1884 was the year in which the most prolific patron of the Turf that Australia has ever known finally won the Derby. It was the beginning of the era in which the Hon. James White bestrode the narrow world of the Australian Turf like a colossus. By any measure, whether of money spent or prizes won, by comparison, all other owners, as the Bard might have observed, seemed mere, petty men peeping about to secure racing’s less honourable laurels.
Never before and never again has one man dominated so many of Australia’s classic set weight races. It was his father, James White senior, who founded this dynasty of pastoralists in Australia. The elder James had left Somerset in England when only twenty-five years of age, having been commissioned in early 1826 by the Australian Agricultural Company to bring seventy-nine valuable French merino sheep to the new colony. White landed the sheep safely enough and for the next three years worked as the Sheep Superintendent for the company based at Stroud, and gained valuable experience in sheep farming in this often inhospitable and rugged land. In 1831 he was able to take possession of a primary grant of 1280 acres at the junction of the Isis and Page Rivers; he named it ‘Broomfield’ after his English home in Somerset.
James was later joined by his brother, Edward, and the pair prospered with the help of Aboriginal workers assigned to them, expanding in 1839 to purchase Edinglassie near Muswellbrook, and Timor Station, 12 miles north of Blandford. However, the seemingly endless prosperity and good fortune of the family suffered an unexpected check when James White senior died in 1842, at the age of only 41. Left behind were a widow with seven sons and two daughters – and the oldest of the children, James, the hero of these chapters of our Derby chronicle, was just fourteen years of age. The boy had already spent four years at King’s School, Parramatta, and a similar period with private tutors at Maitland, but the death of his father saw his formal education dramatically curtailed. A more worldly knowledge was now required, as the young James White was groomed to assume management responsibility for the family estates in the Hunter Valley. Residing at Edinglassie, the young man devoted his energies to building up and stocking the properties with some of the finest sheep in the land. White’s sense of religion, like that of most of his fellow pastoralists, was firmly rooted in the belief that God helps those who help themselves; and into his early twenties, he continued to acquire properties including the Narran Lake run, and a few years later purchased Belltrees from W. C. Wentworth, a large freehold estate on the Upper Hunter to which he subsequently added the adjoining Waverley estate.
In due course, other properties followed including Martindale, an impressive freehold property situated below the junction of the Hunter and Goulburn rivers, and ultimately the Merton and Dalowinton estates on the opposite side of the river as well. It was an era when land conferred wealth and wealth conferred power. And by his early thirties, James White was a very wealthy member of Australia’s exclusive squattocracy, and as a group, such men were politically active and ruthless in exercising their power and protecting their interests. James was elected to represent the Hunter District in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales from December 1864 to May 1868, thereby earning the appellation ‘The Honourable’.
James White’s initial stint as an elected representative was brief as he resigned from the House to travel and spent almost four years in England and Europe. Ironically, it was while in London in 1871 that he negotiated the purchase of the famous ‘Segenhoe’ estate in the Hunter Valley. Upon his return to Australia in 1873 White bought the Sydney residence, Cranbrook, Rose Bay, which he filled with art treasures and where he resided on and off for the rest of his life. Moreover, he chose to resume an active part in the public affairs of the colony when in 1874 he agreed to be nominated for the Legislative Council. It was a seat he retained until the day that he died.
White was a member of the Australian Jockey Club at its inauguration, although he wasn’t particularly active on the Turf until 1876 when he raced a couple of useful hurdlers in Goulburn and Hotspur, the latter the winner of the 1876 AJC Steeplechase. It was the success that he enjoyed with the mighty Chester – whom he purchased at the end of his two-year-old days from E. K. Cox of Mulgoa – that was to consummate White’s love affair with the Turf. As we have seen, in the following year the colt landed a fortune in bets when he carried the soon-to-be famous light blue and white silks to victory in the VRC Derby, Melbourne Cup and Mares’ Produce Stakes at Flemington, having been narrowly beaten earlier in the spring in the AJC Derby won by Woodlands. Chester’s string of triumphs and his potential as a stallion fired White’s determination to become the leading owner in the land at a time when the sport was beginning to attract more distinguished patronage.
An aristocrat by nature, White trafficked on the Turf in absolutes. Having decided to acquire the best bloodstock in the colonies and beyond that money could buy, he demanded a horseman of unmatched guile and skill to act as his private trainer. His choice fell on Michael Robert Fennelly, a hulking bulk of a man weighing in at over eighteen stone, the eldest son of parents who had left their native County Tipperary when Michael was a mere boy in search of a better life in Australia. Fennelly enjoyed all the charm and genius with horses for which the Irish are renowned, and he first came to notice when working as a coachman for Richard Rouse at Guntawang.
Rouse made a match with one of his locally bred horses; a little chestnut mare named Wanderer, by Kingston, and, not having a trainer on the premises, gave it to Fennelly to prepare – successfully as it turned out. In due course, Fennelly gravitated to Sydney, and although he intended to establish a stable, it wasn’t of the racing kind; rather, he set up a Horse Bazaar in Pitt-street, not far from where the current City Tattersall’s Club is situated. With an Irishman’s natural eye for a horse and the gift of the blarney, the business flourished to become a landmark in the Sydney of the period. Fennelly prepared innumerable hunters at his premises for gentlemen who followed the hounds, and regular horse auctions took place there. On the side, Fennelly had time to train a racehorse or two. For a brief period in the mid-1870s, Fennelly even went into partnership with Thomas Clibborn, although the pair dissolved the arrangement in September 1877.
It was about this time that White persuaded Michael Fennelly to forsake his Pitt-street premises and take charge of White’s rapidly expanding team of racehorses, stabled on the Newmarket estate, not far from Randwick racecourse. It was formerly part of the ten acres owned by Simeon Pearce, the developer and promoter of Randwick. For a time during the late 1860s and early 1870s, Newmarket was leased to Edward Lee, and James Kean sent forth the likes of Bylong and Barbelle to battle for the Turf’s rich prizes on his behalf. Since Lee’s days the property had been taken over by the Sydney United Omnibus Company and with its 24 horseboxes at the rear of the dwelling house, used as the Randwick terminus, for the local horse-drawn service. Although White and Fennelly began leasing the land and negotiated to buy it in 1878, a settlement was delayed until May 1879 when trainer and patron finally clinched the deal for £1,700. Even then there was some consolidation to do, and it wasn’t until 1880 that all the land between Barker-road and the east side of Young-street that now familiarly comprises Newmarket, was secured.
Fennelly moved into the famous house that still stands today as the home of the Inglis family, although it was a simpler dwelling in the days when Fennelly first took up residence there. It is thought to incorporate a part of the former Newmarket Hotel built on the site in 1861 – the first recorded development on the land – although White and Fennelly busily proceeded to add a two-storey gabled extension to render it a more fitting abode for Sydney’s soon-to-be leading trainer. Fennelly also busied himself in planting a large number of trees including elms, oaks and Moreton Bay figs on the estate some of which still stand today. The arrangement with White allowed Fennelly to continue to trade in bloodstock and train and race the odd horse in his own name and colours of a ruby jacket, grey sash and cap; and while successful in that respect, it was the victories garnered for his esteemed patron that won the genial Irishman everlasting fame. Nor was the success long in coming. In 1878 Democrat became the first in a long line of prestigious winners on the flat to carry the blue and white banner when he took out both of the rich distance handicaps at Randwick, the Sydney Cup and The Metropolitan at the respective autumn and spring fixtures.
The year 1879 was the first that saw White spend heavily on yearlings and from the beginning, he was prepared to pay top prices for the best blood. The policy resulted in an immediate return when White’s acquisitions that year included the Maribyrnong Plate winner, Palmyra, as well as Cinnamon, the future dam of Abercorn. White was one of the few leading owners in Australia to make racing pay, and from the start he only raced good horses and wouldn’t persevere with bad ones, pursuing a relentless policy of culling when necessary. After all, he reasoned, good horses can be backed with confidence, bad ones cannot. And White and Fennelly did back their horses heavily in those early days; indeed, they always contended that no owner or trainer could make racing pay without betting. Democrat was backed with confidence when he won The Metropolitan as was the stablemate The Pontiff, when, with a featherweight, he led all the way to win the same race in 1880.
1880 was to be an important year for White for it was at that time that he commenced construction of the Big Stable, one of the most distinguished landmarks of Randwick even today. A two-storey timber and iron building originally some 200’ long, the grand, cathedral-like structure with its high gabled roof was lit and ventilated by a clerestory. It provided stabling for twenty-two horses while above there were wide galleries set off with cast-iron balustrading that served as a granary as well as offering sleeping quarters for stable staff. While the original sale of the Newmarket estate in 1879 was to both Fennelly and White, we find that in 1883 Fennelly became the sole proprietor paying White £1,790 at settlement – a price that suggests the pair must have come to some arrangement over the improvements undertaken during the meantime.
The Newmarket stable produced a string of high-class winners almost from the start although the A.J.C. Derby for a time was to prove elusive. After Chester’s narrow defeat in the race in 1877, Fennelly saddled up five more colts for his wealthy patron in each of the five Derbies during the years 1879 to 1883, and the closest he came to victory was with the high-priced Segenhoe in 1882. James White had already resolved to establish his own stud on a grand scale and was particularly self-indulgent at the January 1883 Hobartville yearling sales conducted by Thomas Clibborn, when he spent 2900 guineas on just two yearlings – both daughters of Maribyrnong out of the imported broodmares, The Fawn and Rosedale.
As we have seen, The Fawn had produced a succession of grand gallopers over the years but this latest mating with Maribyrnong, subsequently registered as Superba, was to prove very disappointing both on the course and in the paddock. The daughter of Rosedale, however, under the name of Iolanthe, was arguably the fastest filly of her year. Michael Fennelly bought a number of yearlings in his own right at those sales and demonstrated his talent for spotting bargains when he paid just 145 guineas for the future Tempe, whom he later transferred into White’s ownership before she ever raced. Tempe was to prove valuable on the course but even more so in the paddock, as we shall see.
However, the yearling that was to give Newmarket their first A.J.C. Derby and sold on that January day in 1883 wasn’t knocked down to either White or Fennelly. Rather, the colt by Maribyrnong out of the mare Guelder Rose sold for 125 guineas to Alec Benson, one-time judge for the A.J.C. and the manager of the Hobartville Stud. A bright, bloodlike bay horse with black points and a pure Maribyrnong head, he wasn’t big – he only ever stood just above 15.1 hands – but possessed the balance and length of a likely stayer. Andrew Town, the owner of Hobartville, had always entertained a fondness for the colt and when he realised Benson intended to take him to the country, he asked to retain him so that he could place him in a good stable. And when it came to a good stable, there was none better than Newmarket. Curiously enough, Michael Fennelly had bought the yearling colt from Guelder Rose offered by Town the year before but had been acting on commission for an outside buyer rather than James White. Registered as Malvern, he hadn’t shown any ability at the time his yearling brother came up for sale.
White named this latest acquisition to his stable, Bargo, after the town about eighty miles southwest of Sydney that was near the Nepean property he was developing as a stud. This son of Maribyrnong proved the best juvenile seen out in his year and Newmarket carried some first-class youngsters that season. The first indication of the stable’s strength came in the rich Maribyrnong Plate when the stable accepted for the race with both Bargo and Iolanthe. Bargo was reputedly the sharper of the pair and was well supported to win the Plate with Williamson, who was then the first retainer to White, taking the ride, while Iolanthe went to the post at 20/1 with Ellis in the saddle.
In the event, it was Iolanthe that triumphed in the field of eighteen with Bargo running poorly. That Bargo was out of sorts during that visit to Melbourne was confirmed later at the meeting when he also failed to make a showing in the Flemington Stakes. Whereas the filly Iolanthe was kept in training and almost pulled off the December Stakes at her home course, Bargo was put aside until the autumn. Although not a gross colt, the son of Maribyrnong benefited enormously from his time in the paddock and upon resumption landed some good bets for the stable in the Ascot Vale Stakes with Tom Hales in the saddle. It was clear even then that Newmarket had a genuine Derby contender on their books.
The Newmarket stable didn’t nominate Bargo for the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, but the colt again confirmed his class when he bested the older horses in the V.R.C. All-Aged Stakes on the last day of that VRC Autumn Meeting. Brought back to Sydney, Bargo easily won both the Claret Stakes and Maiden Plate at the Hawkesbury meeting, before beating his stablemate, Salvo, a son of Somnus costing just 70 guineas as a Hobartville yearling, in the Champagne Stakes at Randwick. Bargo was rather unlucky to go under by a short head to Garfield in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at the same fixture. Tom Hales had fallen from Morpeth, another of the White string in the Sydney Cup, which immediately preceded the Sires’ that year and he was subsequently unable to bring his usual vigour to bear. Like Hales, Bargo was feeling the effects of a season of hard racing when he finished an inglorious last behind Garfield two days later in the First Foal Stakes. Nonetheless, the colt’s overall performances ensured that bookmakers had him at the top of their Derby charts throughout winter.
There was considerable interest in the likely movements of the Newmarket horses in those days. After all, White was to finish the 1882-83 season as Australia’s leading owner with six individual winners of fifteen races and some £9,750 in prize money. Such interest was hardly surprising given the instructive lessons of the VRC Derby/Melbourne Cup double achieved by both Chester and Martini-Henry, and the associated betting stings that were so fresh in the public’s mind. Bargo might have been the obvious Derby candidate owned by James White, but other quick juveniles carried his colours that season including Iolanthe, Salvo, Tempe and Tremendous.
A measure of the aura that by now had come to radiate about the Newmarket establishment in the eyes of the public is provided by the extraordinary speculation associated with their imported colt, Phil Athol, who had never even made a public appearance. A grand-looking son of the 1864 English Derby winner Blair Athol, White had purchased the colt in utero on a visit to England, and although bred to English time, he was foaled in Australia. Despite the disadvantage of conceding Bargo and his other contemporaries’ months in terms of maturity, Phil Athol came to be regarded as something of a dark horse in Derby and Cup betting in early 1884. In fact, the activity associated with both Bargo and Phil Athol prompted James White to break cover most uncharacteristically and write the following in a letter to The Australasian dated March 17th:
“A great deal has been said and written lately about the responsibilities of horse owners and the rights of the public in relation to racing matters, but I cannot call to mind a single instance in which the press has, in the interests of owners, condemned the practice of backing horses for a handicap before the appearance of the weights. It is not the public so much who are (sic) to blame for this evil as professional backers and speculators, who take the money early at long odds, for the purpose of retailing it to the public at shorter prices, and thus these adroit and successful traders upon the credulity of the vast herd of simpletons reap a rich harvest of profit. Horse owners would not perhaps have so much right to complain if these operations were not commenced till after the weights had been declared, but when a horse is backed before the declaration of the weights a manifest injustice is done to the owner, because the handicapper may be, and probably unconsciously is, influenced by the fact of a horse being so backed. Notably, this was the case with Segenhoe, in the Newmarket Handicap, as he was backed to a large extent by some persons unknown to me before the weights appeared, and was allotted probably 7lb more than otherwise, he would have had to carry. It has been stated he was so backed for that purpose, to divert attention from another horse and to ensure that Segenhoe, at any rate, should not get in lightly. However, that may be, it must be plain to everyone that the nominator of a horse so treated is thereby damned and placed at a very serious disadvantage in regard to the unmade handicap. I have directed attention to this practice in the hope that it may in future be discountenanced by racing men, and that possibly some remedy may be devised by the authorities.”
White ended his letter by observing: “truly the ways of horse owners are beset with perils”. It sparked an immediate response in the columns of The Australasian. To many people, it seemed a bit rich for White to be airing his opinion on Turf ethics and criticising the early speculation by the public when it was just such misguided speculation of an uninformed public that had enabled White to obtain the very generous odds of £10,000 to £400 about each of Chester and Martini-Henry for their respective Melbourne Cups. How would it be possible to frame and apply such a law banning betting prior to the declaration of handicaps? One suspects that White’s pitch had been queered in relation to Bargo and the frustration showed.
The Australasian contented itself with delivering a homily on the virtues of the non-betting owner, holding up the behaviour on the English Turf of the Cornish peer, Lord Falmouth, as a paragon in this regard. When the weights for the Melbourne Cup came out in early July, Bargo’s handicap was 7 st. 6 lb making him the second-highest weighted three-year-old behind Garfield. And he had incurred 8lb more than his English-bred stablemate. I might observe at this juncture that the much-ballyhooed Phil Athol, failed to train on the following season, and never ran in the Derby, Melbourne Cup or anything else for that matter – bad legs preventing him from being properly worked. White retired him to stud at a young age, and despite limited opportunities, he did manage to sire Althotas, winner of the 1892 AJC Metropolitan, together with a couple of other stakes winners in Queensland.
The 1884 AJC Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:
For the first time in the history of the race, the 1884 renewal of the A.J.C. Derby saw the club add money to the sweepstakes, with an additional 500 sovereigns going to the winner. The A.J.C. committee expected that such largesse – one not extended in the conditions of the V.R.C. Derby at the time – would have its rewards in an increased number of entries. Alas, whether it was for the want of advertising or the looming presence of the cracks from Newmarket, only sixty-six entries were received by the AJC, which had dwindled to just four by Derby Day itself. Notable for their absence were The Broker and Garfield, the respective winners of the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington and Randwick, and, as a result, on paper, the classic lacked class.
Moreover, it was mainly disappointing that in an age when rail travel had placed Melbourne within a day’s reach of Sydney, not one Victorian colt was among the final acceptors. On the strength of his juvenile form and a first-up win in the Hawkesbury Guineas Bargo was the prohibitive favourite. At Hawkesbury, the colt had beaten his stablemate, Iolanthe, in exemplary fashion. Donnelly had taken the precaution of entering Tremando to act as a pacemaker for Bargo. Indeed, only one man had seen fit to accept the challenge to run against the strength of Newmarket in the Derby, and that man was Arthur F. Smart.
A squatter from Combadello, Smart was the eldest son of the auctioneer and general merchant, Thomas Smart M.L.C., whose landmark Sydney mansion was the famous ‘Mona’ at Darling Point. Whereas the father had disdained the racecourse, his death in 1881, and the coming into his inheritance enabled the son to embrace it with enthusiasm; he quickly became a committeeman on the Sydney Turf Club, and his folie de grandeur and prodigal spendthrift qualities soon enamoured him to bloodstock breeders and bookmakers alike. The J, S. Smith and William Long partnership had just broken up, and it seemed there was now a vacancy for a serious challenge to James White’s domination of the sport. Smart relished the challenge, and in keeping with his self-image of a prosperous country squire, he purchased for his country seat ‘Grey Staines’, the historic residence on Prospect Hill built by Nelson Lawson. It was on this land, where Smart grazed some of his racehorses, that Nelson Lawson’s father, together with Gregory Blaxland and William C. Wentworth had set out in 1813 to cross the Blue Mountains. The Sydney suburb of Greystanes derives its name from that original house on Prospect Hill.
Smart proceeded to register his colours of a brown jacket and rose cap and began acquiring bloodstock on a princely scale – often vying with James White to secure possession. Smart didn’t have his horses trained at ‘Gray Staines’; rather he reached an accommodation with William Forrester on his newly acquired estate at Warwick Farm. It was William Long who had first laid out Warwick Farm as a training establishment, but in December 1881 Forrester bought him out and was part of a syndicate that was now in the throes of effecting improvements that would see it opened as a public racecourse in March 1889. In 1883 the course, which was well-grassed and little more than a mile and a quarter in circumference, was beautifully situated upon the banks of the George’s River and Cabramatta Creek and benefited from the occasional flooding. A pastoral idyll, it was free from the usual touts that habituated the public racecourses and as such seemed the perfect venue for the free-spending Arthur Smart to have his team prepared.
Smart’s first expensive foray into the sales ring came when he paid 1500 guineas in December 1881 for the two-year-old Grosvenor, the brother to Chester, only to find that he was too big and awkward to be trained. Smart then astounded the sporting public when he paid 2000 guineas for Warwick as a yearling in January 1882, although the colt was knocked down in William Gannon’s name. It was to be an auspicious start, for Warwick won both Sires’ Produce Stakes and the Champagne Stakes in his first season. Smart purchased Archie – perhaps the best racehorse to carry his colours – at auction for 1850 guineas on the day after the colt had won the VRC Normanby Stakes and was promptly rewarded with the Ascot Vale Stakes the very next day and the All-Aged Stakes later at the meeting. As the autumn of 1883 darkened into winter, Arthur Smart had the distinction of owning the two racehorses that were the respective favourites for the coming AJC and Victoria Derbies in Warwick and Archie.
Still, it is an old story – that of the young man soaring into the empyrean, only for a hasty descent to follow soon after. Warwick failed to train on and never won another race; while Archie, as we have seen, was sensationally beaten in the 1883 Victoria Derby when regarded as a certainty. It was to be a particularly bleak VRC Spring Meeting for Smart that year; his well-named filly, Delusion, for whom he had given 1000 guineas and seen run second in the Caulfield Guineas, was killed when doing her preliminary past the post for the Melbourne Stakes. Undaunted by such reverses, Smart again belied his name when he gave 1550 guineas for Warwick’s yearling brother, Montem, but that ill-fated colt only raced three times as a two-year-old before he met with an accident and had to be destroyed. It was beginning to seem a stable more renowned for the expense of its artillery rather than for the range of shells it actually fired.
Nonetheless, at the 1883 Sydney yearling sales, Smart demonstrated that he had not entirely exhausted his repertoire of folly when he bought no less than ten yearlings. Smart’s biggest outlay was 950 guineas for a bay colt by Maribyrnong out of the good English matron, Amethyst, and thus a half-brother to The Italian – runner-up in the 1867 Derby. Registered as Cairngorm, he became one of Smart’s two challengers for the 1884 classic at Randwick. In his bid to beat James White for his first AJC Derby, Arthur Smart entered all ten horses for the race although by final declarations just Cairngorm and Nepicallina remained in the field. Neither was conceded any chance of causing an upset. Cairngorm had been placed in his only four starts but had been easily held by Tremando in the Maiden Plate (10f) at the recent Hawkesbury meeting. Nepicallina bred by Andrew Loder and sold as a yearling for 50 guineas, at least had the distinction of having won the Members’ Handicap at the Hawkesbury fixture and having relegated the Hon. James White’s good filly Tempe in proceedings; but on the first day of that meeting he had only managed fourth behind Bargo in the Hawkesbury Guineas.
Delightful weather blessed Derby Day, and the story of the race was as simple as it was predictable. Hales never once bustled the favourite, content to stay in touch until approaching the distance, when he delivered his characteristic coup de grace and Bargo sprinted away to win easily from his stablemate Tremando, with a further ten lengths to Cairngorm, the nearest of Arthur Smart’s two representatives. The time for the race at 2 minutes 42 ¼ seconds was the best on record since Clove. Immediately installed a prohibitive favourite for the Victoria Derby and very prominent in Melbourne Cup betting, Bargo’s reduction to common measure on the third day of the AJC Meeting in the Craven Plate came as a rude shock to those who had pronounced him the next big thing. Sent to the post at 6/4, Bargo couldn’t even manage a place in a four-horse field in the race won by the champion New Zealand stallion Sir Modred, who had taken the Great Metropolitan Stakes earlier at the meeting. Bargo’s eclipse notwithstanding, White still finished the meeting as leading owner with £1,714 in stakes. Apart from the Derby quinella, the Newmarket stable’s other victories at the meeting included the Trial Stakes and Second Foal Stakes with Tempe; and the Spring Maiden Stakes with Tremando.
Bargo was the third and final winner of the AJC Derby sired by the wonderful Maribyrnong following upon the previous victories by his sons Richmond and Woodlands. Maribyrnong was certainly bred in the purple being by the all-conquering Fisherman out of the celebrated import Rose de Florence, a genuine blueblood of the studbook. As already noted, Rose de Florence was from the select harem that accompanied Fisherman on his passage from England and as such became one of the foundation mares of the Maribyrnong Stud. Maribyrnong was her third foal in Australia, and before her life ended at Mr Henry Phillips’s property at Warrnambool in August 1879, she had produced among others the Australian Cup winning filly Nathalie, the champion juvenile Fenella, as well as the ill-fated Ferryman and King of the Ring.
Advocates of the theory that champion stallions are more likely to have only been lightly raced indeed have a prime example in Maribyrnong, for he carried silk but once on a racecourse. The occasion was the 1869 Victoria Derby won by his stablemate Seagull, and Maribyrnong broke his near foreleg when he was asked to gallop immediately after turning into the straight. A horse of immense size and power that had already shown scratchiness in his action, many argued that it was sheer foolhardiness on trainer William Filgate’s part to even bring him to the racecourse, and it was only with the greatest solicitude that he left it to be saved for stallion duties.
Acquired by George Petty when he took over the Maribyrnong Stud, Maribyrnong proved an immediate success when he got the champion Hamlet and the Victoria Derby winner, Miss Jessie, in his first crop. Maribyrnong distinguished his namesake stud for four more seasons before the profligate Andrew Town managed to persuade Petty to transfer him to Hobartville, initially on a two-year lease. Although as we have seen, the lease was eventually converted to outright purchase and the horse ended his days at Richmond in October 1887 at the age of twenty-four. Maribyrnong covered his first book of mares there in 1871 and numbered amongst them was The Fawn. That first mating resulted in the mighty Richmond, and after that Maribyrnong’s reputation north of the Murray was assured.
The remarkable chemistry struck by Maribyrnong and The Fawn that saw them produce Bosworth, Palmyra, Segenhoe and Warwick in later matings has already been discussed in our 1875 chapter, but a similar affinity was shared with a number of other Hobartville mares as well, such as the likes of Guelder Rose, The Alpaca, Rosedale and Miss Magus with each of whom Maribyrnong sired at least two siblings who won principal races on the Australian Turf. Apart from those good racehorses already mentioned, Maribyrnong’s tenure at Hobartville also saw him get a Melbourne Cup winner in Calamia; a second Sydney Cup winner in Cunnamulla; a second Great Metropolitan Stakes winner in The Bohemian; and a host of other first-class gallopers too numerous to mention. A slashing individual, Maribyrnong won the best-thoroughbred stallion award at the Sydney and Intercolonial Exhibitions in 1875 and 1876.
Guelder Rose, the dam of Bargo, was by Kingston and was bred by Andrew Loder in 1872. She raced successfully as a three and four-year-old in her breeder’s colours, winning good races at Tamworth and Glen Innes and was thought good enough to contest the 1876 Doncaster Handicap won by Briseis. Loder enjoyed no comparable success with Guelder Rose when he retired her to his Colly Creek station at Patrick’s Plains, and it was only with her going to Andrew Town’s Richmond Stud in 1879 that her fortunes as a broodmare began to look up. Guelder Rose came from a useful family and her half-sister, Lady Marion had won the 1888 Tramway Handicap. While Bargo was her main claim to fame as a matron, Guelder Rose also produced two other stakes winners after him. Tamarisk, by Chester from Guelder Rose, was the heroine of the 1886 AJC Oaks; and Wycombe, a full brother to Bargo, won the 1888 Randwick Plate and Mares’ Produce Stakes in the colours of William Gannon.
Bargo’s post-Derby career was to prove most disappointing. Taken to Melbourne for the Victoria Derby his preparation was interrupted by a stone bruise. Nonetheless, this didn’t stop the public from sending him out an even-money favourite in a race that saw him finish third, beaten less than a length. The winner was the 20/1 outsider Rufus, an otherwise undistinguished son of King of the Ring. It was to be a markedly unrewarding Flemington meeting that year for the Newmarket stable. Bargo compounded badly in the Melbourne Cup, and it wasn’t until the colt dropped back in distance to the ten furlongs of the Mares’ Produce Stakes on the last day, that James White saw his colours triumphant.
Michael Fennelly had even less cause for satisfaction with his southern visit, being relieved of his valuable gold watch and chain by a thief after he had inadvertently left it on his dressing table. It was the very same watch that the New Zealand Stud Company had presented to Fennelly in commemoration of Martini-Henry’s achievements the year before. A suspicious soul might have taken it as an omen that time was running out for the genial and massively overweight Irishman. It was, too, but it was running out even more quickly for Bargo. The Mares’ Produce Stakes proved to be the colt’s last start; he struck his leg rather seriously in February when being trained for the VRC St Leger and was unable to be trained thereafter. Nonetheless, Bargo’s truncated season had helped propel James White to the top of the winning owners’ list in 1884-85 with 8 individual winners of 20 races and £9,071 in stakes.
While the Turf career of the Hon. James White was to flourish for a few seasons more, the spring of 1884 came to represent the nadir of the sport for Arthur F. Smart. There were already certain telltale signs of his disillusionment; none more so than a very public attack on the VRC handicapper, Mr Barnard, earlier in the year for the harsh treatment metered out to his stable. In early December 1884, Smart announced his intention to sell his horses at Greenstead, Randwick on January 2nd. The realities of life on the Turf had finally caught up with him – particularly those having regard to the value of money. While he had enjoyed a modicum of success with horses such as The Bohemian, The Drummer and the sensational Archie, the returns scarcely matched the massive outlays.
Ironically, within weeks of announcing his departure, arguably his best horse at the time, Brown and Rose, a mere 50 guineas purchase, won the AJC Summer Cup. Seventeen lots were sold in all, ranging from two-year-olds to seven-year-olds, Coir bringing the highest price of 205 guineas, although only six lots went for three-figure sums including the hapless Cairngorm at 150 guineas. Smart did relent in the wake of the Summer Cup victory and retained Brown and Rose, Archie and a few others, but he no longer cut the figure on the racecourse that he once did. He continued to attend Randwick regularly but mostly as an onlooker – a spectre haunting the scenes where for a brief time he had once swaggered – until he died suddenly in his fishing box at Port Hacking in January 1892. His widow continued to breed thoroughbreds on a small scale for quite a few years after his death.