Held in late October each year, the Armed Forces Day Meeting is the final day of the flat racing season at Newbury Racecourse. All active members of the Armed Forces receive free admission for a full afternoon of racing along with a number of exciting recreational activities, such as a military band, a freefall display, laser and paintball ranges and an assault course, to name but a few.
One of the main events of the day is the Group 3 St. Simon Stakes. It appears third on the card after the mile-long EBF Maiden Stakes and the seven-furlong Group 3 Horris Hill Stakes. There are also two handicap events and two other conditions races, including a seven-furlong Listed race called the Radley Stakes.
The £65,000 St. Simon Stakes takes place on the left-handed turf of the Newbury track, covering a distance of one mile, four furlongs and five yards. Entry is open to Thoroughbreds aged three years old and upwards, with the exception of previous winners of Group 1 races at age three years or older.
Each of the youngest runners carries a weight of eight stone ten pounds, while those aged four years and up must bear nine-stone-three. There is an allowance of three pounds for fillies and mares, and penalties are applied to previous Group 2 and Group 3 winners since 28th February, amounting to six pounds and three pounds, respectively.
Inaugurated in 1969, the St. Simon Stakes is named after a 19th century brown stallion that went undefeated in nine starts. His victories included the 1881 editions of the Ascot Gold Cup, the Goodwood Cup and the Epsom Gold Cup. This event has been accorded Group 3 status ever since race grading began in 1971.
The earliest sponsor of this race was Castrol in 1992-94. It became known as the Perpetual Stakes in 1995~2000, and then the Levy Board took the title spot, followed by Electricity Direct. In 2003, the Tote served as the primary backer, and the Stan James assumed the role in 2004-06. Most recently, Weatherbys, intercasino.co.uk and Totesport.com have each been sponsors, although none other that the Newbury Racecourse has been announced for 2011.
Of the many great horse to compete in the St. Simon Stakes, only one has managed to achieve a double victory here. That honour goes to the 1983 winner, four-year-old Jupiter Island, who returned in 1986 to claim a second win at age seven—older than any other victor in the history of the event.
Three different jockeys have ridden three winners apiece in the St. Simon Stakes. Brian Taylor got his triumphs aboard Frascati in 1971, Ballyhot in 1973 and Obraztsovy in 1978. He was followed by Pat Eddery, whose wins came atop Main Reef in 1979, Dark Moondancer in 1998 and Signorina Cattiva in 1999. The latest rider to join them is Michael Hills with victories on Further Flight in 1991, Persian Brave in 1994 and High Heeled in 2009.
Only one trainer has been able to gather four wins in the St. Simon Stakes. That honour goes to Main Reef’s trainer Henry Cecil, whose successes also include Upend in 1988, Wellbeing in 2000 and High Pitched in 2001. Trailing Cecil is Sir Michael Stout with three victories here: Shardari in 1985, Lake Erie in 1987 and, after a lengthy hiatus, Short Skirt in 2006.
Those looking for betting tips at the St. Simon Stakes might want to pass the older entries by. With the exception of Jupiter Island, the only horse to succeed here at age six or above was The Whistling Teal, aged six when reaching the finish post first in 2002. Since the turn of the new millennium, there have been five three-year-olds, three four-year-olds and two five-year-olds claim victory.
As for the bookmakers, they were correct on three occasions in the first decade of the 21st century. They had Wellbeing right at 4/7 and predicted Day Flight’s win at 3/1 as the joint favourite in 2005. Another successful forecast as a joint pick was High Heeled winning at odds of 4/1. The only double-digit treat in recent years was Orcadian in 2004, when the bay gelding tore up the heavy turf to win by an astounding 15 lengths and pay 33/1.