Dubbles Draper hadn’t been seen at Borrowdale Park for quite a while but returned to the scene of her former triumphs on 2019 Castle Tankard Day, accompanied by her family. In 1983 Dubbles trained the Castle Tankard winner, Little Chief, for Mr & Mrs L W Baldwin and Mrs L M Corser, And, if my memory is correct, also saddled Pin Royal, who ran second.
Jackie Cocksedge recently visited Dubbles to catch up on old times and capture some details about a family steeped in the thoroughbred tradition – and still going strong. As time passes it becomes harder to record times past. Thank you, Jackie:
“Audrey Mary Silcock made her entry into the world on the 16th August 1922 at Colesberg, in the heart of Karoo country in South Africa.
“Her parents Mary Josephine “Lassie” (nee Wilmot) and Sidney Silcock were farmers and horse breeders in the region. Sid came out to Africa from Albury in Norfolk as a young man at the invitation of his older brother, Joe, and found employment with Henry Nourse, at that time reputed to be the largest racehorse owner in the world.
“Sid Silcock founded Starston, about 20 kilometres from Colesberg, quite near to the Orange River, after leaving the service of the remarkable but highly fastidious Nourse, in around 1933. Dennis, Dubbles’ elder brother, subsequently started his own farming career working for the astute Raymond Ellis, at Hartford Stud, which then occupied the land subsequently acquired by Gary Player. Dennis who became an expert on the soils and plants of the Karoo, after returning from a lengthy period of incarceration, after World War II, set up Knoffelfontein on Starston’s boundary.
“As a child of 5, Audrey followed her father everywhere on her chubby little legs, and he would call to her “Come on Dubbly Wubbly, keep up”. The nickname Dubbles stuck, and she has been known by that ever since.
“Dubbles recalls growing up in Colesberg and from a very early age being horse mad. As she said she would ride any horses she could lay her hands on. An early memory she treasures is that she had a pet nanny goat, that was orphaned, named Nancy. Her father made a little cart, and a bridle to fit the goat, and Dubbles spent many happy hours being pulled in the cart by Nancy until her father put a stop to it because her route involved the road to the post office and the traffic was deemed dangerous. Apparently, Nancy was also banished as she ate the washing.
“Growing up Dubbles took to schooling polo ponies, and a chance introduction through the Worsley-Worsick family to Ella Lockie saw Dubbles visiting Rhodesia to stay with Ella and her sister Gwen, at Ellerslie Farm in Bromley. It so happened that the neighbours who farmed had a very successful young polo playing son, Bob, and at the age of 23 Dubbles became Dubbles Draper.
“The couple acquired a farm at Bromley, Woodleigh, where Bob did a bit of tobacco and raised a magnificent herd of Hereford cattle. Bob continued to play polo and in the 1950’s was the Rhodesian number one player in the era of Rodney Morris who captained the Rhodesian team from 1949 to 1960.
“Dubbles started riding work for Lord Kensington, who farmed nearby and had a small training track on his property. As a result, she met Dorothy Rutherford, a successful racehorse trainer based at Marandellas. Dubbles credits Dorothy with being the most influential person in her early days of training, giving very generous and helpful advice. With help and encouragement from family and friends, they put in a training track at Woodleigh, and so it started.
“At the height of her career as a trainer Dubbles says she probably had about 30-odd horses in training. Dubbles recalls she was blessed with very good patrons through the years, making special mention of Terry Cutter, Laurie Baldwin and Terry Hardy, who was a big supporter of her yard.
“We recalled the good old days when attending a race meeting was an occasion to dress up. In fact, all ladies sported hats and often gloves too. Dubbles says her late mother-in-law who lived with them, plus her mother who came to live with them after her father’s death in 1958, would not miss a race meeting and were always dressed to the nines.
“Bob and Dubbles only child, Leigh Josephine, also grew to love horses. She married Graham Carey whose family farmed in Bromley. After running the Windsor Stud for Terry Hardy in Ruwa, the young couple decided to try their fortunes in Cape Town and relocated to Somerset West. Tragically Graham was killed in a car accident in 1989, and Leigh plus two small children came back home to Woodleigh, where Leigh started a successful stud farm.
“After the farm invasions in 2002, Dubbles and Leigh moved to Harare and kept one mare with Diz Buckler at Sarahdane Stud. Mated to Fencing Master, the mare Click On produced a filly in 2015 which was named Solinski. Wanting to keep a small interest, the filly was syndicated and went into training with Kirk Swanson.
“Sadly, Leigh did not live to see Solinski excel on the track, winning the Zimbabwe Oaks, The Zimbabwe Derby and the Silver Slipper, and earn herself the title of Spey Bridge Champion Three-Year Old Filly 2016/17. Solinski has notched up 6 career wins and continues to bring much joy to Dubbles who watches her races on TV with keen interest.
“Dubbles lives with her granddaughter, Audra, her husband Dirk, and her great-grandchildren in Harare. Audra seems to have avoided the horsey bug but Dubbles’ grandson, Craig, and his wife Amanda are very hands-on, and recently joined the powerful Kieswetter set-up of Ridgemont/Highlands Stud Farm in Robertson in the Cape.
“As Craig says, “All said and done, a life amongst horses has always been a natural progression for me.””
I am sad to say that Dubbles Draper died in Harare a few hours after this article was posted. She will be missed by all who knew her.