Doncaster Cup Date is Friday, 11 September 2021 (New Time - 3:15)
Type: Group 2 Weight For Age Flat Stakes Races
Age Of The Horses: 3 Years Old And Older
Distance: 2 Miles 1 Furlong 179 Yards
Winner 2019: Stradivarius
There is one horse race run during the St Leger Festival at Doncaster that is even older than the St Leger Stakes itself, and that is the Doncaster Cup – a true test of Flat thoroughbred stamina. Contested over about two-and-a-quarter miles and first run in 1766, it was originally held over an even longer distance of four miles. From 1891 to 1907 and 1927 to the present day, the Doncaster Cup had and has its current trip.
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2020 Doncaster Cup Info
Promoted to Group 2 status in 2003, the race is part of the Flat Stayers’ Triple Crown acting as the third and final leg after the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot and Goodwood Cup. Although open to three-year-olds and above, the Doncaster Cup has rarely been won by such horses in modern times. Thoroughbreds of that age are more likely to go in the St Leger than this.
While the race has suffered in recent years to its proximity to other staying races like the Lonsdale Cup at York and Irish St Leger (which is not age restricted like the English equivalent), there is still a rich history attached to the Doncaster Cup. It has been used a stepping stone by racehorses to the Melbourne Cup in Australia, which is one of the most valuable handicaps run anywhere in the world. Great stayers such as Le Moss, Andross, Further Flight, Double Trigger and Stradivarius have all landed the Doncaster Cup in modern times.
2020 Doncaster Cup
A total of 10 horses have been entered in the Doncaster Cup in 2020. Final declarations happen 48 hours before the race, but these are looking to add their names to the roll of honour:
- Eagles By Day (David O’Meara)
- Island Brave (Heather Main)
- Nayef Road (Mark Johnston)
- Red Verdon (Ed Dunlop)
- Selino (James Fanshawe)*
- Sleeping Lion (James Fanshawe)*
- Spanish Mission (Andrew Balding)
- The Grand Visir (Ian Williams)
- Revolver (Sir Mark Prescott)
- Believe In Love (Roger Varian)**
*Holds an entry in the Mallard Handicap on the same card.
**3yo filly also holds an entry in the Group 2 Park Hill Stakes 24 hours beforehand.
Doncaster Cup betting odds will only become available during the week of the St Leger Festival when entries close and there is a clearer idea of which horses will run. Expect a relatively small field to be declared. If you make an ante post bet before final decs are known, then be aware that – although you may get better odds – you may not get a run for your money.
It is one of the things you as a bettor have to make a decision about. Risk backing a non-runner for bigger prices, or wait until the field is finalised. There are pros and cons to both approaches. Read on and see some of the potential fancies for the race who may get entered in the Doncaster Cup by their connections this year:
St Leger third Nayef Road could capitalise on the absence of Stradivarius for trainer Mark Johnston after twice chasing the champion stayer home at Group 1 level. As the four-year-old Galileo colt represents a yard which likes to have runners in the Doncaster Cup, this could be an autumn target for him. The winner of the Group 3 Gordon Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, he left a poor effort in the Great Voltigeur at York behind him when placing on Town Moor in the final Classic of last season.
Nayef Road was on the go for nine starts aged three, so the benefits of a lighter campaign this term are obvious. He relished the step up to two miles when landing the Group 3 Sagaro Stakes on reappearance. That Ascot Gold Cup trial was switched to Newcastle, but Nayef Road still kept on strongly after leading going easily two out. Although no match for Stradivarius at the Royal meeting, he was still better than everyone else.
Nayef Road was nine lengths closer to Stradivarius at Goodwood than Ascot. Despite a below par third in the Lonsdale Cup at York, his claims of Doncaster Cup glory are obvious. It would come as no surprise, then, to see Nayef Road bounce back and land a first Group 2 at the fifth attempt.
The Dunlop family are no strangers to Doncaster Cup success, so Red Verdon who has taken his form to a new level after being rejuvenated this season is of interest. The seven-year-old Lemon Drop Kid gelding has a fine record of two wins and two seconds from four career starts at Town Moor. As well as nine victories from 35 career starts, Red Verdon has also placed on 10 other occasions running some massive races in defeat.
See his second to Crystal Ocean in the 2018 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot for evidence of that. Red Verdon won a Group 3 at York last season, but has looked as good as ever in landed consecutive black type races this summer. You can question the form of his Listed success in the Grand Cup at Doncaster, but he followed-up with a first Group 2 success. That came in the Prix Maurice de Nieuil at Longchamp where he beat three of France’s best stayers on their side of the Channel.
Dunlop skipped the Ebor Handicap at York for a crack at other French races. It is clear based on his fourth place in the Grand Prix de Deauville over an extended 1m 4f that, now he’s an older horse, Red Verdon appreciates greater tests of stamina. After being very cleverly campaign by and large this season, he looks sure to go well now returning to Doncaster and back up in trip for this test.
Despite a speedier pedigree than most stayers, Spanish Mission has run creditably in two career starts over two miles for trainer David Simcock. Last season’s big target for the four-year-old Noble Mission colt was the Jockey Club Derby Invitational across the Atlantic at Belmont Park in the USA. Spanish Mission needed every yard of the mile-and-a-half trip to get up and win by a nose. After swerving the soft ground at Royal Ascot, he made a belated return to Britain in the Henry II Stakes.
Beaten just over a length behind Dashing Willoughby, Spanish Mission admittedly found the Goodwood Cup tougher. Horses of the calibre of Stradivarius won’t contest the Doncaster Cup, however, and three-year-olds are far more likely to run in the St Leger the following day. If connections so wish to avoid more lauded and proven stayers, then this may be just the race for Spanish Mission.
On his day, he has beaten Nayef Road in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket last July. A sound surface to race on appears to be the key to Spanish Mission, however, so don’t expect to see him out if there is cut in the ground. He needed three runs before winning last season; so, now he has had a couple of outings to bring his fitness on, he may be seen to best effect when next in action.
He has since switched stables and joined Andrew Badling, winning a Listed contest on debut for his new trainer at Chester. That proved he retains plenty of ability. On his day, Spanish Mission has beaten Nayef Road in the Group 3 Bahrain Trophy at Newmarket last July. A sound surface to race on appears to be the key to Spanish Mission, however, so don’t expect to see him out if there is cut in the ground. He needed runs before a victory last season and did so again this term. Now that Spanish Mission has regained the winning thread, he should go well.
Dashing Willoughby – not running
Trainer Andrew Balding saddled last year’s Doncaster Cup runner-up Cleonte and father Ian won the race twice. In Dashing Willoughby, he has a four-year-old Nathaniel gelding that won the Queen’s Vase last term and both of his starts this season. He found good to firm ground against him when seventh in the St Leger on Town Moor, but the race was run in unseasonably firm conditions for a British autumn.
Dashing Willoughby has since proven he can handle a sounder surface with victory on his return to action in the Listed 1m 4f Buckhounds Stakes at Newmarket. He made all and was always doing enough to hold Secret Advisor by a length. The way that Dashing Willoughby shaped in his races towards the end of last season raised questions about his stamina, but he has since proven he gets two miles by following-up in the Group 3 Henry II Stakes at Sandown.
Despite racing freely, Dashing Willoughby chased the leaders and was going easily, making smooth headway to lead approaching the two-furlong marker. Even though he hung right and wandered around, he was always doing enough to hold Spanish Mission by 1¼ lengths. The front two pulled 11 lengths clear of 2018 Melbourne Cup hero Cross Counter in third, while the fourth home Withhold has since scored at Listed level. Dashing Willoughby is a clear contender on that form.
The Doncaster Cup Stats & Trends
The Doncaster Cup is like any other horse race of note in that there are statistics and trends relating to it which may be of use to you when deciding who to back. Stats give no guarantees when it comes to picking the winner but, if you bear the following in mind, you can at least make informed choices:
- Most successful horse – Beeswing won a record four renewals of the Doncaster Cup back in 1837, 1840, 1841 and 1842. In modern times, Double Trigger has the best record after landing the race three times (1995, 1996 and 1998) for Mark Johnston.
- Leading jockey – Joe Mercer scored eight Doncaster Cup victories from the saddle thanks to Nick La Rocca (1953 dead heat), Grey Of Falloden (1964), The Accuser (1968), Biskrah (1972), Sea Anchor (1976), Buckskin (1978) and Le Moss (1979 and 1980). The active jockeys to follow, meanwhile, are Frankie Dettori and Ryan Moore who have four wins in this race each.
- Leading trainer – Cecil Boyd-Rochfort shares the record with the late Sir Henry Cecil which each handler saddling seven winners of the Doncaster Cup. The former’s victories came across 29 years of training. Cecil’s successes including Buckskin, Le Moss and Andross (1982) came in 19-year period between 1978 and 1997.
- Leading owners – William Orde and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II have both owned the Doncaster Cup winner five times. Orde also had Tomboy (1834) to add to the four successes for Beeswing. The Queen, meanwhile, owned Atlas (1956), Agreement (1958 and 1959), Magna Carta (1970) and Estimate (2014).
- Age – All but two of the last 10 Doncaster Cup victors have been older horses. While the race is open to three-year-olds, it is difficult for horses in that age bracket to get the trip.
A race with such history attached to it as the Doncaster Cup is one that bookmakers target for special offers. Be sure to check back during the St Leger Festival to see the latest promotions relating to this and other events during the four-day meeting.
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Doncaster Cup Past Winners
Here are the 10 previous winners of the Doncaster Cup. Below that, you will also find the race result for each of the past three years in detail:
What Happened in 2019?
Stradivarius completed the Flat Stayers’ Triple Crown and made it 10 consecutive races unbeaten with victory in the Doncaster Cup. The champion stayer was long odds-on at 1/9 for trainer John Gosden, owner Bjorn Nielsen and jockey Frankie Dettori. Content to let others make the running after leading at a steady pace early on, Stradivarius tracked those who went past him. The five-year-old son of Sea The Stars then started making smooth headway three furlongs out.
He closed up on the bit approaching the final furlong. Dettori then gave a shake of his reins and Stradivarius soon quickened to lead, putting the race to bed and pulling 1¾ lengths clear of Andrew Balding’s 16/1 shot Cleonte. Previous Doncaster Cup runner-up Max Dynamite was a further 2½ lengths back in third for Willie Mullins at 14/1. This renewal saw second-favourite Dee Ex Bee withdrawn by trainer Mark Johnston on the unseasonably good to firm ground.
2018 Doncaster Cup Result
Irish trainer Willie Mullins saddled a one-two in the Doncaster Cup with Thomas Hobson leading fellow Rich and Susannah Ricci owned eight-year-old gelding Max Dynamite home. Sent off the 2/1 favourite, Thomas Hobson was held up in rear by jockey Ryan Moore and improved three out. He then tracked the leaders with two furlongs to go and challenged approaching the last. Moore rode him to lead and he ran out a ready half-a-length winner over his stable companion.
The front two pulled seven lengths clear of previous Doncaster Cup winner Sheikhzayedroad at 5/1. Like 8/1 shot Max Dynamite who was found by the vets to have struck into himself under Andrea Atzeni, Thomas Hobson is also known for his exploits in the National Hunt scene. The same connections also had Renneti ridden by Frankie Dettori further down the field in sixth. It was Thomas Hobson who went one better than his previous effort on Town Moor.
2017 Doncaster Cup Result
Desert Skyline became the second horse trained by David Elsworth to land the Doncaster Cup. He tried for many years to win the race with Persian Punch finally prevailing at the age of 10 in 2003. Desert Skyline was at the opposite end of his career, however, as a three-year-old but was sent off a well-fancied 2/1 favourite. He posted several good efforts in defeat prior to the race and was held up by Silvestre De Sousa before making steady headway inside the final half-mile.
As Desert Skyline tracked the leaders with two furlongs to go, he soon came under a ride and threw down his challenge inside the last. He took things up with 120 yards to go and kept on strongly for a 1½ lengths success over 4/1 Irish raider Thomas Hobson. Sheikhzayedroad, the 2016 Doncaster Cup winner, was a further head behind in third at 5/1 for David Simcock. Peter Niven trained veteran Clever Cookie outran his odds to be fourth at 33/1 as just 2¼ lengths separated the first four.