St. Leger Festival

The St. Leger Festival takes place over four days at Doncaster Racecourse, in South Yorkshire, in September each year. As the name suggests, the meeting revolves around the oldest British Classic, and third, and final, leg of the so-called Triple Crown, the St. Leger Stakes. Founded in 1776, by the eponymous Anthony St. Leger, a major general in the 86th Regiment of Foot, the St. Leger Stakes is run over 1 mile 6 furlongs and 115 yards on Town Moor and open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies.

The Triple Crown, attributed to any colt or filly that wins the Two Thousand Guineas, Derby and St. Leger, was last won by Nijinksy in 1970 and has rarely been attempted in recent years. However, in 2012, the hitherto unbeaten colt Camelot, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by his son, Joseph, was sent off 2/5 favourite to complete the elusive treble, only to be beaten three-quarters of a length by 25/1 outsider Enke.

Other highlights of the St. Leger Festival include the Park Hill Stakes, a Group 2 contest run over the same course and distance as the St. Leger Stakes and open to thoroughbred fillies and mares aged three years and upwards. The Park Hill Stakes is still, erroneously, referred to as the “Fillies’ St. Leger” in some quarters; the St. Leger Stakes is open to fillies in any case and the Park Hill Stakes is no longer restricted to three-year-olds.

The penultimate day of the St. Leger Festival features the Doncaster Cup, which pre-dates the St. Leger Stakes by a decade and is the third, and final, leg of the so-called Stayers’ Triple Crown, after the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup. The St. Leger Stakes aside, the final day also includes the Champagne Stakes, run over 7 furlongs and open to two-year-old colts and geldings, and one of the most competitive sprint handicaps of the season, the Portland Handicap, run over a fast and furious 5 furlongs and 143 yards..

Kentucky Derby

Popularly known as ‘the run for the roses’ due to the blanket of roses spread over the winner, the Kentucky Derby is a race that is held in Louisville, Kentucky, United States every year. It is a stakes race for three year olds and above run over a distance of 10 furlong . The Kentucky Derby festival itself stretches over a time period of two weeks. The commencement of the race was in 1875, making it the oldest sports event run in the United States.

Having visited and explored the leading horse racing sites in England and France in 1872, William Clark , the grandson of Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr of Lewis and Clark expedition fame, was inspired to start an event with the same kind of excitement and prestige attached. He was first and foremost inspired by the Epsom Downs racecourse in England. The Louisville Jockey Club was founded by Clark after returning back to Kentucky with a substantial amount of money raised for the construction of a racetrack on the land bestowed upon him by his Uncles, Henry and John Churchill. Initially, the racetrack was visualised as a gathering place for the families and people of the city.

During the inceptive years, the race was mostly dominated by black riders which were successfully proven by the fact that black riders won more than half of the first 25 Kentucky Derby runs. This pattern continued for decades unless backward thinking Jim Crow laws resulted in many of these individuals  losing their jonbs. The running distance was cut from 12 furlong to 10 furlong after complaints from the racing community in 1896.

In 1919, Sir Barton was the first one to win the prestigious Triple Crown which conists of winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Since that time 12 more horses have won all three triple crown races, most recently Justify in 2018.