I closed the 1881 chapter of this chronicle with William Kent’s takeover of the Grange Stud at Ipswich in the wake of the death of Sir Joshua Bell. Among the yearlings galloping about those rich limestone paddocks in the autumn of 1882 was a robust, rugged bay colt by Epigram out of the imported English mare, Legend. Legend was a daughter of Cathedral, and one of those well-bred matrons acquired by the late Joshua Bell on his memorable health trip to the Old Country in 1873. Legend had already proven herself a proper matron having produced Lilla, Lord Clifden and Legerdemain, winners respectively of a Q.T.C. Moreton Handicap, Brisbane Cup and Queensland Derby, and all bred to different stallions. This yearling, her latest offering was a full brother to both Legerdemain, who had won the previous year’s Queensland Derby in the colours of his late breeder; and a foal born the previous spring that was destined as Legacy to win the 1884 Q.T.C. Brisbane Cup. Given the weakness of the Queensland bloodstock market and the increased interest in the blood of Epigram coming from N.S.W. and Victorian breeders in the light of Wheatear’s triumphs the previous spring, Kent resolved to send the colt down to Sydney to see if a sale at the right price could be affected.
Such, then, were the circumstances in which a Queensland colt – and a promising one at that, made his racing debut on Randwick racecourse in a five-furlong selling race at the January meeting of the Sydney Turf Club. Entered in the name of W.H. Kent to be sold at £300 in the event of winning, he was accordingly handicapped with 8 st. 10lb. But as he could get no nearer than third place in the field of seven – albeit giving two and a half stone and more to the two protagonists that finished in front of him – he was allowed to pass without being claimed. As no suitable offers were forthcoming, Le Grand then returned to his native colony where Kent proceeded to sell a majority interest in the colt to the colourful Queensland identity, John P. Jost, who was then coming to prominence in Brisbane sporting circles. A self-made man, Jost had risen from the lowly status of a butcher’s assistant in Ipswich to that of a prosperous butcher in Brisbane with large-scale holdings as a pastoralist and station owner. Among his land holdings was a portion of Franklyn Vale, which he renamed Jost Vale in honour of himself.
Entrusted to the care of George Harris at his owner’s Eagle Farm stables, Le Grand easily won the Q.T.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes on the opening day of the Q.T.C. Autumn Meeting in late May; and then after being given a brief let-up, the colt was taken to the July Rockhampton Jockey Club meeting wherein successive days he bloodlessly won both the Sires’ Produce Stakes (8f) and Champagne Stakes (8f). One man who was suitably impressed with Le Grand’s Queensland performances was Donald Wallace, one of Australia’s leading pastoralists and a member of the Queensland Legislative Assembly. A shrewd dealer in bloodstock, Wallace made an offer of 1000 guineas to William Kent, an offer that was peremptorily refused. Brought back to Brisbane for a few days rest, Jost gave the colt a searching gallop at Eagle Farm to determine whether to send him to Sydney for the Derby.
Tom Willis of the Sydney Mail used to tell the story. Willis spent his early days on cattle stations in Queensland with the occasional foray into Brisbane before he took to journalism. One fine winter’s day in 1883 there was a pigeon-match on at Kedron Park, which attracted all the sportsmen of Brisbane, and with sporting attentions focused elsewhere, Jost chose it as a suitable time to give Le Grand a thorough trial at Eagle Farm as a prospective Derby colt. Willis secreted himself in the grandstand and later retold the story: “About lunchtime, Mr Jost came out with his smart selling-plater, Khedive, who won almost every time he wanted him to, and he set Le Grand to give Khedive a furlong-start in seven. Le Grand defeated Khedive as he liked in the last furlong. It was a wonderful gallop, and after it, my plan in life was to go wherever Le Grand went.” Rather unsurprisingly, Le Grand went to Sydney, transported down in early August and entrusted to that accomplished horseman, James Monaghan, in his Bourke-street stables, Surrey Hills, to be prepared for the Hawkesbury and Randwick spring fixtures.
The strength of that private gallop and the interest of such a significant figure as Donald Wallace notwithstanding, most sportsmen didn’t take Queensland performances very seriously in those days, or indeed for a long time afterwards, and Le Grand was hardly mentioned in Derby discussions, at least not until after the Hawkesbury gathering. Rather, the colt that was the centre of attention from a Derby perspective that season was Warwick, a 2000 guineas yearling purchase at Andrew Town’s Hobartville Stud and a full-brother to Richmond, Bosworth and Segenhoe. Warwick had shown that he had inherited his full share of the family’s galloping ability when he easily won both the Sires’ Produce Stakes and the Champagne Stakes at the Randwick Autumn Meeting.
In May 1881 the Hon. James White, chairman of the A.J.C., having resolved to again travel to England and the continent, left Sydney by the San Francisco mail steamer. The ship’s first port of call happened to be in Auckland, and while there the Australian pastoralist-cum-sportsman insisted on inspecting some thoroughbreds. In particular, White was interested in visiting the Auckland Stud Company and the foals then running in their Glen Orchard paddocks. The company had only recently been formed, but their harem of broodmares included among others, the remarkable Sylvia, the 1867 V.R.C. Oaks winner raced by Hurtle Fisher and the mother of both Goldsbrough and the ill-fated Robin Hood. At the break-up of the Maribyrnong Stud, Sylvia along with Onyx had been purchased by Fitzwilliam Wentworth, who kept them in his Greystanes Stud for a few seasons before selling the pair in August 1879 for a combined 3000 guineas through Thomas Clibborn to the founders of the Auckland Stud Company. Now it was the seven-month-old colt foal from Sylvia, by a newly imported English stallion named Musket that captured the attention of White. The breeders had already named the horse, Martini-Henry.
Only eighteen months earlier White had paid 1500 guineas for the half-brother, Gloucester, by Fireworks, but he had been a profound disappointment on the racecourse although he was to run second behind Sardonyx in the 1883 Doncaster Handicap at Randwick. Despite the frustration with Gloucester, White retained absolute faith in the blood of Sylvia; he wasn’t a man to haggle over price when he sought possession of something, and with a steamer to catch and a tour of England beckoning, he didn’t do so now. White agreed with Major Walmsley, the chairman of the Auckland Stud Company, to pay 1250 guineas for the colt, an Australasian record price for a foal at the time, on the stipulation that the horse was landed at Fennelly’s Bazaar in Sydney in late June, hale and hearty. A seven-month-old foal that could command such a price aroused considerable curiosity among the public and during his short stay at the Bazaar he received quite a few visitors before he was ultimately transported to his owner’s Kirkham property, near Camden.
Martini-Henry was delicate, and none too robust at two and James White left him in the Kirkham paddocks throughout most of his two-year-old season, only putting him into work in late June. Kirkham possessed no private training track at the time and Michael Fennelly, James White’s trainer, was forced to trial his horses before the touting fraternity on the public gallops at Randwick, although the merit or otherwise of such gallops could be disguised by heavy saddles or excess poundage. The Newmarket stable realised that it sheltered something special when Martini-Henry galloped on a chilly Thursday morning in mid-July with his stablemate Aberfoyle in a very acceptable time. Just eleven days later, on the Monday morning when the V.R.C. offices opened for business, a significant commission was accepted to back the colt for both the Victoria Derby and Melbourne Cup.
For the Cup, all the money in the market at 100/3 was taken while for the Derby/Cup double Martini-Henry was backed at £1,000 to £10 in a series of wagers to win more than £25,000. The men of Tattersall’s, still reeling from the effects of the successful Chester-double plunge of six years earlier, could be forgiven for their sense of déjà vu. This stable-support saw Martini-Henry firm into 5/2 second-favourite for the A.J.C. Derby behind Warwick as the new season opened in August. Never mind that the colt had never even started in a race. E. S. Chapman, the racing correspondent for The Australasian, previewing the Hawkesbury meeting at which, erroneously, it was assumed Martini-Henry would make his much-awaited racecourse debut, wrote: “Seldom, if ever, has a novice created so favourable an impression as Martini-Henry has at Randwick, and if he is elected to carry the blue and white banner he will have a very numerous body of followers.” When a shoulder strain, caused by wrenching off a shoe while at exercise in mid-August, put Warwick out of action for the classic, Martini-Henry was immediately elevated to outright favouritism at even money.
During the weeks of winter preceding the 1883 A.J.C. and V.R.C. Spring Meetings, there were two significant deaths of studmasters that saw the subsequent dispersal of two historic studs. I refer to the death of Edward King Cox, the proprietor of the Fernhill Stud in New South Wales in July; and the death of Alexander Kirkman Finlay, the proprietor of the Glenormiston Stud in Victoria in August. Cox was aged 54; Finlay was aged 38. While their studs were dispersed, their homesteads still remain to this day although Glenormiston has been substantially enlarged over the years. While Cox’s death at Fernhill was sudden, Finlay’s was not unexpected as he was suffering from tuberculosis and had returned to England to seek medical assistance. Each man was renowned as a breeder not as an owner. Cox’s celebrated sires had been Yattendon, Lord of Linne, Vespasian, Chandos and Darebin. Finlay’s celebrated sires had been Bethnal Green and King Cole. Cox had bred two Melbourne Cup winners in Chester and Grand Flaneur; Finlay had bred two Victoria Derby winners in Wellington and Suwarrow.
Derby Day dawned delightfully bright and cool despite the ominous rain of the night before. The trams commenced to run directly to the course before noon and many private vehicles, cabs and omnibuses were to be seen on the road, with one or two drags. However, there was comparatively little excitement to suggest that the fate of the Derby, which had been discussed for weeks, was about to be resolved. The early withdrawal of Warwick had cooled the ardour of the betting public, and shortly before 1 o’clock, it began to be rumoured about the Randwick paddock that a respiratory ailment would deny Martini-Henry his place in the line-up and, sure enough, a little later the scratching pen was drawn through his name. Given that the scratching was delayed until the eleventh hour, and it matched the late withdrawal of the favoured Despot from The Metropolitan by the same stable, some elements of the general public and the press muttered darkly about ‘forestalling,’ i.e. the notion that certain bookmakers had forestalled the Hon. James White in the betting ring by backing each of the horses much earlier at longer odds and then offering a vastly reduced quote to the stable commissioner. While this may have been the reason behind Despot’s defection, it seemed that catarrh was the bona fide reason for Martini-Henry’s withdrawal, with the stable not prepared to risk the colt given so much was riding on the Melbourne carnival.
All of this left a field of just five to confront the starter – two colts and three fillies, and they were paraded on the lawn before going to the post – a somewhat novel approach for the times. The defection of Newmarket’s gun galloper resulted in the Queensland colt, Le Grand, being elevated to favouritism, the result of his brilliant rush to narrowly win the Produce Stakes at the recent Hawkesbury Spring Meeting, and his mien in the paddock certainly gave his supporters no cause for concern. Second elect for the Derby was Kingsdale, winner of the Hawkesbury Guineas and the colt that had gone under by a head to Le Grand on the second day of the Clarendon meeting when a red-hot favourite. Not one of the three fillies engaged was seriously expected to challenge the colts although the best supported of them was Copra, a full sister to Navigator, and, like him, owned and trained by Etienne de Mestre. Following Martini-Henry’s withdrawal and the breakdown of Aberfoyle, a brother to Woodlands, Kaipara was honoured with the colours of Newmarket, although on her Hawkesbury Guineas form she appeared out of her depth.
The 1883 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
The A.J.C. Spring Meeting was the first time that the reconstructed racecourse was available for racing with its increased width and improved curves – a vast improvement on the old track. The stochastic judgements of the betting market were fully borne out in the Derby with the first three favourites finishing precisely in that order. It was something of a farce with ‘Bricky’ Colley struggling to keep Le Grand from bolting away from the field for the best part of a mile. The pulse of war quickened at the five, which suited Le Grand, and when his jockey cut him loose at the home turn, the big colt surged away for an effortless win. Considering the state of the ground and the lack of pace for the first part of the journey, the manner of Le Grand’s victory suggested he was a colt out of the ordinary. An aristocratic-looking, bright bay with black points, he stood 16 hands though slightly on the leg and, as we have seen, was bred by the late Sir Joshua Bell at The Grange Stud, Ipswich.
It was the first time the A.J.C. Derby prize had gone to the northern colony. Although Wheatear, another son of Epigram bred at The Grange Stud by Sir Joshua Bell had won the Derby in 1881, he had been owned in New South Wales. John P. Jost was to race a number of Epigram horses with great success, even though, as we shall see, the greatest of them all unfortunately passed out of his hands. At the 1884 Q.T.C. Autumn Meeting, for example, Jost was to win four races including the Brisbane Cup with Legacy and the Sires’ Produce Stakes with Ormond, both sons of Epigram. As one of the nouveau riche on the Queensland scene and one who had risen from a particularly humble background, Jost was never entirely accepted into the squattocracy of the northern colony, and the newfound popularity of the Turf in that region with larger betting revenues now saw new alliances being forged. John P. Jost was one of the moving spirits at that celebrated meeting of sportsmen held at the Australian Hotel on November 6, 1883, that saw the formation of the Brisbane Tattersall’s Club. It was intended not just as a bookmakers’ co-operative but as a social club as well, and hence a rival to the Queensland Turf Club.
James Monaghan, the Derby-winning trainer, was an accomplished horseman who first came to Sydney in 1875 to train privately for Fitzwilliam Wentworth after that gentleman had constructed those Surry Hills stables; but Monaghan had an impressive curriculum vitae to his name long before his move to N.S.W. Born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1840 he came to Melbourne with his parents when he was just a few years old. Monaghan first became identified with racing in the Victorian capital and rode outsiders in the first two Melbourne Cups before relocating to New Zealand in 1863 where he competed successfully both on the flat and over obstacles for a number of years. It was in the Shaky Isles that he initially turned his hand to training professionally, most notably for Francis Delamain in the Canterbury district and for whom he won the inaugural Auckland Cup in 1874 and the Dunedin Cup in 1875 with that good galloper Templeton.
Coming to Sydney under private engagement to Fitzwilliam Wentworth to both manage his Greystanes Stud and train his horses, he sent forth many a winner in the French grey and cardinal banner of that distinguished owner, including Rapid Bay, Sardonyx, Queensland, Vaucluse and The Drummer. It was when Wentworth sold out and went to England in 1889 that Monaghan became a public trainer. He moved to Wentworth-street on the heights of Randwick, building spacious stables and a comfortable residence overlooking Centennial Park, which he christened Mirridong. Included among his clients in his Mirridong years were William Long, George Hill, Henry White, Hunter White, John Cobb and the Hon. George Lee. Looking back on his career at the turn of the century, Monaghan named Marvel and Le Grand as the finest horses he ever trained, with Paris, a dual Caulfield Cup winner, not far behind them. Monaghan was widely mourned in the sporting community when he died of a brain haemorrhage at Mirridong in January 1908, but despite his many successes on the Turf, he left his family of young children largely unprovided.
For jockey ‘Bricky’ Colley it was his third triumph in the Randwick blue riband following upon previous victories with Woodlands in 1877 and Nellie in 1879. Colley learned his business bushwhacking in the Bathurst district and revelled in his self-appointed role as a fastidious and dapper dandy on the racecourse with a passion for diamond rings. His adage was ‘have saddle will travel’ if the right horse was to be found and he owed his ride on Le Grand largely to having ridden at the Rockhampton fixture and other Queensland meetings during the previous winter. There was at times a fury about his riding, almost entirely the wages of alcohol. A superb horseman, drunk or sober, Tom Willis maintained he was always a little better in the leathers when three sheets to the wind. Willis relished recounting a meeting at Canterbury Park when each enclosure was crammed to see Tom Brown – who built the Royal Hotel at Randwick – win a double with his New England-bred gelding Glen Elgin and two of the six races were selling plates.
A Goulburn horse named Don Antonio, ridden by Colley, won the last race. The jockey had just quit his connection with Chipping Norton and the imperious William Long and spent most of the afternoon imbibing quite freely. Indeed, he had accepted the mount on Don Antonio when in a very jovial mood. Jockeys were allowed greater liberties in those times; and as he was riding out to take his preliminary, Bricky, jocularly hailed the judge by his first name to inform him that if he didn’t lead all the way he wouldn’t take the money. The judge failed to see the humour or accept the tip although a happy few in the crowd did – and Colley was as good as his word. Colley probably earned more money than any Sydney rider of his time except for Tom Hales, but he was an inveterate gambler whether in the betting ring, at the hazard table or in a two-up circle; and when flush he threw banknotes about with gay abandon. The profligate jockey never did become a prudent steward of his fortunes in his later years, and he perished in a Brisbane outhouse, penniless.
It was amidst the celebrations on Derby night that Jost made the biggest mistake of his life in bloodstock dealing. The champagne flowed freely at the Tattersall’s settling and Donald Wallace taking advantage of Jost’s bibulous jollity made another bid for Le Grand – this time offering 1500 guineas. Jost accepted it on the spot and Wallace promptly handed £200 to Tom Clibborn – who was privy to the exchange – as a deposit. Jost, according to the Wallace, signed the receipt on behalf of himself and William Kent, and as Wallace intended leaving for Melbourne shortly after that, he gave instructions that Donald Nicholson should be engaged to ride Le Grand for the forthcoming Randwick Plate. Insofar as the scene can be reconstructed, it seems that Jost regretted the impetuous sale almost as soon as he surfaced the following morning. If not, he had certainly done so by the time Le Grand had won both the Craven Plate and Randwick Plate on the third and fourth days of the meeting.
Donald Wallace claimed to have the right of refusal up to the Saturday night, i.e. the last day of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting and, naturally enough, in the light of Le Grand’s cracking form, telegraphed immediately to Tom Clibborn clinching the bargain, and forwarding a cheque for the remainder of the purchase money. Wallace further advised that Le Grand would remain in Monaghan’s charge until after the A.J.C. St. Leger and then go into the stables of Walter Hickenbotham, one of his Melbourne trainers. It seems that when The Australasian reported the rumour of the sale in their edition of the week of 15 September, Jost fired off a telegram from Sydney denying that the colt had been sold at all, hoping that the deal could be undone. As E. S. Chapman drily observed in the following week’s newspaper column: “If it be true that Mr Jost repudiates the sale, his conduct will, in all probability, provide a little amusement for the gentlemen of the long robe.” It never came to that. Clibborn’s presence at the time the deal was negotiated, and his role as surety in the transaction meant that henceforth Le Grand would be sporting the colours of the Squire of Ballark.
Martini-Henry failed to make an appearance at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting before being transported to Melbourne in the company of Michael Fennelly. Le Grand went south as well, although he was not engaged in the Victoria Derby and his handicap of 8 st. 5 lb stopped him taking his place in the Caulfield Cup field; a race his new owner managed to win nonetheless with the four-year-old horse, Calma. On the first day of the V.R.C. Spring Meeting, Le Grand disappointed when only managing the minor placing in the weight-for-age Melbourne Stakes in his final Cup trial. Later, on the same card, Martini-Henry made his sensational debut to win the Victoria Derby in a field of nine in which Arthur Smart’s Archie went off the even-money favourite. It was a genuine baptism of fire for James White’s colt; in a truly run race the son of Musket came with a great rush at the end to win the fastest Victoria Derby ever run, up to that time by two lengths.
If the Victoria Derby was merely a rehearsal for Martini-Henry, the Cup was to be his appointment with history. In a field of twenty-nine and before a crowd estimated at 100,000 people, this remarkable three-year-old weighted with 7 st. 5lb went to the post as a 3/1 public favourite at only his second race start! Le Grand, carrying the same weight, but his A.J.C. Derby triumph forgotten was despatched a despised 25/1 outsider. Interference cost Le Grand any chance he had in the race but Martini-Henry, always well placed, came with a well-timed run at the distance to run out an easy winner again establishing a race record and thus becoming the fifth horse to win the coveted Derby/Cup double.
Whereas Martini-Henry completed a brilliant hat-trick of wins on the fourth day of the meeting when he won the Mares’ Produce Stakes (10f) in a canter, Le Grand merely gave a teasing taste of his talent by taking the Royal Park Stakes (10f) on the third day. Le Grand then disappointed in the weight-for-age Canterbury Plate (2m) on the last day. Such was the gratitude of the Auckland Stud Company with the boost Martini-Henry had given their newly resident stallion Musket at the beginning of his stud career that Major Walmsley later presented trainer Michael Fennelly with a handsome gold Waltham watch in recognition of his achievements at that V.R.C. Spring Meeting. I might mention that the Auckland Stud Company had amalgamated with the Pedigree Stud Company the year before, off-loading their Glen Orchard holding and establishing a new stud – and its name? None other than that of Sylvia Park – in honour of the wonderful matron and dam of Martini-Henry who had done so much to ensure the profitability of the venture.
Le Grand’s defeat in the Canterbury Plate had seemed for many people proof of his inability to stay, and the rich plums of the autumn looked like Martini-Henry’s for the taking. Few sportsmen were surprised when James Monaghan by-passed the V.R.C. St Leger, preferring a crack at the Newmarket Handicap – run on the same day – for which the son of Epigram had been weighted at 8 st. 10lb. While Martini-Henry was untroubled to make nearly all his own running to win the red riband in bloodless fashion from his four rivals, his great three-year-old rival was always in bother during the Newmarket of thirty-one runners. Le Grand missed the jump badly but still managed to beat all bar that remarkable and versatile galloper, Malua, who had a half-length to spare in the fastest run Newmarket up to that time. Never mind that Le Grand gave the winner a year in age and 3lb into the bargain! Perhaps speed was his forte, after all, reasoned many, and it came as something of a surprise when Monaghan accepted with him for the Australian Cup on the second day of the meeting. It came as an even bigger surprise when the colt managed to claim the minor placing behind the Newmarket representative, Morpeth, a stablemate of Martini-Henry.
Few sportsmen realised it, but the massive Le Grand was only just beginning to run into fitness, and Donald Wallace and James Monaghan were more than hopeful for the Champion Stakes on the third day. Such had been Martini-Henry’s hauteur in the V.R.C. St. Leger that any suggestion the great gun was about to misfire in spectacular fashion was dismissed as mere wishful thinking on the part of rival owners. The son of Musket was installed the three-to-one-on favourite for the contest. When William Pearson also announced in advance of his intention to start Iron Hand to set a pace for Commotion, Le Grand’s prospects in such a true staying chapter were immediately discounted. Accordingly, he blew out to double figures in the ring – with not only Martini-Henry but also Commotion, Navigator and Off Colour all preferred by the public.
Of all the races in Australia, the Champion Stakes was the race upon which James White had set his heart, never having won it before, and the night before he offered £5,000 to £2,500 on his colt for the race; but it wasn’t to be. The pace was a cracker and Martini, both stirred and shaken, was ready to shirk it after a mile, having raced erratically in the hands of Hales, whereas Le Grand proved himself a racehorse in the most real sense. Le Grand’s victory in the Champion Stakes went a long way towards contradicting the theory that the Epigram stock couldn’t stay – a theory that had persisted despite the fact that Lothair had run fourth in the 1880 Melbourne Cup in that exceptional year that had brought forth Grand Flaneur and Progress. No doubt Le Grand was materially assisted by the two strains of the glutton Melbourne that he boasted in his pedigree, a horse that was the great-grandsire of both Epigram and Legend.
After the glories of Flemington, the spotlight then shifted to the Randwick autumn fixture where Le Grand’s ascendancy over the Musket horse was confirmed, not that the betting market reflected it in their first clash that week. It was a match race in every sense for the two great colts were the only two runners. The wiseacres believed that Le Grand had moved a trifle short in his gallops on the training ground at Randwick whereas Martini-Henri seemed lusty and strong, although still manifesting a disposition to run off the course; as a consequence, Martini went off at 4/7. Hales, who had been ill in the weeks leading into the meeting, had surrendered the ride in favour of the stronger Huxley. It made no difference. Although Martini-Henry led, forcing the running at a fierce pace to the home turn, he was always at the mercy of Le Grand, and the big stallion cut him down mercilessly to win running away in race record time! James White accepted the defeat with good grace, and it was the celebrated occasion upon which he publicly acknowledged that Donald Wallace possessed the superior racehorse.
Both colts started for the Sydney Cup, run that year on very heavy ground. Whereas Martini-Henry carried 8 st. 10lb, Le Grand had 5lb less and went off the 5/2 favourite while Martini-Henry drifted out to 14/1 in the field of twenty-one. It was to be an eventful race, not least for James White, for when the horses had covered less than half-a-mile, the Melbourne Cup winner tripped and fell, bringing down his stablemate Morpeth who broke his near foreleg in two places and later had to be shot. Le Grand ran a bold race, but after losing ground in the scrimmage occasioned by Martini-Henry’s fall, the weight told in the end, and the best he could manage was a respectable sixth. James Monaghan, however, had the consolation of both winning the race with Favo – on behalf of William Long who had only bought the gelding for £200 a few days before – and saddling up the minor place-getter Sardonyx.
On the fourth day of the meeting, Le Grand completed his season with a hollow win in the A.J.C. Plate with his great rival finishing only fourth in the field of five. In the wake of Le Grand’s accomplishments that autumn, Donald Wallace commissioned a portrait of his champion from the brush of Fred Woodhouse junior. The horse was now acknowledged as the greatest in the land – a fact that both the A.J.C. and V.R.C. handicappers confirmed when they issued their weights for The Metropolitan and Melbourne Cup respectively. In the former, Le Grand with 9 st. 3 lb, was rated 1lb superior to Martini-Henry, while in the latter, with 9 st. 4lb the difference over his great rival was 2lb.
As it transpired, those handicap weights became academic because, sadly, that A.J.C. Autumn Meeting effectively brought down the curtain on the racing career of both horses. Donald Wallace announced that henceforth Walter Hickenbotham would have the carriage of the colt when he returned from his spell at his owner’s Ballark property. Wallace, a Victorian, wanted his champion trained locally. While being prepared for the Melbourne Cup and other races by Hickenbotham, Le Grand badly injured his thigh when galloping in the poor ground on the Flemington training track on the Thursday morning before the opening of the 1884 V.R.C. Spring Meeting. The injury caused the big horse to be put out of training although Hickenbotham expressed confidence that he would be able to return in the autumn for the Champion Stakes. It wasn’t to be. Although the son of Epigram appeared to be working well on the Flemington track in early February, as the workload increased on the eve of the big meeting, the horse broke down so badly and suffered such agony that it was only with the greatest difficulty he was able to be removed from the course. Diagnosed with a broken back and unable to be saved for stud duty, the 1883 Derby hero was put down.
Martini-Henry fared little better. The gallant son of Musket did make it to the post once more after his humbling at the 1884 A.J.C. Autumn Meeting, the race being the 1884 Caulfield Cup but he failed to finish when his suspect leg gave way. It was a sorry spectacle for the large crowd on the heath that day as Martini-Henry limped back to the enclosure. Unlike Le Grand, Martini-Henry was saved for stud duty at Kirkham and, despite dwelling in the shadows of Chester in his first few seasons there, got quite a few good gallopers. Ironically, his best year was his first when his 1886 foals included the brilliant juvenile Rudolph as well as the A.J.C. Derby winner Singapore and the useful Sinecure. After that, while he got a number of capable horses, he proved largely disappointing. However, Martini-Henry’s daughters included the remarkable Pie Crust and Jacinth, as well as the talented Conundrum and Tea Rose. Following the tragic death of Mrs White in Scotland in 1897 and the placement of the Kirkham Stud on the market, the aged Martini-Henry was purchased by Ted Blume and taken to Bexley on the Thompson River near Longreach, where he died in May 1903 of a tumour in the stomach.
What of posterity’s judgement of these two well-matched colts? Thanks to the special aura of the Melbourne Cup and Martini-Henry’s sensational debut at that 1883 V.R.C. Spring Meeting, today he is the more celebrated of the pair while Le Grand’s record, replete with races that no longer exist on the Australian Turf, is frequently overlooked. It wasn’t always so. One man who was impressed with all that Le Grand achieved at the time he did it was the free-spending William Town of the Richmond Stud. In October 1884 he negotiated with Thomas Clibborn, who was acting on behalf of William Kent, to buy both the sire and dam of Le Grand together with a number of other mares from The Grange. There was no small irony in this transaction, particularly Town paying a pretty penny for the stallion Epigram. After all, the son of Blair Athol had commenced his stud career at Richmond but in those early days had gone largely unnoticed. It had taken the remarkable collection of broodmares assembled by Sir Joshua Bell and his faith in the horse to unlock the stallion’s potential. In Le Grand, Bell bred the greatest horse the colony of Queensland had seen up to that time.