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British Classic Horse Races – St. Leger Stakes

One of the oldest horse races in the world, the St. Leger Stakes takes place annually at Doncaster Racecourse in England.

It is held every September, and is the final leg of the three races that make up the English Triple Crown. The other two are the 2,000 Guineas and the Epsom Derby.

The St. Leger Stakes is also one of the five British Classics – a collective term used to describe five of the most prestigious flat races in Britain.

It is open to three year old Thoroughbreds only, with geldings excluded.

Please see below for further details on this race, including its history and betting information.

Overview of the St. Leger Stakes

First Run
Race Type
Flat, Group 1
Doncaster Racecourse
1 mile, 6 furlongs, 132 yards
Entry Requirements
Three year olds only

The Inaugural St. Leger Stakes

The St. Leger Stakes was the idea of Anthony St. Leger, an officer in the British Army and a Member of Parliament. He introduced the race to the British racing calendar with the assistance of Charles Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham.

It was first run at Cantley Common, in September 1776, but it wasn’t actually known as the St. Leger Stakes then. The race was originally named “A Sweepstake of 25 Guineas”.

The inaugural race was run over two miles, with colts and geldings having to carry eight stone and fillies receiving an allowance of two pounds. It was won by a filly owned by Watson-Wentworth. The horse was unnamed at the time, but later given the name Allabaculia.

A New Name and Other Changes

The St. Leger Stakes got its new name the following year. A dinner party was held to discuss the second running of the race, and it was proposed that the race should be named the Rockingham Stakes after the Marquess of Rockingham.

The Marquess himself, however, suggested it should be named after Anthony St. Leger, and the race was duly named the St. Leger Stakes.

The new name was not the only change the St. Leger Stakes has undergone. In 1778 the race was moved to Doncaster Racecourse (known then as Town Moor), which has been home to the race ever since except on a few occasions when it has been moved for various reasons.

It took place at various alternative locations during World War II, for example, and was run at York in 2006 due to Doncaster Racecourse being redeveloped.

The distance of the race has also changed. It was reduced from two miles to one mile, six furlongs and 193 yards in 1813. There have been further minor changes to the distance over the years too.

It is currently one mile, six furlongs and 132 years, which makes it the longest of the five British Classics. Another change to the rules was made in 1906, when geldings were excluded from taking part.

The Modern St. Leger Stakes

As one of the British Classics – the oldest one, in fact – the St. Leger Stakes remains an important event in the racing calendar. It is part of the four day St. Leger Festival, which is considered a major highlight of the autumn schedule and attracts large audiences both at the track and on television.

The prestige of the race is reflected in the size of its purse, which is well over half a million pounds.

The role of the St. Leger Stakes as the final leg of the Triple Crown is less significant than it used to be though, as it is very rare for a horse to win both the Derby and the 2,000 Guineas these days.

The only horse to do so in recent years was Camelot in 2012, but he could only manage second place in the St. Leger and so failed to win the Triple Crown.

Betting on the St. Leger Stakes

Like so many other top class horse races, the St. Leger Stakes is regularly a very competitive one. There is occasionally a clear favorite for the race, but there are usually several horses in realistic contention. This makes it a difficult race to bet on.

Ante-post betting is available months before the race takes place, but it is very challenging to pick a winner well in advance. With that being said, there is sometimes some value to be had in the early prices if you know what you’re looking for.

If you leave your betting until nearer the time of the race, you’ll have a clearer idea of the form of the field.

As the race is late on in the flat season, you will be able to see how the runners have performed as three year olds. This gives you much more to go on and, for most bettors, is probably the best approach to take.

Recent Winners

The following table shows the winners of the St. Leger Stakes over the last ten years, along with the jockeys, trainers, and owners:

Year Winner Jockey Trainer Owner
2007LucarnoJimmy FortuneJohn GosdenGeorge Strawbridge
2008ConduitFrankie DettoriSir Michael StouteBallymacoll Stud
2009MasteryTed DurcanSaeed bin SuroorGodolphin Racing
2010Arctic CosmosWilliam BuickJohn GosdenHood/Geffen
2011Masked MarvelWilliam BuickJohn GosdenBjorn Nielsen
2012EnckeMickael BarzalonaMahmood Al ZarooniGodolphin Racing
2013Leading LightJoseph O’BrienAidan O’BrienSmith/Magnier/Tabor
2014Kingston HillAndrea AtzeniRoger VarianPaul Smith
2015Simple VerseAndrea AtzeniRalph BeckettQRL / Al Thani / Al Kubaisi
2016Harbour LawGeorge BakerLaura MonganJackie Cornwell
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