The Doncaster Cup
The Doncaster Cup, which is run over four miles, dates back to 1766 and is the oldest of all the cup races which have been run continuously since their foundation; The Ascot Gold Cup having only commenced in 1807. Until 1831, the cup, valued at 100 guineas, was the only prize being paid for by the stewards. The prize in 1783 also included 10 gns added by the Corporation. The race, twice round the course, was won by Garforth's Pacolet; out of Pacolet; beating Mr Stapleton's five year old chestnut horse Petrach, which came second and the Earl Fitzwilliam's bay horse Privateer which came in third. The fourth place was filled by Thornville, a bay horse belonging to Mr Wentworth.
The Garforth family were a well-established Yorkshire mercantile family. His great uncle had been governor of the Merchant Adventurers Company in York twice in the 1720s and 30s. William married well, securing the hand of Frances Dalton, daughter of John Dalton (d.1811) of Sleningford, in 1778, and in the same year bought the estate of Wiganthorpe from the Weddell family. He set out on an ambitious program of rebuilding, employing the fashionable York architect John Carr. He was High Sheriff of Yorkshire in 1815. He was also an enthusiastic owner of bloodstock and raced many horses at Doncaster, Richmond and York. He was a man of principal and resigned from racing in 1820 as 'no honourable man...could train either with confidence or satisfaction when even Gentlemen betted around and made up their books as a matter of business.' (M. Huggins, Flat Racing and British Society, 1790-1914; London, 2000, p. 56). A posthumous note in Charles Armiger's The Sportsman's Vocal Cabinet of 1830 refers to Garforth as 'a zealous and steady supporter of the turf...a very excellent landlord, a liberal benefactor to the poor and a right honest sportsman - whose horses always "ran to win if they could" leaving a brilliant example behind him highly worthy of imitation.'
The Design of the Cup
The design of this cup and a number of other Doncaster cups from this period follow the style of Robert Adam (1728-1792), the Scottish architect and designer. Adam is particularly remembered for his designs for the Richmond race cups executed for Thomas Dundas (d.1820), later first Baron Dundas, two examples of which were sold in the Wentworth sale, Christie's, London, 8 July 1998 lots 15 and 19. Similarities can be drawn with the present Doncaster cup, such as the characteristic spool-shaped cover, which is derived from antique Roman altar forms. Other influences are visible in the design of the cup: the oval medallion depicting the sun god Helios in his chariot and the scene with putti both of which are in the style of the gems and cameos produced by James Tassie (1735-1799), the renowned modeller and gem cutter. Tassie also provided numerous designs for Josiah Wedgwood (1730-1795) and the silversmith Matthew Boulton (1728-1809). The overall form of the cup has strong parallels with a number of Boulton and Fothergill designs for tea-urns as published in their pattern-book, vol. I, illustrated in N. Goodison, Matthew Boulton, Ormulu, London, p. 71, pl. 228.
Pickett and Rundell
The business was originally named Thread and Pickett, at the sign of the Golden Salmon, 32 Ludgate Hill, and was founded circa 1758. Philip Rundell joined William Pickett in 1767 and became Pickett's business partner in 1771. William Holmes supplied a number of racing cups to Pickett and Rundell and it is interesting to note the similarities between the present cup and the Tredegar Gold Cup made by Gabriel Wirgman but supplied by Pickett and Rundell to the Society for Equitable Assurances on Lives and Survivorships in 1782, sold Christie's, London, 17 November 2009, lot 278. The Doncaster Race Cup of 1776, by William Holmes, is signed Pickett & Rundell (see J. Lomax, British Silver at Temple Newsam and Lotherton Hall, London, no. 9, pp. 17-19) and the Doncaster Cup of 1793 is by William Holmes for Rundell and Bridge. On Pickett's retirement in 1786 he was replaced as Rundell's partner by John Bridge, and the firm's name changed from Pickett & Rundell to Rundell & Bridge, and later around 1804, with the addition of Rundell's nephew, to Rundell, Bridge and Rundell, who supplied both King George III and the Prince of Wales, later King George IV.