2017 Flat Season Review

This weekend’s Betfred November Handicap, the last big race of the British Flat season, brings down the curtain on another memorable year on Town Moor.

Trainer Aidan O’Brien has been involved in the two most memorable moments at Doncaster in 2017, with Capri’s game victory in the St Leger the first of those. The Irish Derby winner dug in bravely in the hands of Ryan Moore to repel Crystal Ocean and a host of others, including Melbourne Cup hero Rekindling back in fourth.

Capri was one of a world record breaking collection of Group 1 winners for the Ballydoyle team this year, and Doncaster was lucky enough to be the place where O’Brien broke the great American trainer Bobby Frankel’s record when Saxon Warrior won the Racing Post Trophy in October to make it number 26 for the calendar year. Saxon Warrior will be aimed now at the Classics in 2018.


Also at the St Leger festival, Desert Skyline took the Doncaster Cup for champion jockey Silvestre De Sousa, Aclaim won the Park Stakes before going on to win at Chantilly on Arc day in the Prix De La Foret for Martyn Meade and Oisin Murphy. Off Art also won the Leger Legends race for former jump jockey Brian Harding and Tim Easterby.

Doncaster once again has proven its worth as a leading venue for young horses to begin their careers and three horses this year have gone on to shed their maiden tag on Town Moor, before going on to bigger and better things.

Benbatl won very early on in the season at Doncaster for the Godolphin team, before finishing fifth in the Derby and winning at Royal Ascot after that. James Garfield won his maiden at short odds after a great placed effort at Royal Ascot on 13th July for trainer George Scott, and since then, has won the Group 2 Mill Reef Stakes at Newbury and last weekend, travelled over to the Breeders Cup. Finally, Laurens, trained by Karl Burke for eccentric owner John Dance got off the mark on 20th July, before returning to Doncaster to win the Group 2 May Hill Stakes at the St Leger meeting, and then landed a Group 1 success at Newmarket when winning the Fillies Mile, providing both the owner and jockey PJ McDonald with their first Group 1 triumph.

Finally, rewinding back to the start of the season, it was the Lincoln meeting on the 1st and 2nd of April, and Ryan Moore got the season underway with a bang, by landing the first three races with Tupi winning the Cammidge Trophy, Ballet Concerto in the Spring Mile and Kool Kompany winning under a masterful ride in the Doncaster Mile. The Lincoln itself was won by Bravery on first start for David O’Meara under another great ride by Danny Tudhope.

After another stellar season on Town Moor, hopefully, there is one more great story to tell after Saturday’s November Handicap.


Racing Post Trophy memories

Saturday’s Racing Post Trophy is firmly recognised for producing Classic winners. Derby heroes Authorized, Motivator, High Chaparral and Camelot have all confirmed their Epsom credentials with victories in the final Group One of the British Flat Season, while Kingston Hill returned from his victory in 2013 to land the following season’s St Leger.

Camelot and Joseph O’Brien winning The Racing Post Trophy

KINGSTON HILL, trained by Roger Varian, was an impressive winner, coasting home eased down to a four and a half-length success, clear of Johann Strauss in the juvenile showpiece and enjoyed his finest moment when justifying favouritism in the world’s oldest Classic at the expense of Romsdal the following season. The son of Mastercraftsman was then retired to stud.

Kingston Hill

KINGSTON HILL was ridden by Andrea Atzeni, who since that success in 2013, has ridden the next three winners of the race, Elm Park in 2014 for Andrew Balding, Marcel for Peter Chapple-Hyam in 2015 and Rivet last year for William Haggas.

KINGSTON HILL was ridden by Andrea Atzeni, who since that success in 2013, has ridden the next three winners of the race, Elm Park in 2014 for Andrew Balding, Marcel for Peter Chapple-Hyam in 2015 and Rivet last year for William Haggas.

Atzeni will be aboard the Martyn Meade trained Chilean as he bids for a unique fifth consecutive victory in this Group 1 contest, a truly remarkable achievement which hasn’t been achieved before in this race’s history.

Andrea Atzeni winning his fourth Racing Post Trophy

You would think Atzeni would be the main storyline for this contest given that record, but instead, it is Aidan O’Brien, the master Irish trainer, who is the name of everybody’s lips.

O’Brien will this weekend bid to break great American trainer Bobby Frankel’s record for most Group 1 wins in a calendar year, after equalling the record of 25 with Hydrangea’s victory in the Fillies & Mares race at Champions Day at Ascot on Saturday. O’Brien has entered twelve runners in the Racing Post Trophy at the five-day stage in his quest to break the record, with the best of his battalion seemingly being impressive Beresford Stakes winner and unbeaten Saxon Warrior, together with The Pentagon, a winner in Group 3 company last time out.

Out to deny O’Brien, will be the man who was his boss for so many years when O’Brien was an amateur rider and assistant trainer, Jim Bolger, who runs his very promising youngster Verbal Dexterity.

O’Brien is no stranger to winning this race with a star horse. In 2011 CAMELOT helped to maintain Ballydoyle’s great record in the race when he took the honours en route to Classic glory in the Qipco 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Investec Derby. His bid to become the first horse since Nijinsky in 1970 to complete the Triple Crown was foiled by rank outsider Encke in the Ladbrokes St Leger, of course.

O’Brien’s ST NICHOLAS ABBEY stormed to the head of the 2,000 Guineas and Derby ante-post markets with a scintillating victory in the Racing Post Trophy in 2009, only to disappoint at Newmarket. However, he, too, went on to confirm what a good horse was by winning six Group Ones, including three Coronation Cups. Another star O’Brien winner was HIGH CHAPARRAL who scored in 2001 and went on to win the English and Irish Derbies, as well as two Breeders’ Cups.

Wanting to see if Aidan O’Brien will make history this weekend? Get your tickets for The Racing Post Trophy by clicking here!

A survivors guide to the company Christmas do!

The company Christmas Do has a bit of bad rep which is lingering on from the 80’s when it was all limp sandwiches, pineapple and cheese on sticks and an overbearing colleague insisting you all take to the dancefloor for Kylie’s remake of The Locomotion!

There’s little wonder why many shy away with trepidation!

But, for those die-hard party animals amongst you and those organisers hell-bent on getting staff and colleagues to enjoy the festivities we thought we’d share just a few tips on how to make this year’s Christmas do one to remember, for all the right reasons!

Top tips for surviving include:

  1. Remember that this is a party so whilst you don’t want to be talking shop, see it as a good opportunity to network, especially with those colleagues from different departments or locations.
  2. Use the opportunity to build on your important work relationships. Getting to know people away from a work environment can really help when you are back in the office.
  3. Don’t use the opportunity to tackle those career challenges such as negotiating a pay rise or filing a complaint, leave that side of work in the office and take time to enjoy the social side.
  4. Do some research beforehand so you are armed with conversation topics and so you know who’s attending and what their job title and role is.
  5. Struggling to know what to wear? Gents can keep it smart casual with jeans, shirt jacket if the dress code permits and ladies, why not opt for a little black dress, just not too short, or low cut with it being a work occasion.
  6. Follow up afterwards with a quick email to say thanks. It’ll make you stand out from the crowd who won’t.

So, if we’ve tickled your fancy, armed you with top tips for survival and generally re-invigorated the party animal in you, why not book a night at Doncaster Racecourse this Christmas or in the least, suggest it to your party organiser! Christmas Live is the happening place to be this year!

On selected dates during December the main hall at the Racecourse is completely, jaw dropping-ly transformed in to a winter wonderland, a party palace which just has to be seen to be believed! Up to 1,000 people gathering for festive fun, live music, disco, delicious food and entertainment including a casino to celebrate another fantastic year and start Christmas celebrations in style.

So, if you have the dubious honour of organising this year’s company Christmas Do or you just want to bring your party to our party get in touch, get booked and get partying Christmas Live style!

December dates currently available are Friday 8th, Saturday 9th, Friday 15th, Saturday 16th, Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd. Tables seat up to 12 and to guarantee a private table there must be a maximum of eight guests. Pre-booking is essential and all outstanding balances must be paid in full before the event.

For further information please visit http://www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/christmas-and-new-years-eve/

The rest of the action from the final day of The William Hill St Leger Festival

Spring Loaded (12-1) shot clear to land the opening William Hill Portland Stakes on the final day of the William Hill St Leger Festival.

Paul D’Arcy’s sprinter left the field trailing behind him in the closing stages as he went through the gears to record a three and a half length win.

Vibrant Chords (7-1f) came home second with Justanotherbottle (22-1) close behind in third. Lexington Abbey (10-1) finished fourth.

Winning jockey Joey Haynes said: “He’s done it so easily. He’s got a great lead into the race and when I’ve asked him to go he’s picked up brilliantly. Fantastic horse.”

Seahenge kicked off a big-race double for Aidan O’Brien with victory in the Group 2 Howcroft Industrial Supplies Champagne Stakes.

Donnacha O’Brien got the 8-1 shot rolling late on as Seahenge got the better of Hey Gaman (6-1) by a neck.

O’Brien said: “We’re delighted with him. He did well to win that. Donnacha won on him on his maiden and gave him the same kind of ride over six furlongs. This was obviously seven today and they didn’t go very fast so he did very well.

“He’s a fine horse, a very high quality horse to be able to do that. He won first time out this year and very few of ours have been doing that. He learnt a lot at Goodwood and Ryan said when he turned in that day he was very green. But obviously he’s come forward from that.”

Westerland (13-8f) got back to winning ways in a thrilling battle with Regimented (9-2) in the Napoleans Casinos & Restaurants Nursery Handicap Stakes.

John Gosden’s colt stuck on gamely to defeat his rival by a short head.

Gosden: “It’s good to see Frankie Dettori can still get them up on the line! Khalidi won this last year, it’s a nice nursery.

“Very pleased, I think the cheekpieces have helped him, he’s gone and won his race and was giving 2lb to the second.”

Kryptos (9-2) gave jockey Nicola Currie a big victory as he took victory in the P J Towey Construction Ltd Handicap Stakes.

Kryptos ran on well to comfortably keep 11-4 favourite Battered at bay.

Currie said: “He’s so straightforward, that’s the best bit about him. Just get a bit of cover and settle him in behind. You know where you are with him; he’s carried me the whole way there.

“We knew there wasn’t much pace so I didn’t want to jump too well and have no cover but it’s worked out lovely and I’ve just had to squeeze him to the line.

“I was always conscious that Ryan Moore might just come and get us being on the favourite! It’s my first season really riding and to even sit on a horse like this is great. Mr Berry has given me so much support this year.

“When you go out and you know he trusts you, you ride at your best.”

Game Starter (5-6f) showed he was still improving when landing the closing Marra Falcons Handicap Stakes under Oisin Murphy.

The Godolphin colt readily put the race to bed to run out an impressive winner. Amazing Red (11-2) ran on strongly for second.

Winning jockey Murphy said: “He’s a lovely big horse for the future and I hope I’m not wrong but I think you’ll be hearing more about him as time goes on.

“I think he’s a horse that if he stays in one piece, can definitely go onto bigger and better things.”

Capri reigns supreme in The William Hill St Leger

Capri heaped misery on the bookies as he toughed it out to win a thrilling renewal of the William Hill St Leger.

The 3-1 favourite held on in the hands of Ryan Moore to fight off the challenges of Crystal Ocean (5-1) and Stradivarius (9-2).

It was a fifth win in the Classic for trainer Aidan O’Brien who said: “Ryan gave him a class ride. He’s a horse with a lot of class and when Ryan really wanted him to he gave it to him. He gave him a great ride.

“He’s probably a mile and a half horse, we saw today that he has a great deal of courage and stamina but also plenty of class.

“He had a blip at York so we were a little bit worried as we thought he would improve a bit from the run. We’d had it in our head that we’d look at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe after as he’s in that. But obviously the lads will decide what they want to do.”

Sir Michael Stoute was thrilled with the run of Crystal Ocean in second.

He said: “He ran a great race, we’re thrilled with him. I thought he was going to win but we won’t run him beyond a mile and a half again.

“It was always a danger (that he wouldn’t stay). We saw in those mile and a half races that that’s his trip. It was a lovely ride, I always felt he might win.

“Jim (Crowley) reported that he was always pretty confident on him but he was just outstayed.”

John Gosden saddled Stradivarius to finish third and Coronet who came home fifth.

Gosden said: “It was a proper St Leger, they went a proper gallop. Stradivarius hit the front and then got a bit left on his own, but that’s life.

“He’s run a great race. and the little filly (Coronet) was on the back of Capri but the boys were a little bit strong over the last furlong when they’d gone that pace. It was pretty relentless stuff.

“Stradivarius could run at Ascot (QIPCO Long Distance Cup) as long as the heavens don’t open.”

“It’s been a fantastic first year of our sponsorship of the St Leger Festival,” said William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams.

“However, we were definitely praying for a different winner of the St. Leger itself.  Capri was probably in our top three worst horse racing results all year”

William Hill make Capri 5/1 for next year’s Ascot Gold Cup – and 16/1 for this year’s Arc.

The total attendance at the four day William Hill St Leger Festival was over 60,000.


Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Total
2011 5477 14617 9568 25572 55,234
2012 5037 13385 8801 31396 58,619
2013 5796 14446 10691 30,023 60,956
2014 6,259 14,584 11,034 30,032 61,909
2015 6,600 16,407 11,964 30,454 65,425
2016 6,344 15,056 12,038 26,577 60,015
2017 6,352 14,043 11,320 28,621 60,336

Aclaim takes Group 2 honours in the Alan Wood Plumbing and Heating Park Stakes

Aclaim (3-1) got up close home under Oisin Murphy to land the Group 2 Alan Wood Plumbing And Heating Park Stakes.

Martyn Meade’s four-year-old went one better than his previous start when he finished a narrow second to Brando in the Prix Maurice de Gheest.

Murphy settled Aclaim in behind early leader Home Of The Brave and when push came to shove, he showed a great attitude to stick his head in front.

Nathra (13-2) held on to second having come through with what looked like a winning run on the far side, while Home Of The Brave (9-4f) battled back to take third.

Meade said: “He’s definitely going the right way, we are really looking for a Group 1 win for him. That’s our main ambition. He’s won a couple of Group 2s now so hopefully he can step up.

“We’ll be going back to France for the Prix de la Foret. He’s just shown today that he can be ridden anywhere.

“I think he was pretty impressive there and he came through at any time he wanted to. The ground will be fine in France, he can act on any ground and the seven furlongs is clearly what he wants. He doesn’t quite get a mile.”

Desert Skyline swoops late to land the Group 2 Doncaster Cup

Desert Skyline showed his staying power as he charged home to land the Group 2 Doncaster Cup.

David Elsworth’s three-year-old is not eligible to run in Saturday’s William Hill St Leger as he is gelded, so he instead took on his elders and emerged triumphant.

Last year’s winner Sheikhzayedroad hit the front two furlongs out but Thomas Hobson and Clever Cookie were following behind.

However, Silvestre De Sousa and Desert Skyline (2-1f) swooped late to claim top honours and foil Ryan Moore and Thomas Hobson (4-1). Sheikhzayedroad (5-1) was third.

Elsworth said: “I was pleased with him because he’s only a three-year-old and he’s got a weight concession. But it’s tough out there. People don’t realise.

“It’s not like driving a car round the M25 where you just pull out and go! It looked like that but they’ve got to dig deep and work hard. For a horse that is still immature, he’s tough and went by them well.

“I’m really pleased with him.”

Thomas Hobson bounced back to form coming home second after a disappointing run at York last time.

Owner Rich Ricci said: “He ran very well there. It was always going to be tough giving Desert Skyline weight.

“I don’t know about Melbourne. I’ll talk to Ryan and Willie. He qualifies now but we’ll have to see as we have Max Dynamite coming out in the next couple of weeks.

“It’s a big punt Melbourne. It’s expensive and you want to make sure you go there with a fighting chance so I don’t know but he certainly ran well and better than the last day.”

William Hill cut Desert Skyline to 8-1 (from 20-1) for the QIPCO Long distance Cup. Thomas Hobson remains unchanged at 16-1 for the Melbourne Cup.