DONOGHUE, Steve

8 November 1884 - 23 March 1945

Steve Donoghue with a group of friends.  Date unknown
Steve Donoghue (far right) with a group of friends. Date unknown
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Born in Warrington, Steve Donoghue had his first rides in France and Ireland. He returned to England with a retainer for Henry Persse's Stockbridge stable in 1911, and in 1913 he rode the famous The Tetrach, said to be the country's fastest horse ever. Steve was champion jockey on ten occasions, and rode six Derby winners. He rode Epsom's tight Tattenham Corner so well that the popular joke was that he had his left leg hooked over the rails.

He was also associated with the horse Brown Jack, who he rode to six consecutive wins in the 'Queen Alexandra Stakes' at Royal Ascot: plus the 'Goodwood Cup', 'Ascot Stakes', and 'Ebor Handicap'.

He was champion jockey in successive years 1914-1922. In the 1920s the familiar shout on the racecourse was 'Come on Steve' as British punters urged on their sporting idol.

In 1915 and 1917, he rode the horses Pommern and Gay Crusader to the English Triple Crown. Steve Donoghue is the only jockey to have ever won the Triple Crown twice.

Such was Steve's success, that by his early twenties he had a large house complete with chauffeur, cook and gardener, and a flat in Park Lane with a valet and a housekeeper. He began a relationship with Lady Torrington, who bequeathed to Steve a painting by Sir Alfred Munnings of her horse.

Despite the successes by 1928 he had debts of £36,000 and assets of £800. He had a tax bill of £9,000, and was borrowing from moneylenders.

Some of the proceeds probably financed Lady Torrington's lifestyle, who had acquired a private racing stable in Wiltshire. Steve's generosity did not save Lady Torrington, she was subject of receiving orders herself, and in 1931 committed suicide.

The financier, gambler and racehorse owner, Jimmy White had been generous to Steve, with large retainers and gifts. However, he too hit hard times, and persuaded Steve to sign a promissory note for £21,000, despite the fact that Steve claimed not to owe White anything. White also committed suicide when debts became too much.

During Steve's High Court examination, the Official Receiver concluded that Steve had "contracted debts without having at the time of contracting them any reasonable or probable ground of expectation of being able to pay them".

Steve was by now forty-four, and on track his successes had decreased. In 1932, Steve was offered the mount on subsequent Derby winner April the Fifth, trained by Tom Walls who was based at The Looe, Ewell. Steve unfortunately chose another horse to ride.

Steve Donoghue and Tom Walls outside Tom Walls House
Steve Donoghue and Tom Walls outside Tom Walls House
Image source not known

In his last season riding, Steve went out in a blaze of glory riding Exhibitionist to win the 1,000 Guineas, and The Oaks at Epsom.

Steve's son Pat was apprenticed to Stanley Wootton at Treadwell House, Epsom. Pat Donoghue retired from riding and trained ponies at Sandown Lodge in Avenue Road, Epsom. His major owner was Miss Dorothy Paget, and in order to accommodate the large number of ponies he moved to the Woodruff stables in Headley Road, Epsom. In 1938, because of the worsening position in Europe, the enigmatic Miss Paget announced that she was selling all of her ponies. Since she owned thirty-seven of the forty animals in the stable this left Pat Donoghue virtually unemployed.

Coincidentally his father Steve had announced his retirement from riding and his intention to train. He was struggling to find suitable premises, but had been promised thirty horses on the strength of his reputation. Thus Steve Donoghue appeared in the 1938 Horses In Training as training thirty-one horses at Epsom. The arrangement was short lived, stables at Blewbury, Berkshire became available, and Steve moved. As a trainer, Steve Donoghue's success was limited, partly due to wartime restrictions.

When he died on 23 March 1945 Steve's estate was worth £19,514-14 shillings (roughly equivalent to £600,000 in 2007).

Steve Donoghue on the Derby winning Manna c1925
Steve Donoghue on the Derby winning Manna c1925
Image source the Gooreen collection via Wiki Commons

    DERBY WINNERS
  • 1915 POMMERN
  • 1917 GAY CRUSADER
  • 1921 HUMORIST
  • 1922 CAPTAIN CUTTLE
  • 1923 PAPYRUS
  • 1925 MANNA
    OAKS
  • 1918 MY DEAR
  • 1937 EXHIBITIONIST
Bill Eacott
November 2012




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