HISTORY OF THE DONCASTER
First run in 1866, The Doncaster Mile has a storied history including Aborginal jockey Peter St Albans victorious run in 1876 when he was only 11 or 12 years old.
In 2020, the Doncaster celebrated its 155th running. A handicap race at a mile (1600m) the Group 1 Doncaster Mile is run over the testing Randwick course and is a feature of the autumn carnival. The first running in 1866 was won by Mr Chaffe’s Dundee. The AJC had not long moved from Homebush to Randwick and the naming of the race was in line with the custom of naming races, courses and enclosures as part of the English traditions of the Turf – Doncaster being a major racecourse in England.
Over the long history of the race there are many stories to tell, young jockeys, high weights, shocking moments, exciting doubles and narrow winning margins. As far back as 1876, a jockey by the name of Peter St Albans won the Doncaster on Briseis. St Albans was only 11 or 12 at the time. He was an Aboriginal boy who had taken the name of the stud farm where he worked. The rules changed leaving St Albans as the youngest jockey to have a win in the Doncaster. In 1992 when Paddy Payne won on Soho Square, he was only 16. He broke the winning streak of Super Impose and when he finished his days in the saddle he went on to become a trainer.
Though stopped in 1992 by Soho Square, Super Impose left a mark on the Australian Turf never to be forgotten. Among his many feature race successes he won the Doncaster Handicap in 1990 and in 1991 as well as winning the Epsom Handicap in the same years. No horse has ever won Randwick’s feature mile races on four successive occasions.
In the year 1914, before the outbreak of World War One, the AJC commissioned a photographer to make a panoramic record of Doncaster Day at Randwick. The photographic company Hall & Co. were chosen to take the photos. It was a brilliant day of racing with a crowd of 44,000. The pictures captured the crowds, the horses and the races including the finish of the Doncaster, won that year by First Principle. The photos were put together in a pouch and distributed to other Principal Clubs around Australia.
The 1930s and 1940s was an exciting time for racing. Huge crowds and quality horses meant every year was one to watch. In 1935, Hall Mark won the Doncaster, two years after winning the Melbourne Cup. During World War Two, the Doncaster had to be transferred to Rosehill when Randwick was occupied by the military. Though Rosehill had a lower capacity for crowds, in 1942, 31,000 packed in to see the Doncaster won by Tuhitarata. Blue Legend was one of the few dual winners in the Doncaster. He saved his best performances for races over the Randwick mile and won the Doncaster in 1946 and 1947. Then in 1948 the Doncaster was marked by a beer strike. Despite that 91,500 people made it to Randwick to watch George Moore on The Diver win in a photo finish.
Drama struck again in 1953 when Triclinium, first past the post, was disqualified after returning a positive drug swab and Tarien (the favourite) was given the win. More dual winners came at the end of the decade with Slogan II (1956 and 1957) and Tudor Hill (1959 and 1960). Champion jockey Jack Thompson won on both winners both times.
Though generally popular, Persian Puzzle didn’t find favour with punters and was a 9-1 win in the Doncaster in 1964 defeating outstanding horses Time And Tide and Wenona Girl. Then in 1974, the Doncaster was made notorious by a pair of streakers. A man and a woman got onto the track and ran along from the 100m point towards the gate where the horses returned to the enclosure, while the race was on. Stopped by the Green Coat, they begged to be let in, and despite not wearing a badge, they were let in before any harm came to anyone.
In 1985, hundred to one chance Row Of Waves shocked racegoers into holding on to defeat a fast finishing Foxseal by a long head. Brian Mayfield-Smith had knocked T. J. Smith off the premiership board in the 1985/86 season, added another win to his tally with Magic Flute in the 1987 Doncaster. Trainer Barbara Joseph had Merimbula Bay in the best form of his short career when he won the Doncaster in 1989.
As well as the success of Super Impose, Pharaoh was another dual winner in the 1990s. Trained to the win in 1994 by T. J. Smith, the horse passed to his daughter Gai Waterhouse for Pharaoh’s 1995 win, one of her first major race wins. Rounding out the decade, champion mare Sunline would have her first victory in the race. She started again in 2000, weighted 57.5kg but could not quite hold off Over, carrying 51.5kg. Sunline started again in 2002 this time carrying 58kg. She fought off the determined challenge of quality horses Shogun Lodge (58) and Defier (51.5) to win by a nose.
Jockey Glen Boss had three wins in a row in the 2000s. Winning first in the Doncaster in 1996, he would also take out the win in 2004. Boss would take the winners podium again in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2015 and again in 2019 on Brutal (NZ). Chris Waller began his dominance in 2008, teaming up with Glen Boss and Triple Honour (NZ) to win. Sacred Falls became a dual winner in 2014 at which point Waller made history having trained the first four horses home that year. His champion Winx had a win in 2016 beating Happy Clapper into second. Happy Clapper would start again the next year making another second (to It’s Somewhat) and then come home for the win in 2018.