The Wootton Family

The Wootton Family

Acknowledge: “Lillye on Legends” by Bert Lillye AJC Racing Calendar, December 1991

Featured Image: The Wootton Family

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History suggests ……… A Racing Relationship Without Peer

Australian Racing has spawned some fascinating father and son relationships … names that spring to mind almost without thought.

Those great Racing Families – some not far removed from dynasties – whose names become household words; particularly in the days when sentiment was not obfuscated by the now all-important TAB numerals.

Has any father and son combination been more popular with the racegoer in general than champion jockeys Bill and Peter Cook who between then won four Melbourne Cups?

The Paytens were a renowned family on thoroughbred expertise …. father Tom and son Bayly each enjoying for lengthy periods, the distinction of being Sydney’s champion trainer.

But there are so many others … the Kelsos, the Cracknells, the Sheans; and across the Tasman, the Didham clan who put their mark on Racing over there, also here … the McGraths, the Hoysteds and the McKennas.

But none was more successful – or colourful – than the mighty Munros!

Father Munro won the 1901 Melbourne Cup with Revenue, stablemate of wonder mare Wakeful which he saddled for the race.

Hugh sired the champion jockeys James and David (“Darby”) Hugh whose deeds put the formidable Kuhn jockey brothers to shame: which says a lot.

Jim Munro won the Melbourne Cup on Windbag and Statesman and rode every champion of the era; while Darby won the Cup on Peter Pan, Sirius and Russia; also  placings on Maikai and Beau Vite.

And more recently, we have the Cummings triumvirate … James, James Bartholomew, and Antony James; “Bart”, the middle pin, carving up the Melbourne Cup like no other., making our greatest race his own!

Hard on the Cummings clan’s heels are Colin Hayes and his sons Peter and David; the last-named making a bold bid to have the initials “LP” stand for “long-playing” as much as “Lyndsay Park”.

My apologies to those great Racing families I have omitted; but the above is sufficient to underline my point.

Dare I suggest that not one of the father and son combinations listed above achieved quiet as much as the Wootton family … father Richard and his sons Frank and Stanley?

Their deeds, although not nearly as familiar to the Australian racegoer as those mentioned above, were indeed more remarkable; and strengthened by the fact that most were achieved against the best that Great Britain could muster.

… And at a time when English Racing led the world!

Wootton is name read often whenever Star Kingdom is mentioned but there is much more behind it than the selection and importation of a great sire.

Wootton is a name that spells great Racing history … further testimony to the old proverb that tells us that “none can guess the jewel by the casket”.

Richard Lawson Wootton, always known as “Dick”, was born at Moree in 1868. He died at his Randwick home on June 24, 1946, a span of 79 years that saw him succeed as jockey, trainer, owner and breeder.

He owned most of the horse he trained in Sydney and his first feature win came in 1902 when he took the AJC Metropolitan with Queen of Sheba.

Frank, his eldest son, was two months short of 10 when Queen of Sheba won the Metropolitan but the lad rode the mare in much of her training.

Dock Wootton had such extraordinarily high regard of young Frank’s potential as a jockey that he was impatient at the AJC regulation which prevented him riding in races until he was 14.

He became so impatient, in fact, that he pulled up stakes and invaded South Africa with ateam of horses, which included Queen of Sheba, and his son Frank.

His reason for such a bold decision being that young Frank, then 10, could ride in races over there.

Frank’s mother was more keen for her son to have schooling rather than saddlery when the family moved to South Africa.

Consequently, it was against her wishes –and furthest thought – the days Dick took young Frank out of class, to attend a Race Meeting at Germiston in the Transvaal.

Frank was given an amateur rider’s permit to compete in the pony races that were staged between races for all-heights.

There was much speculation when Frank won on his father’s pony Kempsey, and it was that he ahd made history in being the youngest jockey to win a registered race.

If there was any doubt, the Woottons consolidated the claim a few weeks later when Frank won the prestigious 1903 Goldfields Handicap at Johannesburg on Centurion, bringing off a first-up family coup.

Frank, then only 10, was certainly the youngest rider to win a feature race in South Africa, if not the world.

The Woottons remained in South Africa for several years before returning to Sydney, by which time young Frank had stretched his race wins tally to 17.

Dick Wootton bought 30 horses on his return to Australia and won with most of them, including Fabric who took the 1906 Tattersall’s Club Cup at Randwick.

Frank was still too young to ride in Sydney so the mount on Fabric went to another of Wootton’s apprentices, W H (“Midget”) McLachlan who went on to become one of the greatest jockeys Australian Racing has produced.

McLachlan, who accompanied Wootton to South Africa, won the Melbourne Cup three times, on Prince Foote, Comedy King and Westcourt. He also rode with success in England and was the first Australian jockey to ride for the Royal Family.

Norman Godby, who won the Melbourne Cup on Lord Cardigan, was another of Wootton’s apprentice jockeys.

Wootton had been back in Australia only six months when he decided to try his fortune in England; his main reason again being, to give young Frank the most opportunity.

He sold all 30 horses in his Sydney stable, but kept his favourite pony “hack” which he took to England where he took charge of the famous “Treadwell House” stable at Epsom.

He trained mainly for one client, Sir Edward Hulton, and in his first season over there, in 1906, he won only three races but had only three horses.

The following season he had charge of 12 horses and won 14 races which attracted plenty of attention.

In 1908, his team increased to 23 horses and he won 36 races. A year later, “Treadwell House” boasted 29 horses which won 48 races.

Dick Wootton continued to make steady progress season by season. In 1910, he trained 45 winners, the following year 48 and in 1912 his 33 horses won 63 races.

Season 1913 saw Dick Wootton top the English Trainer’s Premiership with 66 wins, the first Australian to achieve the feat!

He was unlucky not to win the English Derby in 1913, his representative, Sir Edward Hulton’s Shogun was one of the victims of the infamous scrimmaging that took place in the classic.

Dick Wootton hit the headlines in other ways during his stay in England, the most famous being his success against a libel taken out by Robert Sievier .

He was third on the English training premiership on two occasions, in 1912 and 1914, but on both occasions trained more individual winners than those who won the premiership.

Dick retired as “Master of Treadwell House” at the close of the 1914 season, achieving the excellent tally of 372 flat races in nine seasons.

His best performers in England included Lomond, Flippant, Stornowya (all thrre winners of the Gimcrack Stakes); also Silver Tag, Torloisk, Fairy King and Shogun.

Wootton returned to Australia in 1915, took up training again but on much smaller scale. His principal interest being business investments, property management and thoroughbred breeding.

His most important success as a trainer, following his return to Australia at the outbreak of World War I, was the Villiers Stakes at Randwick with Zuleika, a mare bred in England by his son Stanley.

Zuleika became one of the cornerstones of Dick Wootton’s breeding venture. Her many descendants included Lady Marie who won seven races when trained for Dick Wootton by Maurice McCarten.

Lady Marie was daughter of Air Balloon, as was Wansey, another filly that Dick Wootton bred and raced successfully under McCarten’s care.

Lady Marie (Dick Wootton’s last winner) and Wansey won him a double at Rosehill in April, 1944, when both were ridden by the champion claiming apprentice Ted Doon.

Among Dick Wootton’s business investments was the Doncaster Hotel at Kensington and little more than a stone’s throw from Randwick Racecourse. He was also judge of thoroughbred exhibits at Sydney’s Royal Easter Show for many years.

Dick Wootton Junior despite his tender years, was an instant success in England, soon being hailed as “The Wonder Boy”.

He won at his first ride on English soil, scoring on his father’s horse, Retrieve, in the Cinque Ports Handicap at the 1906 Folkestone Summer Carnival.

He was then 13 and before his first English season was over, young Frank had won 16 races.

One of those wins was on Nero in the Portland Plate at the Doncaster St. Leger meeting, an impressive performance by any standard; but what excited English experts was the fact that the young Australian had beaten the great Danny Maher who was on the favourite, Melayr.

Frank had only 67 rides in his first season, achieving the high ratio of 16 wins. The following year (1907) he had 282 rides for 39 wins, including the first of 56 major race wins.

Shakespeare tells us, “It is a wise father that knows his own child” (Merchant of Venice); well, Dick Wootton was ultra-wise on his son’s riding talent.

Wootton, senior, making his first real bid to win a major race in England, needed a light-weight rider for Demure in the prestigious Cesarewitch Stakes of 1914.

The wise father did not hesitate, even though he knew the field would be big and highly competitive. He gave the mount to his 14-year-old son who showed judgement well beyond his years to win in a style that had the experts hailing “another Archer”.

Young Frank went from strength to strength, becoming a sensation almost overnight.

In only his third English season, young Wootton achieved the remarkable tally of 129 wins, placing him second to Danny Maher in the 1908 premiership.

Frank finished 10 wins short of Maher’s tally but missed a month’s riding following a fall at Ascot and further time because of a family bereavement.

The following season (1909) Frank Wootton became the first Australian to head the English Jockey’s premiership, notching 165 wins.

He held the tile for the following three years, with tallies of 137 wins (1910), 187 wins (1911) and 118 (1912).

Frank was runner-up in 1913 to Danny Maher with 91 wins but at the outbreak of World War I, he joined the army and was stationed in the East.

He did not ride again on the Flat in England.

In eight seasons of Flat racing in England, Frank had 3,866 rides, which yielded 882 wins, 705 seconds and 452 thirds … better than a 1-in-2 place ratio!

There were many, many high notes in the young Australian’s capture of English racing; not the least being his retainer as No. I stable jockey for Lord Derby’s “Stanley House” … at 27, for the then huge yearly fee of £2,500.

That year, (1910), Wootton won the premiership despite being suspended for two months following a protest by Danny Maher and among his 137 wins was the St. Leger on Swynford, also the Cesarewitch on Verney.

Frank won his first English Classic, the 1909 Oaks, on Perola.

Other highlights of an extraordinary career in England, included the following:

*Seven winners at the 1908 Doncaster St. Leger meeting

*Ten winners at the 1911 Goodwood carnival

*Seven winners at the 1912 Royal Ascot week

His other major successes included the Grand Prix de Paris (Houli, 1912), Doncaster Cup (Lemberg, 1913), Prince of Wales and Jockey Club Stakes (Stedfast, 1911), Chester Cup (Glacis, 1908), Manchester Cup (Marajax, 1911) and Prince Edward Handicap (Aurina, 1910).

Wootton’s last Flat race win in England was achieved on Fairy King in the 1913 Autumn Plate at Warwick, three days before he retired after riding Sir Raymond in the De Trafford Plate at Manchester on November 20, 1913, a month short of his 21st birthday.

Frank’s weight had risen to nine stone (57kg) in his last Flat season and he got heavier during his army service in France and Mesopotamia.

It was during military service that Frank Wootton became interested in hurdle racing and he won several races over obstacles in Baghdad.

He was too heavy for a return to Flat riding when discharged from the army, so he took on hurdle racing, having his first English ride on November 29, 1920, at Birmingham.

He finished third but later in the day he was successful on Bobbydazzler. His first season riding over the sticks yielded 11 wins and he forfeited his allowance.

It was no disadvantage. Frank’s natural riding ability saw him win 61 races in his second season under National Hunt rules and he headed the jumping premiership, a masterly performance.

In 1922, he won 42 races and the following year he won 52 N.H. races but then returned to Australia where he spent some time on his father’s stud farm.

Frank returned to England in 192 7 to act as trainer for his younger brother Stanley who had taken over his father’s stable at Epsom.

The after effects of several heavy falls while riding over obstacles played havoc with Frank Wootton’s health in later years.

He gave up riding in England, returned to Australia where he died on April 6, 1940, at the comparatively young age of 49.

But not before he left his indelible mark on race riding, of the highest order.

The Woottons … Richard, Frank and Stanley … Racing’s father and son relationship without peer. Agree?

Stanley Thomas Wootton was born at Surry Hills, Sydney, on June 28, 1897.

He went to England with his family in 1906 and at the age of 11, began his appretnticeship with his father at “Treadwell House”.

He had his first race ride in 1908 but did not achieve anywhere near the success of his brother Frank.

Nevertheless, Stanley rode winners in England and on the Continent as a junior jockey; his principal victory being on the good staying mare Elizabetta in the 1910 Chester Cup.

Young Wootton’s best riding successes were for the “Manton Stables” but he was forced to retire from riding when he was 16 because of weight problems.

He then worked for his father’s stables, taking control in 1914 when Dick Wootton returned to Australia.

It was a short-term control as he enlisted at 17, serving in France, Greece and Palestine.

He was wounded in action at Salonika where he was awarded the Military Cross for bravery.

Stanley returned to training after the War beginning with a single horse which he bought for 40 guineas, gaining quick success.

In 1922, Stanley again took over “Treadwell House” and within four years, he had 100 horses in training.

In 1926, he trained 84 winners on the Flat and two seasons later, he had 43 winners of 88 races.

Stanley, unlike his brother Frank, developed a keen business sense which led to many successful investments, which in further turn, resulted in prestigious appointments.

He purchased the Principal Gallops on Epsom Downs in 1927 and five years later he assumed the role of Lord of the Manor at Epsom. This gave him control of all the training areas (known as “The Gallops”); also 2000 acres of prime farming land.

He served as Magistrate of Surrey for almost 20 years, was chairman of the Owners’ Association of England; also the Trainers’ Association of Surrey, and was a director of Kempton Park Racecourse.

He owned all of the Epsom “Gallops” for more than 25 years and every trainer who worked his horses there, was Wootton’s tenant.

Stanley Wootton served on the bard of numerous companies and was chairman of several.

He eventually presented Epsom Downs to the Government but not before he trained in excess of 1000 winners, his best seasonal tally for Flat racing being 94.

And not before he established himself as England’s best producer of young jockeys. Among the many champion junior jockeys he tutored were the Smirke brothers, Stafford Ingham, Sean Magee; also J. Sirrett and J. Dick.

Each year, he sifted through the hundreds of letters from parents who wanted their boys to learn horsemanship from Stanley Wootton.

In the end, he was taking on 50 apprentices at a time and personally managing their affairs. It was commonplace for Stanley Wootton to have as many as 10 of his boys in one race, riding under retainer for outside stables.

Although his interests were greatly diversified, he never veered from a desire for perfection. He developed a great insight into the make-up of a thoroughbred. His judgement was uncanny.

Alf Ellison, his close friend and manager of Wootton’s Australian racing and breeding affairs, told me a good deal about Stanley’s intellect on thoroughbred stock.

He explained that whenever Wootton visited “Baramul” stud he would walk into the paddocks where the young horses were quartered, then stand for hours at a stretch peering intently into each face as a foal or weanling came up to him.

“At the end of a very long session, Stanley would tell me which youngsters would do best on the racecourse. He was rarely wrong”, Alf told me.

I mentioned this recently to Mrs Phillips, who was in charge of the “Baramul” homestead for 24 years.

“Yes, Stanley Wootton judged horses by their eyes … the same as he did with humans”, she explained. “He was very precise and an expert in anything he did.”

“He was a great guest, a real gentleman and was most humorous in conversation”, Mrs Phillips recalled.

When I asked her what was Stanley Wootton’s favourite horse on “Baramul”, she said, “Star Kingdom, of course, but he also had great affection for Todman”.

“And old Oceana was his favourite broodmare”, she explained.

And why not? It was the mating of Star Kingdom and Oceana that gave Stanley Wootton, Todman and Noholme.

He selected Star Kingdom for stud in Australia, paying £4000 for the good two-year-old performer who raced in England as Star King, plus £115 to ship him here.

The young sire was an instant success, his first two runners, Kingster and Ultrablue, winning the Breeders’ Plate and Gimcrack Stakes respectively.

He went on to become the greatest thoroughbred progenitor in Australian Racing History.

It was Stanley Wootton’s uncanny judgement that made him send Oceana to Australia; also the Relic mare Coogee who became the dam of Bletchingly.

He selected many other thoroughbreds for import into Australia.

Among them were Port Vista, Newtown Wonder, Bob Cherry, Makapura, Just Great and Kerry Piper.

Although most of his life was spent in England, Stanley Wootton never forgot his birthplace. This is reflected in many of the names he selected for his horses … Todman (Todman Avenue, Kensington), Coogee, Ballina, Pyrmont, etc.

He also had great admiration of Australian jockeys … “in Sydney, equal to the best in the world”, he said on a visit to Australia in 1948.

“I admire the mastery of Bill Cook. Darby Munro is a really great rider and (George) Moore, (Jack) Thompson and (George) Mulley are first-rate horsemen”, he explained.

“Any of those jockeys would be bound to do well in England. It would not be necessary for them to change their styles of riding.

“English jockeys do ride with  a longer rein, but the Australians do not go to the other extreme of grabbing their mounts close to their ears. They would not appear crude in opposition to the best English jockeys”.

That was in 1948. If Stanley Wootton was alive today, he would be equally enamoured of the skills of Mick Dittman, Shayne Dye and Jim Cassidy, to name just three.

Likewise, Dittman, Dye and Cassidy woukd be just as quick to acknowledge the achievements of Frank Wootton against the best of his era in England.

Young apprentice jockeys of today, would do well to heed the advice that Stanley Wootton gave when he addressed the AJC Apprentices’ School at Randwick in 1948. He said:

“You must learn – and be prepared to learn – anywhere, if you are to succeed as jockeys.

“You must keep an eye on the best riders and imitate them.”

“Get up in the stands when you are not riding and watch the leading riders of the day. See how they handle horse and situation”. (Today, junior jockeys can study the action on “live” TV monitors in the jockeys’ room).

“In this way, you too will learn to become good horsemen.

“If you are using the whip, use the whip and rely on it alone.

“The two operations, whip and hands and heels, cannot be carried out together.

“If you are using the whip; hold your horse together firmly with the other hand. You must not try to hit with the whip and at the same time push your horse along.

“But, above all, keep your eyes between the horse’s ears and you will help to keep your hose straight. If you do, you will not have to do a lot of explaining why your horse did not keep a straight course.”

Stanley Wootton’s name became synonymous with the Golden Slipper when he bred and raced the inaugural winner Todman.

Star Kingdom sired Todman, then the next four Golden Slippers; followed not long after by Eskimo Prince who was from the first crop sired by Todman.

The Wootton – Star Kingdom influence goes on and on. It did not end when Stanley Wootton died on March 21, a few days before the running of the 1986 Golden Slipper Stakes.

His death, at 88, was the result of an accident in Spain in which he fractured a hip.

The Woottons … Richard, Frank and Stanley … Racing’s father and son relationship without peer. Agree?