St Leger

The St Leger Stakes is the oldest and the last of the five Classic races to be run in Britain each season.

It has a rich history dating back to 1776 and once held greater significance as the final leg of the Triple Crown after the 2000 Guineas and Epsom Derby.

Nijinsky (1970) was the last horse to win all three races.

Her Majesty The Queen famously won the St Leger with the filly Dunfermline in 1977 while other notable winners include Never Say Die (1954), Oh So Sharp (1985) and Reference Point (1987).

St Leger

The Race

The St Leger takes place at Doncaster racecourse in September over one and three-quarter miles.

The going can ride soft this late in the season so the emphasis is on stamina.

It is a much stiffer test than the mile and a half Epsom Derby and is more suited to future Gold Cup horses.

Famous St Leger Winners & History

The St Leger Stakes was created as the first British Classic in 1776 and the first Derby winner to succeed here was Champion in 1800.

The distance was cut from two miles to a mile and three-quarters in 1813 with West Australian completing the English Triple Crown in 1853.

Rather like the Derby, it has leant its name to other Classic races around the world including the Irish St Leger and the St Leger Italiano.

Other Triple Crown winners include Ormonde (1886), Flying Fox (1899) and Gainsborough (1918).

Nijinsky became the fifteenth horse to win the Triple Crown in 1970 but the breeding industry has put the emphasis on speed over stamina in modern times.

The last horse to attempt the Triple Crown was Aidan O’Brien’s Camelot in 2012 but he was agonisingly beaten by Encke.

The St Leger Stakes is also the final leg of the Fillies’ Triple Crown after the 1000 Guineas and Epsom Oaks. Nine fillies have won all three races, the last of which was Sir Henry Cecil’s Oh So Sharp in 1985. Other notable winners of the fillies’ Triple Crown include Sceptre (1902), Pretty Polly (1904) and Sun Chariot (1942).

Derby winner Never Say Die won by a record margin of 12 lengths in 1954. The colt had been the first American-bred winner of the Epsom Classic when ridden to a 33-1 success by eighteen-year-old Lester Piggott. A lengthy ban incurred at Royal Ascot meant that Piggott was replaced by Charlie Smirke at Doncaster.

Piggott rode a total of eight St Leger winners and thirty British Classics. His last St Leger win came aboard Commanche Run for Luca Cumani in 1984. It was his 28th Classic which set a new record and only came about after he had replaced stable jockey Darrell McHargue.

Key St Leger Trials

The Great Voltigeur Stakes at York’s Ebor Festival is the most significant St Leger trial. Eight of the last eighteen winners took part in that race. Rule Of Law (2004), Lucarno (2007) and Logician (2019) won both races.

The Gordon Stakes at Goodwood has also produced St Leger winners including Millenary (2000), Sixties Icon (2006) and Conduit (2008).

St Leger Betting Trends

Favourites have a mixed recent record in the St Leger with four winners in the past twelve renewals. Logician (2019) returned odds-on at 5-6 while Leading Light (2013), Kingston Hill (2014) and Capri (2017) were all market leaders.

There have also been some shock results here, notably when 25-1 shot Encke thwarted Camelot’s Triple Crown bid in 2012. Harbour Law (2016) was a 22-1 outsider when winning for Laura Mongan and George Baker.

Ability to stay the distance is often an unknown factor here so shock results are always a possibility.

St Leger Stats

  • Stamina is the key factor for the St Leger Stakes and thirteen of the last eighteen winners had winning form over eleven furlongs or further.
  • Over half had never raced at this trip, although there are relatively few suitable trials.
  • Almost all had finished in the first three on their latest outing with around half of them winning.
  • All bar four of those eighteen had won a Group race.
  • An official rating of 109 or higher is typically required to win this race.

Top Trainers and Jockeys of the St Leger Stakes

Bill Scott saddled a remarkable 16 St Leger winners between 1827 and 1862.

In the modern era, Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden have been the trainers to follow with six and five winners respectively.

Gosden won it for the first time with Shantou (1996) and has since struck with Lucarno (2007), Arctic Cosmos (2010), Masked Marvel (2011) and Logician (2019).

Logician was the latest of six winning St Leger rides for Frankie Dettori. They include Conduit (2008) who finally provided Sir Michael Stoute with a victory in the Doncaster Classic.

Stoute’s beaten runners here include Shergar in 1981 who failed to stay the trip when fourth to 28-1 shot Cut Above.

Betting on the St Leger 2021

Ante-post betting on the St Leger Stakes is available all year round but only really hots up after the Epsom Derby in June.

Trainers are often reluctant to commit to the season’s final Classic with more tempting opportunities over shorter distances. The picture becomes clearer after the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York. The St Leger is one race where some knowledge of pedigree is helpful as very few of the runners will have form over the distance.

Bookmakers usually have some tempting offers for new customers on the St Leger. They can sometimes offer the favourite at a special price for a limited stake. Existing customers can usually get enhanced place terms and best odds if there are 8 or more runners.

If you are looking to bet online we recommend the following great deals:

Summary of The St Leger Stakes

The St Leger may have lost some of its gloss in terms of its appeal to breeders but it remains one of the highlights of the flat racing season.

While the Derby winner is unlikely to feature, there are always some exciting staying prospects who go on to feature in the Cup races.

Stradivarius finished a close third in his Classic year before going on to dominate the staying division with three successive Ascot Gold Cups.