Run at Doncaster racecourse over a distance of 1m 6f 115y, the St Leger Stakes has a reputation that precedes it. The race is open to three year old fillies and colts and takes place in September of each year. To say that the St Leger is steeped in tradition is something of an understatement, the inaugural run took place in 1776. The race is the oldest of the five ‘British Classics’.
The British Classics are a group of five flat races that date back to the aforementioned period and it consists of the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, The Oaks and the St Leger . These races represent the height of achievement in racing and attract the very best three year old horses year on year. Winning one Classic highlights a horse’s superior ability and two marks it out as something special. The last horses to win two Classics in recent years are Camelot and Minding. Nijinksy won three in the 1970s – the 2000 Guineas, Derby and St Leger – also known as the Triple Crown, and the record is four by Formosa (1868) and Sceptre (1902).
The St Leger event itself is the brainchild of Anthony St Leger, an army officer who lived near the Doncaster area. The race began to draw more attention as early as 1800 when talented thoroughbred Champion became the first horse to win both the Derby and St Leger. Since that time the race has gone from strength to strength. In war time periods the race has been held in various locations such as Newmarket, Thirsk, Manchester and York.
Partly due to the history of this event, most of the records go back a century or more and so it’ll take a really special individual to make an impact now. Leading jockey is Bill Scott who rode 9 winners between 1821 and 1846, leading trainer John Scott, the brother of Bill, with 16 wins between 1827 and 1862. Some big names have won the St Leger over the years including Nijinsky and Oh So Sharp. The 2018 winner was Kew Gardens ridden by Ryan Moore.