RETRO: The story of the man who gave Doncaster the St Leger

St Leger, Colonel

Doncaster
St Leger, Colonel Doncaster
0
Have your say

Few could have forecast that the death of a former Grimsby MP in April 1786 would have such a lasting impact on the history of Doncaster.

230 years ago today, Major-General Anthony St Leger died at the age of 55 - and the name itself is a huge clue to why a Member of Parliament for a Lincolnshire fishing port should be so esteemed round these parts.

Doncaster - Old Doncaster Racecourse area 1932 St Leger
PRINCE

Doncaster - Old Doncaster Racecourse area 1932 St Leger PRINCE

As if you hadn’t already guessed it, the military man was the founder of the St Leger, the world’s oldest classic horse race and an event which has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors to Doncaster over the course of the last two centuries.

Born in February 1731 at Grangemellon in Ireland, he was educated at Eton before embarking on a career in the British Army.

In 1761, St Leger married a Yorkshire woman, Margaret Wombwell and he took on the Park Hill estate in Firbeck, where he bred and raced horses.

Serving as MP for Grimsby from 1768-1774, it was two years after leaving the Commons, and with the assistance of Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2nd Marquess of Rockingham, that he established a two-mile race for 3-year-old horses, on Cantley Common following a meeting at the Red Lion.

The Royal party in the parade ring at the St Leger meeting of 1955. The Queen and Princess Anne (far right) take an interest in the parade of horses before the big race.

The Royal party in the parade ring at the St Leger meeting of 1955. The Queen and Princess Anne (far right) take an interest in the parade of horses before the big race.

The first winner in 1776 was Allabaculia and although St Leger only saw a handful more runnings of his race, it of course lives on, contested every September on Town Moor.

Over the years, the event has attracted royal patronage, with The Queen and other members of the Royal Family attending the yearly spectacular which is without doubt, still the biggest date on the town’s social calendar.

The oldest of Britain’s five Classics, some of the most famous names in racing have tasted success over the years with Lester Piggott, Frankie Dettori, Gordon Richards, Pat Eddery and Willie Carson among those who have won at Town Moor.

St Leger’s historic lasting legacy is one of which Doncaster can be rightly very proud.