By Richard Goodbody
The Queensland racing industry has lost one of its greatest horsemen with the passing of Gold Coast Hall of Fame trainer Noel Doyle.
For more than half a century, Doyle has been a constant presence in the Sunshine State – first as a jockey and then in the training ranks – with his no-nonsense style leading to success at every turn.
Before weight forced him out of the saddle, Doyle was an accomplished rider who piloted Eye Liner, arguably Queensland’s greatest ever two-year-old, to a pair of feature wins in Brisbane amongst a slew of big race performances.
He would leave his mark on the industry as a trainer, however, as he oversaw the careers of some incredible runners highlighted by Stylish Century, Don’t Play and Kinjite.
Other runners included Beau Zephyr, Palidamah, Brunchtime, Hot To Race, Atlantic Crossing and Mercherie.
Upon paying tribute to him, Gold Coast Turf Club CEO Steve Lines said Doyle’s contribution transcended what happened on the track.
“Noel is part of the fabric of the Gold Coast Turf Club,” Lines said.
“He is intrinsically part of our DNA.
“He was a True Blue Aussie – he called a spade, a spade – but he had a terrific nature and was a gentlemen and it was a pleasure to have him as part of the Gold Coast.”
On the eve of the 2021 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival, Doyle is remembered as much for his near misses as he is for his wins, with Lady Luck deserting him during moments of his career.
During a memorable 1989 Stradbroke Handicap, Don’t Play, with Brian York aboard, hit the front with a furlong to run and appeared to have the Group 1 at his mercy.
Robian Steel would flash home late to somehow pip him on the post, with legendary racecaller, Wayne Wilson, among those who believed Don’t Play had banked the Stradbroke.
“I was among those who thought he had won the photo,” York said.
“Sadly, we missed.
“Noel was a great bloke – we enjoyed a great association – and we enjoyed a lot of winners together.
“He was a horseman. He had been around horses all his life…and he will be a great loss to the Queensland racing industry."
Lightning would strike twice when Kinjite lost the 1992 Doomben Cup by a whisker to Kiwi giant-killer, Rough Habit.
While the Queensland star would bounce back with victory in the Group 1 Epsom Handicap, a poor run in the Caulfield Stakes on a very heavy track, had bookies betting around him in the 1992 Cox Plate.
Like many of Doyle’s stable, Kinjite rose to the occasion, crossing the line third and being promoted to second after Better Loosen Up’s (fifth) protest against Let’s Elope (second across the line) was upheld, with Super Impose snaring the weight-for-age feature.
“It was just an enormous day,” Doyle reminisced to Racenet late last year.
“It’s always been touted as one of the best quality Cox Plates and it was a big thrill to run second in it I can tell you.”
The near misses fail to paint the whole picture of Doyle’s accomplishments, with the Gold Coast trainer always seeming to boast a star horse in his stable.
York and Doyle partnered Stylish Century to victory in the 1989 Gold Nugget, running a race record of 1:08.34 at the time.
The pair would go onto win the Group 3 Brambles Classic at Kembla Grange before the horse’s owner, Dick Monaghan, swung a jockey change for the Golden Slipper.
Doyle too would be replaced for his three-year-old season as Monaghan transferred Stylish Century to Bart Cummings’ stable and then onto a host of other trainers.
While Kinjite was edged in the Doomben Cup and the Cox Plate, he won a handful of Group races – and was placed in another dozen. His wins included:
- Group 3 Fernhill Handicap;
- Group 3 Up And Coming Stakes;
- Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes;
- Group 1 George Ryder Stakes; and
- Group 1 Epsom Handicap.
In more recent times, Doyle has overseen Samurai to victories on the Gold Coast and Eagle Farm, the most recent coming in a Class 4 Plate in January.
Having worked side-by-side with Doyle for more than 40 years, fellow Gold Coast trainer, Harold Norman, said his dear friend would be sorely missed.
“A great mate,” Norman recalled.
“We helped each other out through life.
“He was always looking out for people – happy to have a word if they needed one – and just a good bloke.”
Having ridden together during the early parts of their respective careers, Norman has witnessed the transformation of the Gold Coast, like few others, with Doyle seemingly never too far away.
“I’ve been here a long time and have seen a lot of change,” he said.
“When I first started, there was just a little old stand, and rows and rows of bookmakers, as there was no tote just on-course bookmakers.
“We’d have five races every Saturday – the course proper had only been in for seven months as prior to that we raced on sand.
“I can remember the first $1000 race which was just incredible. $500 to the winner and $300 for second and $200 for third.
“I was here first and then Johnny Wallace and then Noel…they were good days.”
Over the years, Doyle and Norman’s friendship blossomed, with the pair dining together every Saturday night, enjoying a meal and a glass of red wine.
Norman said the tradition would continue this evening in memory of Doyle.
“We’d go out for a meal every Saturday and enjoy a couple of bottles of red,” Norman said.
“It wouldn’t matter if I had friends in town – or Noel did – Noel would come along and I would too and we were just mates.
“We’re booked into Main Beach tonight and we will have a glass of red and we will remember Noel.”
Racing Queensland extends its condolences to the Doyle family.