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Doncaster News and Features: History of the Doncaster Grand St Leger Stakes
The Doncaster Grand St. Leger Stakes is the oldest and original British Classic Horse Race. It's the last leg of the Triple Crown for both three-year-old colts and fillies and is set over a series of five flat races.
Held here in Doncaster, England every September, the St. Leger Stakes commenced in 1776. Initially they were at the two-mile track in Cantley Common. Then in 1779 they moved to Doncaster Racecourse on Town Moor.
Anthony St. Leger, a former Grimsby MP, army officer and former governor of St. Lucia, who lived nearby devised the race, although it was first staged in 1776, 1778 was when it adopted his name.
Another idea was to call it the Rockingham Stakes after its initial winner. However, the race organizer, the second Marques of Rockingham, Charles Watson-Wentworth, insisted the races should be named after his friend, St. Leger, who first suggested the race. The Rockingham name lives on in local pub The Rockingham Arms.
A year later St Leger re-entered the army as Colonel of the 86th Regiment of Foot, eventually achieving the rank of Brigadier General, before serving a period as the Governor of Saint Lucia. Later he was posted to Ireland, where he became Major General. He died on 19 April 1786 and was buried in Saint Anne's Church, Dublin.
In over 230 years, only the outbreak of World War II stopped it taking place, so 1939 didn't happen. In 1940, the race was held at Thirsk, and then moved to Manchester in 1941, stayed in Newmarket for three years (1942 to 1944) before moving to York in 1945.
From 1915 to 1918, the race was also held in Newmarket and was known briefly as the September Stakes. In 2006, the race was also held in York when Doncaster Racecourse was undergoing a £55m renovation.
Aside from the St. Leger Stakes, the other Classics are the Epsom Derby, Epsom Oaks, One Thousand Guineas, and Two Thousand Guineas.
Every Winner of the Doncaster St Leger since 1776 is listed here.
Current Distance: 1 mile 6 furlongs 127 yards
Age: 3 year olds of both sexes, excluding Geldings
Weight: Colts 9 stone, Fillies 8st 11lb
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