The St. Leger Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain which is open to three-year-old thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run at Doncaster over a distance of 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 132 yards (2,937 metres), and it is scheduled to take place each year in September.
Established in 1776, the St. Leger is the oldest of Britain's five Classics. It is the last of the five to be run each year, and it is raced over a longer distance than any of the previous four.
The St. Leger is the final leg of the English Triple Crown, preceded by the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby. It also completes the Fillies' Triple Crown, which begins with the 1,000 Guineas and continues with the Oaks. In recent decades, however, the St. Leger has rarely featured a Triple Crown contender.
The event was devised by Anthony St. Leger, an army officer and politician who lived near to Doncaster. The race did not initially bear his name - it was first referred to as "A Sweepstake of 25 Guineas". It was restricted to horses aged three, and its original distance was two miles. The rules stipulated that colts were to carry 8 st, and fillies 7 st 12 lb. The inaugural running was held at Cantley Common on 24 September 1776. The first winner was an unnamed filly owned by the event's organizer, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham. The filly was later named Allabaculia.
The title "St. Leger Stakes" was decided at a dinner party held in 1777 to discuss the following year's race. It was suggested that it should be named in honor of the host, the Marquess of Rockingham (the "Rockingham Stakes"), but the Marquess proposed that it should be named instead after Anthony St. Leger. The event was moved to its present location, Town Moor, in 1778.
The race came to national prominence in 1800, when a horse called Champion registered the first Derby-St. Leger double. Its distance was cut to 1 mile, 6 furlongs and 193 yards in 1813, and despite some minor alterations its length has remained much the same ever since. The victory of West Australian in 1853 completed the first ever success in the Triple Crown.
During World War I the race was transferred to Newmarket, and the substitute event was called the "September Stakes". The 1939 edition was cancelled because of the outbreak of World War II. For the remainder of this period it was temporarily held at Thirsk (1940), Manchester (1941), Newmarket (1942-44) and York (1945). It was switched to Ayr in 1989 - the scheduled running at Doncaster was abandoned due to subsidence. The 2006 race took place at York because its regular venue was closed for redevelopment.
The St. Leger Stakes has inspired a number of similar events around the world, although many of these are no longer restricted to three-year-olds. National variations include the Prix Royal-Oak, the Irish St. Leger, the Deutsches St. Leger and the St. Leger Italiano.
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