The fifth and final Classic of the British flat season takes place at the South Yorkshire track of Doncaster in September each year and boasts the distinction of being the oldest Classic contest held anywhere in the world. First run in 1776, the race is named in honour of local army officer and politician Anthony St Leger, who helped devise the event.
In addition to being the oldest, the St Leger is also the longest of all five Classics, with the trip of 1m6f 115 yards placing a far greater emphasis on stamina than the 1m of the 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas, or the 1m4f of the Derby and Oaks.
Serving as the final leg of both the Colts and Fillies’ Triple Crown, the St Leger further stands out as the only Classic which regularly attracts three-year-old contenders of both sexes, with the fillies receiving a 3lb weight allowance from the colts.
Representing one last crack at Classic glory, the prestige – and over £700,000 in total prize money – regularly attracts a field of the most talented stayers from both sides of the Irish Sea and is by far and away the most famous event of the season at this historic track.
St Leger 2023: Runners & Riders
All’s Fair on Town Moor
The near two-mile circuit of Doncaster’s Town Moor course resembles a pear in configuration, with one tight bend into the backstretch and a far longer, sweeping turn back into the five-furlong home straight. The back section of the course also stretches to almost five furlongs, meaning that for the bulk of their journey, the runners are travelling in a straight line rather than around a bend. Almost completely flat throughout, Doncaster is recognised as one of the fairest courses in the country, enabling both front-runners and hold-up performers to show their best.
In terms of the St Leger, the number one requirement is an ability to thoroughly see out the stamina-sapping distance. The extensive straight sections may not place undue demands on the balance of the contenders, but they do mean that the field often kicks for home a long way from the line, bringing the staying power of the runners firmly into play. Add in the fact that the ground is regularly on the soft side at this time of year, and any runners with chinks in the stamina department will be ruthlessly exposed.
The race itself may be a slog, but those in the stands are well-placed to enjoy the finer things in life. Benefiting from a £35 million upgrade in 2005 – headlined by the opening of a spectacular five-storey Grandstand – Doncaster offers a top-class race day experience.
Four Day Festival
As the standout contest of the year, it is no surprise that Doncaster is keen to support the St Leger with a full meeting of action. Held over four days, from Wednesday to Saturday in early-mid September, the St Leger Festival places Donny at the centre of the flat racing world.
A bumper total of 30 contests are on offer over the course of the meeting, with highlights including the Group 2 sextet of the May Hill Stakes, the Park Hill Stakes, the Flying Childers, the Doncaster Cup, the Champagne Stakes and the Park Stakes. The St Leger is the only Group 1 at the fixture and takes centre stage on the closing Saturday.
The Final Step Towards Racing Immortality
For a three-year-old performer to prove themselves the best in the business over 1m, 1m4f, and 1m6f is a tough task. Over the years, only a select band of runners have displayed the speed to win a Guineas, the balance and class to win a Derby, and the stamina to conquer their rivals in this event. Camelot came close when winning the 2,000 Guineas and Derby in 2012, only to come up just short when second here. As of 2023, the most recent colt to achieve the elusive Triple Crown is the sensational Nijinsky back in 1970. 15 years later, Oh So Sharp marked herself down as one of the most talented fillies of all time when completing the Fillies Triple Crown here.
Aidan the Derby King ably Assisted by Galileo
Brothers John and Bill Scott dominate the all-time trainer and jockey tables in this event, having recorded 16 and 9 wins, respectively, during the 1800s. In more recent times, Aidan O’Brien has been the man to follow, with an impressive seven wins between 2001 and 2023. John Gosden and Saeed bin Suroor have fared best of the British-based trainers with five wins each as of 2023.
For those looking for pointers in the lead-up to the race, the Great Voltigeur at York has proven to be a key trial in recent years, with 10 of the 24 winners between 2000 and 2023 arriving on the back of a run in that event.