St Leger History & Winner Trends | Doncaster
St Leger History & Winner Trends
The St Leger Stakes is a Group 1 flat race that attracts some of the best three-year-olds to Doncaster each September. It is the oldest of Britain’s five Classics and it also represents the final leg of the Triple Crown. Read on to learn more about the illustrious history of the race and winner trends from recent years, which might help you identify this year’s champion.
St Leger Early Years
An army officer and politician called Anthony St Leger created this famous race all the way back in 1776. George III was on the throne, the United States Declaration of Independence was ratified and Adam Smith was putting the finishing touches on The Wealth of Nations. Racing was growing in popularity at the time, and St Leger wanted to put Doncaster on the map. He devised a two-mile race called “A Sweepstake of 25 Guineas”, which stipulated that colts and geldings were to carry 8 st, and fillies would receive an allowance of 2 lb.
The inaugural running was held on 24 September, 1776, at Cantley Common. A filly called Allabaculia, owned by the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, romped to victory. A dinner party was held at the Red Lion Inn in Doncaster to celebrate the race, and the attendees decided to rename it the St Leger Stakes when it was held the following year. Two years later the race was moved to Town Moor, and it has been hosted there on an annual basis ever since.
The St Leger Stakes first shot to national prominence in 1800, when Derby winner Champion travelled up to Doncaster and secured victory. In 1813, the length of the race was changed to 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 193 yards, and it is still run over a similar distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 115 yards. It became the final leg of the Triple Crown of British racing, following on from the 2000 Guineas and the Derby. West Australasian was the first horse to win all three with a phenomenal effort in 1853. It is now also the final leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown, following the 1000 Guineas and the Oaks.
An Upward March
The St Leger Stakes has gone on to establish itself as one of the most important races of the British flat season. It was closed to geldings in 1906 and it remains exclusive to colts and fillies. It has run almost continually since then, missing just one year due to World War II. It moved to Newmarket briefly during World War I, and it was held at Manchester, Newmarket and York while World War II raged on. The St Leger was transferred to Ayr in 1989 due to subsidence at Doncaster, and the 2006 renewal took place at York as Town Moor was being redeveloped, but it has otherwise been held at the same venue each year. It has inspired a number of similar events around the world, including the Irish St Leger, the Deutches St Leger and the St Leger Italiano.
John Scott is the leading trainer in St Leger history, having won it 16 times between 1827 and 1862. Bill Scott is the leading jockey, with nine wins. The most emphatic winning margin was secured when Never Say Die won by 12 lengths in 1954. The longest odds winner was 200/1 shot Theodore in 1822, while Galtee More won at just 1/10 in 1897. Thirty runners battled it out in the 1825 St Leger, which remains a record, and there were only three in 1917, which remains the fewest ever. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Nijinsky under Lester Piggott in 1970. It is now rare for a horse to have the pace to win over 1 mile in the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket and then to display the requisite stamina to win the St Leger over 1 mile 6 furlongs and 115 yards, but Camelot won both the 2000 Guineas and the Derby before finishing second in the St Leger in 2012.
Form a Key Ingredient to St Leger Success
Six of the last 12 winners of the St Leger had secured victory in their previous race. Ten of the 12 winners between 2008 and 2019 had at least placed in their previous run before the St Leger. Three-quarters had run within the previous 65 days, and four of them had run in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York on their last run. Eleven out of 12 had won a race that season, and two-thirds of them had won at least twice that season.
Nine out of the past 12 winners were rated 110 or higher and they had at least one previous victory in a Group 1, Group 2 or Group 3 race. The highest rated winners were Kingston Hall in 2014 and Capri in 2017, who both had a rating of 120.
The St Leger Stakes falls towards the end of the flat racing season, so all 12 winners since 2008 had at least three runs under their belts that year. Nine of them had run four or more times that season. Eleven out of 12 had won a race that season – the only exception was Kingston Hill, who went off as the 9/4 favourite in 2014 – and two-thirds of them had won at least twice that season.
Favourites Flourish in St Leger Stakes
Favourites have performed well at the St Leger in recent years. Logician, a 5/6 favourite, broke the record by winning the race in 3 minutes and 0.27 seconds last year. Kew Gardens, a 3/1 second favourite from the Aiden O’Brien stable, won in 2018. O’Brien also had cause for celebration when favourite Capri won at 3/1 in 2017. He has saddled three winners since 2013.
Four favourites have won in the past seven years – Logician in 2019, Capri in 2017, Kingston Hill at 9/4 in 2014 and Leading Light at 7/2 in 2013. The main outsider was Harbour Law, who won at 22/1 in 2016. Encke also defied odds of 25/1 to secure victory in 2012, denying 2/5 favourite Camelot the Triple Crown. Favourites may have tasted a lot of success in recent years, but this is an extremely prestigious race, with a large prize pool, and that always ensures a competitive field, so we should be in for an exciting battle this time around.
The 2020 St Leger Stakes takes place on Saturday 12th September and will be packed full of staying superstars battling it out for St Leger glory. As always Sporting Index will be on hand to provide you with all your horse racing odds and horse racing spread betting markets.