Doncaster Racecourse

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Published: 11/08/2013

As home to the four-day St. Leger Festival each September, Doncaster Racecourse near Doncaster town in South Yorkshire is not only one of the most famous racecourses in England, but also one of the oldest and largest. Its left-handed pear-shaped track covers a distance of one mile and 7½ furlongs, used for both flat horse racing and National Hunt jumps. Access to the racecourse is convenient via the M1 at junction 32 as well as within easy reach of Doncaster Rail Station and Robin Hood Airport.

A Rich History of Major Events

Records of regular meetings at Doncaster go back to the 16th century, making this one of the oldest established centres for horse racing in Britain. A formal racecourse was first marked out in 1614 and the earliest important race was the Doncaster Gold Cup, which was first run over Cantley Common in 1766. Ten years later, the course was relocated to its present venue and the race survived to become the world’s oldest ongoing race. It’s now known as the Doncaster Cup, a two-mile, two-furlong test of stamina worth £100,000 and serving as the final leg of the “Stayers’ Triple Crown” after Royal Ascot’s Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup held in the summer.

It was here in 1776 that Colonel Anthony St. Leger established a contest for five horses that would become the world’s oldest classic race. Now known as the St. Leger Stakes and covering a mile, six furlongs and 193 yards, it has remained in existence ever since, serving as the centrepiece for the annual festival that bears its name. In 1800, a steed known as Champion ran to victory in both the Derby and the St. Leger—flat racing’s first double—which brought the Stakes to national attention. Then, in 1853, a horse called West Australian took the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St. Leger Stakes to complete the first-ever Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

Other major races that were inaugurated at Doncaster Racecourse include the Champagne Stakes (1823), the Park Hill Stakes (1839) and the Portland Handicap (1855). Several legendary races have also moved to the course from elsewhere over the years. One of them is the Brocklesby Stakes (1849), a five-furlong sprint that marks the traditional opening of the British flat racing season for two-year-olds. Other significant transfers are the Lincoln Handicap (1853) and the November Handicap (1876), which takes place on the very last day of the flat racing season.

More recently added as featured events at Doncaster Racecourse are the Racing Post Trophy (1961), Flying Childers Stakes (1967), May Hill Stakes (1976) and the Park Stakes (1978). Among National Hunt races, the River Don Novices’ Hurdle was founded in 1991 as a Grade 2 hurdle race. And in 1992, Doncaster staged the first ever Sunday meeting on a British racecourse, attracting a crowd of 23,000 even though there was no betting allowed.

Racing at Doncaster Today

Doncaster Racecourse now hosts 35 fixtures across the National Hunt and flat racing season, with racedays scheduled all year round. September’s St. Leger Festival, with its classic race and glamourous Ladies Day, gets most of the attention, but another big fall event is October’s Racing Post Trophy Day—the last Group 1 race of the season—and then comes November’s “Finale of the Flat,” deciding the year’s Champion Jockey after the BetFred November Handicap. Another featured fixture is the Sky Bet Chase Weekend in January followed by William Hill’s Grimthorpe Chase and Lincoln weekends in March.

Four separate Enclosures can be found at Doncaster Racecourse: Premier, County, Grandstand and Family. They each feature permanent drinking and dining facilities, and on busier days, mobile food outlets and bars are made available across the racecourse in all enclosures. Only Premier Badge holders have access to the Lincoln Restaurant and Premier Bar. The Grandstand Enclosure features two bars and a food court, while the County Enclosure has six fixed bars plus two restaurants. Picnics are allowed only in the Family Enclosure, where the Silver Patriarch Bar is located.

Ticket prices vary quite widely, depending on the event and Enclosure access selected. Four-day St. Leger Festival passes can run from £29 to £150. Packages for other fixtures, including something to eat and drink, start at just £9 per person in the Family Enclosure and range upwards to £23 for the Grandstand Essential Package or £40 for the Classic Insider with entry to the County Enclosure.

Published on: 11/08/2013

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