Doncaster Handicap

Randwick, NSW / 1600m / Race 9
Saturday, April 7 at 4:30pm

Doncaster Handicap:


The Betting:

Knowledge & Insight

Ten favourite winners over the past 50 years is hardly inspiring numbers, however with seven of those saluting since 1999, all is not forlorn for those who like supporting the favourite (probably Kementari).

In the same time-frame of 50 years, 25 of the winners were at double-figure odds, so on balance, it’s been a bookies race.

The longest-priced winner award goes to the 1985 winner Row of Waves who started at 100/1 and landed the money for trainer Les Bridge and jockey Mark de Montfort.

Technically, Row of Waves has to share the longshot award with 1953 winner Triclinium who was actually second over the line. Triclinium ended up being the beneficiary of first past the post Tarien unfortunately returning a positive swab and subsequently being disqualified from the race.

In 2016, Chris Waller’s wonder mare Winx went out as $1.80 favourite and duly saluted, thus becoming just the second odds-on winner of the race in its 151-year history. She matched the feat of the 3yo filly Valicare who in 1926 started a raging 4/5 favourite and gave her backers little to worry about.

Friday’s Verdict will explore the value options in Saturday’s race.

Form Focus Verdict

Taking an in-depth look at the past fifty Doncasters when a 3YO is favourite (as Kementari is) provides some really valuable information.

On 14 occasions we’ve seen a 3YO start the favourite for a result of 5 wins, 2 seconds and 2 thirds.

Crunching these numbers further reveals that 4 of these 14 were fillies, Sunline (1999) & Emancipation (1983) landing the prize, while Heat of the Moment (1986) was third and Avon Angel (1985) was fourth.

The ten male 3YO Doncaster favourites returned 3 winners – Haradasun (2007), Racing to Win (2006) & Vite Cheval (1984), 2 seconds Pierro (2013) & Century (1973) and 1 dead-heat third Manikato (1979).

All bar Vite Cheval (he won the Ajax Stakes) had either won or been second in the George Ryder Stakes.

Missing a place were Poetic King (1994), Stargazer (1990), Sky Chase (1988) & Galleon (1982).

What’s interesting here is that three of these four had their final Doncaster hit-out in the Rosehill Guineas, (Poetic King coming through a win in the Ajax Stakes).

Kementari aims to become the 27th of his age/sex to win the Doncaster, seven of those coming since 2000.

Twelve months ago, his Godolphin mate It’s Somewhat ($31) became the fifteenth horse in the past fifty runnings to score at odds of $21 or longer. Mind you, Patezza ($21) in 2005 is the only other winner in this price range since 1998.


Knowledge & Insight

Inside gate statistics over the recent history of the Doncaster cast some doubt of whether it’s an advantage of having an inner draw.

With barriers 1, 2 & 3 registering a grand total of three wins since 1957, it may be worth asking, why is it so?

When Victorian colt Haradasun won from 1 in a field of 16 in 2007, this was the first time in fifty years that the inside gate had saluted.

Barrier 2 has been winless since 1975 when Dalrello landed the prize for Queensland, while barrier 3 has endured an even longer drought – no winner since 1955.

We’ll take a more in-depth study of the Doncaster barriers in Friday’s Verdict.

Form Focus Verdict

Using the last fifty-years of overall results as a sample reference, barriers 7 out to 14 have accumulated a total of 29 wins (58%), while barriers 1 to 6 total 10 wins (20%). The other 11 winners (22%) came from gates 15 or wider.

Twenty-three of the past fifty Doncasters have been on a firm (Fast-Good) surface, with only five of those drawing a field of less than 20 – the winning barriers being 12-9-9-8-11.

Barriers 11 and 12 have the most successful record over the past five decades (5 wins apiece), tomorrow Crack Me Up is in 11 while Invincible Gem is in 12.

Depending on withdrawals, the drought-breakers this year will be Endless Drama from 3 (last win 1955), D’Argento from 15 (last win 1960) and Kementari from 2 (last win 1972).


Knowledge & Insight

It’s a little bit of a surprise that the Doncaster is not targeted more by the three-year-olds, their record in recent times being more than satisfactory – 8 winners since 1999 and 18 winners over the past five decades.

This easily eclipses the four-year-olds (13 wins) and the five-year-olds (10 wins) over the last fifty years.

Three-year-old fillies have more than held their own with Sunline (1999), Skating (1993), Magic Flute (1997), Emancipation (1983), Analie (1973) & Citius (1966) all scoring since 1960.

The weight-carrying record for a three-year-old filly was established by Valicare, the filly taking Sydney racing by storm during the Autumn of 1926.

Unbeaten in her first four starts, Valicare tackled the 1925 Melbourne Cup winner Windbag in the WFA Rawson (Ranvet) Stakes over 9 furlongs – a fortnight before the Doncaster. Windbag was “in the red” at 4/5f, but was given windburn by Valicare who won by an estimated eight lengths.

Bookmakers quickly made the filly favourite for the Doncaster, despite her being allocated three pounds over WFA at 8.9 (55kg). Backed as if unbeatable, Valicare was sent out as the hottest favourite (4/5f) in the history of the Doncaster, the filly virtually leading throughout for a comfortable victory.

Her jockey Jim Munro, upon his retirement declared “when it comes to naming the fastest horse I have ridden, I leave no room for argument. Without doubt, it was Valicare. She was a will o’ the wisp. When galloping at Randwick, the touts would say, here she comes – there she goes, all in one breath”.

Form Focus Verdict

First run in 1866, the Doncaster was conducted over the mile (1600m) until 1879 when the distance was extended out to 9 furlongs (1800m). This change didn’t last long, the race reverting to its original distance in 1884.

Over the 151-year history of the race, only four winners have been aged older than six, quite a fascinating stat.

The first of these came in 1879 when The Hook (aged 7) scored, then two years later in 1881, the eight-year-old Rapid Bay won.

It took until 1944 until Goose Boy (aged 7) landed the money for the elderly brigade, and then a further 51 years elapsed before Pharaoh (7yo) claimed his second Doncaster in 1995.

This year, we have 3 horses aged seven – Tosen Stardom, Happy Clapper & Tom Melbourne, so it would seem they do confront somewhat of a challenge.

In the 3YO age bracket, both Kementari & D’Argento have Group 1 successes behind them and accordingly, look attractively weighted with 51.5kg and 49kg respectively. 1974 winner Tontonan (56kg) holds the weight-carrying record for a 3YO, the Bart Cummings-trained colt having won the 1973 Golden Slipper as a 2yo.


Knowledge & Insight

The weight-carrying record jointly held by Marvel (1892) and Chatham (1934) is as safe as houses, their 10.4 (65.5kg) established when major handicaps had hugely attractive weight spreads. The limit in Marvel’s year was 6.2 (39kg), while it was 6.7 (41.5kg) in Chatham’s year.

Mind you, both were seriously talented animals, Marvel already an Epsom Handicap and multiple WFA winner, while Chatham was a dual Epsom winner with a Cox Plate and numerous other feature race wins on his resume. Post his 1934 Doncaster victory, Chatham claimed a second Cox Plate in the Spring of 1934.

With Humidor topweight with 58kg this year, it’s worth knowing that there have been 5 winners over the past 30 years to win with 57kg or more, however another 34 have tried and failed, so we’ll run an eye across this relevant stat within the Verdict on Friday.

Form Focus Verdict

The Weir stablemates Humidor (58kg) & Tosen Stardom (57.5kg) head this year’s weights and they do have a challenge on their hands – Super Impose with 59.5kg (1991) is the only male Doncaster winner to carry in excess of 57kg since Gunsynd lumped 9.7 (60.5kg) in 1972.

As the 2017 Epsom Handicap winner, Happy Clapper has been allocated 57kg and arrives into the Doncaster third-up – as he did when landing the Epsom last Spring, also with 57kg – will he become the ninth horse to claim the two big Randwick mile Group Ones (Epsom & Doncaster) in the same season?

At face value, he’s not badly weighted and the precedents surrounding third-up Doncaster winners are also presentable – over the past five decades, all eight Doncaster third-up winners came through a G1 race, four of those via the George Ryder.

Relative to the limit, one marvels at the mare Sunline in 2002. She carried 9.5kg over the limit with 58kg, claiming her second Doncaster after scoring as a 3yo filly in 1999.

Before her, Super Impose (59.5kg) had 10.5kg above the limit in his second Doncaster victory in 1991, this Randwick specialist miler clinching a second Epsom Handicap with 61kg in the Spring.

Doncaster Handicap:



Knowledge & Insight

The George Ryder Stakes has consistently provided the most valuable form reference to the Doncaster. First known as the Railway Stakes and re-badged as the George Ryder Quality, the Ryder was first run under handicap conditions in 1903 and remained a handicap until it was amended to Weight-For-Age in 1979.

Since then, no less than seventeen Doncaster winners have come through the George Ryder, with the next best form reference races being the Ajax Quality (6 wins) and the Ranvet Stakes (5 wins).

Form Focus Verdict

The decision to choose the Doncaster over the Derby for D’Argento raised a few eyebrows, Waller using this same formula for 2013 winner Sacred Falls (runner-up in the Rosehill Guineas).

Research into Rosehill Guineas winners into the Doncaster unearths no clear picture – since the Guineas was switched from the Spring to the Autumn in 1979, all 39 Guineas bar two have pursued the Derby.

1989 winner Riverina Charm (a filly) went to the AJC Oaks next start and was fourth to Research, while 1988 winner Sky Chase avoided his super-dominant staying stablemate Beau Zam in the Derby, opting for the Doncaster.

Beau Zam absolutely bolted up in the Derby, while two races later Sky Chase started favourite at 5/1 in the Doncaster. Looking the winner at the rise, Sky Chase wound up fourth behind fellow 3YO Lygon Arms.

Newcastle Newmarket winners have found it tough going in the Doncaster, Lanciato out to become just the third horse to complete the double, joining Patezza (2005) and Secret Savings (1997).


Knowledge & Insight

Unplaced on 2/1 favourite (Poetic King) in his first Doncaster ride in 1994, Glen Boss took the 1996 edition on Sprint By, the first of a record six wins for him in this race, two ahead of Jack Thompson and Jack Toohey.

Overall, Boss has finished in the first five in fifteen of his nineteen Doncaster rides – a phenomenal record. His six wins have spanned two decades, 1996 (Sprint By) to 2015 (Kermadec) while he’s also notched two seconds and three thirds over the journey.

While Boss has found the Doncaster more than appetising, the race has caused more than mild indigestion to a few high-profile riders, most notably a Sydney-based jockey with a total of zero wins and one minor placing from 17 Doncaster rides. More to come on this stat in Friday’s Verdict.

Form Focus Verdict

Corey Brown is our 0/17 Doncaster rides jockey in focus – and what’s more, his third on Sense of Occasion last year is the first time he’s finished in the first five.

He’s ridden in 17 of the past 23 Doncasters, with six of his mounts being $11 or less, so admittedly he’s been on some genuine chances. Just not his race maybe?

Other jockeys and their Doncaster records:

McEvoy (10 rides) 0-0-0; rode the favourite Pornichet when fifth in 2015
Avdulla (7 rides) 0-1-0; only one of his 7 rides has started under $13
Williams (8 rides) 0-0-1; only two of his rides were under $11; both finished first four
Shinn (7 rides) 0-1-0; runner-up on Happy Clapper in 2017


Knowledge & Insight

Sydney’s top trainer Chris Waller has more or less owned the Doncaster over the past decade, scoring six wins since 2008, including his star mare Winx in 2016.

The 2014 Doncaster was a pretty fair result for Waller – he trained the first four home; Sacred Falls beating Royal Descent, Weary and Hawkspur.

A seventh Doncaster would see Waller join Tommy Smith and Tommy’s daughter Gai Waterhouse as the race’s leading trainer, Waterhouse first scoring with Pharaoh in 1994, then again in 1995. Waterhouse then won the next two, including the quinella in 1997.

Her most recent success was in 2012 when top-class mare More Joyous defeated the Waller-trained Shoot Out.

Tommy Smith’s first Doncaster came courtesy of Unpainted in 1968, his seventh via Lygon Arms in 1988. (Smith would’ve had eight had 1953 first past the post Tarien not been disqualified after subsequently returning a positive swab).

1953 Doncaster Day was clearly a busy one for the vets with AJC Sires Produce Stakes winner Cromis also losing his race due to a subsequent positive swab.

Worth noting the moderate record of Victorian-trained runners in the Doncaster – just the one win (Haradasun in 2007 for Tony Vasil) since Soho Square won for Ian Saunders in 1992.

Form Focus Verdict

For some unknown reason, there are some “majors” that simply do not seem to marry up with successful stables.

With Waller & Waterhouse dominating both the Doncaster and Epsom over the past two decades (a total of 21 victories combined), there’s another power stable that has strangely failed to land a blow.

Lindsay Park tries for its first ever Doncaster winner/place-getter (the stable is also winless in the Epsom) with Cool Chap.

A quick glance at the Lindsay Park Doncaster record is informative, a couple of favourites (Galleon-1982 & Unaware-1978), and a couple of Newmarket Handicap winners (Primacy-1993 & Desirable-1977).

Over the past 20 years, the stable has had limited numbers – just the nine unplaced runners.

Training legend Bart Cummings landed five Doncasters and would’ve made it six with 1979 winner Belmura Lad had his appeal (against a positive swab 3 month disqualification) not been dismissed two days prior to the race – Mal Barnes took over the training of Belmura Lad while Bart was out.


Knowledge & Insight

No less than 8 Australian Racing Hall of Famers hold a position on the Doncaster Handicap honour board, with 6 of those also being Cox Plate winners – Winx, Sunline, Super Impose, Gunsynd, Tobin Bronze & Chatham.

The other two, Wakeful & Briseis, are worth reflecting on.

Hard to believe, but Briseis was only a two-year-old filly when she won the 1876 Doncaster on her sixth career outing. Carrying the steadier of 5.7, she was ridden by Peter St Albans, (who apparently was aged twelve).

She raced a further three times over the AJC Autumn Carnival, winning the All Aged Stakes, but didn’t re-appear until the 1876 Victoria Derby – which she also won. For good measure, Briseis then won both the Melbourne Cup (St Albans aboard again) and VRC Oaks at the Flemington carnival.

Unraced until she was a four-year-old, Wakeful won the 1901 Doncaster Handicap on her fifth start after taking the Oakleigh Plate-Newmarket Handicap double on her third and fourth starts respectively.

She started favourite in all of those three races and was justifiably lauded as being a superstar.

Undeterred by the step up to two miles (3200m), connections aimed Wakeful at the Sydney Cup two days after the Doncaster. Obviously also unfazed, the punters backed her into 2/1 favourite, Wakeful running a brave third, beaten just over a length, this being the end of her Autumn campaign.

Twelve months on and revenge was sweet as Wakeful, again as favourite, took the 1902 Sydney Cup with 9.7 (60.5kg) – still the highest weight carried by a mare to win the Sydney Cup.

In a 44 start career, all of Wakeful’s 25 wins were classified as Principal (Group) races, the mare runner-up with 10 stone (63.5kg) in the 1903 Melbourne Cup – her last start in a race.

Form Focus Verdict

It may be stating the obvious by suggesting that the Doncaster has become “Sydney-centric” given the Waller/Waterhouse dominance over the past twenty-five years.

A Victorian-trained horse has notched a place in only four of the runnings since Haradasun claimed it for the “Mexicans” in 2007, Divine Madonna chiming in for third for Victoria.

Just another four placings were registered from 2006 back to 1993, the 3YO Soho Square scoring for Victoria in 1992 with Patrick Payne (then an apprentice) aboard.

How this potentially impacts upon the 3 Victorians in tomorrow’s race is anybody’s guess, but it is interesting that no Victorian-trained horse older than three has won the Doncaster since *Super Impose* went back-to-back in 1991.

Doncaster Handicap:


Form Focus Verdict

From whichever angle Form Focus takes, however the form is diced and sliced, Kementari stands head and shoulders on top for the 2018 Doncaster Handicap.

A Group 1 winning son of Lonhro (fourth as $2.10 favourite in the 2003 Doncaster), Kementari has had just the two starts over 1600m (both at G1 level) for a dominant Randwick Guineas victory and an arguably unlucky second in the Caulfield Guineas last October.

Caught three deep in transit (with cover), the colt was angled even wider from the 600m, sprinted brilliantly to look the winner at the 100m only to be robbed of victory by Mighty Boss who had secured a freakish inside run from the corner.

This Autumn, Kementari is unbeaten against his own age, taking the Eskimo Prince in a canter, being ridden upside down yet still prevailing in the Hobartville, before what looked a clinically soft win in the Randwick Guineas.

Tackling the WFA George Ryder was always going to be tough with Winx involved, the colt far from aggressively ridden in finishing third. He drops from 56kg to 51.5kg here, meeting Ryder runner-up and specialist Randwick miler Happy Clapper on 2.5kg better weight terms.

Never easy being super confident in a major G1 handicap like a Doncaster, but Kementari more than compares favourably to past 3yo winners of this race. Moreover, his 51.5kg looks a gift when one looks at past Doncaster 3yo runners-up like Pierro (57kg) and Century (57kg) who were also second in a Caulfield Guineas.

For jockey Brenton Avdulla, well, a Golden Slipper-Doncaster double in the same year would be quite an achievement – Bill Pyers, George Moore, Ron Quinton, Danny Beasley, Glen Boss, Nash Rawiller and Tommy Berry have all claimed this same year double.

The ever reliable Happy Clapper may have to settle for his third straight second in the Doncaster, this amazing horse just so effective over the mile at Randwick.

With half a dozen runners, Chris Waller has all bases covered with a 3YO G1 winner, a G1 winning mare and the enigma that is Tom Melbourne joining the Ajax winner, the Apollo winner and an Irish import from his gigantic yard.

Form Focus has landed on Tom Melbourne as third pick, but it wouldn’t surprise if Tom ran second.


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