Doncaster celebrate continued backing for the St Leger classic

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LADBROKES have agreed with Doncaster to sponsor the St Leger for another three years – with this year’s renewal of the world’s oldest Classic enjoying a record prize fund of £550,000.

It will take the bookmaker’s sponsorship of the St Leger to 10 years and coincides with a rivalry in the status of the one-mile six-furlong race, won by the likes of Sir Michael Stoute’s Conduit in 2008 before it went on to land a Breeders’ Cup in America.

The last two winners – Artic Cosmos and Masked Marvel – have been top-class stayers trained by John Gosden and ridden by William Buick.

Ladbrokes media affairs director Mike Dillon said: “We have worked closely with Arena and Doncaster to rebuild the reputation of this great race.”

Mark Spincer, managing director at Doncaster, concurred: “We have a fantastic partnership with Ladbrokes.”

The announcement helps offset the South Yorkshire card being forced to abandon tomorrow’s National Hunt card because of a frozen track.

Today’s scheduled NH cards at Carlisle, Ludlow and Lingfield have suffered a similar fate.

Musselburgh’s valuable jumps meeting, abandoned on Sunday, will now be held on Saturday after the Scottish track received BHA clearance. The meeting is due to stage a number of key Cheltenham Festival trials and the weather forecast is favourable.

As Newbury battles to stage its trials day on Saturday, a meeting set to feature reigning Gold Cup champion Long Run, Donald McCain has reported no weather worries about Weird Al, his leading contender.

McCain believes a fighting fit Weird Al is capable of making his presence felt in next month’s Cheltenham Gold Cup.

He made a sparkling debut for McCain in the Charlie Hall Chase at Wetherby and was best of the rest behind Kauto Star and Long Run in the Betfair Chase at Haydock.

As Weird Al appears to be at his best when fresh, McCain has sensibly kept his charge at home since and he is confident that he can improve on that respectable Haydock performance.

“I think he has a very solid each-way chance,” said the trainer. “His run in the Charlie Hall was eyecatching and he ran a nice race at Haydock without Timmy (Murphy) feeling he was as sharp as he was at Wetherby.

“He’s a young, improving horse who likes Cheltenham. It’s all about getting him there fit and well on the day, and we know after Wetherby that we can get him ready for one day, there is no reason he shouldn’t run into the money.”