Sometimes the pedigree of a Derby-winning owner can be just as fascinating as that of the horse that lands the prize. William Alexander Long, the man who owned Grand Flaneur, the winner of the 1880 A.J.C. Derby is a case in point. Long was born in Sydney in July 1839, and both his father and uncle were convicts who had been transported to the colony of New South Wales for seven years. William Long senior arrived here as an eighteen-year-old on the Baring in September 1815 and his seventeen-year-old brother, Alexander, just over four years later on the Earl St Vincent in December 1819. Once emancipated in the fledgeling settlement of Sydney, both men prospered but particularly William. It is a tribute to his imagination and enterprise that by the age of just thirty-one he became the licensee of the Saracen’s Head at Miller’s Point and three years later had taken over the Commercial Tavern in George Street North, one of the most profitable hostelries in the city. William had established himself as one of the city’s most prosperous wine and spirit merchants in rapid time.
William senior married a widow, Mary Walker, in Parramatta in March 1827 but it was to prove a short-lived marriage that ended with no children and Mary’s premature death. In September 1829 William senior married for the second time and it was to be a successful marriage that would produce four children viz. Isabella, William, Eleanor Jane and Selina. While William is the central character in this instalment, I might mention the significant ‘society’ marriages that his three sisters made in the course of their lives. Isabella became Lady Martin, wife of Sir James Martin, the Chief Justice of New South Wales. Eleanor Jane married the Hon. W. B. Dalley, Attorney-General of New South Wales. And Selina married the nephew of Judge Alfred Cheeke! A measure of the extent to which Sydney brought about William senior’s rehabilitation still stands today in the great surviving waterfront mansion of Tusculum, Potts Point, today the N.S.W. headquarters of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. It was erected in 1835 as a residence for Long, one of a series of creamy sandstone villas constructed along the spine of Woolloomooloo Hill after Governor Darling granted a generous allotment of land to selected citizens of the colony.
When William Long senior died in 1876, he left an estate valued at more than £100,000, the bulk of it going to his only son. It was this patrimony that funded William Alexander Long’s spectacular assault on the Australian Turf. The product of a privileged childhood and a private education, William by then was already a figure on the Sydney social scene. As a young man he had travelled to England to study law; he had been called to the Bar of the Inner Temple in London in June 1862 and was admitted to the New South Wales Bar in December of the same year. However, like his racing colleague, Henry Dangar, Long never actually practised law but entered politics instead. It was upon his return to Sydney in 1875, that he was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Central Cumberland on June 30, 1875, and represented that district for two years. In October 1877 he was returned for Parramatta and remained in the Assembly until November 9, 1880, retiring exactly seven days after the running of the 1880 Melbourne Cup although, in an act of nepotism from his brother-in-law, he was later to be appointed to the Legislative Council in September 1885, a position he retained until March 1900.
But I get ahead of myself. In those early days in Parliament, William Long was an active politician and served as the Colonial Treasurer in the Sir John Robertson government that lasted for four months and a day from August to December 1877 during that turbulent year in the politics of the colony. Politics or not, all the while Long maintained the most passionate interest in horseracing. Even in the House, Long betrayed his interest in the thoroughbred, arguing in one debate that it was the breeding of racehorses that had directly led to an improvement of hackney, carriage and buggy horses. Already an active player on the Turf, his father’s death in 1876 and the considerable wealth he inherited, as a result, enabled him to expand his hitherto limited racing interests on a quite extravagant scale.
Exactly when William Long decided to combine his racing and breeding interests with his long-term intimate friend, J. S. Smith, can’t be determined with certainty. Smith, the one-time squire of Mamre, South Creek, was the husband of the once-popular Sydney actress, Kitty Corcoran and won the Sydney Cup with Speculation in 1874 but I don’t believe the two men were then in partnership. However, by the time Speculation won the Doncaster in 1877 and Viscount the Epsom in 1878 I believe that Long had an interest in each horse. Later Smith had a partnership in some gallopers which ran in Long’s name, something Smith confirmed in a letter to The Argus concerning Grand Flaneur and the 1881 Australian Cup. It was soon after Tom Brown won the 1878 Melbourne Cup on Calamia that Long sought him out and engaged him as a trainer, and Long thence proceeded into racing en grande pompe.
Smith, however, developed Bright’s disease and when he embarked on an extended European tour in 1880 seeking medical advice and recuperation, Long assumed full responsibility for the string. What a stable of well-bred juveniles young Tom Brown had in training during that 1879-80 racing season at Mr Smith’s private ground at Mamre! They included Henchman and Sylvan, the first a brother to Robinson Crusoe, and the second a sister to Goldsborough. Nor did it end there. Other boarders included Silver Bell, a sister to Chester, and Geraldine, a sister to the Maribyrnong Plate winner, Habena, as well as First Lady, a half-sister to Kingsborough and Savanaka. In aggregate, the aristocratic five as yearlings had cost 5000 guineas.
By comparison, Grand Flaneur, the horse that was to prove the best of Brown’s stable that season and any other for that matter, looked distinctly cheap and common. For this son of Yattendon cost just 175 guineas when sold as a yearling in April 1879 at Randwick under the auspices of Thomas Clibborn. He was one of nine Yattendons offered on the day by his breeder, E. K. Cox of the Fernhill Stud. Even by the standards of the day, the price was most reasonable as less discerning buyers gave as much as 600 and 900 guineas at the same sales for Yattendon fillies. First Lady, the imported dam of Grand Flaneur, was by all accounts a mean little wretch that wouldn’t have fetched 50/- in Camperdown yards judged on looks alone; indeed, when she landed in Australia, George Kiss declared that she wasn’t worth the railway fare to Parramatta. But looks are one thing and blood another. First Lady was a granddaughter of Stockwell on the sire’s side and Orlando on the dam’s side, and the value of the Stockwell/Yattendon cross was already well established.
Tom Brown took Grand Flaneur to Melbourne intending his public debut to come at the Flemington Spring Meeting of 1879 but the colt’s troublesome feet – a problem from which Yattendon stock often suffered – prevented him from appearing at the fixture. Brown returned to Sydney at the close of that meeting but left the son of Yattendon in the care of A. Davis at Flemington to be prepared for the rich Normanby Stakes, a race christened after Victoria’s new Governor, to be run at the V.R.C. Champion Meeting on New Year’s Day. Although Davis was unable to wind-up the colt properly, he took his place in a field of ten at an outside price, in a race which Palmyra, the Maribyrnong Plate winner owned by the Hon. James White was regarded as a good thing. Grand Flaneur and another colt, Trevallyn, came with a tremendous rush on the whip hand and Yeomans on Grand Flaneur got up to win cleverly on the line. The correspondent for The Australasian on the day described the colt as pot-bellied. While such allusions to lack of fitness would become common throughout his brief career on the Turf, the horse was clearly anything but common. Grand Flaneur was then regarded as a good thing for the Ascot Vale Stakes, but recurrent lameness precluded his starting and, after blistering behind one knee, the colt was put out to pasture.
In Grand Flaneur’s enforced absence, the honours in the important juvenile races that season largely went to Grand Prix, a beautifully bred son of The Marquis, and just one of the tribe that Etienne de Mestre had acquired from Charles Fisher. Alas, he was a colt with imperfect forelegs and proved quite a headache for de Mestre during a short career. Grand Prix dominated the Flemington proceedings, easily winning both the Ascot Vale Stakes and Sires’ Produce Stakes before coming to Sydney. At Randwick, his star was eclipsed somewhat when he was regarded as a rather lucky winner of the Champagne Stakes after Geraldine had her head turned the wrong way when the flag fell. By then, Geraldine had already provided William Long with a fair measure of compensation for the temporary loss of Grand Flaneur when she finished strongly to share a dead-heat with Kamilaroi in the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and then confirmed her hard luck in the Champagne by easily beating Grand Prix in the Breeders’ Plate. Looking back years later, Long considered her the best mare he ever raced. That A.J.C. Autumn Meeting proved most successful for him even without Grand Flaneur. Apart from Geraldine, the lucky owner saw his colours successful in the St. Leger and Sydney Cup with Petrea, as well as several weight-for-age races, and by the end the season he had emerged as Australia’s leading owner.
There was at least one silver lining to the dark cloud of lameness that had shadowed Grand Flaneur’s first season on the Turf, and that was the fact that neither the men of Tattersall’s nor the general public suspected the colt’s true merit. Provided the horse could stand a preparation, the prospect of a grand betting sting loomed large. Moreover, with the same stable housing the highly fancied Geraldine, Messrs Long and Brown had the perfect cover for confusing bookmakers as to their real intentions. It was in their favour that although Grand Flaneur had leg problems, he was a light-fleshed horse blessed with a perfect action. Moreover, by July 1880 a new training ground had been established at Hawkesbury, which, for a time, was judged to be the best in the colony. The going was quite soft enough to suit any horse – and particularly one with a propensity to lameness.
William Long secured a series of boxes adjoining Ramsay’s Hotel, near the Hawkesbury course, and alternating with some work at Randwick, it was there that Grand Flaneur did a couple of his important gallops leading up to the Derby. The relative isolation of Hawkesbury offered an additional attraction to a stable planning a betting coup – it was comparatively free from the prying eyes of the touts that congregated about headquarters. Tom Brown found that in most of the fast gallops by the son of Yattendon during the weeks of August the horse invariably pulled up lame – something observed by the few track watchers – but that after an hour or so back in the stables the lameness seemed to disappear.
When Geraldine easily upset the favourite Kamilaroi and Sapphire in the Hawkesbury Guineas, and Grand Flaneur failed to put in an appearance at the fixture, despite being stabled on the course, the general assumption was that the filly rather than the colt was the Derby pea. It was only after the Hawkesbury re-union that the money went on the Flaneur and even then, not before Long had made a very public gesture of backing a horse from another stable altogether – Lord Lisgar – to win a £1,000 in the race. This feint caused an easing in Grand Flaneur’s price upon which the stable pounced and very quickly the colt rocketed to the top of the charts. Any remaining doubts as to Long’s real intentions were laid to rest when Geraldine was struck out of the Derby on the day before the race, and at Tattersall’s later that night Grand Flaneur was as solid as a rock.
The most notable change for the seven thousand or so people attending Derby Day at Randwick in 1880 was the completion of the tramway all the way to the racecourse, a feat that had only just been achieved in time with the finishing touches made the night before. It was only the second steam-tram line to be laid in Sydney and ran from the city to the racecourse with the fare being fixed initially at a 1/- each way. However, public agitation and the active competition of horse-drawn omnibuses soon saw the price halved. Several other essential improvements had been made to Randwick in time for the A.J.C. Spring Meeting. The winning post had been removed 110 feet nearer the road, thereby rendering the straight running longer, and the other posts had been moved in proportion. A moveable casualty-room had been placed on the northern side of the weighing room. A new officials’ stand was being erected over the front of the weighing room, and there was a reserved seat for the timekeeper. The grandstand and other buildings had been painted and decorated with considerable taste, and the Leger stand thoroughly repaired.
The 1880 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
Seven names were hoisted for the classic and sharing the second line of betting behind Grand Flaneur were the colts Trevallyn and Lord Lisgar. Trevallyn with a little luck might have beaten Grand Flaneur in the Normanby Stakes on New Year’s Day, but had lost ground at the tan – a failing he repeated in the autumn, the crossing on the course there proving a particular aversion. The colt finally lost his maidenhood when he won the S.A.J.C. South Australia Stakes at their May Meeting and Billy Yeomans, who partnered him on that occasion, retained the ride. Lord Lisgar owed his prominence to an upset win in the Mares’ Produce Stakes over both Geraldine and Kamilaroi on the second day of the Hawkesbury Meeting. Etienne de Mestre’s sole representative from an original entry of eight was Guinea, a half-brother to that sterling trio of Florence, Hamlet and Horatio. Alas, on disclosed form he seemed unworthy of the family.
De Mestre had been denied the services of his crack juvenile of the previous season, Grand Prix, because of lameness. The Hon. James White’s colours were borne by Sapphire, a particularly well-bred filly from a distinguished family, and she had run the minor placing in both the Champagne Stakes and Breeders’ Plate at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting. White had suffered the misfortune of losing his best juvenile of that year, the Maribyrnong Plate winner, Palmyra, when she broke her back while working at Flemington one morning in preparation for the autumn races. Meanwhile, Edward Lee and Tom Lamond were hoping to win their second Derby in succession with Remembrance, a slashing filly by Maribyrnong, and the winner of the Flying Stakes at the V.R.C. Spring Meeting the previous year.
Just before the horses left the paddock, the supreme confidence of William Long about his Yattendon colt was demonstrated when he accepted a wager of £2500 to £250 for the Victoria Derby. Mr Rouse didn’t keep the field hanging about, and Bruno, the rank outsider, at once made the pace a stiff one. Young Kelso, partnering his father’s horse, kept increasing his lead, and as he topped the hill at the back of the course, Bruno’s various friends were hailing him the likely winner. However, a half-mile out the pace began to tell and Trevallyn, who had been lying second throughout, was the first to go up and challenge. Lord Lisgar and Grand Flaneur came next, with Sapphire close up, while Guinea and Remembrance were already beaten. In the straight when seemingly going well, Lord Lisgar split his hoof and dropped out. Tom Hales on Grand Flaneur coolly delayed his run and then with one burst of superior speed came on to claim a clever victory.
The re-design of the Derby course made time comparisons with previous runnings invidious, but only Richmond and Robinson Crusoe had ever gone faster. It was Hales’ second triumph in the race following his win on Richmond five years before, and his waiting race attracted the personal congratulations of the Governor, Lord Loftus, who claimed that in his long career on the Turf he had never seen a better ride. For Tom Brown it was his first Derby as a trainer in just his second season in that calling, having won the same race twice from the saddle. Grand Flaneur was the second A.J.C. Derby winner bred by Edward King Cox at his famous Fernhill Stud, following upon the victory of Loup Garou in 1872. Ironically, the great stallion Yattendon had died just four months before Grand Flaneur’s famous victory.
The Derby was just the start of what was to prove a wonderful spring for Grand Flaneur. After easily winning the Mares’ Produce Stakes on the third day of the Randwick fixture, he was taken to Melbourne, but neither his unbeaten status nor the nature of his trackwork at Flemington convinced the Melbourne touts that he was anything special. The consensus there was that in Progress, the St Albans’ stable had a horse that would lower his colours. Progress was yet another of those grand colts bred by Charles Fisher at Maribyrnong and was the first foal of the former good race filly, Coquette, ever to make it to the racecourse. Fisher had sold both mother and son at the break-up of Maribyrnong, and when sold as a yearling sometime later, Progress had realised 250 guineas from a bid of William Branch, a prominent Melbourne bookmaker. Progress had done very little racing at two, and his only success at that age had been the Winter Handicap (12f) at Geelong.
The V.R.C. Spring Meeting in 1880 came about a month after the official opening of the massive Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens and was the occasion of Melbourne’s first official Exhibition and Trades’ Fair. As a result of the influx of international and intercolonial visitors, large crowds were in attendance at Flemington during Cup week.
However, it was another structure that was officially opened in Melbourne a few months before the V.R.C. Spring Meeting that most concerns us here. And it was opened without anything like the celebrated fanfare of the Exhibition Building. I refer to the newly established betting-room, which had been christened the Victorian Club and the story of its launch is one of intrigue, jealousy and bitterness. Given its historical significance both to the events of this chapter in particular, and the Victorian Turf in general, some background knowledge is required. It was back in July 1872 that Victorian Tattersall’s was launched at a meeting in Garton’s Hotel and it came into existence after the failure of several betting associations through the bookmaking influence bringing them into disrepute.
The initial gathering at Garton’s Hotel was large and representative, and it resolved that a betting association would only succeed if the bookmaking element as it then was in Victoria, should have nothing to do with its management. Victorian Tattersall’s as the organisation came to be known, established its betting-rooms at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Bourke-street, just opposite the Theatre Royal. This club, to which the subscription by 1880 amounted to two guineas, became the betting bourse of the colony, the headquarters of the Melbourne betting fraternity and the tribunal before which all betting disputes were adjudicated. The club, the rules of which were printed in the Turf Register, was based loosely on its English equivalent and was managed by a committee, an autocratic body from which there was no appeal. It was even above furnishing to the members an annual balance sheet and remained rather secretive as to the composition of its committee.
It was this autocracy and secretiveness that by 1880 had resulted in a schism within the organisation between the committee and many of the leading Victorian bookmakers, a schism that came into full view when the committee and a certain clique within the club decided to break with the old Bourke-street locality and relocate to St James’s-Hall. A portion of the ring followed the committee and deserted its old haunts. However, a number of the major metallicians of the ring saw it as their opportunity to break with the past and take greater control and oversight of their association. One of their numbers was W. M. Sayer, a bookmaker and landlord of the Prince of Wales Hotel. He had no wish to lose the patronage of so many from his Bourke-street establishment and accordingly he did not stand by idly and watch mass desertion. A new club, to be called the Victorian, was quickly announced, and the services of certain gentlemen of position and standing in the racing world, were secured. A committee was formed, rules drawn-up, the subscription fixed, and within a few days the list of members, amounting to some one hundred and fifty, was announced. A secretary was appointed, the old club-rooms enlarged, cleaned and handsomely furnished at great cost and hey presto! the Victorian Club: the new betting-rooms were born. The rooms officially opened on the night of August 11, 1880.
The rivalry between the two betting associations was brief although for a few months some bookmakers did hedge their bets so to speak, by subscribing to both. However, the issue that guaranteed the total eclipse of Tattersall’s in double quick time was their committee’s equivocation as regards the readmission of any man once having been proved to be dishonest. Whereas in such circumstances the Victorian Club would have no more truck with any man found guilty of fraudulent practice, Tattersall’s were quite happy to readmit such a person after his having served his time. However, for the Victorian Club, defaulting on bets, which were eventually squared-off was one thing; the welching on bets and sharp practice was another. At this stage in its development, the atmosphere of Victorian racing was anything but pure, a theme that was explored in the 1872 instalment of this chronicle. It was because of this elevation of behavioural standards and the community standing of the men that constituted its early membership, together with its plush environs, that the Victorian Club quickly assumed a social status quite apart from its function of regulating and adjudicating on betting disputes.
It soon received the countenance and support of the principal racing authorities and rapidly gained prominence and prestige altogether never accorded the old Tattersall’s. Amongst the earliest committees of the new institution could be found the names of Captain Standish, the chairman of the V.R.C., A. K. Finlay, Robert Power, Herbert Power, Donald Wallace, A. W. Robertson, J. L. Purves, William Leonard, John Whittingham, the Hon. William Pearson and other men of that class, and all, incidentally, at one time or another, members of the committee of the Victoria Racing Club. The decisions of the new club’s committee often decided the course of thousands and thousands of pounds and yet were invariably complied with and few men, whatever their grievance, ever questioned the justice of the awards.
The membership roll of the Victorian Club soon increased, and the considerable cash balances generated as a result saw the prestigious organisation move a door or two above the old place in Bourke-street to a new building as early as February 1887. The new premises were just near the Opera House (later the Tivoli Theatre) and enjoyed a frontage to Bourke-street of sixty-six feet. The Inaugural Dinner to celebrate the new rooms was held on Thursday, June 9, 1887, and they were very much worth celebrating because no less than £3,000 had been expended on the refurbishment.
Perhaps I’ve lingered too long on the background and political machinations of the formation and growth of the Victorian Club. After all, this is meant to be a story about the life and times of William Long and Grand Flaneur. However, while I plead mea culpa, the diversion was relevant as much of the commission on Grand Flaneur to win a second blue riband and the Victoria Derby/Melbourne Cup double was booked through that august body of the Victorian Club and the newly constituted standards guaranteed that William Long and his associates duly collected! The Victoria Derby was run in heavy rain that year, and while Progress ran a game race as the favourite without the benefit of anything to make the running, in the end, he went down by a length to the Yattendon crack – with twelve lengths to the third place-getter! The time, considering the state of the ground, was quite smart.
Excuses were made for Progress that day. It was said that the reins were wet, and little Peter St. Albans allowed them to slip through his hands and thereby lost control momentarily. Accordingly, despite the clear evidence of the Derby, many racing men believed that Grand Flaneur would not be able to give the son of Angler 17lb and a beating over the two miles of the Cup. How wrong they were! The two colts again ran one-two, and the ring was badly hit by the double victory of Grand Flaneur; William Long was the biggest winner, reaping almost £20,000 from the race. In the Cup, Grand Flaneur had only been asked to carry 6 st. 10lb and it was largely as a result of this experience that the authorities raised the Derby winner’s Cup weight for future years to 7 st. 5lb and later to weight-for-age. On the last day of the meeting Grand Flaneur again easily beat Progress for the Mares’ Produce Stakes. A measure of the champion’s class came three races later on the card when Progress took out the weight-for-age Canterbury Plate (2 ½ miles). In celebration of a memorable carnival Long commissioned Frederick Woodhouse to paint two portraits of his great crack, one of which he presented to the Victoria Racing Club.
Grand Flaneur was kept in Melbourne for the Champion Stakes at the V.R.C. Midsummer Meeting. There had been some talk that St Albans might even send out First King to meet him – a prospect that excited the cognoscenti – but the old champion by now was serving a few mares, and James Wilson resolved instead to rely on Progress. The result was predictable in that for the fourth time in succession Progress was easily beaten into second place by his young nemesis with twenty-five lengths to the third horse, Sweetmeat! It was the same story two months later in the V.R.C. St Leger when the two colts were the only horses to contest the red riband and yet the time was the fastest ever made for the race. It was after the V.R.C. St. Leger that there came the single greatest controversy in the racing life of Grand Flaneur, or indeed that of William Long for that matter.
Grand Flaneur had been the public fancy for the Australian Cup – despite his handicap – from the time weights were issued. His eleventh-hour withdrawal on the eve of the race triggered an ugly demonstration at Flemington. When Long passed through the lane into the saddling paddock, he was greeted with a storm of boos and hisses, and he never forgot the terrible experience. The press report that Long, a constant habitué of the Victorian Club, had backed a rival horse, Sweetmeat, for the race was too exasperating to be taken quietly. Perhaps Long was misused over the incident. He only resorted to scratching through fear that Grand Flaneur would taste defeat for the first time and the reason he didn’t withdraw sooner was that Sweetmeat, the horse he feared, had a leg and was liable to crack up. As it happened, First Water beat Sweetmeat easily and if Grand Flaneur had run he would in all probability have met the same fate. Few believed that even Grand Flaneur could have given First Water a year and 18lb and a beating over 2 ¼ miles considering the sort of form that horse was in at the time. When Grand Flaneur came out again on the third day of the meeting and won the Town Plate, the demonstration was renewed with much booing even from within the members’ reserve itself.
The baying crowd weren’t to know it at the time and nor was William Long, but it proved to be a pyrrhic victory and Grand Flaneur’s last race. Sore upon pulling-up, the horse returned to Sydney. However, before leaving Melbourne, one night at the Victorian Club, Long took £1,000 to £100 Grand Flaneur for the Sydney Cup from William Branch and wanted the same bet from Joe Thompson, but Joe would only lay £800 to £100. Tom Brown persevered with a training regime for Grand Flaneur but on the very eve of the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting the champion colt broke down badly after a Saturday morning track gallop over two miles. Jack Gainsford partnered him in the gallop and misunderstood Tom Brown’s instructions, which were to canter the colt for two miles. Instead, the champion colt went rather fiercely with the result that he did the suspensory ligament in his near foreleg. Nine starts for nine wins and £8,105 in stakes is a record that has resonated down the years – all from a horse that was never fully fit.
There were times after morning trackwork Grand Flaneur would be in such pain that he would lie down in his box and Brown would give him his breakfast on the floor. It hardly seems necessary to observe that the string of victories saw William Long finish Australia’s leading owner for the second season in succession. At the time of Grand Flaneur’s retirement, many regarded him as the finest thoroughbred ever foaled in Australia. Sometimes the true measure of a horse’s worth is in the quality of his opposition. After the breakdown of the Yattendon crack, Tom Hales accepted the ride on Progress, owned by Melbourne bookmaker, William Branch, for the balance of the season and on this very good son of Angler proceeded to win the A.J.C. St. Leger, Sydney Cup, Cumberland Stakes, A.J.C. Plate and Adelaide St. Leger. There could be no greater testimony to the merit of Grand Flaneur than this string of victories by a rival to whom he was untroubled to give a stone in weight over any distance.
It was that 1880-81 racing season which saw Tom Hales really acknowledged as one of the great riders of the Australian Turf; he enjoyed an extraordinary run of success, winning thirty-six races and fourteen of them coming in the white and black livery of William Long. In many respects, Hales was singularly fortunate in the way the cards fell that year. Billy Yeomans originally had been the retained jockey for William Long and had partnered Grand Flaneur upon debut. But during the winter of 1880 Yeomans had purchased some land in the north-eastern district of Victoria and began a small stud with some well-bred mares and a few stallions, most notably Mercury. Although he had no intention of abdicating the saddle altogether, his commitments to his new country enterprise made it difficult to commit to riding Long’s big string of racehorses in their various engagements about the country, and he gave up the retainer in favour of Hales. It was ironic therefore that it was Yeomans who finished as the rider of the Derby runner-up, Trevallyn. It was shortly after the A.J.C. Spring Meeting that Hales and Yeomans announced that they had jointly given £11,000 for a station on the Lachlan.
Much of the money that William Long and J. S. Smith won from Grand Flaneur was ploughed back into bloodstock and the development of the Chipping Norton Stud and racing stables. The estate, four miles north of Liverpool, consisted of some five hundred acres. By June 1881 Long had laid out a racecourse together with well-grassed paddocks, extensive stable boxes and an elegant homestead on the hill, from the verandah of which the entire course could be surveyed. In the latter half of 1881, J. S. Smith, Long’s great friend and partner, was dying from Bright’s disease and the decision was taken to sell their land holdings of Warwick-farm while their bloodstock was sold at public auction. It was in December 1881 that William Forrester purchased the land that he was to develop, together with E. A. Oatley and others in a syndicate, into the Warwick Farm Race Club, which was to hold its first race meeting there in March 1889.
But I digress. The principal lots of the Long-Smith bloodstock were purchased by the new proprietary of Warwick-farm, and the prices included 1500 guineas for Grosvenor, a brother to Chester; 1750 guineas for Aureola, a two-year-old sister to Robinson Crusoe; and 1025 guineas for Paresseuse, a sister to Grand Flaneur. After the sale, Messrs Long and Smith visited England where Smith finally succumbed to his debilitating disease in July 1882. Long, too, fell ill on that trip and was treated in a private hospital there. Long did some racing in England on that trip, where, strange to say, another Tom Brown trained for him. I might mention that Long enjoyed a considerable legacy from Smith’s estate – not that he was in particular need of the money at the time.
Upon his return to Australia, Long again resumed his involvement with racing, this time with George Hill as his partner in the relative seclusion of Chipping Norton, but the consequences were to be disastrous for both men as well as for Andrew Town. Tom Brown remained as private trainer for many years, and the relative seclusion of the training grounds near Liverpool ensured that any planned betting coup by Long remained a closely guarded secret. Apart from a period at the Hobartville Stud when he was first leased to Andrew Town, Grand Flaneur spent most of his stud life at Chipping Norton. The one blessing of his premature breakdown meant that he went to stud in full vitality and proved every bit as successful there as he had been on the racecourse. Grand Flaneur’s best son was Patron, winner of the 1894 Melbourne Cup as well as the Caulfield Guineas, V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and St. Leger; but he got another Melbourne Cup winner in Bravo (1889), besides Sydney Cups with Frisco (1887) and Patroness (1895), not to mention a host of winners of other classics and important handicaps. Grand Flaneur also proved to be a good sire of broodmares and among the good racehorses thrown by his daughters were Ampier, Malt King, Paul Pry and San Fran to name just a few.
While Long did retain Patroness to race in his own colours, besides winning a V.R.C. Oaks with Dainty and an Epsom with Hopscotch, it is fair to say that the best of Grand Flaneur’s progeny passed into other hands. The horse’s reputation as a stallion even extended to England. One of his sons was Merman, who, after winning the 1896 Williamstown Cup was sold to Lily Langtry, the notorious English actress and mistress of the future Edward VII. It had once been a dream of William Long to race Grand Flaneur in England, and it should be mentioned that Long did keep a few horses in training in England at various times – most notably Tonans, who in 1883 ran fourth in the Cesarewitch and second in the Cambridgeshire. Still, he was denied the opportunity with Grand Flaneur because of the horse’s breakdown. It must, therefore, have been a mixed blessing when Merman, this son of his former champion, won some good races on the English Turf, including the 1900 Ascot Gold Cup. It was in the 1894-95 racing season that Grand Flaneur became the leading Australian sire for the only time in his life. William Long always maintained that had Yattendon’s best sons been used in the best studs, the Yattendons would have been as distinguished in the sires’ lines as his daughters were on the distaff side of so many pedigrees.
While William Long was never to enjoy another year in racing that even approached 1880 and his successes with Grand Flaneur, he found considerable satisfaction in 1887 when his excellent filly, Consequence, won the Richmond Stakes at Randwick and dead-heated with Lady Betty for the Great Foal Stakes at Caulfield. If those race names don’t resonate nowadays, it is because the respective race clubs renamed them. The A.J.C. Richmond Stakes ultimately became the December Stakes and the V.A.T.C. Great Foal Stakes became the Debutant Stakes in later years. Consequence, a daughter of the 1873 English Two Thousand Guineas winner, Gang Forward, was also the nearest Long ever got to winning the rich V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate when in 1887 she carried her 14lb penalty to finish second behind the well-bred Lonsdale from the St Albans stable. Whatever the disappointment of that defeat, it was assuaged by Dainty’s lucky win in the V.R.C. Oaks just five days later. The famous Newmarket stable of the Hon. James White ran Lava and Enigma in the event, and for once in a way, the great Tom Hales was outgeneralled. He came on the outside of Enigma, thinking she would stop, but she didn’t, and Gorry coming on the whip hand with Dainty, Hales was pinned between the two and beaten a head.
I might take the opportunity here to clarify William Long’s connection with the racehorse, Petrea. While Long’s name appears in the Turf Register as the owner of Petrea when she won the 1880 Sydney Cup and other races, W. M. Cook of The Australasian didn’t believe he ever owned a hair in her tail. And he was in a position to know. Sir William Clarke, who owned Petrea, was hurt by some remarks concerning the scratching of Petrea from the 1879 Victoria Derby won by Suwarrow, as well as Avernus from a race in Tasmania. A sensitive man with a public image to maintain, Clarke wanted to be done with racing altogether as a result. However, James Wilson who trained Petrea didn’t want to lose the horse. Accordingly, he persuaded Herbert Power, a friend of both owner and trainer, to broker an arrangement whereby William Long permitted the stable to race the horse in his name rather than Clarke’s.
There was a budding friendship between the St Albans confederacy and William Long at that time which matured into a very close intimacy after the Grand Flaneur and Progress days. ‘Young’ Jim Wilson always took his horses to Chipping Norton when he went to Sydney, and when William Long himself gave up racing, he presented him the ‘magpie’ colours which his horses had always carried. I might mention that it was Long who bought Quiver as a yearling at the sale of the St Albans yearlings in March 1893. Thirty-six yearlings were on offer that day at Geelong, and while it was unseemly for the selling studmaster to buy-in any yearling at an unrestricted sale, no such compunction inhibited Long when he thought the filly by Trenton from Tremulous was going dirt cheap. The thirty-six yearlings that day sold for an aggregate 4515 guineas or a touch over 125 guineas on average, and yet Long got the Trenton filly for just 75 guineas.
The most expensive lot sold that day was the future Dreamland, a colt that was a half-brother to the Melbourne Cup winner, Mentor, and the champion mare, La Tosca. He cost Bob Orr 625 guineas. However while Dreamland went on to win both a Maribyrnong Plate and an Australian Cup, William Long secured the greater bargain on behalf of James Wilson. Quiver was the horse that turned the 1894 V.R.C. Oaks into a fiasco when, as the 4/6 favourite and Chris Moore in the saddle, she refused to come up at the start, and when the barrier was raised, she stood still and took no part in the race. It prompted the racing correspondent for The Australasian to write: “The sooner the V.R.C. follows the A.J.C. example and does away with the race the better.” Thankfully, the club failed to follow his advice. Despite that Oaks debacle, I might add that Quiver won Wilson a series of good races including the Randwick Plate, Spring Stakes and Tattersall’s Club Cup at headquarters and in 1896 the Champion Stakes and Essendon Stakes at Flemington. Not bad for 75 guineas!
A reactionary conservative and a man of strong opinions not backward in expressing them, William Long made a significant contribution to the development of racing in the colony. Apart from Chipping Norton, for a few years, he also owned Hobartville Stud, initially with his good friend George Hill until Hill’s share was taken over by the Australian Joint Stock Bank. Like many big gamblers, he was vehemently opposed to the introduction of the Totalisator and contemptuous of the puritan dogma expressed by many Protestants towards racing. Long once observed that if the Sydney Morning Herald wished to suppress gambling, it should cease sending reporters to race meetings. A passionate advocate of juvenile racing, he constantly berated the club for financing too far into the future at the expense of current prize money. If such views made him unpopular with outsiders, he remained respected within the club itself, and in 1900-01 he served as chairman. When there were tentative proposals in the early years of the century to have just one Derby run at Randwick and Flemington in alternate years, it was Long that urged that matters be left as they were.
Despite Grand Flaneur’s stud success and a smattering of big-race victories with his progeny, by the mid-1890s the wealth of William Long had crumbled – a result of the banking collapse and severe depression that had swept across Australia. No more could he continue to finance his profligate ways on the Turf. In April 1900 he was forced to relinquish his racing and breeding enterprise entirely, and his beloved Chipping Norton and Hobartville both went under the hammer. Perhaps the last straw had been seeing Parthian – a son of Grand Flaneur that Long had raced successfully as a two-year-old before selling him after a loss of form – win both the St. Leger and Champion Stakes at the 1900 V.R.C. Autumn Meeting.
Just a couple of days before the dispersal sale old Grand Flaneur died, a fact that Tom Clibborn announced from the rostrum. It was in this curious manner that two great racing lives were seemingly snuffed out together. Perhaps it was a blessing, as Long was known to be deeply upset at the prospect of his once-great champion falling into other hands. Following this very public humiliation in 1901 Long went to England for several years. He remained a member of the N.S.W. Legislative Council until 1900 after his return to Sydney Long resigned altogether from public life and retired to Vaucluse. He died in Lewisham Hospital in November 1915 and was buried in the family vault at St Jude’s Anglican Church at Randwick. Long left an estate of just £250. It had been a sharp and painful descent from those heady days of the eighties when he had cut such an impressive figure as the leading owner on the colonial Turf.
I might give the last word on the character of William Long to W. M. Cook of The Australasian, who wrote under the pen name of Terlinga. Although a sporting journalist, Cook was a well-connected and refined gentleman originally hailing from Adelaide. He was a close friend of both W. R. Wilson and C. L. Macdonald and assumed the position on the staff of The Australasian upon the death of E. S. Chapman (Augur) in June 1892. In William Long, Cook maintained that Australia had never had a better owner. “Unlike some, he made no attempt to court popularity; on the contrary, he would smile and allow judgement go by default, so to speak, when he could easily have supplied an explanation of some racing action, which would have put him right, and his detractors wrong, in public estimation…He was a man who spent a good many thousands on the turf and did what he could for racing, and any racing friends he liked and trusted.”
When Cook penned those sentiments, William Long was cold in his grave, having died a comparative pauper – at least in comparison with his earlier life. Now, sporting journalists will generally fawn sycophancy over rich and powerful owners in life, only to reveal ugly truths in death when the prospects of being sued for libel are effectively removed. Cook’s words bear contemplation. Laying aside Long’s reactionary politics, Cook reveals a one-time King of the Turf perhaps more sinned against than sinning.