 13th. That would be a mistake as there are some great chances to beat the bookies across a big card as we have highlighted with racing tips from every single race.

Sceptre Stakes

2:10, Group 3, 7f

We have a Group 3 to kick Gentleman’s Day off with the Sceptre Stakes. Farzeen goes into the race as the 7/2 favourite following the first two wins of her career but the stats suggest it won’t go well for her. There has never been a winner from stalls one or two in the Sceptre Stakes so Farzeen’s draw in stall two should open the door for her rivals.

Di Fede is perhaps the best placed of these fillies and mares to take full advantage. She ran well over a mile last time out at Goodwood but should be better suited to the return to seven furlongs. The firmer ground is no concern and she is proven to have the ability to be competitive at this grade so 6/1 looks a very fair price.

Di Fede to win at 6/1

Mallard Handicap

2:40, Class 2, 1m6½f

Just six runners are confirmed for this year’s renewal of the Mallard Handicap. We usually see many more competitors which is a shame for many but not for those connected to Saroog. The five year old showed last time out at Goodwood that he is still progressing which suggests that he could still be a better performer than the handicapper’s official rating suggests.

Saroog certainly has ample stamina to run well over this 1m6½f trip. Jockey William Buick will need to be very wary of Charles Kingsley who represents the powerful duo of John Gosden and Frankie Dettori, but Saroog is the best horse in the race and should justify his favouritism with a commanding run.

Saroog to win at 11/10

Doncaster Cup Stakes

3:10, Group 2, 2m2f

Doncaster has played an important role in making Stradivarius a superstar of flat racing. When he finished third in the 2017 St Leger he was described as lacking a certain amount of class compared to Capri and Crystal Ocean. He returns to the track this year as one of the classiest horses competing across the whole meeting.

It takes more than class to win the biggest staying races of all. It takes heart, stamina and an ability to dig deep when under pressure and those are attributes that Stradivarius has in spades. John Gosden and Frankie Dettori could not be happier with the five year old’s performances this season in which he has won the Stayers’ Million for a second time. It is very interesting to see him back at Doncaster ahead of another crack at the British Champions Long Distance Cup. He will enjoy the 2m2f trip and the firm ground and should have little trouble winning at a very short price.

Stradivarius to win at 1/3

Flying Childers Stakes

3:45, Group 2, 5f

Those at Doncaster get the chance to see some hot sprint prospects in the Flying Childers Stakes. Whilst there is still a lot of room for improvement for all of those in the field, this is not the sort of race which is won by a complete unknown. The vast majority of recent winners had at least one run in the month leading up to this Group 2, 5f contest. Additionally, 12 of the last 16 winners already had a win at Listed level (or better) before.

A’Ali has the required previous form with a pair of Group 2 wins under his belt. That is enough to make him the narrow favourite over Alligator Alley who claimed a first Listed win last time out at York. A’Ali could well go on to have a very good career but much of his best work so far has been done on softer ground than he will find at Doncaster so it is Alligator Alley who looks the better bet at odds of 5/4.

Alligator Alley to win at 5/4

Flying Scotsman Stakes

4:20, Listed, 7f

The Flying Scotsman Stakes is another important race for two year olds but this time for those who are set to go well over longer trips than the Flying Childers Stakes. This Listed race which takes place over seven furlongs has produced some quality milers and middle distance performers. Connections of Visinari hope that he will kick on to have success in the future even though he is yet to follow up on the hype that his debut win brought.

It looked from the outside as though Visinari just wasn’t strong enough to make the most of his big frame in his two most recent starts. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he has been given a little time away from the track to grow. Either trainer or owner (or both) clearly believe he is in a better place to compete after a short break and there is every chance Visinari will prove too good as he drops down to the Listed level.

Visinari to win

Gary Reid Memorial Irish EBF Maiden Stakes

4:45, Class 3, 7f

None of the six horses in the Gary Reid Memorial Irish EBF Maiden Stakes has run more than twice so far whilst Raaeb is making his racecourse debut for Saeed bin Suroor. There’s excitement about many of these but few have had as many bets on them as Maori Knight. He was the subject of a very big gamble on his debut and whilst he was unable to provide a return for those who backed him he has enough quality to right those wrongs second time out.

Maori Kinght to win

Follow @WillHillRacing On Twitter Handicap

5:30, Class 2, 6½f

The Follow @WillHillRacing On Twitter Handicap is the penultimate race of Gentleman’s Day at Doncaster. Just eight horses out of a possible 22 have been confirmed for this six and a half furlong race which is open to horses aged three years and older with a rating of 105 or less. This race could be a very good chance for Reputation to get back to winning ways after a disappointing run. Ruth Carr’s six year old has looked out of sorts this season but is back down in the weights and will get the sort of firm ground that should bring the best out of him.

Reptuation to win

Coopers Marquees Classified Stakes

6:00, Class 3, 1m2f

The bumper card at Doncaster is brought to a close with the Coopers Marquees Classified Stakes. It is another race with a rather disappointingly small field with six horses confirmed out of a maximum field size of 22. Still, those six could serve up a thrilling finish as they appear well matched on paper. Pretty much every horse has a genuine chance of winning but narrow preference goes to Sandret who could go well as he steps up to 1m2f for the first time.

Sandret to win

St Leger Day: Saturday 14th September 2019

Time Race Distance Tip
1:50 Portland Handicap 5½f A Momentofmadness to win at 12/1
2:25 Park Stakes 7f Shine So Bright to win at 11/8
3:00 Pommery Champagne Stakes 7f Threat to win at 13/8
3:35 St Leger Stakes 1m6½f Logician to win at Evs
4:10 Napoleons Nursery Handicap 1m Kingbrook to win
4:45 P J Towey Construction Ltd Handicap 1m So Beloved
5:55 Yates Drywall Ltd Handicap 1m4f The Trader to win

Saturday is the main day of the St Leger Festival featuring the headline race, the St Leger Stakes. All eyes will be on the final Classic of the season especially as we could be about to witness a very special horse in Logician. The St Leger is well supported by some other high quality races to entertain the fans at Doncaster and those watching on from afar.

Portland Handicap

1:50, Class 2, 5½f

The final day of the St Leger Festival begins with a very good race. There’s nothing quite like a big field, handicap sprint and the Portland Handicap is right up there with the most entertaining that you’ll find at this stage of the season.

The odds paint a picture of a highly competitive race and it is true that any number of those in the field could kick on to win. The profile of a recent winner thrown up by recent renewals is a horse who is carrying at least 8st 12lb, has won over six furlongs or further and who is drawn high. A Momentofmadness fits the bill nicely. He has been some way below his best this season but that has left him four pounds lower than when winning the Portland Handicap last year and he returned to form last time out so is well priced at 12/1.

A Momentofmadness to win at 12/1

Park Stakes

2:25, Group 2, 7f

A small but select field will compete in this year’s renewal of the Park Stakes. This Group 2 has been won by some very good horses over the years and it will take another big performance to win. The odds suggest that it is Shine So Bright who is the most likely to get the job done and the bookies may well have it spot on.

One of a number of quality horses owned by King Power Racing who are trained by Andrew Balding, Shine So Bright didn’t make much of an impact in the 2000 Guineas but showed his calibre when landing the City Of York Stakes in August. The only concern is that he tends to do his best work when fresh off a break but Balding wouldn’t have sanctioned his entry in the Park Stakes were he not fit enough so another Group 2 success would be no surprise at odds of 11/8.

Shine So Bright to win at 11/8

Pommery Champagne Stakes

3:00, Group 2, 7f

We have another small field to pick through in the Pommery Stakes. That should be good news for connections of Threat who are growing increasingly excited about the chances of this promising juvenile. His win in the Gimcrack Stakes at York only strengthened those excitement levels and he is understandably short in the betting to pick up another Group 2.

For those not convinced by Threat’s appeal, the odds of 6/1 available on Royal Crusade are not to be missed. He got a lot of support in the betting for his first and only run so far at Newmarket and justified it with a very good performance. This is a step up in class but could be one he takes in his stride even if the favourite looks solid at 13/8.

Threat to win at 13/8

St Leger Stakes

3:35, Group 1, 1m6½f

This is the race that the whole four day meeting has been building up to. The St Leger has increasingly become a specialist race for three year old stayers rather than the final leg of the Triple Crown and it has been the breeding ground for some of the best long distance performers around. Not that they all win. Stradivarius finished just third in the 2017 St Leger before improving to become the best stayer for many a year and now John Gosden has another potential superstar under his control in Logician.

This powerful colt has won all four of his starts to date including the Great Voltigeur last time out at York. He may have only beaten four rivals that day but you should take nothing away from the calibre of his performance at the Ebor Festival. Logician could be good enough to go on and rival his stablemate’s successes.

That is for the future though. The job at hand is making sure the favourite is as good as ever to see off the challenge from Sir Dragonet, Il Paradiso and Dashing Willoughby amongst others. Providing everything goes well with his trip to Doncaster and there are no injury concerns, Logician should be able to prove his class and win at a price of evens.

Logician to win at Evs

Napoleons Casinos & Restaurants Nursery Handicap

4:10, Class 2, 1m

The horses competing in the Napoleons Casinos & Restaurants Nursery Handicap may not have shown racing fans quite what they are capable of just yet but those connected to them are still hopeful they’ll be able to compete at a much higher level in the years to come.

Mark Johnston certainly believes that Kingbrook has what it takes to land some big prizes. He’s too weak for now and will need to winter well ahead of his two year old season but there isn’t too much to worry about in terms of his opposition at Doncaster so Kingbrook could pick up a second win.

Kingbrook to win

P J Towey Construction Ltd Handicap

4:45, Class 2, 1m

So Beloved looks the class option in the field for the P J Towey Construction Ltd Handicap. Again, we only have five horses in the field for this one which does take away from the race somewhat. The one mile contest is still a good chance for So Beloved to get back to winning ways on a drop down in class for David O’Meara who has been on a decent run with his string in recent weeks.

So Beloved to win

Yates Drywall Ltd Handicap

5:55, Class 2, 1m4f

The St Leger Festival ends with a three runner handicap which takes place over 1m4f. With the best will in the world most of those with a ticket to Doncaster on Saturday will already have left by the time the Yates Drywall Ltd Handicap gets underway but connections of The Trader will be there to cheer their three year old home. Winning is winning for horses who haven’t been in great nick of late and this is a very good chance for The Trader to bag a 1 on his form figures.

The Trader to win

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.