1977 saw a Royal winner cross the St Leger winning line. Dunfermline was owned and bred by Queen Elizabeth 2nd and despite winning just three of her twelve starts, she clearly knew when and where to exert herself as both of her victories came in Classic races. After winning the Epsom Oaks she headed to Doncaster and defied her starting price of 10/1 to win the last classic of the season. These efforts saw her rated as the best three year old filly in Europe at the time.
1985 crowned another exceptional filly, this time it was the Henry Cecil trained Oh So Sharp. Owned and bred by Sheikh Mohammed, Oh So Sharp’s career saw her win seven of her nine runs. In an outstanding three year old season she won the Nell Gwynne Stakes, The 1,000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks before cementing her status by winning the St Leger here at Doncaster. She was unquestionably the outstanding three year old filly of her time and as a broodmare she produced another St Leger winner in the way of Shantou in 1996.
1987 saw Henry Cecil take another St Leger title, this time with a colt named Reference Point. After victory in the Dante Stakes, The Epsom Derby and the King George, Reference Point arrived at Doncaster a clear favourite for the season’s final Classic. He won easily, earning himself the accolade of ‘British Horse of the Year 1987’.
A notable St Leger winner who was famously denied Derby success was Silver Patriarch. A popular grey colt, he was beaten by just a short head in the 1997 Epsom Derby after a tight photo-finish in which he looked to many like the winner. He came to Doncaster to avenge himself and he did, a popular victory amongst his supporters. It was more than ten years later that the namesake of one of our Doncaster Racecourse restaurants, Conduit, came to the fore. Conduit’s career had a fairly inauspicious start, rated a humble 79 after his first season, the chestnut colt’s star only began to rise when he turned three. Improving his two year old rating by a huge 46 pounds, Conduit won the 2008 St Leger by three lengths before scoring two Breeder’s Cup victories in addition to the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes of 2009.
As with all famous races, some horses gain more fame for losing than they would for having won. Such is the case for 2012 runner-up Camelot. After the bay colt won both the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, Camelot’s owners decided to target the St Leger in a bid to become the first horse since Nijinsky to win the English Triple Crown. After much frenzied press coverage, Camelot was sent off as 2/5 favourite but could only finish second by three-quarters of a length to Encke. Since Camelot’s failed bid to land the Triple Crown, no other contender has come forward.
One of the most dramatic and controversial St Leger victories has to be that of 2015 heroine Simple Verse. After finding herself trapped on the inside rail entering the last quarter of a mile, Simple Verse collided with the favourite, Bondi Beach. Despite crossing the line marginally ahead of her rival, a steward’s enquiry decided to reverse the placings and named Bondi Beach the winner. Simple Verse’s owners pursued an appeal and challenged the decision with the sport’s governing body, the BHA. After a lengthy hearing, the ruling was reversed and Simple Verse was at last crowned the 2017 St Leger Champion.
The most recent chapter of the St Leger story involves the first ever female trainer to win the race. 2016 victor Harbour Law was trained by 36 year old Laura Mongan, based in Epsom. The story continues on the 16 September 2017…who will be the hero?