Sunday, August 18

GUEST POST: Consideration Of New Date for St. Leger

The St. Leger, the world’s oldest Classic race, could be on the move for next year’s event. However, the proposed changes will alter the time of year the event happens, not the location. The question of whether to move the race to September, before the children go back to school, was raised following the announcement that Ireland’s new Champions Weekend is scheduled to take place on 13th to 14th September in 2014, the same weekend as the St. Leger. 

The weekend will host five Group 1 races, some at Leopardstown on Saturday and some at the Curragh on Sunday. The two meetings will be grouped together and promoted as a package. Earlier this week, Brian Kavanagh, chief executive of Horse Racing Ireland, explained the new weekend with “Irish Champions Weekend opens up the opportunity for a new, exciting tri-nations series of autumn championships linking the top three racing nations of Europe, starting with Ireland’s weekend, followed by Arc weekend in Franc and British Champion’s Day at Ascot.” 

This may be the case, however it will require a lot of shuffling with the Irish horse racing calendar to fit the weekend in. This apparently was not an issue for the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), who had been consulted about the proposal beforehand. Speaking on behalf of the BHA, Robin Mounsey suggested “the races involved should be complementary to the British and French Pattern, and it is not seen as competing with the St. Leger, which as one of the Classics, has an assured position of importance in the Pattern.” 

Ladbrokes are sponsors of the St. Leger event and their spokesperson, Mike Dillon, did not share that view. He immediately identified various potential issues, and appeared to be very annoyed that he or Doncaster racecourse had been made aware of the proposal beforehand. Dillon said “There are all sorts of issues, the number one being the availability of jockeys. Then they are talking of ten Group races over the two days, which would affect races like the Park Stakes, Champagne Stakes and Doncaster Cup. When you have a Classic, the world’s oldest, as you did in 2012 with house full signs and a Triple Crown contender, it is surely common courtesy to keep us informed.” 

The current sponsorship deal between the St. Leger and Ladbrokes expires after the 2014 event. Dillon has made clear that all options were a possibility, including changing the date of the race. It seems as though the major bookmakers are very keen to extend their ties with the event. When considering an alternative date, Dillon acknowledged the difficulties that would arise, with the UK calendar featuring the Haydock Sprint Cup on the Saturday prior to the St. Leger and the Newbury Arc Trials day the following weekend. 

The St. Leger Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race, open to three-year old colts and follies. The race is a distance of 1 mile, six furlongs and 132 yards and until now, has always taken place in September.


 
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