Doncaster has long been established as one of the oldest horseracing centres in Britain, with records of race meetings dating back to the 16th century.
The historic Yorkshire course on Town Moor caters for both Flat and jump racing and hosts two of Britain’s 36 annual Group 1 races on the Flat, the William Hill St Leger Stakes and the Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes.
Doncaster hosts the first and last turf meeting of the season, starting with the Lincoln meeting in late March or early April and closing with the November Handicap meeting. Doncaster used to be considered the official start and end of the Flat season, but the official Flat season now starts at the Guineas Festival at Newmarket and finishes on British Champions Day at Ascot.
Jump racing fills the remainder of the calendar, ensuring the course races all year round.
William Hill St Leger Stakes
Doncaster hosts its feature event, the four-day William Hill St Leger Festival, every September. The highlight is the St Leger, the oldest Classic race in the world, which was first staged in 1776. Held over a distance of one mile, six and a half furlongs, it is the last of the season’s five Classic races in Britain and the final leg of the British Triple Crown, following the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby. The last horse to win all three races was Nijinsky in 1970. The St Leger has inspired a number of similar events around the world, although many are no longer restricted to three-year-olds. European variations include the Irish St Leger, the Prix Royal-Oak, the Deutsches St Leger and the St Leger Italiano.
Betway Lincoln Handicap
The Lincoln Handicap is the feature event on the first Saturday of Britain’s Flat racing season on turf. It usually takes place a couple of weeks before the Grand National and in traditional betting parlance the two races form the ‘spring double’. William Haggas is the joint-leading trainer in this event with four wins.
The earliest important race in Doncaster’s history was the Doncaster Gold Cup, first run over Cantley Common in 1766. It is the oldest continuing regulated horse race in the world. Together with the Goodwood Cup and the Ascot Gold Cup, the Doncaster Cup is one of the most important races for long-distance horses in Britain. The three races make up the stayers’ triple crown.
Vertem Futurity Trophy Stakes
The Futurity Trophy Stakes is the final Group 1 race of the year in Britain and is open to two-year-old colts and fillies. Five winners have subsequently won the Derby the following year. The most recent was Camelot in 2011-12. Sir Henry Cecil won this race an unprecedented ten times, with his first win coming in 1969, 24 years before his last.
Doncaster plays host to some top-quality jump racing over the winter. The course holds five Grade 2 races and two prestigious handicaps over hurdles and fences, including the Great Yorkshire Chase which was first run in 1948.
Trivia: The St Leger was devised by Anthony St Leger, an army officer and politician who lived near Doncaster. It was initially referred to as ‘A Sweepstake of 25 Guineas’ and was run over a distance of two miles.