Doug Donaldson has had to keep pinching himself
By Frank Marrion, HarnessXpress
With the likes of Temporale, Massive Metro and Bolt For Brilliance, retired Kaiwaka farmer Doug Donaldson has been having a pretty amazing run in recent times.
But that went to a whole new level last Sunday when Donaldson won two of the Jewels races with his only starters – Bolt For Brilliance and the aptly named Double Delight.
And just for good measure, he also had a win at Alexandra Park last Friday night with the trotting mare High In The Sky, while his only other starter over the weekend in Emma Frost was second in an earlier trot behind I See Fire.
“I’m still up in the clouds somewhere”, said Donaldson during the week.
“When Temporale came along, I considered myself to be very lucky getting one good horse in a lifetime.
“But they’ve just kept coming and I think I’ve now had 48 wins in the last four or five years alone.
“With Temporale I thought it would be all downhill from there, but Bolt For Brilliance is taking things to another level.
“He’s just such a beautiful horse and he has such a lovely nature as well.
“I’ve had to keep pinching myself because it’s like living in a dream.”
Donaldson has not long turned 80 and he has been in the game for 45 years.
Most of those years have been spent racing horses with Dane Alexander, whose now 85, and they’re still racing one together now in Hezashadowplayer, a winner twice this season for Jason and Megan Teaz.
“I had a lot of winners over the years with Dane, but no major successes.
“It was when Mark Purdon moved to Canterbury that I started having horses trained by Tony Herlihy, and got my first trotter.”
That was Cautious Spirit, a son of Gee Whiz who won four races, three of them at Alexandra Park before a sale to America, where he went 1.55.6.
Phoebe Gladiator was another solid trotting performer raced by Donaldson and wife Lenore back then.
He won a race in Auckland for Herlihy and then another six eventually under Alexander, at Cambridge and around the traps.
Massive Metro was acquired privately by Bernie Hackett as a going three-year-old from Kevin Fairbairn, the stable having a connection through his dam Paris Metro, who they trained to win a National Trot beating Allegro Agitato and Lyell Creek.
Massive Metro would go on to win a National Trot as well and finish a close third in the Inter-Dominion won by Winterfell.
But he suffered a tendon injury while campaigning in Australia at the start of last year, and is due back in next week for another crack.
Donaldson is also racing High In The Sky, maiden Errol D (Angus Hall-Sanchipola) and Aldebaran Crystal (Father Patrick-Superbowlcheerleader) with Hackett and Wallis.
The latter is a yearling filly on lease from Duncan McPherson after being bought at the sales in Christchurch for $50,000.
“I’ve got 10 horses on the go at the moment.
“Errol D began well with seconds in his first two races, but lately he’s been blowing to bits.”
But Donaldson’s involvement and success went to another level when he began taking a share most years in a yearling bought by Herlihy at the sales.
It started with Temporale, a son of Monarchy and the good mare Whosinthenest who was bought for $22,000 at the Premier.
He’s won 20 races and $643,000 so far, having won the Rowe Cup as a four-year-old and later a National Trot, while being second in two Great Southern Stars.
Donaldson races him with a bunch of owners nowadays including Steve Cornwall, whose also racing High In The Sky and Errol D with him.
Revolver, a son of Auckland Reactor and Penny Lane, was bought for $22,500 in Christchurch in 2016.
He won five of his 18 races, all of them at Alexandra Park, and $69,000 before a good sale to America last year.
Bolt For Brilliance was bought for $30,000 in Christchurch and he’s raced with Herlihy, Auckland’s Peter Hailes and the late Stan Matthews
The latter sadly passed away early last year following Bolt For Brilliance’s surprise win in the 2yo Ruby at Addington, where he was a maiden and paid $31 beating Cracker Hill and Ultimate Stride.
“He went in for an operation and appeared to be doing well, but got an infection.”
Even when Herlihy attempted to buy a nice pacing filly by Captaintreacherous from a Bettor’s Delight mare, Donaldson has wound up with another good trotter in Double Delight.
That makes Donaldson’s story even more unbelievable.
She remains unbeaten in three races and is already a Group 1 winner and a New Zealand record holder, her 1.58.4 at Cambridge knocking off Jo Anne’s 1.58.5 from 20 years ago.
To do that she had to overcome starting from post eight and going back to the rear.
She wound up three back in the running line as the race unfolded and charged home over the top of the colts Mystic Max and Mr Love.
Highgrove had lost the plot at the top of the straight but he may not have held off the filly anyway after all the work he’d done in the run.
“She never looked like pacing and has surprised us by just how much she has improved with each run.
“All of which makes you wonder where she is going to wind up.
“I think I’ve probably got a three-year-old with Tony floating around, but it can’t be any good, because I can’t think what it might be.
“I know I took a share in a colt by Captaintreacherous from this year’s sales, and we think this one will be a pacer.
“Tony is an exceptional horseman in every respect, but I guess everybody knows that.
“What amazes me is his ability to peak a horse for the big races.
“Bolt For Brilliance began racing this season in August and peaked for the Sales race in October.
“He was back at Christmas to take on the open class trotters and he was at Addington at Easter for the big races.
“Now he’s come back for the Jewels and gone probably his best race of the season off the back of one lead up race and no trials.
“He’s having a well deserved rest now and I’m not sure if he’ll be back in time for the Dominion, but that won’t be the end of the world.
“Provided he stays sound he’ll have a few cracks at that.”
Donaldson is now looking forward to being a lot closer to the action himself.
He has sold the farm and bought one of the apartments overlooking Alexandra Park.
“That’s been happening for a while now but there’s been a lot of delays.
“But we’re moving in next month and I’m really looking forward to it.
“I’ll be able to watch the races from my balcony if I want.”
He’ll probably want to be on track though because he’s probably going to be needed in the winner’s circle at most meetings.