The Lee Steere Stakes is a Group 2 weight-for-age race of 1400 metres open to all horses aged three years and above.
The race is held at Ascot Racecourse, near Perth in Western Australia.
Races in Western Australia are run “Melbourne way,” that is, clockwise.
In 2020, the prizemoney was $250,000, with $147,500 deposited into the bag of the winner, a nice mare named Kay Cee. More on her later, but for now, it should be said that she has won over $1.2 million without racing outside of Western Australia, along with the fact that the lion’s share of that prizemoney total ($590,000), came from winning The Group 1 Winterbottom Stakes over the good horse Gailo Chop.
The 2020 edition of the race was run in early November. In the past, the race has traditionally been run in late December or early November during the Perth Summer Racing Carnival, so depending on how the calendar played out, there have been some years where the race was run twice in the same calendar year.
History of the Lee Steere Stakes
They have been galloping Thoroughbreds in Western Australia for a long time. Historical records place the beginning around 1848. There must have been about four people and two racehorses in Western Australia at that time, but the distance between the West and the East back then meant that racing had to develop in the West if there was to be any racing.
The race now known as the Lee Steere Stakes was first run in 1893. Lee Steere would have been around at the time, as he was born in 1866 in Beverly, WA. From 1893 through 1938, however, the race was known as the All Aged Stakes, not to be confused with the prestigious Group 1 race held at Randwick.
Perhaps they changed the names to avoid confusion and there is also an All Aged Stakes run in England, so the name has been worn out.
Lee Steere, full name Ernest Augustus Lee Steere, was a prominent personage in Western Australia who was for a time the chairman of the Western Australia Turf Club. The more important aspect to Lee Steere was that he was the owner of Eurythmic, a champion galloper that won the Sydney Cup, the Caulfield Cup and won three consecutive in the Melbourne Stakes and the Caulfield Stakes 1920 – 1922.
The first use of the name Lee Steere Stakes was in 1939 and since Lee Steere did not die until 1957, he enjoyed the honour of having a race named for him for 18 years. The Western Australia Racehorse Owners’ Association (WAROA) became involved in 2008. The race is now called the Waroa-Lee Steere Stakes.
The race was run over a course of a mile from 1893 – 1938. It was shortened by 200 metres beginning in 1939 through 1971, although they were still using the colloquial furlong measuring system and they started giving the trip as 1400 metres from 1972 – 1984. The WATC added a 100 metres back to the race from 1985 – 1992, and then switched back to 1400 metres from 1993 through the present.
The Lee Steere Stakes has been shifted around the racing calendar. Prior to 1989 and up until 2000, the race was held in the middle of December. It was originally run during the Perth Cup Carnival around New Year’s Day. This is why there are more than a few instances where the race was run twice in one calendar year. There were some years when the race was held in January, and then again in late December, all in accordance with how the days of the year fell.
It was considered a Principal race from inception through the debut of the Group classification system in 1979. It has been a Group 2 race ever since.
Race Venue of the Lee Steere Stakes
The race is held at Ascot Racecourse in Perth. Ascot is a beautiful facility and the scene as the horses run along the Swan River is one of the better to be found in Australia. More complete information on Ascot can be found here:
Racing History of the Lee Steere Stakes
There have been many multiple winners of the Lee Steere Stakes. That is an interesting facet of weight-for-age racing.
The list of winners is not stocked with famous names. There are some familiar names, but nothing like any of the big eastern races.
A possible indication that the quality of the fields for the Lee Steere Stakes is that there has not been a multiple winner since La Trice in 1971 and 1972. It is also possible to observe that perhaps the winners since La Trice went on to bigger races in the east or simply failed to win after the first time.
The horse named Scarpia won the race the first three times it was run.
Scarpia must have been competent to win the race three times successively, but all we could learn was that he was of predominantly British and Irish extraction, as were most horses of the time. Scarpia’s first Australian ancestors were his sire, Neckersgat, his dam, Tarpeia and his granddam, Romula.
Tarquin was a three-time winner. He was brother to Scarpia, from the same sire and dam, but foaled five years after. What is known about Tarquin is that he was South Australia bred and that he won the Perth Stakes in 1899. His three wins in the Lee Steere Stakes were in 1897, 1898 and 1900, with the intervening year of 1899 going to Aqua.
Aqua is noteworthy because his grand dam sire was the legendary undefeated champion, Melbourne Cup winner and leading sire Grand Flaneur.
The first instance of the race being run twice in one calendar year was 1901. It was won the first time by Reliance and the second time by Cardinal. Neither horse left much of an impact.
We found a significant winner from 1910 in Jolly Beggar. That year was the next occurrence of the race being held twice in one calendar year. The other winner from that year was Annapolis, a horse about which little is known from the racing perspective.
He won the race twice with two intervening years in 1910 and 1913. He won a host of races and did well in the east when winning the AJC Doncaster Handicap the VATC St. George Stakes and the VRC C.M. Lloyd Stakes.
Lucky Beggar was the winner in 1914. He shared the same sire with Jolly Beggar, but was out of a different dam. It would appear that Lucky Beggar was not as accomplished as Jolly Beggar. Other than the Lee Steere Stakes, we know that Lucky Beggar won the WATC Karrakatta Plate in 1912. Earlier in that same year, Tom Castro was a winner. He was another good Western Australia horse.
The racing calendar had two Lee Steere Stakes again in 1916. High Rock was one winner. Believe it or not, he was a U.S. horse that risked German U-boats when he was sent from England to Australia in 1914 on the White Star ocean liner Runic. Just two years after the sinking of the Titanic, another White Star ship, it must have felt surreal to ship a valuable Thoroughbred to Australia.
The other 1916 Lee Steere Stakes winner was Mistico, a mainly obscure horse.
The next connection we observed was courtesy of 1920 winner Jolly Cosy. His dad was 1910 winner Jolly Beggar. Jolly Cosy had an impact on Western Australia Thoroughbred racing from winning the Lee Steere Stakes, the WATC Sires’ Produce Stakes, WATC St. Leger Stakes, the Perth Cup and the WA version of the Cox Plate, the C.B. Cox Stakes.
There was no race held in 1932, but in 1933, Cetotis was the winner and he won again in 1936.
Tetreen, the 1938 winner, was a good Western Australia horse that won the WATC Plate and the Railway Stakes. Like earlier races we have mentioned, there was another run in 1938 that was won by Gay Gipsy.
The next multiple winner came along in 1962 and 1963 by a horse with the proper horse name of Big Bob. Big Bob also won the Winterbottom and the Railway Stakes, so he was pretty good. He was a good sire as well, including Aubbette, Emocling and Cherrytime that accounted for 27 wins between them.
Railway Boy was the two-time winner from 1966 and 1967. He is credited with 20 wins at sprint distances and running second in the Railway Stakes.
La Trice won the Lee Steere Stakes in 1971 and 1972.
She was a good mare that won plenty of Stakes races. She won the Karrakatta Plate for two-year-olds in 1967 and she won the Railway Stakes as a three-year-old. She is considered one of the best mares produced in Western Australia. She won the 1970 Railway Stakes as well, that is, she was first across, but she was relegated on protest, with the victory handed to Kilrickle.
Another good Western Australia horse was 1979 winner Asian Beau. He was a racing force for a brief time in 1979, winning most of the significant WATC races, including the Railway Stakes, the Winterbottom Stakes, Prince of Wales Stakes, Australia Day Stakes and the Hyperion Stakes. He only made 14 starts, but he won 12 of those and was second in another, running unplaced one time.
Sky Filou, the 1988 winner, was a name we recognised, thinking there might be some connection between this horse and Le Filou, but we did not find any.
He was a good racer, though, recording 15 wins and 12 placings from 43 jumps, including a Group 1 in Victoria.
Hardrada, the 2002 winner of the Lee Steere Stakes, was a good galloper that won the Railway and Winterbottom Stakes.
The year of 2003 supplied Early Express as the winner. He was a narrow loser to Hardrada in the Railway Stakes that was doing quite well in Western Australia. He did not fare so well in some jumps at Caulfield and Moonee Valley, despite being given to Lee Freedman in 2007. Freedman returned Early Express to original trainer Peter Giadresco, but after the win in the 2005 Group 2 Cox Stakes at Ascot, he never won again, finishing his career at Ascot.
Another good horse was the mare Grasspatch Girl, winner of the Lee Steere Stakes in 2007. She enjoyed a productive career, making 39 starts for 10 wins and 14 placings. She did all her racing in Western Australia and the Lee Steere Stakes was her final win, although they sent her out a few more times. She tried the Lee Steere Stakes again in 2008, but came in second-last.
Ranger was a gelding foaled in 2006 that won the race in 2011.
He was apparently a better-than-average sort, as his connections turned him over to Western Australia training legend Grant Williams in 2010. Williams never got a win from him though, other than this race and like Early Express, he never won another race after winning the Lee Steere Stakes.
One of our all-time favourites, Black Heart Bart, was the winner in 2015.
Bart would make the PGR Racing Hall of Fame for winning almost $5 million, making 62 jumps. He beat Chautauqua from second into third in the 2016 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington and he did the same to Kermadec in the 2016 All-Aged Stakes at Randwick in 2016.
Bart won at Group 1 level on several occasions and he staged some famous duels with the likes of Vega Magic, Hartnell and Humidor, as well as trying to chase down Winx in the Caulfield Stakes, where only he and He Or She would accept the challenge of racing Winx.
The rest of the list is Perfect Reflection (2016), Silverstream (2017), Gatting (2018). Star Exhibit (2019) and Kay Cee (2020).
Western Australia racing is sometimes looked down on by the racing elite of the east, but the state has produced many fine gallopers, some of which have gone east and done well.
Even in the modern era, it is often prohibitively expensive to send a horse across the country.
Occasionally, one of the eastern horses will compete in the Lee Steere Stakes as a way to add a little extra cash to the bag after a spring racing campaign in the east, but most that do are targeting the Group 1 races, such as the Railway and Winterbottom Stakes.
|Year||Lee Steere Stakes Winners|
|2015||Black Heart Bart|
|2007||Grass Patch Girl|
|1994||Jacks Or Better|
|1989||Carry A Smile|