Kingston Town was one of the best Thoroughbred gallopers to grace the turf of Australian racetracks.
He won 14 Group 1 races during the course of his career and he was the first major champion to emerge when the ARB went to the Group classification system.
His first Group 1 win was the Spring Champion Stakes (2000 m) in 1979 and his last was the Western Mail Classic (1800 m) at the end of 1982.
The win in the Western Mail Classic at Perth’s Ascot racecourse in the dwindling days of 1982 cemented Kingston Town’s legacy. The race was renamed multiple times following Kingston Town’s win, but was subsequently named the Kingston Town Classic in 2007 to honour him.
Other Kingston Towns
A fancy pedigree does not ensure success and some rather good Thoroughbreds have come from less than distinguished lines, but good breeding figured prominently in the case of Kingston Town.
Kingston Town was the first horse by that name, based on records from reliable sources. There was a German bred galloper from 1992 with some impressive ancestors, including Bold Ruler of the U.S. and Italy’s famous champion and stallion Nearco, but this version of Kingston Town appears to have done nothing on the track.
A U.S. version of Kingston Town was foaled in 2000. That one did okay, but nothing so successful as to justify having lines including Canada’s Northern Dancer and Neartic, and Bold Reason of the U.S. Interestingly, that the German Kingston Town also had Nearco in his lines and further back on his sire’s side, the immortal Man O’ War of the U.S.
Finally, there was a Kingston Town from India in 2010, with a pedigree that resembles something that would be drawn up by a geneticist. Northern Dancer, Neartic, Bold Reason, Nearco and Native Dancer are just a few of the champions in this modest version of Kingston Town.
Many humans, ourselves included, cannot come close to supplying the ancestry that Thoroughbreds possess. Scrupulous records have been kept for hundreds of years, both from a breeding and racing perspective.
Such a genealogical record would be child’s play in the Information Age. At that time, however, it was all done with handwritten and typed record keeping. Most of those records of lineage and racing results have been digitized, but not all and when it comes to horses that raced prior to, arbitrarily, 1990. There are often gaps in the information stream, something that is inconceivable by modern standards.
Kingston Town’s Lines
Our Kingston Town was bred by a Melbourne businessman named David Hains. Kingstown Town was foaled at Kingston Park, due south across Port Phillip Bay, on the Mornington Peninsula.
Hains offered the horse for auction at the Victorian Sales in 1978, but despite a modest reserve, there were no takers. Hains decided to race the horse, with his wife and other partners, Mr. and Mrs. Monsborough.
Kingston Town’s sire was Bletchingly.
Bletchingly, in what may have been a foreshadowing of the modern tactic of taking a stallion from the track to the breeding shed before an injury could destroy the horse or reduce its stud fees. He raced only five times and his only significant win was The Galaxy. Bletchingly had four other wins and one placing before being sent to stand.
As a stud, Bletchingly had few peers. He was Australian Champion Sire three times and Australian Champion Juvenile Sire once, several years after the 1976 birth of Kingston Town.
The dam of Kingston Town was Ada Hunter. She was an unraced brood mare.
Great Britain’s Hyperion, known affectionately as “The Mighty Atom,” raced 13 times for eight wins and three placings, somewhat obscures Bletchingly in terms of breeding prowess. Hyperion was the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland six times and the leading broodmare sire four times.
Hyperion contributed DNA six generations back of Kingston Town.
Man O’ War was also in the mix, as was the case with the American Kingston Town.
With all this crossbreeding going on, it is a wonder someone has not produced a Thoroughbred with five legs, but unless that would prove to be an advantage, that mutation has not been developed.
Kingston Town the Sprinter
Kingston Town was prepared for the track the entirety of his career by Tommy “T. J.” Smith at Tulloch Lodge in the suburb of Kensington in southeastern Sydney, a short distance from Royal Randwick Racecourse.
The first race for him was a juvenile called the Alfalfa Handicap (1200 m) in March of 1979 for the Sydney Turf Club. He was not only unplaced, he was stone motherless in a field of 13.
He was exhibiting some temperament problems. He would pace around his stall endlessly and try to climb the walls. The decision was made to geld him, spell him, and then return him to racing.
When he came out in June and July, he won his final two races as a two-year-old.
As a Three-Year-Old
Kingston Town returned in spring as a three-year-old, and what he did from that point on would be unimaginable were it not for the exploits of a couple of mares that followed him, Black Caviar and Winx.
On top of the last two wins as a two-year-old, he won his next four races in Sydney.
He won the 1200 m Commissionaire Handicap (1200 m) in August, followed by a big leap in level to the Group 2 Peter Pan Stakes (1500 m), both at Rosehill Racecourse.
Next came the win in the Group 2 Gloaming Stakes (1850 m) and Kingston Town showed early indications of ability over longer trips.
He won his first Group 1 next up when he took the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes (2000 m) at Randwick.
Unbeaten over his last six races, Kingston Town ventured to Victoria. It was there that his only weakness was revealed.
He simply could not go Melbourne way, at least not well enough to win.
He jumped three Group 1s in Victoria. He came in third in the Caulfield Guineas (1600 m), despite jumping favourite, beaten by an obscure horse named Runaway Kid that won only this one Group 1 race.
Next came the Caulfield Cup (2400 m), where he ran fourth to Mighty Kingdom, Warri Symbol and Sonstone. T.J. Smith was probably not fussed, as Mighty Kingdom was also his horse.
His last race of the spring was the Victoria Derby (2500 m). That produced a second placing, again jumping favourite, to a $21 chance named Big Print. This time at least, Kingston Town beat Runaway Kid.
Next came a spell.
Kingston Town returned in February of 1980 and promptly reeled off eight consecutive wins, six in NSW. First was the Group 2 Expressway Stakes (1200 m), followed by the Listed Heritage Stakes (1500 m), the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000 m), the Group 1 Tancred Stakes (2400 m), Group 1 AJC Derby (2400 m) and Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200 m).
So, at three, here is a champion capable of winning sprints and staying races, so long as he got to turn clockwise.
T.J. Smith took him to Queensland next, where he concluded his racing as a three-year-old by winning the Group 2 Grand Prix (2200 m) and the Group 1 Queensland Derby (2400 m).
As a Four-Year-Old
From those eight consecutive wins, Kingstown Town resumed as a four-year-old by winning his next three, running his unbeaten streak up to 11.
First up was the Group 2 Warwick Stakes (1400 m).
Next was the Group 2 Chelmsford Stakes (1800 m) at Randwick, followed by the Group 3 STC Cup (2400 m).
Kingston Town was again sent to Victoria and ran second to Hyperno, again jumping favourite and having a 2 kg advantage on Hyperno.
Next up was the Caulfield Cup and that run produced a third. The race was won by Ming Dynasty, followed by Hyperno and Kingston Town had once again defied his status as the favourite. This time though, he was the one running with the heavier burden.
Kingston Town finally broke his Victoria jinx by winning the 1980 Group 1 Cox Plate (2050 m) at Moonee Valley, a race generally considered the toughest and truest test in weight-for-age racing.
He beat Prince Ruling and Our Paddy Boy, a couple of Kiwi horses, in 2:07.3. It would turn out to be his slowest time of his three Cox Plate wins.
It was a harbinger of the future and an excellent way to conclude 1980 and his four-year-old campaign.
As a Five-Year-Old
Expectations continued to be high, rightly so, when Kingston Town resumed in August of 1981. Backing his 1980 Cox Plate win, he immediately won another seven in a row.
He started by winning the Group 3 Premier Stakes (1200 m). He then won his second Warwick Stakes and his second Chelmsford Stakes and his second STC Cup.
Next came three consecutive Group 1 wins.
First of these was the George Main Stakes (1600 m), followed by the Caulfield Stakes, where it could be said third time’s a charm. He beat New Zealand horses again, with second going to Sovereign Red and third to Hyperno.
In his second Cox Plate, he beat Lawman. Third went to Binbinga, winner at Group 1 and Group 2 level, despite spotting Binbinga over 10 kg. He was a little quicker, winning in 2:06.7.
This time, T.J. Smith did not call time on the campaign.
Kingston Town would run second as favourite to longshot Kiwi horse Belmura Lad, a $51 dollar chance that doubtless left a lot of bookies smiling broadly, as they lugged off their bags full of punters’ money.
He was sent out for the 1981 Melbourne Cup.
Kingstown Town had proven that he could handle the trip by winning at 3200 metres in the Sydney Cup, so it was not a question of distance. His old issues of not being able to turn left seemed to be more of a factor.
He ran 20th in that field, a shockingly poor result considering his form over the past three campaigns. It was, however, the last word that would be said of Kingstown Town in the Melbourne Cup.
As a Six-Year-Old
Kingston Town returned in spring of 1982 to pick up where he left off in autumn of 1981.
T. J. Smith resumed his by-now expected tactic of starting Kingston Town over shorter trips and that tactic resulted in a third Warwick Stakes victory.
There was to be no third Chelmsford Stakes, though, as that race produced a fourth place finish. Next came the Group 2 Hill Stakes (1750 m) that resulted in a fourth.
A brief aside here is that for finishing second in a Group 2 race in 1982, Kingston Town earned just $4,000, a shocking figure considering that now, simply showing up and finishing 10th or better in a NSW Group race pays more.
Next came a second consecutive Group 1 George Main Stakes and a third Caulfield Stakes victory.
Kingston Town then won the Caulfield Stakes for the third time, again at the expense of two New Zealand horses, this time Debs Mate followed by Allez Bijou.
This led up to the 1982 Cox Plate.
So You Think (2009 – 10), Sunline (1999 – 2000), Northerly ( 2001 – 02) Tobin Bronze (1966 – 67), Hydrogen (1952 – 53), Beau Vite (1940 – 41), Young Idea (1936 – 37) and Phar Lap (1930 – 31) had all managed to win the Cox Plate two consecutive, while some others, including Chatham, Tranquil Star, and Flight had won two Cox Plates with intervening years.
The list of one-time winners is extensive, but the names on that list are impressive and include the likes of Amounis, Ajax, Rising Fast, Tulloch, Gunsynd, and many more, won one time only.
This time, Kingston Town beat Grosvenor and My Axeman to establish himself as the first three-time Cox Plate winner.
That three-peat would stand until Winx came along 2015 – 18 to catch and surpass Kingston Town.
Following his third Cox Plate win, Kingston Town was given a second chance in the Melbourne Cup. He ran second by a neck to Gurner’s Lane. Gurner’s Lane had won the Caulfield Cup that year and the Melbourne Cup gave him the rare Cups double.
Finally, Kingston Town’s last win came in a venture to Western Australia, where he won the Group 1 Western Mail Classic (now the Kingston Town Classic) in Perth.
Kingston Town Post-Racing
Leg issues, not a decision to retire after the last Group 1 win in Perth, prevented Kingston Town from racing again. He was sent to America to attempt a cure. He never raced there. He came back to Australia and he was prepped to race in 1985, but he was scratched from that race and retired.
Ironically, after six years of retirement living, he injured his leg while fooling about with a paddock-mate and had to be put down.
Kingston Town’s legacy will not be forgotten, even though his three Cox Plate wins were equaled and surpassed by Winx.
Others, too, have won more Group 1 races.
Still, for the five seasons he raced, his heart was never questioned. His ability over sprint and staying races sets him apart in a manner that Winx could never emulate and only a few others have displayed the versatility to win top-level races at all distances and under all conditions.
Fittingly, he was one of the first five Thoroughbreds, alongside Carbine, Phar Lap, Bernborough and Tulloch, inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in 2000.