Eldar Eldarov, St Leger Stakes, horse racing
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St Leger: A look at the numbers from the last 30 years

| 14.09.2023

The fifth and final Classic of the British Flat racing season – the St Leger Stakes – takes place at Doncaster on Saturday.

Established in 1776 and run over a distance of one mile, six furlongs and 115 yards, it is the oldest and longest of the five Classics.

The Doncaster showpiece is also the concluding leg of the English Triple Crown, after Newmarket’s 2000 Guineas and Epsom’s Derby.

We have studied each of the 292 participants from the last 30 races to identify the key predictors of success in the St Leger.

How do St Leger favourites perform?

The shortest-priced horse in the St Leger betting has generally performed well, with 15 out of 32 favourites or joint-favourites riding to victory since 1993.

With a further 11 finishing second or third, only six favourites in the last 30 years have failed to return on an each-way bet.

This trend shows few signs of abating, with New London having finished as runner-up at 11/8 in 2022 and Hurricane Lane having topped the rostrum at 8/11 in 2021.

St Leger favourites, horse racing

However, there is scope for shopping around as the second and third favourites have traditionally struggled to differentiate themselves from the rest of the field.

Nine of the past 30 races have been won by horses priced outside the pre-race top three, with the most recent being Harbour Law’s triumph at 22/1 in 2016.

Which jockey has the best record?

The retiring Frankie Dettori is hoping to make it three Classic wins in his final year in racing, following victories in the 2000 Guineas aboard Chaldean and the Epsom Oaks on Soul Sister.

The charismatic Italian has a good record at Doncaster and is arguably the standout jockey among recent participants, with six St Leger winners to his name.

That said, with just three further top-three finishes in 20 starts, his rate of standing on the podium (45 per cent) is not as high as some of his rivals.

St Leger jockeys, horse racing

Three-time winner William Buick has a total of five podium finishes in nine attempts, while Dettori’s fellow Italian Andrea Atzeni has only twice failed to make the top three in six starts.

Despite failing to register a victory, Ireland’s Wayne Lordan has the best record of placing in the St Leger, with a runner-up and two third-place showings from his four starts.

Who is the most successful trainer?

Newmarket trainer Roger Varian has the highest podium percentage among his peers, with two wins – Kingston Hill in 2014 and Eldar Eldarov in 2022 – from just three entries.

St Leger trainers, horse racing

Aidan O’Brien has the most victories to his name (six), ahead of his long-time rival John Gosden on five. The experienced pair could once again go head-to-head for top spot this year, with O’Brien’s Savethelastdance one of the leading contenders along with Gosden’s Gregory, who he has trained alongside his son Thady.

How much does performance in the other Classics matter?

In the last 30 years, 13 horses have finished first, second or third in the St Leger having also done so at one of the other Classics earlier in the year.

2012 runner-up Camelot – who came agonisingly close to completing the rarely seen English Triple Crown – was the only one of these who arrived in Doncaster with two previous podiums, having won the 2000 Guineas and the Derby.

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A quick glance at the list suggests that the Derby serves as best preparation for the St Leger, with 10 of the 13 aforementioned horses having finished in the top three at Epsom’s marquee race. This includes the winner and the runner-up in 2021, with Hurricane Lane and Mojo Star having come third and second in the Derby that June.

However, with none of this year’s Derby top three due to run, it is left to Oaks runner-up Savethelastdance to achieve a rare double instead.

Which are the main trial races?

There are several races that tend to act as a useful guide for performance in the St Leger, which – at close to two miles – is comfortably the longest of the five Classics.

Goodwood’s Gordon Stakes and York’s Great Voltigeur Stakes have proved the most reliable predictors, with 11 winners of each race since 1993 going on to finish in the top three in Doncaster.

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Newmarket’s Bahrain Trophy – won by Charlie Appleby-trained Castle Way this year – is also a useful barometer as it is run over a mile and five furlongs, just short of the St Leger distance.

Meanwhile, last year’s St Leger champion Eldar Eldarov warmed up by winning Ascot’s Queen’s Vase in June, following in the footsteps of Leading Light in 2013 and Kew Gardens in 2018. Winners of the Vase have gone on to finish on the podium five times in the last decade, hence why Frankie Dettori rode and won the race earlier this year aboard Gregory.

While 2022 Epsom Derby champion Desert Crown has not been entered into the St Leger Stakes, Hoo Ya Mal – who crossed the line second – is in the running.

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Andrew McDermott

Andrew is a sports betting content journalist at PA Media. He is a lifelong Huddersfield Town fan but when he isn't reminiscing about their Premier League days he is also a junior cricket coach and enjoys cycling.