The biggest date on Doncaster’s calendar is upon us as the annual Ladbrokes St Leger Festival gallops into town today - and we’ve got everything you need to know about this year’s spectacular.
The four day Ladbrokes St Leger Festival will get underway with Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal paying a visit to Town Moor on the day The Queen becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch.
She is heading to South Yorkshire for the festival’s opening day as well as a visit to Doncaster’s Wabtec Rail works as her mother celebrates beating Queen Victoria’s reign of more than 63 years.
For four full days, Town Moor will be transformed into a colourful carnival of fashion, fun and fantastic sporting action as the eagerly awaited feast of horse racing rolls in from this afternoon.
Highlights will be Ladies’ Day on Thursday and the St Leger itself on Saturday when once again, the world’s oldest classic horse race is contested in front of crowds expected to top 30,000.
Attracting thousands of people from far and wide since its inital running in 1776, not only to sample the delights on offer at Town Moor but also the boost it brings to the town’s economy with pubs, clubs, shops, restaurants and hotels all packed to the rafters.
And this year is expected to be no different, with business bosses rubbing their hands together at the cash windfall the racing will bring.
This year’s event could bring in as much as £15 million - a much needed shot in the arm for firms and companies across a number of sectors.
Dan Fell, CEO of Doncaster Chamber said: “We’re very proud of the St Leger here in Doncaster, one of the most prestigious race weeks of the British horse racing calendar. The festival itself contributes approximately £10-15 million to the local economy, which is clearly a fantastic opportunity for many local businesses.”
Michael Hart, chief executive of Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust said: “The St Leger Festival truly transforms the town and brings in thousands of visitors which is great for both the day time and evening economy.
“The festival brings in extra business for us via initiatives such as our Leger breakfasts which we offer at the Dome and a number of special pre and post racing events.
“This year The Leopard will be hosting a music festival as part of the St Leger festival and we expect that this will prove very popular both with the locals and visitors to the town.”
The story is the same over at Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport which not only welcomes racegoers, owners, trainers and jockeys from across the world but also the horses themselves.
Steve Gill, managing director said: “The St Leger always creates quite a buzz around the airport not only because of passengers flying in for the event but Anglo World Cargo, who are based on site, are often responsible for flying in a number of the racehorses.
“The extra activity from big events like this are always a welcome boost to businesses across the region.”
Some firms have already been feeling the Leger boost, with shops among those already seeing cash coming in.
Cheryl Sadler, centre manager of Lakeside Village shopping centre said: “For us the impact of the St Leger Festival starts a good two months before the event itself. We start to see a steady rise in customers looking to buy the perfect outfit for Ladies Day and suits for Gentleman’s Day.
“The St Leger is a fantastic boost to the retail industry in Doncaster as we see thousands of outfits bought for the event and during the race week we see an influx of visitors to the town who make the most of their visit by coming to Lakeside Village and enjoying shopping and spending while they are here.”
But all eyes will be firmly on Town Moor when racing gets underway with four whole days of sporting thrills and spills for punters to revel in.
Kieran Gallagher, executive director at Doncaster Racecourse, said: “The Ladbrokes St Leger Festival flagship Leger Day will bring the four days to a dramatic climax.
“It is the biggest day of the week and our showpiece race consistently attracts some of the leading stables across the country and boasts a glittering roll of honour which is littered with some of the most acclaimed horses in history. We are hoping to see the best on Town Moor this September.”
It was in an upstairs room at the Red Lion in Doncaster’s Market Place that what is now the world’s oldest classic horse race was first mooted and later named.
For in 1776 over a drink with friends, nobleman Anthony St Leger, a successful soldier and a Member of Parliament for Grimsby and who bred and raced horses at Firbeck, decided that Doncaster would be an ideal venue for a horse race. Initially referred to as “a sweepstake of 25 Guineas,” several riders and their steeds gathered on Cantley Common for the two mile race on September 24, 1776.
The first winner was an unnamed filly owned by the event’s co-organiser, Charles Watson-Wentworth, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. The filly was later named Allabaculia and is recorded in history as the first ever victor of the St Leger Stakes - although the name of the race came later.
The title was decided at a dinner party held in 1777 to discuss the following year’s race.
It was suggested that it should be called the Rockingham Stakes in honour of the host, the Marquess of Rockingham, but the Marquess proposed that it should be named instead after Anthony St Leger. The event was moved to its present location, Town Moor, in 1778, where it has run, except for a few notable exceptions ever since.
St Leger himself died ten years later, in April 1786 and although the race was already well established by then, even he could never have dreamed that it would still be going as strong 239 years later.
TICKETS Tickets are available from Doncaster Racecourse on 01302 304200. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk. Tickets should not be bought from touts outside the premises.
You can bet from as little as £2 with on course bookmakers. Full details and video guides to betting are available at www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk.
Early favourite for this year’s race is Order Of St George with odds at 3-1.
FOOD AND DRINK
Doncaster Racecourse has a wide variety of restaurants, bars and snack outlets to suit all tastes - from fine dining to chips and burgers, sandwiches and sweets. Bars are available throughout the course.
Town Moor stages the fifth and final classic of the season, the St Leger Stakes which has been run since 1776. Doncaster is a left-handed pear shaped track of around 1 mile 7 1/2 furlongs, mostly flat and hosts Flat and National Hunt racing.Doncaster Racecourse, Leger Way, Doncaster, DN2 6BB Telephone: 01302 304200
TRAFFIC AND TRAVEL
Work on St George’s Bridge will be completed in time for the St Leger Festival. Doncaster Racecourse is well signposted from junction 3 of the M18 and also A1(M) and M1. Sat-nav postcode is DN2 6BB.
The racecourse has a number of car parks on site although these can be extremely busy. Shuttled buses operate from outside the racecourse to the town centre and the interchange on all race days. Regular bus services to Town Moor will operate throughout all four days. Taxis operate from Leger Way outside the main entrance.
The main reception area, the Double Trigger statue and the Parade Ring are all convenient meeting points if you become separated from friends.
There are also five cash machines, all located on the ground floor.
ENTRY, DRESS CODE AND REGULATIONS
Premier/Mallard Restaurant: Gentlemen - jacket and tie, smart attire for ladies. No jeans, sportswear or trainers.
County Enclosure: Gentlemen - collared shirt, smart attire for ladies. No jeans, sportswear or trainers.
Grandstand and Frenchgate Family Enclosure. No dress code. Smart dress code applies to children under 18 in enclosures where smart dress code is requested. U18s must be accompanied by an adult. Smoking is not permitted in enclosed areas. Picnics may be taken, but in family enclosures only. No flash photography near the horses. Senior rates apply to customers over 60. No dogs admitted except ‘hearing’ or ‘seeing’ dogs. Doncaster Racecourse is fully equipped for disabled customers. Race cards will be available, priced from £2.75 to £3 on all days.
The St Leger is a Group 1 flat race for three year old thoroughbred colts and fillies run over 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards (2,937m).
It was first run on September 24 1776 and is the last of the five Classics, is the longest distance of the five and forms the final leg of the Triple Crown which includes the 2,000 Guineas and Derby. During both World Wars the race was moved to other course and in 1989 was moved to Ayr after subsidence at Town Moor.
The purse in 2014 was £650,000 with Kingston Hill taking the honours.
The first winner in 1776 was race founder Colonel Anthony St Leger’s own horse, Allabaculia. The race got its name in 1777 after a dinner at the Red Lion in Doncaster’s Market Place when it was decided to name it after the first winner, a local army officer and politician.
Leading jockey: Bill Scott (9 wins); leading trainer John Scott (16 wins), leading owner Archibald Hamilton (7 wins).
Fastest winning time: Masked Marvel (2011). 3m 00.44s
DONCASTER ST LEGER FESTIVAL
Off the course, the ten day St Leger Festival offers plenty of other entertainment and attractions. These include Roman soldiers marching through the town, opera, live music, champagne breakfasts, funfairs, special shows at Cast, The Dome and Little Theatre, beer festivals, wine tasting amd much more.
Full details and a downloadable guide at www.visitdoncaster.com/whats-on/st-leger-festival