£1.8m prize money at Leger fest

Legend: Lester Piggott
Legend: Lester Piggott
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THE Ladbrokes St. Leger Stakes – the 235th running of the world’s oldest Classic race on Saturday week - is the centre-piece of the prestigious four-day festival, which starts next Wednesday.

There are seven races each day, including a new Group 3 contest on Thursday.

Prize money of £1.8 million is up for grabs over four days of top-class action which showcases some of the most famous contests in British racing.

There’s a 2pm start to racing on Wednesday - Welcome to Yorkshire Day - while the action on both Thursday (DFS Ladies’ Day) and Friday (Stobart Doncaster Cup Day) gets underway at 1.25pm.

Ladbrokes St. Leger Day Saturday begins at 2pm. Accompanied children under 16 years of age are admitted free into all enclosures.

Racegoers are in for a treat on the opening day, when some of the most popular and successful jockeys from both codes of racing will don the silks one more time in the second renewal of the Leger Legends Classified Stakes over the straight mile in the third race on the programme and sponsored this year by Clipper Logistics.

The race is in aid of two Yorkshire-based charity projects - The Northern Racing College residential course facility at nearby Rossington Hall, and former trainer Jack Berry’s aspiration for a northern-based Injured Jockeys’ Fund rehabilitation facility for retired and disabled jockeys to be constructed in the Malton area.

In a star-studded line-up, there will be a true international flavour to this year’s race, with US-based Julie Krone – the world’s most successful female jockey and former French ace, Thierry Gillet, who won the 2004 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Bago competing against former champion jockeys and St Leger-winning riders who took part in last year’s race.

It is hoped that the legendary Lester Piggott will again be in attendance as he celebrates the 41st anniversary of the great Nijinsky winning the 1970 Leger – the last horse to win the coveted Triple Crown.

Sponsored for the seventh year by Ladbrokes, The St. Leger on Saturday boasts prize money of £500,000 and Doncaster’s flagship race – a Group 1 contest over one mile, six furlongs and 132 yards – is set to attract the best three-year-olds, as they compete in the final Classic of the season.

After their recent stunning victories at York, Sea Moon and Blue Bunting head the ante-post betting market for Doncaster’s most famous race.

Trained at Newmarket by Sir Michael Stoute for owner-breeder, Prince Khalid Abdulla, Sea Moon won the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York in fine style, while Blue Bunting – already with two Classics in the bag this season – the 1,000 Guineas and Irish Oaks (as well as the Yorkshire Oaks) will attempt to become the first filly to win the St. Leger since User Friendly in 1992.

Manchester United footballer Michael Owen has Brown Panther in the entries, while Newmarket trainer, John Gosden, who won last year’s race with Arctic Cosmos (his third success in the Leger), has three contenders – Masked Marvel, Buthelezi and Thimaar.

The opening day of the Festival, Wednesday, as well as featuring The Clipper Logistics Legends Classified Stakes, will also feature The Scarbrough Stakes (a Listed contest for sprinters over five furlongs), The Coopers Marquees Conditions Stakes, The Quattrovalli Luxury Wines Champions Handicap Stakes, The Arena Structures Nursery Handicap Stakes and The Napoleons Sheffield Conditions Stakes.

Style and glamour compliment the racing on Thursday’s ladies day with the star prize of a Mini for a year for the winner of Doncaster’s best dressed lady competition due to take place after the first race in the winners’ enclosure .

Further details: www.doncaster-racecourse.co.uk