The History of the World’s Oldest Classic – The St Leger

The St Leger is the World’s Oldest Classic, it was established in 1776 by army officer and politician Anthony St Leger. The race was named in Anthony’s honour after the success of the first race in September 1776.

The St Leger rose to prominence in 1800 when a horse called Champion won the Derby – St Leger double. The famous race has largely stayed the same since the distance was cut from two miles to one mile, six furlongs in 1813. The St Leger has continued to provide thrilling racing right up to the present day with only the World Wars putting a significant and understandable halt to proceedings at Doncaster.

So impressive is the St Leger’s longevity that some of Britain’s now favourite sports weren’t even invented by the time it was first run! We run you through five global games that are less long in the tooth than the Town Moor showpiece.

Rugby – 1823/24

Credit: Dennis Van Kerrebroeck

A 16-year-old boy at Rugby School called William Webb-Ellis with a total disregard for the rules of football picked up the ball and ran with it. This simple act by Webb-Ellis led to the sport of rugby being created.

Association Football Rules – 1848

Credit: Footy4Kids

The origin of football can be argued without end, however, it wasn’t until 1848 that the proper rules were decided at Cambridge University.

Beforehand there were many violent forms of football in the Middle Ages, for example, mob football was played between two neighbouring British villages where an unlimited amount of players would try to get a pig’s bladder to two different ‘markers’ or goals with the only rules being no manslaughter or murder! It’s safe to say the game has moved on since.

Snooker – 1874 /75

Credit: BBC

Almost 100 years after the St Leger started, Snooker was invented by the British Army in the Indian town of Jubbulpore (now known as Jabalpur) where a young lieutenant called Neville Chamberlin came up with a different version of the game billiards. Chamberlin had such enthusiasm for his new game that he called his horse ‘Snooker’!

Table Tennis – 1880

Credit: Behind The News

The sport began because of lawn tennis players adapting their game to suit the indoors due to the cold British winter. The game quickly rose in popularity across the world, the first world championships began in 1927. In 1929, tennis icon and eight-time grand slam champion Fred Perry won the Table Tennis World Championship.

Tiddlywinks – 1888

Credit: Severn Hospice

The sport / game started in 1888 and for the next decade became a craze all around the UK. The game is still alive today with international competitions, international sporting governing bodies, and even a varsity match between Cambridge and Oxford University.

Here’s what to expect in the historic St Leger this year.


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