ST LEGER: Doncaster author's 500 page book telling complete history of classic race goes on sale
A Doncaster author who has devoted 14 years to chronicling the complete history of the St Leger has released a mammoth, glossy book on the eve of this year's race.
Ex-Edlington lad Tony Barber has spent the last decade combing through archives, history books, newspaper clippings and photographs to complete the exhaustive and definitive guide to the race which has been run in Doncaster since 1776.
Weighing in at more than 520 pages, the book is a lovingly-detailed account of the famous Classic race from its humble beginnings 240 years ago right up to the present day.
He said: "There is no event in British sport that has a history so long, so colourful and so important as the Doncaster Classic.
"For nearly 250 years the greatest three-year-old thoroughbreds have appeared on Town Moor. But is not simply the contests themselves that were of significance.
"As the race grew in popularity, St Leger week became a major date on the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian social calendars."
Mr Barber's book includes details of each and every race, photos and drawings of famous encounters and insights and stories of those who took part in the race - including the story of Colonel Anthony St Leger whose brainchild the race was.
Added Mr Barber: "Those in attendance represented every level of society - kings and queens, lords and ladies by the score, owners, trainers, jockeys, touts, the 'slippery eels of the turf' and the 'amalgamated sons of rest whose order it was not to work between meals'.
"At the races they witnessed the greatest joys and the most terrible sorrows."
The book also has details of scandals - one of which rocked the monarchy - a tragic railway accident, riots on the streets and on the racecourse, violence in anti-race meetings; poisonings, frauds, duels and fistfights - all alongside some of the most memorable spectacles the world of sport has to offer."
Mr Barber's love of the Leger stems from his childhood, watching the race at Town Moor with his family on an annual September pilgrimage.
He began research on the book more than a decade ago after coming across a print illustrating historic Doncaster race scenes.
With his curiousity aroused he was determined to learn more. Finding that no book had been written on the subject for more than a hundred years he decided to write one to fill the gap.
He added: "Because no book had been written for such a long time, there was a lot of material which had not be seen before.
"Much was deposited at the archives and museum. The staff there were incredibly supportive and Doncaster Council is fortunate to have such people."
They included Dr Charles Kelham, Becky and Neil McGregor, the couple behind the Bessacarr and Cantley Gazette, Geoff and June Bennett while the Earl of Halifax and the late Earl of Scarbrough, the late Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, Sir Andrew Buchanan, the late Colin Joy together with racing people Brough Scott, John Gosden, Jack Berry and Willie Carson also helped with the book.
Number one from a limited edition of 800 signed and numbered copies will be presented to The Queen's representative on Legends Day, the first day of this year's St Leger meeting tomorrow while copy number two is to be offered as an item in the Injured Jockeys Fund charity auction on the same day.
* Published this week by Raceform, The St Leger: A History Of The World's First Classic Horserace is available from the Racing Post Shop website.