Citizens of Doncaster flock to the renowned St Leger festival every September to celebrate one of the town’s longest-running pastimes. Horse racing culture in South Yorkshire is rich in both culture and history.
This article uncovers a brief chronology of Doncaster’s famous racing history, enjoyed and celebrated by thousands of people across the nation.
Racing in the 1600’s
Doncaster is amongst the oldest establishments for horse racing in the British Isles. History records races in the South Yorkshire mining town that date all the way back to the 16th Century.
Back then, amongst the sludge and torn-up turf; it was common for ruffians to attend the race meetings. This is why in 1600, a corporation set out to put a stop to the race meets.
This was until 1614 when an official racecourse was marked out and so followed one of the most culturally rich racing events in the world.
Doncaster wrote itself into the history books again during the race season of 1992. The racecourse staged its first-ever Sunday meeting, a first in British racing history.
This even saw a crowd of 23,000 people attend. Even without the option of betting at that event, it was still a huge success.
Doncaster racecourse has thrived ever since and remains one of the most popular racing meets in the world.
Established in 1766, the Doncaster Cup was the predecessor of the St. Leger Stakes. The venue’s longest surviving race is still widely celebrated today on the third day of the Leger festival’s four-day meeting.
The Doncaster Cup is one of Britain’s leading events for “stayers” – horses that specialise in racing over long distances.
St Leger Festival
Every September, people from across the UK are drawn to South Yorkshire to celebrate the four-day festival at the Doncaster racecourse.
The origins of the festival date back to a dinner party held at the Red Lion Inn, located in the heart of Doncaster’s marketplace. Conversations around the dinner table were aimed towards renaming the race to honour that year’s host, the 2nd Marquess of Rockingham.
However, the marquess insisted that the event commemorated Anthony St Leger; an army officer and politician living near Doncaster, yet had a hand in the division of the race meet.
The classic race took place at Cantley common before being moved to its current location at Town Moor.
In recent years, the Doncaster racecourse has accumulated around £34 million in refurbishments, making it one of the most prestigious racing facilities in the country.
At the heart of this new development is an impressive five-storey grandstand. The main stand includes stunning new private hospitality suites, a wide range of places to eat and drink, plus luxury dining experiences.
Each year there are dozens of famous faces that flock to the festival. Amongst the most notable, is former Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, who is said to own a private box in the grandstand.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the St. Leger festival to take place behind closed doors in 2020. With the UK transitioning back to normality; hopefully, we will see the return of the prestigious event that brings people together from all around the country for four days of celebration and tradition.
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