High street bookmakers Ladbrokes will pay a £1m bonus to any colt talented enough to follow in the footsteps of their famous predecessors and win the Triple Crown this year.
Nijinski was the last horse to land the traditional three-race slam when he won the 2000 Guineas, the Derby and the St Leger in 1970. Since then, the Triple Crown has somewhat lost its shine and has been perceived as an impossible feat. The £1m inducement should now help revert its fortunes.
The bonus is part of a three-year deal that sees the high street bookmakers sponsor Doncaster’s St Leger, which is the last leg of the Triple Crown. It is the first time that Ladbrokes has sponsored a classic and the company have gone in with a bang. The £1m bonus for the Triple Crown “will create real added value to the Ladbrokes St Leger,” according to Chief Executive of Ladbrokes Worldwide, Chris Bell. The bookmakers’ involvement will be a huge boost for the ailing classic, which has been pushed out of fashion by the recent trend for shorter races.
Although the St Leger has seen attendance numbers increase by 44% between 1995 and 2004, prize-money has been frozen to £400,000 for the last three-years. Ladbrokes’commitment will now allow Doncaster management company, Arena Leisure PLC, to increase value by £50,000 to £450,000 for 2005, making the St Leger’s one of Britain’s richest races.
“The St Leger is steeped in turf history. We are determined to build on this and to ensure that, through our partnership with Ladbrokes, this great race is restored to its former glory,” says Arena Leisure Chief Executive, Ian Penrose.
“The St Leger has tended to lose its momentum,” agrees Bell. “However, with our three-year minimum commitment, we believe that this great race can move forward with confidence and with the prize money levels it deserves.”
Prize money will be paid to the first six finishers and will rise throughout the next three years to reach £500,000 in 2007, when the sponsorship deal comes to an end. The Ladbrokes cash injection will also help Arena and the Doncaster Metropolitan Borough Council, who own the Doncaster racecourse, pursue their ambitious plans to redevelop the track.
This, together with the lure of the £1m Triple Crown bonus, should attract a strong field to the St Leger and may go a long way towards bringing the world’s oldest classic back on the map. And indeed owners and trainers have welcomed the news. “We have been fortunate enough to win the St Leger four times and this new strong backing from Ladbrokes will boost the race’s profile while the Triple Crown bonus introduces a new element,” says Simon Crisford, the racing manager for Godolphin, whose Rule of Law landed the classic last year.
The Ladbrokes St Leger will take place at Doncaster on Saturday 10 September and will be the 229th running of the Classic, which was first staged in 1776.