Doncaster St Leger 2022 – What We Learned from This Year’s Trials

Deauville Legend cannot run in the 2022 Doncaster St Leger as he is a gelding
Deauville Legend cannot run in the 2022 Doncaster St Leger as he is a gelding

Horse racing punters and the bookies have witnessed most of the Doncaster St Leger trials take place now. The clear takeaway from those is the best staying three-year-old, Deauville Legend, cannot run in the final Classic of the season on Saturday, 10 September.

Some weeks ago, when the St Leger entries came out, many including our editor asked why. Deauville Legend had the cruellest cut of all as a juvenile, so has raced as a gelding this season. James Ferguson sends him off globetrotting now with the Melbourne Cup on the agenda Down Under this autumn.

Connections must do that because the Doncaster St Leger is for colts and fillies only. After all, the Classics are about ensuring the future of the thoroughbred. Young male horses can often improve for becoming geldings but a worrying trend is starting to emerge.

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More gelded winners of Doncaster St Leger trials

Classic trials are often about the destination beyond them rather than the journey and outcome of prep races themselves. The fact remains, however, that we are seeing an increasing number of geldings win or run well in them. Deauville Legend highlights that with his exploits this summer.

After suffering a narrow head defeat by Secret State in a Royal Ascot handicap, Ferguson’s charge went on to land the Bahrain Trophy during Newmarket’s July Festival. But for a combination of jockey Daniel Muscutt dropping his reins at a key stage and shouldering a 3lb penalty, Deauville Legend may have won the Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood too.

In completing the Bahrain Trophy and Great Voltigeur double at the premier meeting of York races, the Ebor Festival, he emulated Yibir from 12 months earlier. Two geldings in as many seasons making off with multiple wins in key Doncaster St Leger Trials doesn’t look good.

There is a bit of a Catch 22 here. Would Yibir or Deauville Legend have had the temperament to capture the Bahrain Trophy and Great Voltigeur Stakes as an entire? We shall never know. It’s easy with hindsight to muse about what if. There’s so much of that in horse racing, so let’s keep out of the rabbit hole.

News all about who isn’t going with Westover set for Arc bid

Westover is another not going for the 2022 Doncaster St Leger

Another horse we likely won’t see turning up on Town Moor in September, though, is runaway Irish Derby winner and King George flop Westover. Ralph Beckett’s Juddmonte colt is set for a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe despite his disappointing display at Ascot races when last in action.

As the oldest Classic, the Doncaster St Leger embodies tradition. That sense of history and prestige alone isn’t enough to lure horses to Yorkshire now. To borrow from the famous Oscar Wilde quote about knowing the price of everything and value of nothing, it does seem to come down to money. That is what the best horses go chasing, even at the expense of realistic targets.

The Leger is obviously the most valuable of Doncaster races today with almost £400,000 (£396,970 to be precise) going to the winner this year. Compare that with the Paris purse on Sunday, 2 October, it pales somewhat. Last season’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner came away with €2,857,000!

Finishing third in Europe’s richest horse race at current exchange rates pays around £85,000 more than winning the St Leger. Is it any wonder that powerful connections say to hell with tradition and go after the biggest pot available? Westover was favourite but no longer with his owners’ eyes on another prize at Longchamp.

2022 Doncaster St Leger Odds & Ante Post Probability of Winning

St Leger Horse Latest Odds Win Probability Bookmaker
NEW LONDON 6/4 40% BetUK logo
ELDAR ELDAROV 9/1 10% BetUK logo
HOO YA MAL 12/1 8% BetUK logo
SECRET STATE 12/1 8% BetUK logo
UNITED NATIONS 14/1 7% BetUK logo
ZECHARIAH 15/1 6% BetUK logo
BAR 15/1 6% BetUK logo

All odds correct as of 12:00 BST on Thursday, 18 August 2022.

Remaining Doncaster St Leger Contenders in Profile

Godolphin silksNew London

  • Trainer: Charlie Appleby
  • Owner: Godolphin
  • Sire: Dubawi
  • Dam: Bright Beacon
  • Official Rating: 112
  • Form: 1-1211
  • St Leger odds: 6/4 with BetUK

So, what are we left with? A couple of Godolphin colts whose form ties in closely with Deauville Legend to deal with first. All of the best UK betting sites cut New London into favourite for his arguably fortunate Gordon Stakes win. The weights gave Charlie Appleby’s charge the edge at the Glorious meeting.

New London wasn’t ready for the rigours of a spring Classic trial when thought of as an Epsom Derby contender. The ante post Doncaster St Leger favourite appears at a casual glance to have greater stamina in his pedigree, yet full brother Al Dabaran didn’t stay in three tries over 1m 5f and further.

Godolphin silks

Secret State

  • Trainer: Charlie Appleby
  • Owner: Godolphin
  • Sire: Dubawi
  • Dam: Jacqueline Quest
  • Official Rating: 107
  • Form: 211112
  • St Leger odds: 12/1 with BetUK

Defeat in the Great Voltigeur meant the bookies pushing Secret State out for the Leger. His York effort, even if Deauville Legend reversed Royal Ascot form with him off 4lb better terms for Secret State, wasn’t entirely devoid of promise.

William Buick did have to come wide after holding him up and he stayed on best of the rest. The question is whether or not Secret State simply passed tired horses? That’s the kind of judgment punters must make for themselves.


  • Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
  • Owner: Westerberg, Magnier, Tabor & Smith
  • Sire: Galileo
  • Dam: Lady Lara
  • Official Rating: 110
  • Form: 452-1151
  • St Leger odds: 13/2 with BetUK

Even if the bubble surrounding Aidan O’Brien hope Aikhal burst at York, stable companion Changingoftheguard beat the market leader at Chester races back in May. His front-running style is a concern as it’s even further to last home on Town Moor than around the undulations of Epsom Downs where he faded into fifth in The Derby.

Back on track at Royal Ascot with victory in the King Edward VII, the narrow runner-up Grand Alliance hasn’t exactly advertised the form with down the field finishes in the Gordon Stakes and Great Voltigeur. This Doncaster St Leger ante post betting poses plenty of problems for punters already.

Peter BrantFrancesco Clemente

  • Trainers: John and Thady Gosden
  • Owner: White Birch Farm
  • Sire: Dubawi
  • Dam: Justlookdontouch
  • Official Rating: 113
  • Form: 111
  • St Leger odds: 15/2 with BetUK

The unexposed and undefeated Francesco Clemente beat Secret State on the Rowley Mile in the Wood Ditton Stakes on debut back in April. He carries the White Birch Farm silks of powerful global owner Peter Brant but has been kept out of pattern races by trainer duo John and Thady Gosden.

Even if Francesco Clemente laughed at his opening mark in a handicap on the July course at Newmarket races scoring in facile fashion last time out, this is a still a huge step up in class. Connections could still run him in Goodwood’s Group 3 March Stakes on 27 August, but it is very close to the Doncaster St Leger date.

Aquis Farm silksZechariah

  • Trainers: Freddie and Martyn Meade
  • Owner: Aquis Farm & Manton Park
  • Sire: Nathaniel
  • Dam: Nancy O
  • Official Rating: 110
  • Form: 6811-64241
  • St Leger odds: 15/1 with BetUK

One horse we won’t see again before the final Classic is Zechariah. Freddie and Martyn Meade’s contender needs time between his races. They asked too much of Zechariah to back-up his narrow Royal Ascot second in the Queen’s Vase with a below par run in the Bahrain Trophy.

He bounced back in what turned out to be a very easy opportunity at Newbury races by defeating his elders in the Geoffrey Freer. Zechariah won’t be getting weight for age come the Doncaster St Leger race where it’s level pegging unless a filly turns up.

Khk Racing silksEldar Eldarov

  • Trainer: Roger Varian
  • Owner: KHK Racing
  • Sire: Dubawi
  • Dam: All At Sea
  • Official Rating: 109
  • Form: 1114
  • St Leger odds: 9/1 with BetUK

Eldar Eldarov just got up in the Queen’s Vase, denying Zechariah by a nose. The front three in that recognised Leger trial at Ascot were covered by little more than a neck. Eldar Eldarov also took a backwards step with a poor display in the Grand Prix de Paris over in France last time out.

A beaten favourite into fourth, either the drop back in trip or softer going at Longchamp didn’t suit this previously progressive Roger Varian colt. French Derby runner-up El Bodegon finished in front of Eldar Eldarov in third, then filled the same spot in the Great Voltigeur. That adds context to the form

Go Bloodstock silksHoo Ya Mal

  • Trainer: George Boughey
  • Owner: Go Bloodstock & Partners
  • Sire: Territories
  • Dam: Sensationally
  • Official Rating: 116
  • Form: 312-3223
  • St Leger odds: 12/1 with BetUK

Shock Epsom Derby runner-up Hoo Ya Mal ensured he would never be sent off at 150/1 for a race again with this effort. He has since changed owners and stables, joining up-and-coming trainer George Boughey for an autumn campaign abroad. All indications are new connections may take in the Doncaster St Leger en route.

Hoo Ya Mal wasn’t necessarily outstayed when third in the Gordon Stakes because jockey Ryan Moore dropped his whip approaching the final furlong. He is out of the same dam as the 2020 Summer Plate winner from Market Rasen races, Really Super. Stamina, from that side of Hoo Ya Mal’s pedigree at least, should be assured.

Analysis: Could be Worth Chancing Doncaster St Leger Outsider

SportsLens Horse Racing Editor Jamie Clark

A combination of disappointments, ineligibility of talented geldings and greater riches on offer elsewhere are hurting the final Classic of the year. As recently as 2017, proper champions like Crystal Ocean and Stradivarius were beaten on Town Moor by Capri. The decline of the St Leger seems to have only accelerated over the last five years.

Breeding experts highlight the recent successes of Juddmonte powerhouse Frankel as a sire in this race. Yet plenty of the main contenders this year have Godolphin’s Dubawi for a father. Pedigrees can always give punters clues, and horses need to stay for success in the Leger.

Another worrying thing about the Doncaster showpiece is that the best horses in the long run sometimes don’t seem to win it. King George hero and Westover conqueror Pyledriver was third in 2020, while Subjectivist – a subsequent Ascot Gold Cup winner – came seventh.

We haven’t always seen the best of St Leger winners after they tackle the stamina sapping test of an extended 1m 6f on Town Moor. In a year that on paper has thrown up some bang average types, I’m sticking with Emily Dickinson. She is a 20/1 shot with BetUK after an eye-catching third in the Lillie Langtry Stakes off an honest pace at Glorious Goodwood.

Yet another Doncaster St Leger entry by Dubawi, it’s the stamina from damsire Montjeu I’ll be banking on to see her hit the frame (and hopefully the front) by the time they’ve raced up the long home straight! Ratings can only tell us so much, and the best of the boys won’t be there with Deauville Legend gelded and Westover bound for the Arc.

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