With the running of the Doncaster Mile this Saturday at Randwick racecourse we take a look at some memorable races of the past including last year’s race which was won by Rangirangdoo.
It’s not often that the defining moment in a Group One race at Randwick happens in the Supreme Court in the lead-up to the feature, but that was the case in the 2010 Doncaster.
Trainers Chris Waller and Gai Waterhouse both wanted Nash Rawiller for their respective runners Rangirangdoo and Theseo, with Waterhouse pushing for the star jockey to be reinstated on her warhorse after Rawiller switched camps when it was initially thought the topweight would miss the Doncaster.
The court ruled Rawiller had to honour his commitment to Rangirangdoo and he was all smiles after the race when the then five-year-old sprinted quickly down the outside to collar Road To Rock and register a breakthrough Group One win.
One of the first people to congratulate Waller was Waterhouse who watched Darren Beadman ride Theseo into eighth place.
“People like Gai Waterhouse make me a better trainer,” Waller said.
Rawiller, who was called on to replace the injured Corey Brown on Rangirangdoo, said he respected Waller’s decision to press to keep him on.
“Much as I wanted to ride Theseo, I’ve won a Doncaster,” he said.
When Sunline stepped out amid the autumn gloom at Randwick on Easter Saturday 1999, something special was about to happen.
It may not have been the best Doncaster field in history but there was plenty of depth, including the previous winner Catalan Opening, hard old campaigners like Iron Horse and Juggler and some dangerous lightweights like Adam and Lease.
Sunline had won 10 of her 11 starts to date, and punters fell over themselves to take the 7-4 on offer early and backed her in to 10-9 ($2.10) in one of the blackest days for the bagmen in years.
She bowled out onto the track like a boxer climbing into a ring.
Even as a three-year-old filly, there was something about her. She had a presence.
When Larry Cassidy climbed aboard she seemed to look bigger than she actually was.
As it turned out, the 10-9 was a bargain, because she dominated the race from the moment the gates sprang open and won as she pleased.
The bookies, for once, copped a hiding.
Three years later she won the race again, becoming one of only eight dual winners since the race began in 1886.
Think Doncaster Mile and it conjures up great thoroughbreds of the past – Sunline, Super Impose, Gunsynd, Fine And Dandy et al.
Row Of Waves doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
But the Les Bridge-trained entire earned his place alongside some of Australasia’s most illustrious gallopers with one of the biggest boilovers in the history of the famous Randwick 1600m event when he scored at $101 in the 1985 version of the Doncaster.
Row Of Waves’ previous win was in the Coffs Harbour Cup (2100m) in August 1984 and his lead-up form to the Doncaster didn’t inspire much confidence as it included defeats at Newcastle and Canberra.
Neither did his wide draw of 17 in the field of 20 and even jockey Mark de Montfort thought the task was beyond Row Of Waves in such a high-class field.
“I feel I’m in shock,” de Montfort said after Row Of Waves travelled sweetly throughout and held on to beat Foxseal by a long head.
“I was riding a 100-1 chance and you never really think something like this could happen.”
“I’m still a little numb.”
In a classic understatement, that was the reaction of popular Warwick Farm trainer Guy Walter after providing the trifecta in the 2005 edition of the famous race.
“To win a race like the Doncaster is wonderful, to have the first three is something else,” Walter said.
Indeed it was.
It was the first time a trainer had prepared all three placegetters in a major Australian handicap since Richard Bradfield trained the first three across the line in the 1919 Caulfield Cup.
Gai Waterhouse also achieved the feat in the 2001 Golden Slipper, a race run under set weights conditions.
To Walter’s amazement it was the least fancied of his runners, $21 shot Patezza, who came with a withering burst to claim stablemates Court’s In Session ($7) and Danni Martine ($10) to win the Doncaster.
“I didn’t think he could win,” Walter said, “it shows how much I know.”
The death of grand campaigner Super Impose several years ago evoked many memories of the famous Randwick “mile”, a track and distance he made his own in the early 1990s.
When it came to the 1600 metres at Sydney racing’s headquarters, Super Impose became Super Duper.
In 1990 Super Impose had topweight of 57kg in the Doncaster but carried it with ease, rocketing home from last of the 20 runners early to post his first win in the race.
Five months later he was at it again, this time lugging 58.5kg to another barnstorming win in the Epsom Handicap.
Super Impose was burdened with 59.5kg in the 1991 Doncaster – but it didn’t matter as he again came from last of 20 early to get up.
He was then asked to carry 61kg in the 1991 Epsom, an impost he treated with disdain as Darren Beadman brought him with his customary late charge to claim his fourth feature mile win at the track.
Little wonder there is a bar named after him in the Randwick public grandstand.
A lot of good judges thought enigmatic gelding Lygon Arms threw away the 1987 Golden Slipper by hanging in during the race when finishing fast to go under to Marauding by just a short head.
One race the TJ Smith-trained Lygon Arms didn’t throw away was the 1988 Doncaster Handicap which he stormed home to win at $41, an almost unheard of price for a big-race winner prepared by the legendary Randwick mentor.
With a young Shane Dye in the saddle, Lygon Arms drew 16 of 20 in the Doncaster and the expatriate Kiwi jockey had no option but to yank the three-year-old back to the rear of the field.
And that’s where he stayed for most of the famous Randwick “mile”, turning for home with only two runners behind him before unleashing a phenomenal finishing burst to beat Sound Horizon by a head with champion New Zealander (Our) Waverley Star 1-3/4 lengths away third.
Smith’s genius and Dye’s expertise got Lygon Arms home on the day, but the gelding didn’t win another race in 20 starts before his retirement in 1990.