The St Leger Stakes – a history of heroes…

As the flat racing season flows on towards the St Leger, speculation is rising as to who will line up on the Town Moor this September and which of these contenders will leave the stalls as favourite. With the longest roll of honour in racing, The St Leger is steeped in significance and has featured some of the most notable horses in British history. As the world of racing begins to wonder who will return to the winner’s enclosure this year, let us not forget the horses whose successes have galvanised the status of the race since its inception in 1776.

The story begins with Allabaculia, a bay mare owned by Lord Rockingham. She was of unknown breeding and, as was common at the time, remained nameless throughout her whole career. After her win in the 1776 St Leger stakes she was mistakenly listed as a colt and only when 19th century racing publications were discovered was it was revealed that the filly was known as Allabaculia. The St Leger began to rise to prominence in 1800 when a horse called Champion headed to Doncaster having won the Epsom Derby. Yorkshire born and bred, Champion hailed from Tadcaster. After winning the Derby on his first ever run, he repeated this success in the St Leger having started as 2/1 favourite. Amusingly, Champion was by a sire named Potoooooooo. The horse was meant to be named ‘potato’, but when the stable lad was instructed to write the name on the stable door he mistakenly heard the name as Pot & 8 o’s – hence the bizarre spelling! The owner of the horse, The 4th Earl of Abington, was tickled by the misunderstanding and so the name stuck. It would be 48 years before Champions Derby-Leger double would be repeated.

Nijinsky 1970
Nijinsky after his 1970 St Leger victory

In 1848 a colt named Surplice, owned by Lord Clifden, won the Epsom Derby by a neck. Heading next to Doncaster, a false start didn’t affect him and his Derby formed was confirmed by another win in the St Leger, again by just a neck. Just two days later Surplice ran again and this time his reputation was so formidable that not a single opponent turned up to contest him and he won the race by default, just having to walk over the winning line to collect his prize. Another dominant winner was the 1896 champion, a colt named Persimmon. Heading to the St Leger start he was watched anxiously watched by his owner, the then Prince of Wales. Having won the Derby that June, Persimmon started as 2/11 favourite in a field of six runners, four of whom were available to back at prices of 66/1 or more. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the colt found victory easy and continued on a winning streak that would see him take first prize in seven of his nine starts. Persimmon went on to become the most influential sire of his time. One of his offspring, a filly named Sceptre, continued his legacy by not only winning the St Leger, but by winning both the 1902 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas within two days of each other. Her next stop was the Derby, where a bruised foot meant she could only come home in fourth; she avenged this defeat however by winning the Oaks just two days later. Her season only improved when she took the 1902 St Leger, galvanising her status as one of the most outstanding mares ever to take to the turf. Her record as the outright winner of four classics still remains unchallenged. Another brilliant filly to win the St Leger was Pretty Polly, bred in Ireland in 1901. In a remarkable career that saw her win 22 of her 24 starts, Pretty Polly won every race of significance for fillies and outdid all of the colts to win the St Leger on Town Moor in 1904.

In 1933 another legend of racing was created, Hyperion. Sired by Gainsborough, himself a Triple Crown winner who took the St Leger in 1918, Hyperion was owned by the 17th Earl of Derby. Fittingly he followed Prince of Wales and Chester Vase victories by a win in the Derby itself. St Leger success then rounded off an outstanding three year old season in which he was unbeaten, and his success on the turf was matched when at stud. The leading sire in 1940, 1941, 1942, 1945, 1946 & 1954, Hyperion represents a key part of the history of the thoroughbred and even produced a colt to emulate his St Leger success – Sun Chariot in 1942.

The English Triple Crown has proved notoriously difficult to win. Several horses have won the first two legs of the series, The 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket and the Derby at Epsom, but found the St Leger a step too far. The most recent success was that of Nijinsky in 1970. Bred in Canada, Nijinsky was trained at Ballydoyle in Ireland by the late Vincent O’Brien. Beaten only twice from 13 runs, Nijinsky not only won the English Triple Crown, but managed to intersperse these wins with victories in both the Irish St Leger and the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. Nijinsky contracted ringworm prior to his English St Leger win, and was nursed back to health on a diet of raw eggs and Irish stout. The treatment must have been effective as the colt won comfortably, securing the last leg in the Triple Crown title that he still holds.

To be continued…

Introducing Mastery

Mastery is a comprehensive knowledge or skill in a particular subject or activity. In 2009, a horse called Mastery won the World’s Oldest Classic, The St Leger Stakes. In 2017, Doncaster Racecourse sets out to honour both of these definitions with its new private hospitality facility, The Mastery Restaurant. DON065 Mastery Restaurant - FB POST 5Carefully positioned to provide an extraordinary view of the winning line, guests will have use of an exclusive lawn rolling from the restaurant doors to the running rails. Inside, diners are treated to welcome drinks upon arrival and a three-course chef’s buffet followed by after-lunch coffee. Guests will then to soak up the atmosphere of Yorkshire’s biggest raceday as world-renowned horses and jockeys take to the turf just meters away. Also included are a light afternoon tea and a cash bar with full table service, making the Mastery experience a fully inclusive and unforgettable day out.

Hospitality at The St Leger Festival

Brand new for 2017 is The Mastery Restaurant, situated in its own Private Marquee on the bend just after the Winning Post, overlooking the Champagne Lawn. Offering coffee and biscuits on arrival and a three-course chef’s buffet followed by after-lunch coffee, diners will be able to revel in the atmosphere as the Mastery Restaurant sits in a superb location just a whisker away from the action on the track. With the winning post in eye line and the sport’s finest horses within touching distance, the Mastery Restaurant offers almost a private audience to the World’s Oldest Classic. When the racing gets underway guests will then be able to enjoy a light afternoon tea, all the while enjoying access to a cash bar with table service.

Housed inside the Club 1776 Marquee, The Mastery Restaurant is neighboured by both the Cusworth Private Chalets and The Triple Crown Restaurant.  The Cusworth Private Chalets provide an equally high-quality location where guests can enjoy the privacy of their own dedicated facility. Serving a luxury four-course plated lunch with a champagne reception, diners can then enjoy a classic afternoon tea as the tensions rise out of the turf. Meanwhile the bar is fully inclusive, providing all the elements needed for an incredible race day experience. The Triple Crown Restaurant shares the same location and priceless atmosphere. Greeted with a glass of champagne, diners are then treated to a gourmet buffet and Chef’s table carvery followed by after-lunch coffee. The finest afternoon tea is available alongside a fully inclusive bar. All Club 1776 customers can make use of a private lawn stretching from their facility down to the home straight of the racetrack, the final element in an exquisite hospitality package.

Up in the Lazarus & Leger grandstands, our Private Boxes offer the height of luxury and an incredible vantage over the action on the turf.  Serving from a selection of three separate menus, the dining experience offered in these facilities is second to none. From the inclusion of a car parking space and arrival drinks to small touches such as racing newspapers and locally-sourced fudge, there is no stone left unturned as we strive to create a remarkable raceday experience. With a dedicated host for the day and a private balcony, there’s no cause to venture out of the facility as every need is catered for.

Also based within the Lazarus Stand are both the Lincoln and Conduit Restaurants. Both offering three-course lunch with panoramic views across the racecourse, The Lincoln Restaurant offers fine dining with an emphasis on luxury whilst The Conduit remains slightly less formal whilst maintaining the quality and sense of occasion associated with The St Leger Festival.

Each hospitality facility at The St Leger Festival represents a unique and wonderful opportunity to enjoy an incredible sporting event in a superb location. From arrival to departure, our guests are a part of an experience that is unforgettable.

Coast St Leger Look Book

Coast Meadowhall is one of the St Leger Sponsors that makes our Best Dressed Lady Prize so valuable! We’ve browsed Coast’s stunning collection and compiled a few pieces we think would be perfect for Town Moor on Ladies Day!

Untitled design (1)

Top – Bickham Floral High Low Dress – £230

Top left and right – Blake Jacquard Skirt (£129) and top (£69)

Bottom middle – Kaempa Ruffle Printed top & skirt – both £95

That St Leger Feeling….

Ladies Day

With the arrival of the summer months, it is the season to plan an outfit, grab a racing post and head to the racecourse. Doncaster is lucky enough to host Yorkshire’s most important fixture and the World’s Oldest Classic race, the William Hill St Leger Stakes, as part of a four day festival which kicks off on 13 September. Each year we welcome over 60,000 racegoers to Town Moor and dedicate the whole of Thursday to the Ladies. Our 2016 Ladies Day best dressed event, sponsored by DFS, offered participants the chance to win a trip to New York along with a magnum of champagne, two memberships to the racecourse and a whole host of other superb prizes. The runners-up were not disappointed either, with more champagne up for grabs along with over £1000 worth of vouchers.

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Last year’s top prize went the way of local lady Maria Gledhill, a school administrator from Rossington. Maria, who was attending Ladies Day for the first time, hadn’t intended to enter the competition until she was approached by a scout. ‘I was approached by two ladies from Chique boutique who asked me if I’d like to enter and I thought “why not?’’ I knew the winner won a trip to New York and some other prizes, I was excited to be in with a chance’. Maria was one of 10 finalists chosen by the racecourse and the event sponsors; with the final placings in the hands of title sponsor DFS.  Not only was Maria crowned the overall winner, her close friend placed third in the event making the day a real cause of celebration amongst the group. ‘My favourite part of the day (except winning) has to be that my friend Kerry was also asked to enter the competition and she came third, we had some lovely photos taken together and when we got back to our friends we had a great time celebrating.’

Speaking to the racecourse about the top prize, Maria told us how she and her husband chose to take the New York trip just before Easter. ‘We flew with British Airways and stayed at the New York Edition hotel just off Madison Square Park. Whilst we were there we did all the sightseeing – Statue of Liberty, 911 memorial, Times Square, views from the top of the Empire state building, Central park and of course some shopping at Macy’s. We had an amazing time!

On the topic of this year’s style stakes, Maria offered a valuable piece of advice to potential successors, ‘I just came for the day out with my friends in an outfit I loved. I did have my hair and makeup professionally done and I think that makes you look and feel glamorous’.  This encapsulates the spirit of Ladies Day; it is a day where the women of Yorkshire and beyond can revel in the opportunity to dress in a way that makes them feel fantastic. There is world-class racing on the track and incredible prizes for the taking; it really is all to play for!

1 July Race Evening – Statement

The team at Doncaster Racecourse are sorry and disappointed that Rudimental could not perform after racing on 1st July 2017. Piers Agget was taken ill and, despite his wish to perform, the Doncaster team was informed that this would not possible.  With under one hour’s notice the team worked behind the scene with our music providers to find an alternative and deliver a DJ set. We were grateful that in particular Tom Zanetti changed his plans at short notice and we were able to deliver a DJ set which concluded at 11pm. I hope you will understand we did everything in our power to rectify the situation and ensure that the event continued.

We are asking all 1st July customers to contact us via email in the first instance with any queries directed to info@doncaster-racecourse.co.uk. As you will appreciate, we have received a large number of emails since the event and we would appreciate your patience as we work through the emails received.

Tim Banfield

Executive Director, Doncaster Racecourse

WILLIAM HILL SPONSORS THE ST LEGER

William Hill agree three-year deal with ARC to sponsor the St Leger Festival at Doncaster Racecourse including the world’s oldest Classic horserace.

William Hill Leger

Today, Arena Racing Company (“ARC”) announces that William Hill is the new sponsor of the St Leger Stakes, the world’s oldest Classic horserace.

The three-year deal sees William Hill sponsor the Group 1 St Leger Stakes, worth £700,000 this year, along with a feature race each day of the four-day festival which will be known as ‘The William Hill St Leger Festival’ and run from Wednesday 13 September to Saturday 16 September 2017.

Alongside the feature race, William Hill will sponsor the following races;

  • The William Hill Handicap on the opening day of the Festival (Wednesday);
  • The William Hill May Hill Stakes on Ladies’ Day (Thursday);
  • The William Hill Mallard Stakes on Gentlemen’s Day (Friday); and
  • The William Hill Portland Stakes on the finale, alongside the William Hill St Leger Stakes on the final day (Saturday).

In 2016, the St Leger Festival was attended by over 60,000 racegoers. In 2017, terrestrial coverage of the William Hill St Leger Stakes day will be on the ITV 1 channel with coverage on ITV4 for Ladies’ Day and Gentlemen’s Day.

New St Leger Festival sponsor, William Hill was the first betting company to sponsor a major horserace in 1957.  Today, William Hill is sponsor of the Ayr Gold Cup, Great St. Wilfrid at Ripon, Scottish Super Sprint at Musselburgh and is also the broadcast sponsor for all of ITV’s horseracing coverage.

William Hill CEO, Philip Bowcock, said: “William Hill is one of the best known brands in betting – with a long history of horseracing sponsorship.  We are delighted to sponsor the oldest classic and we will work closely with ARC to continue to build the profile and popularity of the William Hill St Leger Festival.”

Chief Executive of ARC, Martin Cruddace, said: “We are delighted William Hill have become the new sponsors of the St Leger. We really enjoy working with their team and look forward to extending this to our feature racing festival of the year. William Hill have the brand, vision and team to help build on the success of both the four-day festival and the feature race, the St Leger, which continues to be one of the most important races in the British Racing calendar.”

Executive Director of Doncaster Racecourse, Tim Banfield, said “The William Hill St Leger Festival is a wonderful four days of racing for Doncaster, the Yorkshire region and the whole of British Racing.  We aim to have a real and long-term partnership with all our sponsors and we look forward to integrating William Hill’s world-renowned brand into our feature event.  The team here are working hard on preparations for this year’s William Hill St Leger Festival and we are set on delivering another fantastic four days of racing.”

Tickets for the St. Leger Festival are now on sale and can be purchased online at

http://www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk/