Randwick & DIstrict Historical Society: FLASHBACK


RANDWICK: Horse racing has produced its quota of colourful characters and outright rogues but perhaps none more so than James “Grafter” Kingsley. A famous and successful owner trainer, he was also dubbed King of the Tunnellers.

Tunnellers were so named for building underground passages beneath the official weighing areas to tamper with the scales, thereby ensuring some horses carried less weight than they had been allotted. Grafter spent his life thinking of ways by which he could cheat race authorities and often hired unemployed actors to assist with his nefarious schemes.

Disqualified for life by the Newcastle Jockey Club in 1903, he resorted to numerous disguises by which to return to courses, managing in one afternoon to be escorted from Randwick Racecourse 16 times. This may be some sort of record. He once bought a double-decker bus from which he could watch proceedings parked by the course fence whilst teams of runners placed bets for him.

James Grafter Kingsley

The Australian Jockey Club lifted his life penalty in 1918 as part of the peace amnesty after World War One. He then concentrated on pony racing from which he made another fortune. His disregard for the conventions of honesty was perhaps not ironically reflected in the name given to one of his best known horses, High Disdain which won the 1931 Villiers Stakes. He died in 1935, his Randwick burial being very well attended.

Robert Booth

The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 17th July 1935, page 12, reported: KINGSLEY - July 16 1935 James (Grafter) Kingsley of 27 Botany Street Randwick late of West Maitland beloved husband of Lena dearly loved father of Violet (Mrs O Walker) and Vera (Mrs R Brown) and dear brother of Thomas Kingsley and Bride (Mrs W Robinson) Requies cat In pace

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