Doncaster Course Guide

Race week 1 - Doncaster - 4th August - Highlights

Doncaster racecourse is one of the oldest established horse racing centres in Britain, and one of the largest in terms of capacity.
Doncaster hosts both Flat and National Hunt (Jumps) racing on its turf track throughout the year.
This Yorkshire track is home to one of the five British Classic races, the St Leger, which is the oldest Classic and the last to be run each year in September. There is a saying that goes:
"The fastest horse wins the Guineas; the luckiest the Derby - and the best horse wins the St Leger."

Location

The racecourse is only a mile away from Doncaster town centre and can be accessed via car or the shuttle service departing from Doncaster Interchange (railway station) that runs on race days. Leeds and Sheffield are just 30-minute train journeys from Doncaster, and you can easily travel from Manchester or London in under an 1hr 45m to visit this iconic racecourse.

History

Doncaster is steeped in history, with records of regular race meetings at the site as early as the 16th century, with 1614 being the year that the racecourse on Cantley Common was officially marked out and constructed.
In 1766 the Doncaster Gold Cup (now known as the Doncaster Cup) was first run, making it the oldest Gold Cup race in the world. In 1776 Anthony St Leger suggested that a 25 guineas sweepstake take place for 3-year-olds on Cantley Common. A year later, the first occasion of the race was run on the newly constructed Town Moor course, which is now the official site of Doncaster Racecourse. This race would become the St Leger, the oldest Classic and the final leg of the Triple Crown after the 2,000 Guineas and the Derby.
Racing ceased at Doncaster during the World Wars, and the St Leger was instead run at Newmarket. This wasn’t the first time the St Leger didn’t run at its home course, as in 1989 a collapsed drain forced the St Leger to be run at Ayr after it caused chaos during a race.
In 1965, the nearby Lincoln Racecourse was forced to close, and the famous Lincoln Handicap was transferred to Doncaster. The Lincoln Handicap runs in March/April every year and is seen as the Flat season curtain-raiser and a highlight of the year.
A momentous day for Doncaster was in 1992, when the first-ever Sunday race meeting to take place at a British racecourse was held at Doncaster and attracted a huge crowd of over 20,000 people.
Since Arena Racing Company acquired Doncaster Racecourse, the venue has seen a £34m redevelopment and has become a first-class facility for racing (both Flat and Jumps racing) and events in the UK.

The Track

The Track at Doncaster - Start positions for Racing League races on race week 1

Doncaster’s Flat racing track is left-handed (horses run anti-clockwise) with a pear-shaped round course and a straight course over a mile.
The 5f, 5½f, 6f, 6½f, 7f and 1m distances are run on the straight course, whilst the round course accommodates distances also over a mile (for the Lincoln Handicap), and over 1m2f, 1m4f, 1m6f, 2m, and 2m2f.
Doncaster is known as a fair track with few undulations and wide bends, suiting long-striding gallopers. The round course is almost flat except for a gradual climb and descent on the back straight around the one-mile post, known as Rose Hill. The round course joins the straight course for the final 4 furlongs to the finishing post.
The straight course over a mile is extremely flat providing excellent conditions for sprint races. The track is known for its great drainage which means turf conditions are rarely too soft/heavy and allows racing to continue throughout the year.

The Stats

Track records for the Racing League distances:

5f – 57.31s (2010)
6f – 1m 9.36s (2020)
7f – 1m 21.81s (2009)
1m (straight) – 1m 34.95s (2013)
1m (round) – 1m 34.46s (2009)
1m2f – 2m 4.81s (2007)
1m4f – 2m 27.48s (2011)

Most-Winning Racing League Flat Trainer at Doncaster:

Roger Varian

Most-Winning Flat Jockey at Doncaster:

Andrea Atzeni

Notable Fixtures

Doncaster has the distinction of both starting and ending the Flat season on turf, which begins in March/April and ends in November with two notable handicap races.

The Lincoln -

kickstarts the season in March/April, a big-field handicap over a mile on the round course, which is contested by horses aged four-years and older and is known to be a thrilling battle, usually won by outsiders.

The November Handicap -

takes place in early November and closes the Flat turf season. Like The Lincoln, the November Handicap was transferred to Doncaster from elsewhere, in this case, Manchester, and transferred to Doncaster after the course was closed. The November Handicap also produces big fields and outsider triumphs, with only 5 favourites winning the race in 30 years. Racing League Team 12’s John Gosden has a great relationship with the November Handicap and has won the race eight times.
Both The Lincoln and the November Handicap always attract strong and lively crowds to kick off and see off the Flat turf season, come rain or shine!

The St Leger Festival -

the highlight of Doncaster’s year is the St Leger Festival that takes place in September over four days, with the feature of the meeting, the Group One St Leger Stakes on the Saturday.
Another main event of the Festival is the Doncaster Cup, which takes place on the Friday, a Group Two long-distance race over 2m 2f, which is the final leg of the stayers’ (long-distance running horses) Triple Crown alongside the Ascot Gold Cup and the Goodwood Cup, and attracts the best stayers in Britain and Ireland year on year. Only 7 horses have claimed the stayer’s Triple Crown including two from modern day; Mark Johnston’s Double Trigger and John Gosden’s Stradivarius. After winning the Doncaster Cup in 1995 for the first time, Double Trigger went on to win the Cup another two times.
The St Leger Festival always promises and delivers top-class racing, huge crowds, great entertainment and hospitality, and a real buzz over four fabulous days.

Group 1 Pedigree

Doncaster hosts two out of Great Britain’s 36 Group One races, the St Leger Stakes and the Vertem Futurity Trophy (previously known as the Racing Post Trophy). The Vertem is the final Group One of the season in October, and is one of six Group Ones exclusively for two-year-old horses. The winners of the race in 2017, 2018 and 2019 all went on to win the three-year-old colts’ Classic race, the 2,000 Guineas the following year. In 2019, Doncaster had to abandon the race due to waterlogging and it was transferred to Newcastle, making it the first British Group One race to be run on an artificial surface. The race attracts the best horses, trainers, and jockeys from Great Britain and Ireland, and is certainly an event not to be missed!

Jumps Action

For National Hunt enthusiasts, Doncaster Racecourse has you covered with quality Jumps racing fixtures, taking place from late November to early March. A major highlight of the National Hunt calendar is the Sky Bet Chase which takes place every January and made headlines in 2018 when a greyhound decided to show its speed and join in with the race. The Grimthorpe Chase in late February/early March is another spectacle and is often seen as a trial for the Grand National in April.

Facilities

Doncaster Racecourse is a large venue with multiple enclosures and facilities to cater for all attendees. Spread across four enclosures, there is a host of restaurants, bars, food stalls, picnic areas, viewing terraces and lawns. Whether you are looking for a relaxed picnic with entertainment for children or a VIP experience with fine dining, Doncaster Racecourse has a variety of options to suit your needs.
To get a feel of the place, take a look at the racecourse map.
Racing League will be utilising free space inside and around the track to put on a real show, including food stalls, entertainment zone, fan-team interaction space and more.

Get Your Tickets

Race week 1 - Doncaster - 4th August - Highlights

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