St Leger: 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 2018

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.

Headlined of course by the final Classic contest of the British flat racing season that is the St Leger, there’s plenty more to look forward to besides, including further Group race and Listed events, and enough competitive action to satisfy even the greediest of handicap fans. Without further ado, let’s see just what each of the four days has in store.

Day One – Wednesday 12th September 2018

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. Bidding to change all that this year – and well fancied by many to do so – is the Richard Hughes runner, Sunsprite. Amongst the older horses it is John Quinn’s consistent El Astronaute who is just about the most favoured at the weights.

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 Clipper Logistics 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, including everyone’s favourite racing pundit, Luke Harvey, who gets the leg up on Ventura Gold for Richard Fahey.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:50 EBF Conditions Stakes Class 2 / 6f Yousini
14:25 Greyhound Nursery Handicap Class 2 / 7f Fanaar
15:00 Scarbrough Stakes Listed / 5f Global Applause
15:35 Leger Legends Stakes Class 5 / 1m Ventura Gold
16:05 EBF Fillies’ Handicap Class 2 / 1m 4f Caravela
16:40 William Hill Stakes Class 2 / 1m 2f Afaak
17:15 1stsecuritysolutions Handicap Class 4 / 5f Bashiba

Day Two – Thursday 13th September 2018

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 last year’s winner, Laurens, who is now a two-time winner at the very top level, having also finished second in the 2000 Guineas.

Nicely named for Ladies Day, it is Saeed bin Suroor’s Dubai Beauty who looks set to head the betting here. Being by Frankel and out of a Street Cry mare, she’s also very nicely bred for the job at hand. The Irish have won two of the past four editions of this and send a strong challenge once again, headed by the Aidan O’Brien runner, Peach Tree. Another to look out for is the Ralph Beckett filly, Sand Share, who did it ever so easily on debut last time out.

Immediately following the May Hill Stakes, we have what looks to be an excellent renewal of 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. Likely contenders Pilaster, Maid Up, God Given, Flattering, and Lady Of Shalott will be pretty familiar with each other having locked horns at Goodwood last time out, with the quintet helping to serve up a real thriller that day, Pilaster only just prevailing from Maid Up buy a short head. Can the Roger Varian filly confirm her superiority? An improving sort, she will be well fancied to do so.

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.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:50 EBF Fillies’ Nursery Handicap Class 2 / 6½f Cookupastorm
14:25 May Hill Stakes Group 2 / 1m Dubai Beauty
15:00 Park Hill Stakes Group 2 / 1m 6½f Pilaster
15:35 Weatherbys Racing Bank Stakes Class 2 / 6½f Get The Rhythm
16:05 Lady Riders Handicap Handicap Class 3 / 6f Dougan
16:40 Mechanical Facilities Handicap Class 2 / 1m 2f Plutonian
17:10 DFS Handicap Class 2 / 7f Pettifogger

Day Three – Friday 14th September 2018

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. John Gosden’s Laugh Aloud heads the betting on the back of an encouraging comeback run last time out at Sandown and may very well prove tough to beat if able to build on that. She’s five years old now though, and with 10 of the past 11 renewals of this being landed by a three year old, she wont be one for trends fans. Richard Hannnon’s Anna Nerium has already won at this level and looks about the best of the youngster this time around, along with French raider Coeur De Beaute who has smart form in Group 1 company to her name this season.

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. Aidan O’Brien’s, Sergei Prokofiev has a lofty reputation to restore having bombed out last time at the Curragh, but wouldn’t be the first horse from his powerful yard to bounce back.

Windsor Castle winner, Soldier’s Call went in in Group 3 company over in France last time out and is another for the shortlist. The one he – and the rest of the field – need to worry about though is the Richard Spencer representative, Rumble Inthejungle, who certainly rumbled in his latest effort when trouncing the field – Soldier’s Call included – at Goodwood.

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. Aidan O’Brien’s Idaho heads the betting for this marathon contest, but has been beaten six lengths or more in his two cracks at staying trips to date, although he won’t face anything quite of the calibre of Stradivarius here. Irish jumps supremo Willie Mullins also looks to boast a strong hand, with Renneti, Max Dynamite and Thomas Hobson all amongst the current entries.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:50 Sceptre Stakes Group 3 / 7f Laugh Aloud
14:25 Childers Stakes Group 2 / 5f Rumble Inthejungle
15:00 Mallard Handicap Class 2 / 1m 6½f Titus
15:35 Doncaster Cup Group 2 / 2m 2f Thomas Hobson
16:05 Flying Scotsman Stakes Listed / 7f Loch Ness Monster
16:40 Gary Reid Maiden Stakes Class 3 / 7f Buffalo River
17:10 Lakeside Handicap Class 2 / 6½f Lake Volta
17:45 Coopers Marquees Stakes Class 3 / 1m 2f Loveisili

Day Four – Saturday 15th September 2018

Another three quality Group contests 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. Charlie Appleby’s D’bai heads the betting and looks very likely to be involved if enjoying a little more luck in running than he has experienced of late. Chief amongst his rivals are Irish raider, Psychedlic Funk and 2016 winner of this, Breton Rock.

If the leading contenders all stand their ground the Group 2 Champagne Stakes won’t be far off being the most anticipated contest of the week. The headline act here - if going to post - is the John Gosden runner, Too Darn Hot. Simply sensational in his two starts to date, he looks the real deal. But then so too do the Godolphin duo of Quorto and Dark Vision. With Aidan O’Brien also featuring prominently amongst the entries, this is one race not to be missed.

Next up the main event of the day, the truly historic St Leger Stakes. The ultimate test of the stamina of the Classic generation, it is the man whose name is associated with Classic success more than any other who is responsible for the current favourite for the race. Aidan O’Brien’s Kew Gardens didn’t show up in the Derby but has confirmed himself a horse of real talent since, with wins at Ascot and Longchamp. Proven at the trip, he looks sure to go well.

It is just possible that Kew Gardens may not even go off favourite on the day should John Gosden’s Lah Ti Dar go to post. A full sister to Too Darn Hot, this filly has looked equally brilliant this season and would be a threat to all if taking up this option. With Godolphin sending the tough as teak Old Persian and talented Loxley into battle, and Joseph O’Brien setting this as Irish Derby winner Latrobe’s next assignment, this contest looks like living up to its top of the bill status.

TimeRaceGrade / LengthTip
13:50 Portland Handicap Class 2 / 5½f Dakota Gold
14:25 Alan Wood Stakes Group 2 / 7f D'bai
15:00 Champagne Stakes Group 2 / 7f Too Darn Hot
15:35 St Leger Stakes Group 1 / 1m 6½f Lah Ti Dar
16:10 Napoleons Handicap Class 2 / 1m The Trader
16:45 PJ Towey Handicap Class 2 / 1m Whisky Baron
17:55 Cliff Stud Handicap Class 2 / 1m 4f Byron Flyer

About

The St Leger is widely regarded as one of the more brutal 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 £500,000
1000 Guineas 1 Mile Newmarket May £547,500
The Oaks 1 Mile 4 Furlongs Epsom June £500,000
The Derby 1 Mile 4 Furlongs Epsom June £1,500,000
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 2017, 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 race conducts around 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 meeting is covered over 4 days in total:

  • Wednesday - DC Training Day (often referred to as 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. 

Whilst the St Leger is only Group 1 race, there are a number of Group 2 races in the form of the Doncaster Cup, Park Hill Stakes, May Hill Stakes, Champagne Stakes and the Park Stakes. 

Chart Showing Prize Money by Day at the 2018 St Leger Festival

Doncaster Cup

The standout has to be that of the Doncaster Cup, which has been running since 1766, making it one of the oldest horse races in Europe. It’s a 2m 1furlong race, so it’s a really tough test for the horses, with £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. 

Park Stakes

The next notable inclusion is that of the Park Stakes. It’s another Group 2 and 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. 

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 19thcentury. 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
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
2008 Conduit Frankie Dettori Jeremy Noseda

History

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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