Guest Blog: Mornington Cannon's Doncaster

10th September 2013

This week’s guest blog comes from Tony Lake. Tony has long been a “friend” of the museum and is regularly inspired by the collection. A keen racing historian, he has kindly offered to contribute to our blog.

When St Leger Week was the climax of the racing year and the oldest Classic was eagerly awaited one jockey dominated the 1894 meeting like no one before or since.  Even Fred Archer’s achievements were put into the shade by that jockey’s achievements on Town Moor that autumn.

Herbert Mornington Cannon, “Morny” to most, had been champion jockey in 1891 and 1892, but his great friend and rival, Tommy Loates, had wrested the 1893 title off him with 222 winners.  Going to Doncaster, and with the end of the 1894 season in sight, Loates was ten ahead and the championship looked to be his.  Undoubtedly, his pursuer’s mind was on winners rather than titles, but what a sensational week he had.

First Day

Morny’s first ride of the meeting was in the 5 furlong Glasgow Stakes.  18 two year olds faced the starter and he partnered the favourite, Powerscourt, in a very open contest. After breaking well Powerscourt made the early running before surrendering the lead at half way and fading to a disappointing fifth place.

His fortunes changed for the better in the Stand Plate. Racing eight opponents Rowallan was Cannon’s first winner of the meeting. Winning cleverly Mr Houldsworth’s three year old belied his 100/8 odds and was subsequently sold for 240 guineas to Mr Whipp, owner of the runner up.

The Champagne Stakes had cut up badly and only five runners started with Morny teaming up with Solero, the punters’ fourth choice. Settled at the back until just inside the distance Mr Fairie’s son of Galopin, challenged for the lead as Saintly, the warm favourite, faded tamely, and won by a comfortable half length.

The day’s feature race was the £1300 Great Yorkshire Handicap which attracted a field of 16 and was considered the strongest renewal of the race so far. It was one of the most open too with layers offering 100/15 the field. In the home straight the lead changed hands many times with Contract, Egerton and Dumbarton all looking like winners at some point.  Morny though was biding his time. Delivering Bushey Park’s challenge to perfection he won by a comfortable length and a half.

Stirrup Cup, recently an eye-catching winner at Sandown, looked the day’s good thing in The Doncaster Welter but Cannon had other ideas.  Taking over the running fully two furlongs from home, Morny on Lumberer repelled all challengers, eventually beating the favourite by a good length.

In the day’s last race, Cannon took the mount on the 2/1 favourite Saltator, but Mr Oswald’s three year old was unable to give two year old, Peopleton, 23 pounds.

After winning the opener, the Fitz William Stakes with Rainbow, favourite backers had had a torrid time of it, but, as Veritas of the Birmingham Daily Post put it, “followers of Mornington Cannon’s mounts had a right royal time of it.”

Second Day

Although Sam and Charlie Loates rode winners on the opening day their title chasing brother Tommy drew a blank. However, he was full of confidence going into the second day because he was booked to ride Ladas in the St Leger and Lord Rosebury’s horse had already won the 2000 Guineas and Derby …  whilst Cannon looked to be booked for a no-hoper.

Without a ride in the opener, Morny’s afternoon started with the ride on Newmarket in the Milton Stakes.  Popular with punters and backed into 4/5 Mr Homewood’s five year old ran out an easy winner. Punters were then in for “one of the greatest surprises ever known,” or as The Belfast News-Letter continued “public form was shattered to atoms.”

The St Leger was the feature race of the meeting and the climax of the racing year. Lord Rosebury’s Ladas was the favourite to clinch the Triple Crown whilst John Porter thought his Matchbox had every chance (and he even had one of his rare bets). Porter’s second string, and considered two stone inferior, Throstle, was originally entered as a pacemaker for her more fancied stable mate. She had not only been born blind but had a tendency to bolt and just six weeks earlier, in the Eclipse Stakes, could not get within hailing distance of Ladas. Even in early morning racecourse gallops, Matchbox, with his big race jockey, Jack Watts up, was catching the eye  whilst Throstle, under George Challoner, “did not impress the cognoscenti” according to the Birmingham Daily Post.

Although friendless in the market her owners, Lord Alington & Sir Frederick Johnstone, known as the “Old Firm”, gambled £1000 on her. Behaving impeccably throughout Throstle put in the performance of a champion and did not let her owners down.

Rather than act as pacemaker, it was Morny’s idea to change tactics and hold her up for a late run.  As the race unfolded Matchbox failed to stay and faded in the straight as Ladas went clear. Then, coming wide of his rivals, Morny launched a withering challenge. Throstle responded gamely catching and passing Loates’ mount comfortably.  At 50/1 the result was “a complete floorer for backers and prophets,” whilst the crowd was stunned into silence. It was John Porter’s fifth St Leger and he put this success down to Morny who, he admitted, “was in irresistible form.”

Morny’s only other ride on the day was The Brook in the Tattersalls Sales Stakes. The seven furlong contest for two-year olds attracted seven starters and Florendean was a strong favourite at 9/4.  100/30 chance The Brook though made a good race of it and at the line the judge could not divide them. Connections could not agree on a division of the prize so a run-off was called. Clearly, the race had taken most out of Cannon’s mount, and bookmakers made Florendean odds on to win, which he did in a canter by 5 lengths.

The day promised so much for Tommy Loates but delivered very little. However, Farndale won the last giving him some consolation.

Third Day

After finishing down the field in the opener on Royal Harry, Morny was back to winning ways in the Juvenile Selling on Colonel North’s Queen Saraband.  The 9/4 favourite had to be driven strongly to get up on the line to win by a short head from the Sam Loates ridden Satura.

Fresh from that success Cannon took the mount on Matabele in the 6 furlong Rous Plate.  This time employing his favoured waiting tactics, he delivered a perfectly timed challenge to win by a comfortable neck at 100/30.

In the next, Cannon had to give way to Tommy Loates on Harfleur II as he could only manage third place on the Prince of Wales’ Florizel II.

Morny though was back in the winner’s enclosure after the feature race, the Portland Plate, where he rode the Duke of Westminster’s Grey Leg. The 15 runner sprint was a cavalry charge as usual but, in a blanket finish, he got his colt’s head in front where it mattered to secure the £500 prize.

Emulating his four-timer of the opening day of the meeting, the twice champion jockey then scored on St Ignatius, but was denied in the day’s finale when well-fancied Court Ball could not match the front running None the Wiser.

Fourth day

After such a fabulous three days Friday was an anti-climax as none of Cannon’s five rides troubled the judge.  The closest he came was when he took second place on Portland in the Doncaster Cup behind Sweet Duchess. Attempting to make most of the running his mount had no answer to the favourite’s turn of foot in the closing stages. In the last race of the meeting he teamed up with Lumberer again.  However, Tuesday’s hard fought victory had probably taken its toll and he was unable to follow-up, settling for third place.

The 1894 Doncaster meeting opened up the Jockeys’ Championship. Morny had narrowed the gap to two and the momentum was with him and by the end of the season he was four wins ahead of Loates. Over the four days, Cannon rode in 21 of the 26 races gaining 10 wins, 4 seconds and 2 thirds. As well as winning most of the feature races the majority of his winners were not favourites and Throstle’s 50/1 victory in the St Leger was quite astonishing.

Tuesday, 11th September, 1894

Fitz William Stakes
Glasgow Plate (18 ran) Powerscourt 5/1
Stand Plate (9) Mr Houldsworth’s Rowallan 100/8 Ryan
Champagne Stakes (5) Mr Fairie’s Solero 10/1 Ryan
Great Yorkshire H’cap (16) Mr Houldsworth’s Bushey Park 100/12 Ryan
The Doncaster Welter (13) Baron M. de Tuyll’s Lumberer 100/8 J. Cannon
Clumber Plate (7)   Saltator 2/1 2nd  

Wednesday, 12th September, 1894

Rufford Abbey Plate      
Milton Stakes (7) Mr Homewood’s Newmarket 4/5 W. Stevens
St Leger Stakes (8) Lord Alington’s Throstle 50/1 J. Porter
Cleveland Handicap      
Tattersalls Sales Stakes (7) General Randolph’s The Brook 100/30 d/h
Bradgate Park Plate      

Thursday, 13th September, 1894

Wharncliffe Stakes (11)   Royal Harry 8/1
Juvenile Selling (10) Colonel North’s Queen Saraband 9/4 C. Peck
Rous Plate  (6) Mr Fairie Matabele 100/30 Ryan
Alexandra Plate (6)   Florizel II 6/4 3rd
Portland Plate (15) Duke of Westminster Grey Leg 8/1 G. Dawson
Corporation Selling (10) Lord Durham St Ignatius 11/8 C. Peck
Scarborough Stakes (3)   Court Ball 5/6 2nd

Friday, 14th September, 1894

Danum Nursery (9)   Dead Level 11/2
Park Hill Stakes  (5) Springray 7/1
Doncaster Cup (8) Portland 100/6 2nd
Prince of Wales Nursery  
Doncaster Stakes (5) Galloping Dick 4/1
Westmorland Plate (7) Lumberer 9/2 3rd


A footnote for punters: “those who “followed" this able and popular jockey by putting one sovereign at s. p. to win on each of his mounts netted exactly £98 9s. 2d., i.e., won £109 93. 2d. and lost £11, a result which came to the share of few others, for never was there a more disastrous meeting for backers”

Harry Sargent “Thoughts upon sport” (1895)