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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hales, Thomas (Tom) (1847–1901)

by Maurice Cavanough

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Thomas (Tom) Hales (1847-1901), jockey, was born in Portland, Victoria, one of the ten children of Matthew Hales, blacksmith, and his wife Margaret, née Ward. The family moved to Penola and then Robe, South Australia. Although forbidden by his father to become involved with racing, Tom at 12 found school drab, ran away from home and found refuge at Edward Stockdale's station, Lake Hawden. There he first met Adam Lindsay Gordon whom he described as 'the most competent horse-breaker I ever saw'. Later at Penola Gordon as a police trooper arrested Hales for throwing stones at bullocks in the Penola stockyard, but released him when reminded of their meeting at Stockdale's station.

At 13 Hales rode his first winner, Euclid, in a match race for £50 against another horse ridden by a well-known professional rider. However, the name of Hales had little significance in racing until 1872 when he went to Melbourne with the Adelaide trainer, H. Tothill, and was asked by the owner, T. J. Ryan, to ride The Ace in the Melbourne Cup. His mount ran second to The Quack but his handling of it was appreciated by knowledgeable observers.

At a time when the horse was every man's mode of transport and the skill of a professional jockey had to be outstanding to set him apart from his fellows, Hales was sought by the richest owners in Australia. For James Wilson, master of the powerful St Alban's (Geelong) stable and stud, Hales won the Victorian Derby and Oaks on the filly Briseis, and for William Long won the 1880 Australian Jockey Club Derby, the Victorian Derby and the Melbourne Cup on the unbeaten Grand Flaneur. He also rode for Etienne De Mestre, but it was association with James White of Kirkham stud, New South Wales, that won him repute as 'the [Fred] Archer of Australia'. Chiefly on White's horses, notably Abercorn, he won three Sydney Cups, six Australian Jockey Club Derbys and seven St Legers, seven Victoria Derbys and ten St Legers, and six Australasian Champion cups. In 1872-94 from 1678 mounts he won 496 races, had 332 seconds and 195 thirds, the prize money totalling £336,680. Although corruption was then rife in Australian racing he preferred to rely on his skill. Perhaps his best tribute came from the bookmaker, Joe Thompson, who often suffered from this skill: 'I never saw Hales lose a race once he had it won, and that is more than I can say of any other jockey I have ever seen'.

Hales held an interest in Milby station on the Lachlan River in 1883-88 and bred horses at Haleswood, his 600-acre (243 ha) property near Tallangatta, Victoria. He died aged 54 at Moonee Ponds on 26 October 1901, predeceased by his first wife Harriet Amelia Blackler, and survived by his second, Frances Selina Coles; they had no children.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Sutherland et al, Victoria and its Metropolis, vol 2 (Melb, 1888)
  • N. Gould, The Magic of Sport (Lond, 1909)
  • D. M. Barrie, The Australian Bloodhorse (Syd, 1956)
  • M. Cavanough and M. Davies, Cup Day (Melb, 1960).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Maurice Cavanough, 'Hales, Thomas (Tom) (1847–1901)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 September 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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