St. Leger Festival Preview 

Each September, Doncaster’s St. Leger Festival takes centre stage in the world of thoroughbred racing for four days of top-notch competition and gala celebrations. The focal point of all the attention is the St. Leger Stakes, one of the world’s richest horse races, scheduled fifth each year among the five Classics. It’s a Group 1 flat race for three-year-old colts and fillies, which serves as the third and final leg of both the English Triple crown and the Fillies Triple crown.

In 2013, the Festival is once again sponsored by high street bookmaker ladbrokes, and it kicks off on Wednesday, 11 September with Leger Legends Day. In the feature event, the Leger Legends Charity Race, racing’s royalty returns to the track, as retired celebrities saddle up for one more spectacular ride. Previous editions of the race have included 13-time Irish Champion Jockey Mick Kinane and the USA’s Julie Krone, the most successful lady jockey of all time.

This year sees dual Grand National-winning jockey Carl Llewellyn take the saddle along with other stars of yesteryear. Since 2010, the event has supported some great causes and two Yorkshire-based charities will be the beneficiaries of this go-round: the Northern Racing College in Doncaster and the Jack Berry House, a rehabilitation facility for injured jockeys.

After seven full flat races on Day One, the second day of the festival turns its attention to the glitz, glamour and pageantry of DFS Ladies Day, one of biggest social occasions of the racing season. Doncaster racecourse becomes “style central” and the hunt will be on to find out who is the best-dressed in all of South Yorkshire. Those who purchase the £54.50 “Pink Package” for Thursday admission will be supporting Breast Cancer Care with a £1 donation, too.

Among the seven races featured on Day Two, the main event will be the £100,000 Group 2 DFS Park Hill Stakes for fillies and mares. It covers a distance of one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards on the left-handed turf of the Doncaster track. In 2012, the race was won by Wild Coco, a horse trained the legendary Sir Henry Cecil, who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Day Three is a tribute to British racing heritage named Doncaster Cup Day in honour of an event established in 1766. Indeed, the £100,000 Doncaster Cup is the oldest race still to exist under the Rules of Racing, a premier two-and-a-quarter mile contest for “long-distance” horses. It marks the final leg of the Stayers Triple Crown, following on from the Ascot Gold Cup in June and the Goodwood Cup in early August. It’s quite likely that Her Majesty the Queen will have an entry—the Ascot winner Estimate. Also on the Friday card are six other races, including a pair of Group 2 races for two-year-old horses: Polypipe Flying Childers Stakes and the Barrett Steel May Hill Stakes. Also being inaugurated this year is the new One Call Insurance Flying Scotsman Stakes, a seven-furlong sprint named in honour of a world-famous and iconic steam engine that served Doncaster from 1923.

On Saturday, the final day of racing, the last Classic of the Flat racing season will be conducted—the St. Leger Stakes. This year, the prize purse has been increased to a record £600,000 and a stunning field of the very best colts and fillies is expected to vie for the honours over the distance of one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards. It has been said that “the fastest horse wins the Guineas; the luckiest the Derby; and the best horse wins the St. Leger.”

The Festival’s closing day also features six additional races, including two Group 2 sprints over seven furlongs—the At the Races Champagne Stakes and the OLBG Park Stakes. There will be live music in the Grandstand Enclosure Exhibition Hall as well as the County Enclosure Champagne Lawn, which will host live music on Thursday and Friday, too.

Tickets for all fixtures are currently available online through the Doncaster Racecourse. Prices range from one-day Family Enclosure passes at just £7 and Grandstand seating at £26 to four-day Festival admission to the County Enclosure for £150.

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