St Leger 2019: Betting Tips, Stats & History

Statue of Double Trigger Racehorse at Doncaster Racecourse
Credit: Helena (cropped), flickr

The UK horseracing scene at the minute is probably as vibrant as it’s been for a long time, in terms of the calibre of racing that’s on offer at least. The inclusion of races such as the St Leger is one of the driving forces behind why the industry is keeping ticking along.

The race itself is held at Doncaster Racecourse and is part of the St Leger Festival. In all honesty, the festival is solely targeted towards this race, such is its important, but the fact that there is 4 days of quality racing leading up to the race, just highlights how successful the race has become. 

St Leger Festival Betting Tips for 2019

Racing fans are in for a treat once again this week as we have yet another top notch four-day racing festival to get to stuck into. South Yorkshire is the venue this time around as Doncaster lays on it’s annual St Leger Festival. Undoubtedly the track’s major event of the year, expect packed stands on Town Moor as the meeting builds to its Saturday crescendo.

RaceTipDay & DateTime
Champagne Stakes Threat Saturday 14th September 2019 15:00
St Leger Stakes Logician Saturday 14th September 2019 15:35

About

The St Leger is widely regarded as one of the more challenging races of its class, mainly because of its distance of 1m 6f. The race is actually the fifth and final Classic of the season, which includes the 2000 Guineas, 1000 Guineas, Epson Oaks and the Epsom Derby. 

The British Classic Horse Races

RaceDistanceCourseMonth Run2018 Prize Fund
2000 Guineas 1 Mile Newmarket May £523,750
1000 Guineas 1 Mile Newmarket May £500,000
The Oaks 1 Mile 4 Furlongs Epsom June £523,750
The Derby 1 Mile 4 Furlongs Epsom June £1,623,900
St Leger 1 Mile 6 Furlongs Doncaster September £700,000

As a result, the St Leger is also part of the Fillies Triple Crown, which includes the 2000 Guineas and The Derby. It’s often thought that any horse that wins any one of the Classics is widely regarded as the best in their class, but if they manage to win multiple or even all of them, they will be immortalised in horse racing history. 

Whilst a lot of flat racing is about speed, the distance that St Leger is run over means that often the horses with the most staying power and stamina are the ones that do well here. The most recent winner in 2017, Capri, is a prime example of this, with trainer Aiden O’Brien stating he’s one of the strongest horses he has trained in this class. 

The prizemoney on offer is £700,00 in 2019, which makes it the second most lucrative race of the Classics, bettered only by that of the Epsom Derby. 

The Course

Doncaster Racecourse
Image Credit: Helena, flickr (cropped)

The  1m 6f race conducts pretty much a full lap of the Doncaster track, which has been designed specifically to cater for races such as the St Leger. The horses will need to navigate two sweeping turns and the course is pretty flat throughout. A late move uphill towards the winning posts really tests the strength of the horse and only the fittest will be able to stay on the track. 

Many people describe the course as fair, and we would tend to agree that the best horses on the day do tend to prevail. But, due to the fact that it’s held in Autumn within the ‘North’ of England, the weather can often be a bit hit and miss. However, due to the fact that it’s at the end of summer, the going is usually pretty good still. 

Supporting Races

The St Leger meeting at Doncaster covers four days in total, running from Wednesday through to Saturday.

  • Wednesday - Legend’s Day
  • Thursday – Ladies' Day
  • Friday – Gentlemen’s Day
  • Saturday – St Leger Day

There is little doubt that the meeting is heavily weighted towards the St Leger itself, but there are a number of other races that are worth noting throughout the four days, with significant prize money available for each of them.

Chart Showing Prize Money by Day at the 2019 St Leger Festival

Headlined of course by the St Leger Stakes, the final Classic contest of the British flat racing season and the only Group 1 contest of the meeting, there’s plenty more to look forward to besides. This includes further Group races in the form of the Doncaster Cup, Park Hill Stakes, May Hill Stakes, Champagne Stakes and the Park Stakes. There's also Listed events and enough competitive action to satisfy even the greediest of handicap fans.

Day One on Wednesday – Legends Day

A relatively low key beginning to the week as the track eases us in gently. The seven race card may be missing a Group race, but it certainly doesn’t lack when it comes to intrigue and attractive betting opportunities.

Topping the bill is race three in the form of the Scarbrough Stakes. A Listed contest run over 5f, the conditions of this race are interesting in that it permits not only the three year olds, but also the two year olds to compete against their elders. The youngsters do receive a whopping 21 pounds from the older runners, but it can still prove a tall order for the relative babies of the game to come out on top. So tall an order that none have managed it to date.

The Scarbrough Stakes may be the top race on the card in terms of class, but when it comes to interest and sheer novelty value, it may well be the following Leger Legends contest which garners the most attention. The 16 runners may be pretty standard competitors for a Class 5 affair, but the men and women in the saddle are far from the norm. Made up of retired jockeys from both the flat and National Hunt spheres, this is a chance to see our old favourites in competitive action once again.

Wednesday's Full Racecard for 2019

TimeRaceGrade / Length
13:50 EBF Conditions Stakes Class 2 / 6f
14:25 Pepsi Max Nursery Handicap Class 2 / 7f
15:00 Scarbrough Stakes Listed / 5f
15:35 Leger Legends Classified Stakes Class 5 / 1m
16:10 EBF Fillies’ Handicap Class 2 / 1m 4f
16:45 William Hill Stakes Class 2 / 1m 2f
17:20 Parkes Bros Roofing Contractors Handicap Class 4 / 5f

Day Two on Thursday - Ladies Day

From the legends to the ladies, Day Two on Town Moor is dedicated to the fairer sex, both on and off the track. For whilst those Donny Delight’s add a little sparkle to the stands, the action on the track is also largely dedicated to the fillies and mares, including in the two big Group races of the day.

It is the youngsters who line up in the first of these in the Group 2 May Hill Stakes held over a mile. Connections of the contenders this year will no doubt be hoping their runner can take this and follow a similar trajectory to 2017 winner, Laurens, who is now a multiple winner at the very top level, having also finished second in the 2018 running of the 1000 Guineas.

Following the May Hill Stakes further down the card is the Park Hill Stakes. Again, a fillies and mares only contest, this one is for the runners aged three and older and is held over the St Leger trip of 1m 6½f.

Elsewhere on the card, keep an eye out for anything Richard Fahey has entered for the Weatherby’s Racing Back £300,000 2-Y-O Stakes as the Yorkshire based handler is a trainer with few equals in this sphere.

Thursday's Full Racecard for 2019

TimeRaceGrade / Length
14:10 EBF Fillies’ Nursery Handicap Class 2 / 6½f
14:40 Park Hill Stakes Group 2 / 1m 6½f
15:15 Weatherbys Racing Bank 2-Y-O Stakes Class 2 / 6½f
15:45 May Hill Stakes Group 2 / 1m
16:20 Lady Riders Handicap Handicap Class 3 / 6f
16:55 Magners Rose Handicap Class 2 / 1m 2f
17:10 DFS Handicap Class 2 / 7f

Day Three on Friday – Gentlemen's Day

Dedicated to the Gentleman, the penultimate day of the meeting is a bumper affair, with eight races on offer, including three Group class contests and a Listed event. We are straight into the Group action here in the Japan Racing Association Sceptre Stakes. Speed is the name of the game in the Wainwrights Flying Childers Stakes as a collection of the quickest juveniles in the sport go at it over 5f.

Always one of the most popular events of the week, it is the Doncaster Cup which is the third and final of the day’s Group contests. The Doncaster Cup has been running since 1766, making it one of the oldest horse races in Europe. It’s a 2 mile and 1 furlong race, so it’s a really tough test for the horses and there's £100,000 in prizemoney up for grabs. The race was originally called the Doncaster Gold Cup and was actually run some 10 years before the St Leger. It was promoted to Group 2 in 2003. Some of the more notable winners include Estimate, Millenary and Double Trigger.

Friday's Full Racecard for 2019

TimeRaceGrade / Length
14:10 Sceptre Stakes Group 3 / 7f
14:40 Mallard Handicap Class 2 / 1m 6½f
15:10 Doncaster Cup Group 2 / 2m 2f
15:45 Flying Childers Stakes Group 2 / 5f
16:20 Flying Scotsman Stakes Listed / 7f
16:55 Gary Reid Maiden Stakes Class 3 / 7f
17:30 Handicap Class 2 / 6½f
17:45 Coopers Marquees Stakes Class 3 / 1m 2f

Day Four on Saturday – St Leger Day

Another three quality Group contests are on offer on the fourth and final day. A day named in honour of the oldest and longest Classic contest of the British season. It is the St Leger which rightly takes centre stage, but the undercard isn’t too bad either.

The handicappers kick off the action in the always popular betting heat that is the Portland handicap, before we move on to the Group 2 Park Stakes. It is a fairly new addition to the festival, first starting in 1978. This is more for the sprinters and takes advantage of the 7f straight that’s on offer at Doncaster. It’s another race with a £100,000 prize pool and recent winners have included Aclaim, Breton Rock and Limato.

If the leading contenders all stand their ground, the Group 2 Champagne Stakes is often not far off being the most anticipated contest of the week. Raced over 7f, some of the best two year old colts and geldings around will be taking part.

Next up the main event of the day, the truly historic St Leger Stakes. The ultimate test of the stamina of the Classic generation.

Saturday's Full Racecard for 2019

TimeRaceGrade / Length
13:50 Portland Handicap Class 2 / 5½f
14:25 Park Stakes Group 2 / 7f
15:00 Champagne Stakes Group 2 / 7f
15:35 St Leger Stakes Group 1 / 1m 6½f
16:10 Napoleons Nursery Handicap Class 2 / 1m
16:45 PJ Towey Construction Handicap Class 2 / 1m
17:55 Yates Drywall Handicap Class 2 / 1m 4f

Statistics

Due to the popularity and the prestige of the St Leger, you will often find that horses will either move up or down in trip just to take part. For example, a 2 miler will likely be considered for this race, as will horses that are more comfortable at the mile and a half distance. Given the fairness of the track that spoke about earlier, you will find horses are pretty comfortable when making the adjustment either way. 

The leading jockey and trainer both come from the early 19th century. Bill Scott has ridden more winners in the race than anyone else, with 9 wins to his name. Trainer John Scott, brother of Bill, has trained 16 winners in total. 4 of the wins of Bill were trained by his brother, John.

In more recent times, there hasn’t been one standout trainer that has really dominated the race. The usual names such as John Gosden, Aiden O’Brien, Saeed bin Suroor and Sir Michael Stoute have all have a good deal of success there, without one dominating the other. But, the latter, Sir Michael Stoute, has an incredible overall record at Doncaster, with a 34% win ratio over the last 5 years. 

It’s a similar story in the jockey department as well to be honest. The likes of Ryan Moore, Frankie Dettori, William Buick, Andrea Atenzi and Willie Carson have all performed well, with multiple winners to their name. 

Last 10 St Leger Winning Horses & Jockeys

YearWinnerJockeyTrainer
2018 Kew Gardens Ryan Moore Aidan O'Brien
2017 Capri Ryan Moore Aidan O'Brien
2016 Harbour Law George Baker Laura Mongan
2015 Simple Verse Andrea Atenzi Ralph Beckett
2014  Kingston Hill Andrea Atenzi Roger Varian
2013 Leading Light Joseph O’Brien Aidan O'Brien
2012 Encke Mickael Barzalona Mahmood Al Zarooni
2011 Masked Marvel William Buick John Gosden
2010 Artic Cosmos William Buick  John Gosden
2009 Mastery Ted Durcan Saeed bin Suroor

History

Illustration of Doncaster Horse Race and Grandstands
Nathaniel Whittock & John Rogers via Wikimedia Commons

The St Leger was devised by a former army officer, Anthony St Leger. He lived near Doncaster and formed a group of races that included a sweepstake of 25 guineas for anyone that brought their horse along to race. The race actually started life as 2-miler, but has been reduced since, to the distance you see today (1m 6f). 

The first race took place on Cantley Common in 1776 and was won by unknown horse, that was later named Allabaculia. Upon deciding the stipulations for the following years race on the night after the first one was completed, it was suggested by Anthony St Leger that the race be known as the Rockingham Stakes, who owned the land that the race was on. 

But, it was Rockingham who then refused to take credit for the race, and suggest the St Leger, which was agreed on. They also decided to move the race from the common to the Town Moor, which is the same ground that it’s run on today at Doncaster racecourse. 

Since the war, the race has been held at a number of different racetracks, such as Newmarket, Ayr, Manchester, Thirsk and York. Since 1945, it has been situated at Doncaster, apart from a few running’s in Ayr (subsidence) and York (redevelopment). 

John and Bill Scott

John was the older brother of the two and was a former jockey before moving into the world of training. John’s weight gain as he grew older meant that a jockey was no longer a viable option, so it was his brother Bill he took up that role, albeit 4 years his junior. 

Their father was also a former jockey and retired trainer, meaning that racing was very much in the family. Based out of North Yorkshire, the pair went on to dominate the British horse racing scene. Between them they managed to rack up and incredible 61 Classic wins between 1820 and 1850, including 19 St Leger winners.

John & Bill Scott St Leger Wins

YearHorseTrainerJockey
1821 Jack Spigot Isaac Blades Bill Scott
1825 Menmon Richard Shepherd Bill Scott
1827 Matilda John Scott Jem Robinson
1828 The Colonel John Scott Bill Scott
1829 Rowton John Scott Bill Scott
1832 Margrave John Scott Jem Robinson
1834 Touchstone John Scott George Calloway
1838 Don John John Scott Bill Scott
1839 Charles The Twelfth John Scott Bill Scott
1840 Launcelot John Scott Bill Scott
1841 Satirist John Scott Bill Scott
1845 The Baron John Scott Frank Butler
1846 Sir Tatton Sykes William Oates Bill Scott
1851 Newminster John Scott Sim Templeman
1853 West Australian John Scott Frank Butler
1856 Warlock John Scott Nat Flatman
1857 Imperieuse John Scott Nat Flatman
1859 Gamester John Scott Tom Aldcroft
1862 The Marquis John Scott Tom Chaloner

Triple Crown

The St Leger is part of the UK Triple Crown, alongside the 2000 Guineas and The Derby. Since the Triple Crown was first devised as an actual achievement in 1809, there have only ever been 15 horses that have managed to record the feat of winning all three of the races and take the title of the Tripple Crown.

The latest to have done so is that of Njinsky in 1970. Since Njinsky’s incredible feat, only 3 other horses (Nashwan, Sea The Stars and Camelot) have been able to win the 2000 Guineas and The Derby to have a shot at the St Leger. All three ultimately fell short. 

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