Childhood tragedy leads to a lifetime of success for Doug Lee

By Duane Ranger (courtesy of Redcliffe Paceway)

Tragedy struck master Stockleigh horseman, Doug Lee, early in his life when his father, Laurie, was killed while playing in the 1961 rugby league club final for Blacktown.

“I don’t remember Dad’s footy match, but I was told he was a front-row forward and got kicked in the side of the head when trying to make a tackle. He was concussed and went off with just two minutes to go.

“Three days later he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. It was a devastating blow for our family. I remember clearly, one of the first things Mum said later was ‘I was never ever allowed to play footy’.

One start for Doug Lee – and now one win for the Stockleigh trainer. The Nathan Dawson-driven Jimmy Joyce pictured soon after his impressive win as the $1.33 favourite in race three at Redcliffe Paceway last Wednesday evening (October 25). DAN COSTELLO PHOTO

Sydney-born Lee was just five at the time, and after his father passed away, he moved in with his grandparents, Nan and Snowy Finn at their Riverstone property.

Lee said Snowy was a prominent trainer back in the day having great success training and winning the 1976 Interdominion Trotting Final with Bay Johnny at Globe Derby Park.

“My grandfather was a huge influence in my career, specialising in the squaregaiters,” Lee said.

Fast forward 62 years and Lee is still notching up both trotting and pacing winners left, right, and centre.

His latest training triumph came in race seven at Redcliffe Paceway last Wednesday night (October 25) when the Nathan Dawson-driven Jimmy Joyce, proved way too good, bolting in by 18.9 metres.

Doug and Joedy Lee on their wedding day 22 years ago.

That’s some training feat considering Jimmy Joyce finished 30.7, 47.4, and 44.1 metres from the winner in his first three starts at Newcastle from May 23 to December 5. ‘Jimmy’s’ then trainer, Maitland based, Laura Spencer, just couldn’t get him to go. In fact, in his last New South Wales start at Maitland on December 30, the bay gelding finished 33.40 metres from the victor.

Jimmy Joyce arrived at the Lee stable in mid-2023 when the owners decided to bring him to Queensland for him to train.

“That was just his sixth start and first as a 3-year-old, and he’s rising four now. The owners thought a change of scenery might do him the world of good since he had only one third placing down there,” Lee said.

That was his first start for Lee after he trialled him twice on the track earlier in the month. He believes the 10 months off did him the world of good.

Winners are grinners – the hard working Stockleigh couple, Doug and Joedy Lee.

“‘Jimmy’s’ bigger and stronger now, and he had only raced in New South Wales as a 2-year-old. Jimmy doesn’t possess high speed, but constantly grinds away, as you would have seen by his sectionals on the night. His last quarter was his slowest,” Lee said.

Jimmy Joyce, a 3-year-old Four Starzzz Shark gelding, who was the red-hot $1.33 favourite. He paced the 1,780m mobile in 2:14.2, with a 2:01.4-mile rate, and his sectionals were 30.2, 30.6, 30.3, and 31.5.

Jimmy Joyce is owned by D P Lynes and A J Armitage, and was astutely driven by Australasia’s best driver at the minute – Nathan Dawson.

“It’s good to get that first win out of the way. ’Jimmy’ actually trains free-legged when he’s at home, and obviously races with the hopples on race-day. He’s a nice- gaited horse, who I don’t think is going to set the world on fire, but I certainly think he can win a few more – especially while he’s at this end of the grade,” said Lee, who is currently working a team of six at Stockleigh, which is a rural locality in the City of Logan, boasting a population of 765.

New South Wales native, Lee, attended Marayong Public School, and then on Doonside High School, before he realised school wasn’t his thing, so at 14 in 1970 Snowy’s good friends, Ron and Beryl McCall who were making the move to Queensland, offered Lee six weeks work at their new stable located in Knight Street right by the Redcliffe track.

“It took some convincing for Snowy to let me go and six weeks turned into four years with McCalls. I later went back to Sydney for a number of years when Snowy took ill, so I set up his own stable,” he said.

Just one of many winning photos since the mid-1970s for Sydney-born and now Stockleigh based horseman, Doug Lee.

In the early eighties Lee decided to relocate to Cowra in the Central West of New South Wales, because at that time there were a large number of tracks within a 100klm radius.

“I stayed there for about 25 years and then my wife Joedy, who is a Queenslander, and I decided to sell up and come back to Brisbane – 53 years after coming to Brisbane for the first time,” he said.

Lee is now not only one of Queensland’s most astute horsemen, whose peers constantly seek his advice, but the 67-year-old is still notching up training and driving victories left right and centre.

Lee said he had always loved the trotters, which stemmed from his early years with Snowy – the master trainer of the squaregaiters.

“Justabitcoco was one of my first trotting winners when we first moved to Queensland just over a decade ago. The breed I have goes all the way back to Snowy’s, Bay Johnny (Johnny Globe – Snow Jane – U Scott).”

Doug Lee and Redcliffe Paceway’s 2020 Horse-of-the-Year, Nikalong Henry.

His best horse to date is the 2012 Lawman – Justabitlooney 18-win mare, Justabitnoisy who has so far earned $246,089 for Lee who owns, bred, trains, and drives him. Riegel Lobel mare, Justabitlooney, won 17 races including the Ararat Trotters Cup.

Lee has had success with a number of trotters since moving to Queensland, including Justabitnoisy and Scorched, who both won the Group 3 Jim McNeill Trotting Championship in 2016 and 2019 respectively. Justabitnoisy also won the Group Three Trotters Marathon in 2019..

But Lee’s most sentimental victory of them all was when 2-year-old Majestic Son gelding, Justabitlikesully, had his first win on October 3.

Justabitlikesully is named as a tribute to Lee’s late cousin, and well-known legendary NSW trainer of trotters, Peter Sullivan.

VALE: Peter Sullivan
Rest In Peace, ‘Sully’ aka Peter Sullivan. Doug Lee’s cousin passed away aged 67 in October 2020.

Lee said he and ‘Sully’ (as he was known to all) were both grandsons of Snowy Finn, and they both grew up working and living together from a young age.

“We were more like brothers than cousins. ‘Sully; was the President of the NSW Square Gaiters Association for more than 25 years and he had a huge presence at the Penrith Trotting Club. I’d talk to Sully daily on his way to the races right up until the day he passed in late 2020.

“He actually asked me a couple of days before he died if I could name the gelding after him, and that’s exactly what I did. ‘Sully’ wanted his name to live on through the horse – and that’s exactly what Justabitlikesully is doing,” Lee said.

After going past the post for soon after his maiden win on October 3, Lee saluted the heavens saying – “This one is for you Sully!”

Justabitlikesully is owned and bred by Lee and his wife Joedy. He is the son of their 2010 Bacardi Lindy 17-win ($116,959) mare, Justabitcoco.

Justabitlikesully won his second race on October 24 by a whopping 59.4 metres. It was his second win in 10 starts. He’s also placed five times.

Master Stockleigh trainer, Doug Lee, learnt everything he possibly could about the squaregaiter from his legendary Interdominion winning trainer, Snowy Finn.

In a career spanning over 50 years, Lee has won many races and raced on many tracks throughout Australia but the Group races and Justabitlikesully’s two wins have so far have been his career highlights.

“To own, breed and get them to the races is the ultimate,” said Lee, who had his first drive in 1978 and drove his first winner that year behind at the old Tweed Heads track on the Ron Mcall trained Royal Swinger

Lee has been married to Joedy for 21 years. He said they were actually boyfriend and girlfriend when Lee worked for the McCalls in the 70’s. They both married other partners and met up again 30 years later at the Bathurst Gold Crown Carnival.

He said his wife and her then 12-year-old daughter, Steffanie, relocated from Brisbane to Cowra and they married there in 2002. They both ran the Cowra Harness Racing Club together until there return to Brisbane in 2013.

Footnote: The Lee trained, Brendan Barnes driven Jimmy Joyce has drawn the outside of the front row, gate 6 in race six at Redcliffe Paceway on Wednesday November 1 at 7.52pm. Lee’s other runner that night – Devouged (5), will also be driven by Barnes in race three at 6.20pm.

Photo Finish
The Doug Lee trained and Nathan Dawson driven Jimmy Joyce first – daylight second. The 3-year-old Four Starzzz Shark gelding will line up at ‘The Triangle’ again this Wednesday night in race six at 7.52pm.

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