If you are born into a non-racing family where you are one of eleven brothers and you end up being an apprentice jockey, it would seem markedly unusual. Yet such was the case for Ted McAuliffe, whose love for horses and racing began almost in infancy and who was destined to spend his entire life rarely far from a thoroughbred.
Born in 1906, McAuliffe became indentured to Tom Tighe in Belmont Avenue, who around the same time was giving another “Hall Of Famer”, Bobby Morley, his start in the industry.
McAuliffe showed promise in the saddle and won the 1927 Boulder Cup as an apprentice, but increasing weight forced an early change of plans.
Thus, he became a trainer. And then he became famous, but it would take until he was pushing forty to be so.
With wife Muriel he would have three daughters and together they would scrape up enough money to build barn-style stables in Great Eastern Highway – then better ones in Mathieson Road and eventually Kalgoorlie Street, as the trainer grew progressively more successful.
His success came in his strike rate and in particular his strike rate in “black type” races, for McAuliffe had an uncanny ability to win the events that mattered with a smallish team, all the way through his career. This trademark is evidenced by the fact McAuliffe never had more than sixteen horses in his stable.
He would work them through the bush along the boundary fences at Perth Airport and by swimming them in the tranquil setting of the nearby Swan River. The horses loved it and the formula produced extraordinary results.
After World War Two, McAuliffe, now in his prime, won the 1946/47 trainers’ premiership, the only time he would do so, though he was almost always near the top of the tables. Soon after this success, he prepared the winners of three consecutive WA Derbies from 1948 to 1950, namely Precedent, Prediction and Jovial Lad.
Prediction and Jovial Lad were outstanding youngsters, also winning the WA Guineas in their three-year-old seasons. As well, Prediction won the Champion Fillies Stakes and Jovial Lad the Strickland Stakes for their in-form mentor.
Copper Beech, who was raced by renowned WA Turf Club committeeman, Cyril Flower, was another star youngster for McAuliffe and perhaps an even better filly than Prediction.
Copper Beech won the Queen’s Plate, Junior Handicap and Karrakatta Plate as a two-year-old in 1951, in the latter event defeating the odds-on favourite, Asteroid, and the mighty Raconteur.
Copper Beech went on to win seven of her nine starts at three, including the Champion Fillies Stakes at 3/1 on and the WA Oaks at 2/1 on, with the great Frank Treen in the saddle. Copper Beech also won the Lee Steere Stakes in 1954.
Ted McAuliffe generally had great success with young horses. Astra Vista was one that eclipsed the 1961 Karrakatta Plate and 1962 Champion Fillies (when ridden by the folklorish Scobie Breasley). Chestnut Lady was another, winning the 1951 WA Guineas, 1954 Winterbottom Stakes and 1955 Lee Steere Stakes. With McHarry, McAuliffe won the Winterbottom in 1956 and Lee Steere in 1957.
Successful as he was with young horses, McAuliffe had as much or more glory with older runners.
He lifted the Perth Cup three times, with Ghurka (1949), Bay Count (1963) and the wonderful stayer, Royal Coral (1966), who equalled the state and race record in the event, ridden by Graeme Webster Snr.
McAuliffe’s greatest racehorse, Royal Coral also won the C.B. Cox Stakes twice (1965 and 1966), a Strickland Stakes (1965), December Handicap (1966) and in Victoria the 1966 Woodcliff Handicap over 12 furlongs at Caulfield.
He also ran in two Melbourne Cups after changing stables in the east.
Royal Coral came close to taking out a second Perth Cup when narrowly beaten by the favourite, Special Reward, in 1967. He lumped around 9st 5lbs (59.5 kgs), while Special Reward had only 7st 5lbs (46.5 kgs) to carry.
Royal Coral also ran third in the Perth Cup as a three-year-old and ninth in the race as an aged gelding in 1969.
In other career highlights, Ted McAuliffe also won the Railway Stakes three times, with Hinda (1941), Flame Lady (1942) and Thorium (1946). In addition, he bred and owned the latter two gallopers.
Although he rarely ventured to the country areas pursuing race wins, McAuliffe managed two Kalgoorlie Cup successes, with Maranago in 1961 and Polo King in 1968.
On-track achievements aside, McAuliffe was a renowned “apprentice maker”, with top jockeys such as Frank Treen, Harry Wulff, Graeme Webster Jnr., Graham Lambie, Gordon Dickinson and Bruce Hutchinson all graduating under his tutelage.
Ted McAuliffe died in 1979, aged 73.
Perth Cup: 1949, 1963, 1966
Railway Stakes: 1941, 1942, 1946
Lee Steere Stakes: 1954, 1955, 1957, 1961
C.B. Cox Stakes: 1954, 1962, 1965, 1966
Kalgoorlie Cup: 1961, 1968
WA Derby: 1948, 1949, 1950
WA Oaks: 1953
WA Guineas: 1949, 1950, 1951, 1957
Champion Fillies Stakes: 1950, 1952, 1953, 1960, 1962
Strickland Stakes: 1950, 1951, 1965
Karrakatta Plate: 1951, 1954, 1961
Ted McAuliffe trained leading owner-breeder Robert Holmes-A-Court’s very first winner, Fair Billum.
Later, McAuliffe was asked to prepare 1971 Melbourne Cup winner, Silver Knight, for a Brisbane Cup tilt on behalf of Holmes-A-Court, after the wealthy businessman had brought the horse to WA to first race then commence his career at Heytesbury Stud.
McAuliffe got as far as trialling the grey at Helena Vale, but Holmes-A-Court changed his mind about racing Silver Knight and retired him to his new duties.
Silver Knight turned out to be a successful foundation sire for the stud.