Doncaster Racecourse

Address:
Doncaster Racecourse, Grandstand, Leger Way, Doncaster, DN2 6BB - Map & Directions
Telephone:
01302 304207
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Doncaster Racecourse Grandstand
(Richard Croft /geograph.org.uk)

Both flat and National Hunt racing has taken place on the site at Doncaster since the 16th century and it is one of the oldest racecourses in Britain. Not only that, but in terms of capacity it is also one of the largest tracks in the country, with hundreds of thousands of visitors every single year. In 1992, Doncaster hosted the first ever Sunday race meeting in Britain and despite no opportunity for betting on the day, they were still able to attract a crowd of over 23,000 people. As well as horse racing, the course is also the home of the annual ‘Tattoo Festival’, which takes place every October and attracts a somewhat different crowd to race days we suspect!

Apart from during the St. Leger Festival, there is free parking at all race days and the course is incredibly straightforward to get to by car, with motorway links including the M1, M18 and M62. It is also accessible by train with the station just over two miles from the racecourse. Doncaster is a major stop on the London to Edinburgh line and the journey from London takes less than two hours. On race days there are regular shuttle buses taking customers to the track, priced at £1.50 for a single journey or £2.50 return, although the walk is pleasant enough.

Ticket Prices

On regular race days, entry to the grandstand is priced at just £14.50 and the family enclosure just £7.50, whilst children aged 17 and under are allowed free entry to all race days when accompanied by a full paying adult. During the St. Leger Festival prices are slightly more expensive with grandstand entry costing £19.

The Course

The grade 2 course at Doncaster is a left-handed pear-shaped track, measuring 1m7½f in circumference. A left-handed galloping course, Doncaster is mainly flat with a very slight incline and subsequent descent at around the 1m mark. Although it has a 4½f run-in, there is a 4f chute available that produces a 1m straight course. An alternate one mile start is located on another off-shoot of the main circuit, but this is less commonly used than the other.

The National Hunt track at Doncaster is the same length as the flat one, with the steeplechase course having a total of 11 fences. Due to there being seven fences in the final mile of the course, it is difficult for those not the most fluent over the obstacles to make up ground towards the end of races. The hurdles course is the same length and has seven flights overall.

Lessons Learned from Previous Mistakes

A disastrous moment, during the most tragic St Leger Festival of all times, forced Doncaster to postpone the rest of the meeting in 1989. The incident in question was a pile-up in the Portland Handicap, triggered as the prominent Madraco fell and took two other horses down with him. Madraco never ran again while two jockeys, Ian Johnson and Paul Cook, suffered extensive injuries. A Jockey Club inquiry found that the laying of a longitudinal drain in the months prior had left voids in the ground under the surface.

Although the Jockey Club fell short of stating this as the cause of Madraco’s fall, four years later the High Court did not, dismissing the claim that the horse’s leg broke spontaneously. This proved to be an expensive flaw in the Doncaster ground but their reputation has firmly recovered since. Today, the racecourse stands as one of the most smoothest and well-drained in the country. That said, organisers did have to cancel the remainder of a November meeting in 2018 as one horse slipped on the bend, although it is certainly a fair test that doesn’t overly favour any style of horse or riding.

Fairer Flat Test Hard to Find

Whether horses race on the perfectly straight mile track or on the graceful round course, hard luck stories are in short supply at Doncaster. Wide, virtually flat throughout and especially well draining, jockeys regularly find themselves enjoying a comfortable ride on the Yorkshire racecourse.

Galloping types fare a little better than most but in terms of racing style, it’s a course where it’s possible to win from anywhere. Draw bias suggests that marginally better ground is found on the stands’ side but being on the inside rail is of no huge disadvantage in truth.

A Challenging National Hunt Course

Conditions underfoot rarely get testing at Doncaster but this doesn’t mean the National Hunt course doesn’t offer a considerable test. It’s not unusual to see novice chasers come unstuck on a couple of the trickier fences, including the last ditch.

As a course suiting speedier types, the amount of well-run chases has also contributed to a reasonable high casualty rate. The fast pace of contests here also means that horses that aren’t travelling well can quickly find themselves left behind, particularly down the back straight.

Major Meetings at Doncaster

Doncaster Stand & Track
Doncaster Grandstand & Track (badobadop.co.uk / Wikipedia.org.uk)

Doncaster hosts two of Great Britain’s 31 Group 1 flat races – The St Leger Stakes and The Racing Post Trophy. Being one of the oldest races in the world, the St Leger Stakes is run every year in September and comes in at around 1m6f in length. Established in 1776, the St Leger Stakes is the oldest of Britain’s five ‘Classics’, and is the final leg of the English Triple Crown.

Another of the world’s oldest races is also run at Doncaster every year – The Doncaster Cup. First run in 1766, it is actually the oldest surviving horse race in the world and is part of the Stayers’ triple crown alongside the Goodwood Cup and Ascot Gold Cup. Measuring at 2m2f, it takes place every September and was moved to its current location in 1776.

The other major race run at Doncaster is the Lincoln Handicap. One mile long, it is run annually a week or two before the Grand National and in terms of betting the two races form the ‘Spring Double’.

Dining and Hospitality

Doncaster Racecourse
Doncaster Track (Oxana Maher / geograph.org.uk)

There is a large selection of restaurants at Doncaster, all of which vary in menu, price and experience. The Mallard and Conduit restaurant starts from just £73.50 per person, with the Jumps Brunch priced at the same rate.

The Champagne Pavilion restaurant is slightly more expensive, with the menu starting from £119 per person. In terms of private hospitality, customers can choose from a selection of three menus and three different drinks packages to enjoy in their box, with prices starting from £142 per person.

Map

Swap Start/End

Grudge Matches