Many horse racing experts and enthusiasts like to call Doncaster ‘the cradle of modern horse racing’. Even though several cities have a claim to this prestigious title, it’s quite logical to pick Doncaster above all other contenders. Initially, the city didn’t have an overwhelming interest in this sport, but everything changed when the stagecoach trade became centered in this Yorkshire town.
Horse breeding led to horse races, which soon became a lucrative industry for the entire region. All that history and heritage are exemplified in the Doncaster Racecourse, a piece of horse racing history that withstood the test of time. Two cups dominate the modern English (and global) scene, but there is more history in them than you might initially think. In this article, we’re taking a trip down memory lane, as delve into the intricacies of the Town Moor course.
From Obscurity to Legality
Even though the current arena isn’t ancient by any means, horse racing in this part of Doncaster predates any and all buildings. There are records of regular races behind held, with some writings dating back to the first half of the 16th century. An important piece of historical evidence is also an official map from 1595, which shows that a racecourse had been erected at Town Moor.
By 1600, the local authorities tried to put a stop to horse racing due to the overwhelming number of violent incidents. Despite their best efforts, scores of people gathered to watch illegal races in the area, prompting the officials to publicly admit failure in 1614. The same year, the Doncaster Racecourse was officially named and marked out.
Because of its rich heritage, the Racecourse has the privilege of hosting the Doncaster Cup and the St Leger Stakes, the oldest horse races on the planet:
The Doncaster Cup
Open to horses three-year-old or older, the Doncaster Cup takes place over a 2.23 miles (3,600 meters). Every September, it becomes the meeting place for all horses that specialize in long-distance racing, also known as ‘stayers’. The event is a part of the Stayers’ Triple Crown, together with the Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup.
While most experts consider it to be a niche event, the Doncaster Cup still attracts large crowds due to it taking place during the St. Leger Festival, on its third day. It’s also one of the most-watched flat races during the season.
The first recorded race in this competition took place in 1766 at Cantley Common, before being moved to its current location ten years later. Initially, the length of the race was 4, but it went through several changes before the current length was established in 1971. Since 2003, the Doncaster Cup is officially a Group 2 race, with aspirations to reach the highest echelon.
Of course, the most successful horse on the course is the legendary Beeswing, with Henry Cecil and Cecil Boyd-Rochfort being the most notable trainers with 7 wins each. Stradivarius is the last winner, posting the worst time since Honolulu’s 4:03:40 showing in 2008.
St Leger Stakes
Just ten years younger than its older brother, The St Leger Stakes is the oldest and most renowned of Britain’s five Classics, with 2,000 Guineas Stakes, 1,000 Guineas Stakes, Epsom Oaks, and Epsom Derby being the other four. As the final leg of the famed quintuple crown, The St Lager is one of the more unpredictable races throughout the flat racing season.
Anthony St Leger, a politician and army officer who lived in the region, wanted to create a gathering of the best horse racing talent in the country. Currently, the race’s length is 1m 6f 115y and has only been changed a few times, cutting down on the initial two-mile length. Since 1906, the event has been officially closed for geldings.
Believe it or not, there aren’t many particularly successful horses for this race, as it is rarely an important factor in establishing a triple crown season. Only Camelot had its trifecta on the line at St Leger, in 2012, and failed to take it home due to a second-place finish. When it comes to jockeys, this Doncaster Racecourse event is best known for the success of Bill Scott and his nine wins from 1821 to 1846. John Scott coached a total of 16 winners, all in a span of 35 years.
Due to the overall cultural significance of this classic, the English basically consider it one of the most important signs of summer’s end. In fact, the St Leger is so important that it even became a part of a saying in finance – ‘sell in May and go away, come back on St Leger Day’, meaning that an investor must be patient if he or she wishes to reap the fruits of a particular investment.