The focus at Doncaster on the Saturday of the St Leger Festival will quite rightly be upon the final Classic of the season that is the St Leger itself. There is however another race on the card we look forward to almost just as much. This juvenile event has been won by a number of smart performers over the years and the 2020 edition will no doubt be well up to scratch.
The first Champagne Stakes was back in 1823 and since 1988 this has been contested only by colts and geldings. Colts who win here often go on to compete at the big season ending races for juveniles such as the Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes, putting them in the frame for the following season’s classics.
Champagne Stakes Past Winners
|2020||Chindit||15/8||Richard Hannon||Pat Dobbs|
|2019||Threat||6/5||Richard Hannon||Pat Dobbs|
|2018||Too Darn Hot||4/11||John Gosden||Frankie Dettori|
|2017||Seahenge||8/1||Aidan O’Brien||Donnacha O’Brien|
|2016||Rivet||7/4||William Haggas||Andrea Atzeni|
|2015||Emotionless||8/13||Charlie Appleby||William Buick|
|2014||Estidhkaar||10/11||Richard Hannon||Paul Hanagan|
|2013||Outstrip||13/8||Charlie Appleby||Mickael Barzalona|
|2012||Toronado||11/4||Richard Hannon Snr||Richard Hughes|
|2011||Trumpet Major||7/1||Richard Hannon Snr||Richard Hughes|
|2010||Saamid||5/6||Saeed bin Suroor||Frankie Dettori|
|2009||Poet's Voice||11/8||Saeed bin Suroor||Frankie Dettori|
|2008||Westphalia||100/30||Aidan O'Brien||Johnny Murtagh|
|2007||McCartney||8/1||Mark Johnston||Ryan Moore|
|2006||Vital Equine||16/1||Eoghan O'Neill||Richard Mullen|
|2005||Close to You||8/1||Terry Mills||John Egan|
|Silent Time||6/1||Eoghan O'Neill||Jamie Spencer|
|2004||Etlaala||6/1||Barry Hills||Richard Hills|
|2003||Lucky Story||2/1||Mark Johnston||Darryll Holland|
|2002||Almushahar||8/11||David Loder||Frankie Dettori|
|2001||Dubai Destination||3/1||David Loder||Frankie Dettori|
About the Champagne Stakes
The Champagne Stakes is a flat race run at Doncaster racecourse in September of each year. The race is open to two year old colts and geldings, which, for the uninitiated, means male and castrated male horses. The contest began nearly 200 years ago back in 1823 and was first won by a horse called Swiss.
Originally the competition was open to both male and female horses and run over a distance of exactly one mile. In 1870 this distance was shortened to a sprint distance of six furlongs. More changes would follow and in 1962 this was lengthened to the intermediate distance of seven furlongs. After toying with the distance the next big change came in 1988 when the Champagne Stakes closed the doors on the fillies and mares meaning only male horses could enter.
The high-profile race is part of Doncaster’s showpiece meeting, the St Leger Festival, and takes part on the same day as the St Leger Stakes itself, the final day of this meeting. The best performing horses in the Champagne Stakes often go on to race in the slightly more prestigious Dewhurst Stakes which is held the following month at Newmarket and is over the same seven furlong distance.
Long History of Winners
As the race was first conceptualised nearly two centuries ago there is a long list of honours, and the most successful of those on the honours list graced the course a very long time ago. The record holding jockey is Bill Scott who claimed victory in this one a hugely impressive nine times from the very first race in 1823 on Swiss, to his final success in 1841, meaning he won nine out of the first 19 races.
The two most successful trainers in the Champagne Stakes have produced no fewer than 10 winners each and once again we have to dust off the history books to find them. John Scott, brother of the previously mentioned Bill Scott, also trained the very first race winner Swiss, then followed up nine times more and finished his run in 1861 with The Marquis. Equalling Scott’s record 10 wins is Mathew Dawson who first won in 1864 with Zambezi, and continued winning throughout the years, his last success coming with Ladas in 1893.
John Scott & Matthew Dawson’s Champagne Stakes Winners
|John Scott Trained Winners||Matthew Dawson Trained Winners|
|8||1854||The Bonnie Morn||1884||Langwell|
A Course of Interest
Over the many years that the race has been running it surely isn’t without its fair share of unusual events and talking points. There have been three dead heats so far, in 1886, 1904 and much more recently in 2005. There was also a dead heat in 1865 but Redan was announced as the winner when Lord Lyon’s owner refused to take part in a run-off to decide the victor. In 1867 Blue Gown won but was disqualified after he was found to be carrying undeclared weight.
For different reasons the race has not always gone ahead at Doncaster. The 1941 running of the event took place at Newbury and in 2005 it was held a little closer to home at York. The 1989 edition of this contest wasn’t run at all, the rather unusual reason being a bad case of subsidence at the course.
When looking at the most recent wins from the year 2000 (up to and including the 2019 race) it is clear to see that the modern era has some stand out winners. The legendary and evergreen Frankie Dettori has won six races in that time and is by far the most interesting prospect in the saddle, while there have been quite a few double-winning trainers in recent times who are still working in the sport today.
When making your selection be sure to check the horse’s previous runs at seven furlongs and how successful they are with a nine stone weight (that is if there is no penalty for a previous Group One or Two win).