Doncaster provides South Yorkshire with its sole outlet for racing, however in a county somewhat barren in terms of courses, it certainly offers a high standard of action throughout the year. Doncaster has an enviable pedigree with historical records dating racing in the area back to the 16th century.
This venue hosts both Flat and jumps contests, but the undoubted highlight of the calendar has to be the four-day St Leger Festival which takes place in September. The feature race, the St Leger itself, is the oldest ‘Classic’ race in the world, dating back to 1776 and is held on the Saturday of a meeting which also includes the Portland Handicap, May Hill Stakes and Doncaster Cup, the latter being the world’s oldest continuing regulated horse race.
The opening turf meeting of the entire Flat season is the Lincoln Meeting which takes place at Doncaster in March and the racecourse hosts the final turf race of the season with the November Handicap Day. Some valuable fixtures take place throughout the summer before the contest long known as the Racing Post Trophy. Now called the Vertem Futurity Trophy, this Grade 1 race takes place in October and has proven to be a solid pointer to the following season’s Classics.
As said, both Flat and NH racing is held at Doncaster meaning almost year round action. The feature race on the calendar is without doubt the St Leger, this race being won by some legendary runners through the years. 2019 was no exception as Frankie Dettori earned his sixth win in the race when he rode Logician to an emphatic win in front of nearly 28,000 spectators. Whether with or without obstacles, the racing takes place on a left-handed, pear-shaped track.
The Leger itself is a Group 1 race and is open to fillies and colts and is the final Classic of the Flat season with a length of one mile six and a half furlongs. Doncaster also hosts some important jumps fixtures throughout the autumn and winter months with the most outstanding of these being the Yorkshire Chase which is held in January and the Grimethorpe Chase two months later.
Like many of the top races, the St Leger is hugely competitive and while there is often a clear favourite for the race, there can be a handful of horses in realistic contention. As this race is run later in the flat season, punters have been given an insight as to how each of the runners has performed as three-year-olds and this gives bettors much more to go on. Given Doncaster is generally a fair and honest test this does mean that form should hold and despite some long-odds winners the best horse does often prevail.
Doncaster Flat Course
The Flat course at Doncaster is approximately two miles long, with a four and a half furlong straight. The circuit is galloping in nature and is mainly flat with very few undulations, with the exception of a slight rise just over a mile from the winning post. This helps make it an ideal course for big, long-striding runners. This is undoubtedly one of the fairest courses in the UK with a long straight providing horses with a solid opportunity to get into a challenging position.
Doncaster Jumps Course
Doncaster’s jumps track consists of 11 obstacles on each circuit with just one of these being negotiated twice for races in excess of two miles. The run-in is a length of just over one furlong. This course rarely produces testing conditions given that it drains extremely well and conditions tend to favour speedier types despite the galloping nature. This can be a tough course for a novice chaser given that some of the obstacles can be a stern test of their abilities, most notably the final ditch which has claimed many a casualty.
The ground at Doncaster is exceptionally well-draining and as such the pear-shaped track is generally in excellent shape. Heavy and testing conditions are the exception rather than the rule and as such, speed rather than stamina tend to take priority at this venue
It is worth noting that lower numbers tend to be favoured on the soft, therefore it pays to look out for softer ground when there’s a larger field on the straight course. Lower numbers also tend to be better in bigger fields in the round course, however when there is faster ground the draw tends to make little difference.
There can be few racecourses in the country more conveniently situated than Doncaster. The course itself is a leisurely 10 minute stroll from the high street and can be reached from Doncaster railway station in a similar time on foot. A taxi ride from the station will set you back around £5 while local buses regularly serve the venue. Most visitors to the St Leger Festival will opt to walk to the course and enjoy the excitement building towards the invariably well-attended meeting.
Major Races at Doncaster
|Start Date||Race||Grade||Last Winner|
|1st Nov 2019||Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes||Group 1||Kameko (11/2)|
|14th Sep 2019||St Leger Stakes||Group 1|
|14th Sep 2019||Champagne Stakes||Group 2|
|28th Mar 2020||Cammidge Trophy||Listed||Invincible Army (4/1)|
|28th Mar 2020||Lincoln Handicap||Class 2||Auxerre (5/2)|
|25th Jan 2020||Sky Bet Handicap Chase||Listed||Ok Corral (9/1)|
|11th Sep 2020||Doncaster Cup||Group 2||Stradivarius (1/9)|