Doncaster St Leger Festival Betting Tips – 11th to 14th September 2019

We are well into the home straight of the flat racing season by the time we reach September each year, but there are still plenty of highlights to come. Champions Day at Ascot provides a fitting finale, but before then we have the small matter of the final Classic contest of the year.

Held over a distance of 1m6f, and having made its debut way back in 1776, Doncaster’s historic St Leger Stakes is both the longest and oldest of Britain’s five classic contests. One of the real jewels in the crown of Northern racing, this prestigious event merits a whole four days of supporting action. We have 29 races on offer in all across this fabulous Festival, including eight at Listed level or above, providing a real late summer highlight for racing fans.

About the St Leger Festival

Doncaster Racecourse Bend

It would be unfairly dismissive of Doncaster Racecourse to suggest that it is only known for one thing, yet it’s also true that the St Leger Stakes is unquestionably the most respected of all events hosted by the venue. First run in 1776, it is the oldest of the five Classics of British flat racing and is longer than the other four to boot. It follows the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby as the third leg of the Triple Crown, which is one of the most prestigious trebles in the sport.

As is often the case, the race itself is just part of the festivities hosted by Doncaster when September rolls around. Just as the Grand National at Aintree and the Gold Cup at Cheltenham have festivals of racing surrounding them, so too does the St Leger sit in amongst four days of brilliant horse races. Getting underway on a Wednesday with the Leger Legends Day, it is one of the few festivals to feature both a Ladies Day and a Gentlemen’s Day before the event comes to a close with the day dedicated to the honour of the feature race.

St Leger Festival Race List

Given the historic significance of the St Leger itself, it is perhaps appropriate that the Festival gets underway with a day named after a race that was only run for the first time in 2010. It also says a lot about the spirit of the meeting as a whole that the Leger Legends is a charity race that aims money for both the local Racing College and Jack Berry House, which is a facility aimed at helping injured jockeys get rehabilitated.

Every Festival worth its salt has a Ladies Day, when the fashion off the course is about as competitive as the action on it. The St Leger Festival is no different, with the Best Dressed Lady earning almost as much acclaim as any of the race winners on the second day.

Not every Festival offers a Gentleman’s Day, but the good folk at Doncaster Racecourse decided that the men have as much right to show off their fashion tips as the ladies and so they decided to have one on Day 3.

The final day of the Festival is all about one race above the others: the St Leger Stakes. That’s not to say that the other races are just pointless fillers, however, with plenty about each of them to interest even the most cursory of racegoers.

The St Leger Festival is built around the race that it is named after, but that doesn’t mean that you should dismiss the other days nor the races that take place on them. Here’s a look at the race full cards for 2019.

RacePrize MoneyAges
Day One – Legends Day
EBF Conditions Stakes £18,000 2 Years Old
Pepsi Max Nursery Handicap £18,000 2 Years Old
Scarborough Stakes £40,000 2 Years Old +
Leger Legends Stakes £11,600 3 Year Old +
EBF Premier Fillies' Handicap £30,000 3 Years Old +
William Hill Conditions Stakes £20,000 3 Years Old +
Parkes Bros Handicap £11,600 3 Years Old +
Day Two – Ladies Day
Fillies' Nursery Handicap £50,000 2 Year Old Fillies (EBF Eligible)
Park Hill Stakes £100,000 3 Years Old + (Fillies & Mares)
Weatherbys 2-Y-O Stakes £300,000 2 Years Old
May Hill Stakes £70,000 2 Year Old Fillies
Lady Riders Handicap £20,000 3 Years Old +
Magners Rose Handicap £25,000 3 Years Old +
DFS Handicap £20,000 3 Years Old
Day Three – Gentlemen's Day
Sceptre Stakes £60,000 3 Years Old + Fillies & Mares
Mallard Handicap £40,000 3 Years Old +
Doncaster Cup Stakes £100,000 3 Years Old +
Flying Childers Stakes £70,000 2 Years Old
Flying Scotsman Stakes £30,000 2 Years Old
Irish EBF Maiden Stakes £15,000 2 Years Old (EBF Eligible)
@WillHillRacing Handicap £20,000 3 Years Old +
Classified Stakes £15,000 3 Years Old +
Day Four – St Leger Day
Portland Handicap £60,000 3 Years Old +
Park Stakes £100,000 3 Years Old +
Champagne Stakes £75,000 2 Year Old Colts & Geldings
St Leger Stakes £700,000 3 Year Old Colts & Fillies
Napoleons Nursery Handicap £20,000 2 Years Old
P J Towey Handicap £25,000 3 Years Old +
Yates Handicap £20,000 3 Years Old

St Leger Festival Races in Detail

With four days of racing, there are a number of feature races run at Doncaster during the festival. We’ll obviously tell you about the St. Leger Stakes here, but there are many other races that are worthy of a mention, so we’ll tell you about them first, finishing with the big race itself.

The Scarborough Stakes

This Listed race is for horses aged two and over and takes place over a distance of five furlongs and three yards. Records for the race stretch back to 1983 and in 2019 the purse was £40,000, with a little over £22,000 going to the winner. There are a number of weight rules involved, which are as follows:

  • 2-year-olds: 8 stone 3 pounds
  • 3-year-olds: 9 stone 10 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and up: 9 stone 11 pounds
  • Mares and fillies get a 5 pound allowance
  • Winners of Listed races since March 31st get a 3 pound penalty
  • Winners of Group 3 races since March 31st get a 5 pound penalty

Between 1983 and 2018 just three horses won the race more than once, with Celtic Mill, Galeota and Notley each racking up two victories. Whilst several jockeys including Ryan Moore, Ray Cochrane and Lester Piggot won the race multiple times, Frankie Dettori led the way with four wins during the same time period. If you’re looking for a clue about which horses to bet on then it might be worth considering that more four-year-olds have won it than any other age.

Leger Legends

The Leger Legends might not be the most thrilling nor the most competitive of races, but there’s little doubt that it’s one of the one that the crowd enjoys the most. It sees retired jockeys return to the breech and their breeches for another run on the famous Town Moor turf.

First run in 2010 on the straight mile, the race is a firm favourite of punters lucky enough to be at Doncaster Racecourse for the first day of the Festival. Here’s a look at the previous winning jockeys from 2010 to 2018:

  • 2010 - Charlie Swan
  • 2011 - Julie Krone
  • 2012 - Mick Kinane
  • 2013 - Willie Supple
  • 2014 - Dale Gibson
  • 2015 - Tony McCoy
  • 2016 - Joseph O’Brien
  • 2017 - Brian Harding
  • 2018 - Ted Durcan

Whilst all of the jockeys listed there deserved their day in the sun, it’s the name of AP McCoy that stands out. Having decided to retire in April of 2015, McCoy was able to rack up one last winner on the back of the race favourite Gannicus. Having been a champion jump jockey on a remarkable twenty occasions, it was fitting that McCoy’s final final race ended in a win.

May Hill Stakes

Inaugurated in 1976, this Group 2 race is exclusively for two-year-olds fillies; appropriate for Ladies Day. Run over one mile on the straight track, there’s a weight of nine stone in place with a three pound penalty for horses that have won any Group 1 or Group 2 races before. There was a £70,000 purse in place for 2019 and just shy of £40,000 of that went to the winner.

Named after a filly that won the Park Hill Stakes in 1975, the race was initially a Group 3 offering but became a Group 2 one in 2003. Horses that do well in this are often competitive in the Fillies’ Mile at Newmarket, with Laurens winning both in 2017. Willie Carson and Frankie Dettori both won it four times as jockeys, whilst Henry Cecil is the standout trainer thanks to his twelve wins.

Park Hill Stakes

The race at Doncaster that May Hill won to make her a prime candidate to have a race named in her honour was the Park Hill Stakes. First run in 1839, this race is run left-handed on turf and is open to fillies and mares aged three and over. It lasts for one mile, six furlongs and one hundred and fifteen yards and has some weight information that you might want to know about:

  • 3-year-olds: 8 stone 9 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 5 pounds
  • Group 2 winners since March 31st: 3 pounds penalty
  • Group 1 winners since March 31st: 5 pounds penalty

The race is named in honour of an estate that was owned by Anthony St Leger, the man who created the St Leger Stakes. Originally limited to three-year-old fillies, the race was a Group 1 offering when the system was introduced in 1971. It was relegated down to a Group 3 race when fillies and mares aged four and over were allowed to take part in it in 1991, regaining Group 2 status thirteen years later.

Sceptre Stakes

Sceptre was a filly that was foaled in 1899 and who won four Classics, including the St Leger Stakes. It was raced over 1 mile for a time, being cut to 7 furlongs in 1993 and getting promoted from Listed status to Group 3 in 2011. The weight information for the race is as follows:

  • 3-year-olds: 8 stone 12 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 2 pounds
  • Group 1 winners after 31st March carry a 7 pound penalty
  • Group 2 winners after 31st March carry a 5 pound penalty
  • Group 3 winners after 31st March carry a 3 pound penalty

Since 1986 when records began, no horse has won the race more than once. Michael Hills didn’t follow that trend as a jockey, however, notching up four wins, which is one shy of the most successful trainer in the event Barry Hills.

Flying Childers Stakes

First run in 1967, the race is, unsurprisingly considering its title, named after a horse that was bred at nearby Carr House in the eighteenth century. It was originally known as the Norfolk Stakes but required a new name when a different race took on that moniker in 1973. At that point it was a Group 1 race but was downgraded to Group 2 six years later.

A race open to two-year-olds only, it is run over five furlongs and three yards on the straight and there’s a weight of nine stone one pound with a three pound allowance for fillies. The purse was £70,000 in 2019 and the winner took home just short of £40,000. Obviously no horse has ever won it more than once, but Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori gave each picked up five wins as jockeys; the same number as the race’s most successful trainer, Sir Michael Stoute.

Doncaster Cup

A race named after the town that the racecourse is based in was always likely to be seen as an important one, with the Doncaster Cup very much ticking that box. The Doncaster Cup takes place over two miles, one furlong and one hundred and ninety-seven yards and took place for the first time in 1766 when it was known as the Doncaster Gold Cup. That means that it’s actually ten years older than the St Leger Stakes, even though it’s not as prestigious. It is also part of the British Champions Series.

The race has undergone numerous changes over the years, not least with its length. Starting life as a four mile offering, it was cut to two miles five furlongs in 1825 then to two miles two furlongs in 1891. It saw its length drop by one more furlong in 1908, only to return to its former length nineteen years later. When race gradings came in in 1971 it was a Group 3 race, earning its Group 2 status in 2003.

The Doncaster Cup is part of the Stayers’ Triple Crown, with the Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup coming before it in the racing season. Beeswing is the race’s leading horse, winning it four times between 1837 and 1842. Joe Mercer is the most successful jockey thanks to his eight wins, whilst both Cecil Boyd-Rochfort and Henry Cecil won it seven times as trainers. The race has some weight information that you’ll want to be aware of:

  • 3-year-olds: 8 stone 7 pounds
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 5 pounds
  • Fillies and mares get a 3 pound allowance
  • Horses that have won a Group 1 race since March 31st get a 5 pound penalty
  • Horses that have won a Group 2 race since March 31st get a 3 pound penalty

Flying Scotsman Stakes

Between 1983 and 1999 this race bore the moniker of the Queen's Own Yorkshire Dragoons Conditions Stakes, becoming the Frank Whittle Partnership Conditions Stakes until 2013. It was at that point that it took on its current name, given in honour of the LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman locomotive, which was built in Doncaster in 1923.

Taking place over seven furlongs and six yards, the race is run on the straight track and is for two-year-olds only. The weight information is as follows:

  • 9 stone, with a 5 pound allowance for fillies and mares
  • Winners of Group races receive a 7 pound penalty
  • Winners of Listed races receive a 4 pound penalty

Portland Handicap

Open to horses aged three and over and taking place over five furlongs and one hundred and forty-three yards, the Portland Handicap is run on the straight and boasts a purse of £60,000 in 2019. It was established in 1855 and was known as the Portland Plate for a time. Obviously the fact that it’s a handicap means that there’s no race information to tell you, with the handicapper deciding how much each horse should carry in order to make it as level a playing field as possible.

Halmahera has won the race more times than any other horse, getting back-to-back victories in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Interestingly, none of those wins were for either the race’s most successful jockey Brownie Carslake, who won five times in his career, nor for Richard Marsh, the most successful trainer. He also had five wins, but none of those were thanks to Carslake.

Park Stakes

Established in 1978, the race was known as the Kiveton Park Stakes when it was sponsored by Kiveton Park Steel. Originally a Listed race that took place over seven furlongs, the race become a Group 3 offering in 1986 and then was extended to be run over a mile in 1993. It took on its current moniker in 1996.

The Park Stakes went back to being a seven furlong race in 2003 and became a Group 2 running the following year. Open to horses aged three and over, the race has some weight information you’ll be interested in:

  • 3-year-olds: 9 stone
  • 4-year-olds and over: 9 stone 4 pounds
  • Fillies and mares have a 3 pound allowance
  • Winners of Group 1 races since March 31st carry a 5 pound penalty
  • Winners of Group 2 races since March 31st carry a 3 pound penalty

Three horses have won the race more than once, namely Bishop of Cashel, Iffraaj and Arabian Gleam. Willie Carson and Sir Michael Stoute hold the records as jockey and trainer respectively thanks to their four wins apiece, though only The Quiet Bidder in 1982 won for both of them.

Champagne Stakes

This Group 2 race is open to two-year-old colts and geldings and took place for the first time in 1823. It was originally for horses of any sex, being limited to males in 1988. It was run over a mile before being shortened to six furlongs in 1870 then extended to seven furlongs in 1962. Nowadays it sits at seven furlongs and six yards and horses that do well in it then tend to be competitive in the Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket the following month.

The weight is nine stone, with Group 1 and Group 2 winners having a three pound penalty added. Bill Scott is the race’s most successful jockey thanks to his nine wins, which is one fewer than both John Scott and Matthew Dawson who won the race ten times as trainers. As you might imagine from the names, there’s some overlap between the horses that won the races for Bill and John Scott.

St Leger Stakes

Established in 1776, the St Leger Stakes is the last of the five Classics run during the flat season. As well as completing the English Triple Crown alongside the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby, it’s also the final leg of the Fillies’ Crown with the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks. Devised by an army officer named Anthony St Leger, it was called A Sweepstake of 25 Guineas until it was decided that it should bear his moniker at its next running.

There’s so much that we could tell you about the St Leger Stakes, but rather than bore you with its history we’ll tell you about the race itself. It is run over a distance of one mile and six furlongs, down from the original two miles it was run at. It takes place left-handed on the turf and is for three-year-olds, though geldings are excluded.

the weight is nine stone one pound, with a three pound allowance for fillies. Bill Scott won the race more than any other jockey thanks to his nine wins, with seven on them coming on the back of horses trained by John Scott. John won sixteen times as a trainer in total.

As well as being one of the British Classics, the race has also inspired numerous similar races around the word, including the following:

  • Irish St Leger - Ireland
  • Prix Royal-Oak - France
  • Deutsches St Leger - Germany
  • Kikuka-shō - Japan
  • New Zealand St Leger - New Zealand
  • VRC St Leger - Australia

As with the Doncaster Cup, the St Leger is one of the races that is part of the British Champions Series, which concludes on Champions Day at Ascot.