Much like the St Leger Stakes at Doncaster, the Irish St Leger is the final classic of the season and takes place at the Curragh in September on the Sunday of the Irish Champions Weekend. Unlike the English St Leger, this one is open to all runners aged three and older and as such has seen numerous repeat winners over the years.
First run in 1915, the Irish St Leger is half a furlong shorter than the English equivalent at one mile six furlongs but both have seen some of the best stayers in the business take the spoils. This race also completes the Irish Triple Crown after the Irish 2000 Guineas and Irish Derby, though no horse has completed the treble since Windsor Slipper in 1942.
Next Race: TBD
The next renewal of this race has not been scheduled yet. We will update this once the schedule has been released for next season. The race info, trends and tips shown below will be updated for the next renewal once the final declarations have been made.
Last Run: 13th September 2020
- Winner: Search For A Song
- SP: 7/1
- Trainer: Dermot Weld
- Jockey: Oisin Orr
This Group 1 event sees the stayers tackle the 1m6f trip in a race offering total prize money of €400,000. The ground at the track is currently described as good to yielding.
|Going||Distance||Grade||Prize Money||Runners||EW Terms|
|Good||1m6f||Group 1||€400,000||8 Runners||1/5 1-3|
Irish St. Leger Betting Tips
Note: The following tips are from 2020. Tips for the next renewal will be added once the final declarations have been made.
Unlike the English version of the race, which is restricted to the Classic generation only, the Irish St Leger is open to all runners aged three years and older.
Training legend Vincent O’Brien leads the way in the all-time trainers list for this contest with a total of nine wins. Namesake Aidan O’Brien might catch him yet though, with the master of Ballydoyle currently sitting on six successes. Aidan saddles the filly Passion and last season’s Irish Derby champ Sovereign this year.
This hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for supporters of the market leader of late. Three winners in the past 10 years isn’t too bad a strike rate, but still handed jolly backers a level stakes loss of £3.35.
|Twilight Payment||5/2||115||Joseph Patrick O'Brien||Wayne Lordan|
|Sovereign||5/2||117||Aidan O'Brien||Ryan Moore|
|Search For A Song||11/2||115||Dermot Weld||Oisin Orr|
Twilight Payment – 5/2
Currently just about shading favouritism, in what is a very tight renewal this year, is the Joseph O’Brien runner, Twilight Payment. Formerly with Jim Bolger, this son of Teofilo will be making his fourth start in this race, and having recorded, sixth, fourth and seventh placed finishes in his three previous attempts, connections will clearly be hoping for better this time around.
Any hope of a more prominent finish is based upon the horse having improved following his switch to the O’Brien operation in July 2019. Not at his current yard for all that long prior to last year’s seventh placed finish, the evidence of this season’s best efforts do suggest that he may be in the form of his life at six years of age. A good winner of the Group 2 Vintage Crop stakes in June, he was then even better when slamming the field in the Curragh Cup last time out.
Significantly, each of those contests came over this very course and distance, so he has shown that he can do it around here. Whilst he steps up from Group 2 to Group 1 level, the winning margin was a yawning eight lengths in that Curragh Cup event, suggesting he may well be up to the task.
Sovereign – 5/2
One of the major threats to the Joseph O’Brien runner comes from the yard of his father, as it is the Aidan O’Brien-trained Sovereign who heads the field on ratings and is the selection of Ryan Moore.
It’s not too hard to see why Moore has opted to ride this Galileo colt rather than the talented filly Passion, as regardless of whether or not he stole the race from the front, it still takes a horse of significant class to win the Irish Derby by six lengths. Sovereign was predictably no match for Enable last time out at Ascot, but it his first run of the campaign over this course and distance which really catches the eye with regard to this race.
He does have three lengths to find with Twilight Payment on that effort, but the bare form of the result doesn’t really tell the whole story. Getting himself very worked up beforehand, and becoming detached during the race itself, the bird had flown by the time he loomed up on the bridle a furlong from home However, he did still finish off his race nicely under very considerate handling, suggesting that landing a big prize at this trip may be within his capabilities. It would certainly be a surprise were he not to be capable of better, granted a more usual build up and passage throughout the race, and he likely won’t be far away.
Search For A Song – 11/2
There have been a number of multiple winners of this race over the years, with 2015 and 2017 champ Order Of St George being the most recent dual hero. Bidding to join the club this year is the defending champion, Search For A Song.
Hailing from the yard of expert trainer Dermot Weld, this Galileo filly is pretty lightly raced for a four year old and will be making only her ninth career start here. The pick of those eight previous performances undoubtedly came in this event last season, when doing it well from the front to see off the likes of former English St Leger winner, Kew Gardens and Melbourne Gold Cup champ, Cross Counter. Fast forward to the current campaign and she seemed badly in need of the run when only sixth over an inadequate 1m2½f first time out, but her effort in the Tattersalls Gold Cup last time out was much more like it.
The 1m2f trip was again on the short side that day, but she was a big eye-catcher in doing all her best work late to finish a four and a half length third place to Magical. That was a most encouraging effort ahead of what is likely to be her major target of the season and she can’t be discounted. Whilst she won’t be in receipt of the three year olds allowance this year, she does still receive the three pound fillies’ and mares’ concession which, once factored in, makes her the one to beat on ratings.
Irish St. Leger Winners
|2020||Search For A Song||7/1||Dermot Weld||Oisin Orr|
|2019||Search For A Song||10/1||Dermot Weld||Chris Hayes|
|2018||Flag Of Honour||2/1||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2017||Order Of St George||2/5||Aidan O’Brien||Ryan Moore|
|2016||Wicklow Brave||11/1||Willie Mullins||Frankie Detori|
|2015||Order Of St George||5/4||Aidan O’Brien||Joseph O’Brien|
|2014||Brown Panther||14/1||Tom Dascombe||Richard Kingscote|
|2013||Voleuse De Coeurs||9/1||Dermot Weld||Chris Hayes|
|2012||Royal Diamond||16/1||Thomas Carmondy||Niall McCullagh|
|2011||Duncan (DH)||5/1||John Gosden||Eddie Ahern|
|Jukebox Jury (DH)||4/1||Mark Johnston||Johnny Murtagh|
About the Irish St Leger
The five English Classics have been the staple of the flat racing world for hundreds of years and their success has inevitably led to a string of similar races cropping all over the world. The Irish racing season has its own versions of the five British Classics, including the Irish St. Leger. Now held at the Curragh as part of Longines Irish Champions Weekend, this Group 1 has retained its prestige over the years and is an event that racing fans always look forward to.
SIMILARITIES & DIFFERENCES
The Irish St. Leger is very similar to its equivalent race run at Doncaster. It too takes place every year in September, is run over a distance of 1 mile and 6 furlongs (14 furlongs) and completes the (Irish) Triple Crown. It is not an exact copy though, with the Curragh version open to horses older than three-year-olds since 1983 whilst geldings are also permitted to compete. For grammatical pedants, it’s also worth pointing out that the Irish version of the race has its name spelt with full stop for the abbreviation St.
Moving back to the more serious business of racing, those looking through the stats for a potential Irish St. Leger winner will find that the important disparities between the races at the Curragh and Doncaster paint a very different picture when it comes to the trends. The most obvious is that older horses have a decent record in the Irish St. Leger. Although three-year-olds including Flag Of Honour, Order Of St George and Vinnie Row have all won the race, horses aged four and older have had the better of it.
The other thing that Order Of St George and Vinne Row have in common is that they are both multiple winners of the Irish St. Leger. Vinnie Row won the race for the Dermot Weld/Pat Smullen combination four years in a row from 2001 whilst Order Of St George won in both 2015 and 2017. Each of those horses had further success in some of the biggest stayers’ races on the flat but of course repeat success in the English St Leger is impossible.
MULTIPLE IRISH ST. LEGER WINNERS: 1983 – 2019
|Vinnie Roe||Dermot Weld||2001||2002||2003||2004|
|Order Of St George||Aidan O’Brien||2015||2017|
|Kayf Tara||Saeed bin Suroor||1998||1999|
|Oscar Schindler||Kevin Prendergast||1996||1997|
|Vintage Crop||Dermot Weld||1993||1994|
Vinnie Row and Order Of St George were stayers of the highest ability so it is no surprise that, in many ways, they set the tone for the template of an Irish St. Leger winner. They were found towards the top of the betting market, had previous Group 1 success and had proven their stamina over staying trips at courses other than the Curragh. Although longer odds winners are not exactly rare, it does pay to favour the highest class stayers in the field.
A GENUINELY TOP CLASS STAYING RACE
The history of the Irish St. Leger begins in 1915 when it was first held. In those early days the race was restricted to three-year-olds just like the English equivalent and regularly attracted horses who competed at Doncaster to the field including Royal Lancer who won both races in 1922.
Royal Lancer’s achievement was surpassed just 12 years later by Museum who followed up wins in the Irish 2000 Guineas and the Irish Derby by winning the Irish St. Leger and therefore completing the Irish Triple Crown. The only other horse to achieve that feat is Windsor Slipper in 1942. The increasingly specialised nature of long distance flat racing makes it highly unlikely that any horse will join Museum and Windsor Slipper as Irish Triple Crown winners but the Irish St. Leger remains an incredibly important race since it was opened up to older horses in 1983.
The chance for repeat winners of the Irish St. Leger allows the race to stand out from the other Classics in Ireland and England and has helped it to produce some genuine legends over the years. As well as Vinnie Roe and Order Of St George, these legends include Vintage Crop who won in 1993 and 1994 before becoming the first European-trained horse to win the Melbourne Cup at Flemington Racecourse.
Many of the leading long distance horses on the flat don’t reach the peak of their powers until later on in their careers. Several have therefore won the Irish St. Leger after performing well in other massive staying races including the Ascot Gold Cup and the British Champions Long Distance Cup and even in some National Hunt races, as was the case with 2017 winner Wicklow Brave.