The spring of 1900 saw the first full blossoming of Jim Scobie’s genius for training horses. Scobie’s first crack at the A.J.C. Derby came in 1895 when he brought Onward and Acton over to Sydney for the Randwick Spring Meeting, and Onward ran second in the race that year. He took up quarters at the Coach and Horses Hotel arriving a week before the Derby although neither horse had much public form to recommend them. It was also the first occasion upon which a young Bob Lewis had ridden for the stable. Weighing less than 6 st. 7lb, Lewis partnered with Acton in both the Epsom Handicap and the Metropolitan Stakes when the horse was handicapped at that weight, although unplaced on both occasions. A neat, ascetic man, Scobie wore his successes modestly and bore his reverses gracefully; he was always the same Jim Scobie in the same style of black felt hat – the type that curates used to wear. Never a man to advertise his prosperity, Scobie exuded a quiet confidence, although, like most successful men, he wasn’t short of enemies.
He was a man dedicated to his profession and though not a total abstainer, wasn’t far removed from it. Scobie’s first important wins as a trainer had come in 1885 with that good horse Ringwood, whom he prepared to win both the Hobart Cup and Australian Cup for Norman Wilson. Of course, long before turning his hand to training, Scobie had been one of the best-known cross-country riders in Australia, his perfect seat on a horse earning him the sobriquet of ‘Handsome Jim’. It was an era of exceptional cross-country horsemen such as Tom Corrigan, Bob Batty, Martin Burke, and Andy Ferguson. In those days, when sporting colours, a steeplechaser had to be ridden to the ground: to be dislodged from the saddle when clearing fences meant disgrace.
Jim Scobie was born near Ararat, Victoria in July 1860. By his own admission, his days at school were short, and he played the wag to escape the classroom rigours and indulge his passion for horses. Even from the age of eleven, he was riding work for local squatters around the towns of Dunkeld and Ararat. The first master who really improved his horsemanship was George Read, of Strathmore, whose father kept the Jack of Clubs Hotel. Read had a fair team of horses and was an accomplished rider over fences; Scobie watched and learned from him; it was through his friendship with George Read that he eventually travelled about the bush meetings. A station owner, Mr Adam Smith from Naracoorte in South Australia sent George Read some horses, and Scobie joined him as they travelled to Naracoorte and Penola in South Australia and on to Casterton, in the Western Districts, winning races all the while.
It was a different life in those days. The pair would take supplies in a wagon, and tether the horses to a fence at mealtime while at night they would take lodgings at some nearby station. Scobie remained with Read until the latter was “disqualified forever” after his mount, Marquis Of Lorne, had finished second in the steeplechase at the Bendigo meeting in May 1873. Read was a fine horseman from whom Scobie always credited with teaching him a lot. It was after Read’s disqualification that Scobie became attached to the stable of George Rex, with whom he remained for about three years. During that time they won money everywhere with Devlin, Tsin Tsin, and Dan Rice. But the turning point in Scobie’s career as a horseman came when he teamed up with Robert Howie, who was then based in Ballarat. It is worth pausing for a moment to consider Ballarat at this moment in its history.
A municipality in 1855, a borough in 1863 and a city in 1870. Such was the development of Ballarat. Ever since John Dunlop and James Regan had discovered gold at Poverty Point on 21 August 1851, Ballarat had been home to sportsmen. The wealth created during the gold rush days of the Western Districts had seen fortunes made overnight and the land boasted some of the most prominent owners in the sport of horse racing. I speak of men such as William Bailey, Robert Orr, Martin Loughlin, Frank Austin, Norman Wilson and W. T. Jones. Dowling Forrest was the perfect idyll for training horses in those days, and an Englishman visiting a Ballarat Turf Club meeting then, might have fancied himself in the old land. The pleasant pastures of Coghill’s Creek, the downs of Smeaton, and the broad fields of Burrumbeet had long resounded to the tallyho of the huntsman, whose packs swept to cover until almost the end of the nineteenth century. The magnificent expanse of country which greeted the eye from the grandstand, and those well-kept farms with their beautiful hawthorn and furze hedges, and bounteous crops, were all English in character. Situated as it was at the foot of Mount Pisgah, the original Dowling Forest course was one of the most picturesque in Victoria. Its appointments were not as lavish as at Flemington, of course, but its surroundings afforded compensation in this respect.
As a racing centre, Ballarat reached its zenith of fame in the seventies and eighties. There were three men responsible for establishing Ballarat and Dowling Forest as a place to train horses in the second half of the nineteenth century, First, there was Tommy Wilson; then there was Bob Howie; and thirdly and belatedly, came James Scobie himself. There were other lesser players, of course, such as Alec Taylor and the Ferguson brothers, but Wilson, Howie and Scobie are the names that resonate in the history books. Many equine greats were bred at Miners’ Rest and Burrumbeet and trained on the Ballarat course back in those days, including two Melbourne Cup winners in Martin Loughlin’s Sheet Anchor (1885) and W. T. Jones’s Bravo (1889). And the man that had prepared both of those Cup winners was Tommy Wilson.
Originally a native of Hobart, Tasmania, Wilson settled in Ballarat in 1854 after turning his back on a sailor’s life and trying his luck on the gold fields. He began to conduct a two-horse coaching service between Geelong and Ballarat, and, after the Magpie gold rush, started the first livery stable in Ballarat. Inevitably, given the circumstances, he began to train racehorses on the side including steeplechasers for the poet, Adam Lindsay Gordon. Three years of this were followed by five years of hotel-keeping at the Newmarket Hotel, after which he took up his permanent residence near the Ballarat Racecourse and devoted his whole attention to training. In the years to come besides the Melbourne Cups, Tommy Wilson trained three Caulfield Cup winners as well. In 1879, he prepared Newminster on behalf of Andrew Chirnside for victory in the first running of the event and later followed it up in 1884 with Blink Bonny for R. G. Talbot and in 1887 with Oakleigh for Martin Coughlin. However, it wasn’t horses on the flat but horses over fences that were Wilson’s special line, particularly during that golden era when Tom Corrigan was his right-hand man and Martin Loughlin supplied much of the horsepower. The stable won six National Steeplechases at Flemington and Caulfield, and one National Hurdle Race, boasting jumpers such as Sir Peter, Twilight, Great Western, Wymlet, Left Bower and Game. No man sent jumpers or Cup horses to the post in better condition than Tommy Wilson but he insisted on being given his own time to make that condition.
Bob Howie was the second man to put Ballarat on the map as a training centre and to some extent, his era overlapped with that of Wilson. Born in Scotland around 1842, he came to Victoria as a lad. Howie first began to make his mark as a trainer in the year 1875 when his horse Jacob won the Steeplechase at the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting and when his aged gelding Dane took the Autumn Handicap at the 1875 Ballarat Grand National Steeplechase Meeting. While Howie was more renowned in those early days for his ability with aged jumpers, in the winter of 1877 George Petty sent him a few horses to train following the disqualification of Philip Dowling and included among the team was The Vagabond. Howie got The Vagabond to run the minor placing in Chester’s Melbourne Cup besides training a winning double at that same V.R.C. Spring Meeting.
However, the real change in Howie’s training fortunes came when the Irishman Martin Loughlin gave him some horses to train, including the likes of Lone Hand and Blue Jacket and, of course, the versatile Lord Harry with whom Howie won two doubles in 1879 viz. the Geelong Cup and Handicap, and the Hobart Cup and Alexandra Plate. Later that year at the 1879 V.R.C. Spring Meeting Howie won the Victoria Derby with Suwarrow to top the earnings list at the meeting, receiving a cheque for £2,215 and relegating the Hon. James White into second place. Indeed, Howie finished that 1879-80 season second overall only to W. A. Long, with 8 winners of 18 races and £3,355. Revelling in such city success himself, it was around this time that Howie convinced Scobie to abandon the provincial meetings around Victoria, base himself in Ballarat, and ride in the big smoke of Melbourne.
“It doesn’t matter about wages,” observed Howie. “Rides are what you want.” As a rider, Scobie’s first winner in Melbourne was on a mare called Zephyr, owned by Howie in March 1880 and the event opened the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting of that year. It was just the beginning. Howie and Scobie enjoyed considerable success together over the next two or three seasons until poor health saw Howie resolve to quit training on a large scale during the 1882-83 racing season. The young Scobie purchased Howie’s Miners’ Rest stables in Ascot road while the older man transitioned to become the boniface of the Newmarket Hotel at Ballarat, before his ultimate removal to Adelaide. The stables under Scobie’s management were soon full of wealthy patrons and talented horses. Among Scobie’s early clients were George Russell, William Bailey, Martin Loughlin, Bob Orr, Norman Wilson and his brother Hector, and the Pender brothers – a wonderful class of sportsmen as Scobie freely acknowledged. At the September 1883 meeting of the Ballarat Turf and Hunt Club, Scobie really served notice of his extraordinary abilities when he trained the winners of no less than six races. For the balance of the decade, Scobie combined training with cross-country riding.
Back in those days, every jumping rider’s ambition was to win a Grand National, either over hurdles or fences. Scobie succeeded on both counts: in 1882 he won the Grand National Hurdle with Rhesus and in 1888 the Grand National Steeple with Ruby. When Ruby won the National, Scobie collected half the stake which – including added money – ran out at £515; and apart from riding Ruby over the obstacles, Scobie had also prepared him for the race. As good as Ruby was, however, Blue Mountain was probably the best horse over timber to ever pass through his hands; with Scobie in the saddle the pair won two races at the Melbourne Cup Meeting of 1888.
In the years after Blue Mountain, the flame of Scobie’s talent for training horses had seemed to flicker and flutter. Although he managed to win the Maribyrnong Plate twice with the juveniles Dreamland (1893) and Keera (1896) for William Bailey and Robert Orr, and before that took out the 1890 Caulfield Guineas with Annesley for Bailey, the stable wasn’t setting the world on fire. The flame was fanned when he got that good horse Paul Pry from the West, and it was that old fellow’s resilience that eventually set Scobie’s training career ablaze.
1900 was to mark the year in which the Master of Dowling Forrest really established himself as the leading trainer in the land. As luck would have it, Scobie had two cracking colts that season in Clean Sweep and Maltster, although it is the latter colt that interests us more on these pages. To tell his story, we need to go back to January 1891 when Matt O’Shanassy imported into Victoria two daughters of the great Barcaldine for stud purposes; each was to pass several years in the paddocks of the St Albans Stud. One was Oratava, who became the mother of La Carabine and the ancestress of many other high-class racehorses including King Carnival. The other was Barley, a daughter of the winner of the English Oaks in 1885 who at the time of her importation, had been covered by Harvester, one of the dead-heaters in the 1884 English Derby.
The subsequent foal was the useful Harvest Lass, which over the years got a few handy performers at stud. Thus, even before her mating with Bill of Portland in the spring of 1896, Barley had well and truly proven herself. When the handsome brown colt that resulted from her tryst with Bill of Portland was offered as a yearling through W. C. Yuille and Co., at Newmarket upon the sale of Matt O’Shanassy’s Moira Stud stock, Robert Orr was forced to go to 810 guineas to get him ahead of Tom Lamond. However, Lamond didn’t leave the sales empty-handed, for he managed to get Barley, together with a filly foal by The Cardinal and stinted to Bill of Portland, for Samuel Hordern and the Wilton Park Stud at 380 guineas – less than half the sum her son bought. But it was Orr that got the greater bargain. A keen judge and a fine cross-country rider with a high opinion of Scobie’s talents, Orr immediately placed the colt, which he inadvertently registered as Malster, in Scobie’s Dowling Forrest stables.
On Wednesday, March 8, at those very same Newmarket Sales but in the session conducted by Campbell and Sons on behalf of Andrew Chirnside’s Newminster Park, James Scobie bought Clean Sweep as a yearling for just 90 guineas. The handsome black colt was by Trenton’s half-brother Zalinski, out of Benzine, an Australian-bred daughter of Proto Martyr. In acting as he did, Scobie bought more on type than on pedigree although Benzine had previously dropped a Geelong Cup winner. The highest price brought that day was 395 guineas that Albert Miller paid for a Zalinski filly out of Busy Bee, which failed to amount to anything. Andrew Chirnside was so dissatisfied with the prices his yearlings yielded on that occasion that he was heard to mutter whether it would be better if he raced the pick of next season’s crop rather than send them to go under the hammer. Had he acted on that resolve a season earlier, he might have retained a Melbourne Cup winner. In buying the colt, Scobie had been acting on behalf of Frank Cumming, a V.A.T.C. committeeman and long-term client of his stable whose family had raced a number of horses through his yard. Cumming cloaked his ownership credentials under the nom de course of Mr “F. T. Forrest”.
The name of Robert Orr’s Bill of Portland colt appears as Malster rather than Maltster in the early Turf records, the result of a misspelling in the processing of the original registration. The name, of course, was meant as a play on that of the dam, a fact that was ultimately recognised by racing authorities many months later. Both Maltster and Clean Sweep began their racing careers at the Caulfield Spring Meeting when unmentioned in the betting, each finished unsighted in the £1,200 Debutant Stakes won by the George Lee-owned filly, Wigelmar. Clean Sweep reappeared in December to win a Juvenile Stakes at Caulfield while Maltster was kept pottering about at Dowling Forrest until the Flemington Autumn Meeting when for the first time he showed just what he was capable of doing on a racecourse. Freely offered at 8/1 for the Hopeful Stakes, intimates of the Scobie stable helped themselves to a tidy sum when Maltster took out the event from Haulette and the favourite Kinglike. On the same day, Scobie preferred Clean Sweep for the Sires’ Produce Stakes. After leading for more than half the journey, the son of Zalinski was easily cut down by another Bill of Portland colt in Finland.
Scobie then backed up both Maltster and Clean Sweep for another crack at Finland in the Ascot Vale Stakes later in the same week. Finland’s credentials in winning both the Maribyrnong Plate and the Sires’ Produce Stakes saw him go to the post in the red, despite being burdened with the full penalty. In receipt of 3lb from the public fancy, Maltster won easily with Clean Sweep just behind the place-getters. On the same programme, La Carabine gave Scobie a memorable double by taking out the Australian Cup. It was a foretaste of the monopoly that the Dowling Forest stables would hold over so many big races in the coming years. While Clean Sweep was left at home, Maltster was brought across to Randwick for the Champagne Stakes. Despite a 10lb penalty taking his weight to 9 st. 6lb, Maltster had odds of 10/9 laid on him, but he had to strike his colours to the filly, Haulette. The Bill of Portland colt ended his initial season in the Easter Stakes a few days later, when, burdened with an additional penalty, yet another daughter of Haut Brion in Hautesse again relegated him to second. While the results of the juvenile events at that Randwick fixture may have proved a disappointment to Scobie, he was more than compensated when La Carabine confirmed her belated blossoming by adding the Sydney Cup and A.J.C. Plate to her tally of victories.
At a time when most trainers would give their Derby horses a race in public before the blue riband, it was characteristic of Scobie to produce them first up. After all, he wasn’t short of trial tackle at Dowling Forest and such reserve afforded associates of his stable the best of the betting market while outsiders were kept in the dark. Such at least was the case with Maltster whom ‘Gentleman Jim’ stripped for the Derby at Randwick in September having not appeared in public since the Easter Stakes. Clean Sweep wasn’t even brought to Sydney but remained at Dowling Forrest to be reserved for the rich spring handicaps.
Maltster hadn’t grown much during the winter – he was only ever a medium-sized horse, hardly 15.3 hands – but he had thickened considerably. In a field of just six colts and one filly, he was the public’s second choice for the A.J.C. Derby. Bob Lewis, the Victorian lightweight jockey was now doing most of the riding for the Scobie stable as he had been since 1895 but was taking the reins of Maltster for the first time. He had already ridden two winners of the South Australian Derby, but this race was to mark the real threshold of success for that wonderful partnership with Scobie that would last for thirty years.
The 1900 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
It was during the 1900 A.J.C. Spring Meeting that the following photograph of the various intercolonial trainers was published by The Australasian newspaper:
The Derby favourite at a shade of red was Hautboy owned by William Bailey and sporting his familiar colours of ‘black jacket, red sash, white cap’. Hautboy was trained by Tom Payten. It was somewhat ironic that Bailey and Orr each individually owned the two leading fancies from different stables, for the two Ballarat sportsmen had raced several horses in partnership over the years, and Bailey had been a long-time client of Scobie. Hautboy was one of two horses in the Derby trained by Tom Payten, the other, Lord Rudolph, being engaged to act as a pacemaker. A very gross, short-bodied horse that was to be typical of the Haut Brion breed, Hautboy was distinguished by a crimped head carriage, but it hadn’t stopped him from being one of the best juveniles in a busy year. He was out early in the season winning the Mona Nursery at the Caulfield Spring Meeting and then winning twice at Flemington during Melbourne Cup week. Freshened up by Tom Payten, he returned to win twice at Randwick during the summer, including the prestigious December Stakes against his only two rivals. In the autumn he ran the minor placing behind Finland and his stablemate Clean Sweep in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington.
Hautboy was one of two strong candidates in the Derby by Haut Brion; the other was Hautesse, a stylish brown filly trained by Joe Burton. Hautesse carried the ‘blue, white sleeves, rose cap’ of Mr C. Carlisle. Hautesse had first presented her Derby credentials when winning the Easter Stakes at Randwick in the autumn beating Maltster into second placing, although on that occasion she received twenty-three pounds from the colt. Nonetheless, Hautesse proved it was no fluke when she won a mile Nursery two days later on the final day of the meeting. Burton had been hoping to have the well-bred Wigelmar also represent him in the race, but she had become something of a ‘roarer’ and had been thrown out of work. The other three horses engaged in the Derby – Schimmel, Yarrabee and Phillibeg – were generally considered to be just giving their owners’ colours an airing.
Despite steady, soaking rain falling overnight, Derby Day in 1900 dawned fine and attracted a crowd estimated at fifteen thousand, including the Governor of N.S.W. and his suite, together with members of the ministry as well as both Houses of Parliament. There was a considerable number of local and interstate racing scribes in attendance as well and the Sydney Mail captured a photograph of them in all of their glory.
Lord Rudolph might have been left in the race to act as a pacemaker, but he proved singularly inept at the job; he was the last to get going, and nearly a third of the journey had been covered before he appeared at the head of affairs. Hautesse, with Hautboy in close attendance and pulling very hard, set the pace until near the milepost when Lord Rudolph belatedly appeared on the scene. He then conducted business until about the five by which time he had had enough, leaving Hautesse once again in command. Shortly after that, the field was cut in half when Phillibeg fell approaching the half-mile post, and both Yarrabee and Lord Rudolph tumbled over him. The horses fell without serious injury to themselves but inflicted fractured collarbones on the two riders, Callinan and Woodgate. Meanwhile, the filly led past the half-mile post and around the home turn, where Hautboy quickly claimed her along the rails with Maltster just behind and Lewis riding a waiting race. Passing the distance, Lewis tackled the favourite and Maltster easily held him in the run to the winning post. Despite the overnight rain, it was found that Maltster’s time for the race had only been beaten twice – by Trident and Gibraltar. A resounding cheer was let out for Robert Orr, the popular Ballarat sportsman, as Lady Lygon decorated his colt with the blue riband.
Robert Orr was one of the last of that band of Ballarat sporting men who hunted and raced in the days when the likes of Martin Loughlin, William Bailey, William Leonard, John Brown and Adam Lindsay Gordon lived in the Golden City. Orr originally made his money in the cattle business, when he contracted for the driving of cattle to the bustling Ballarat market. He enjoyed a wide remit in those roaring days when the world was wide, bringing Manifold and Robertson’s stock from the Western Districts as well as large mobs down from New South Wales. Orr eventually bought a large farm at Mount Rowan, just out of Ballarat. Orr made his mark in the sport of trotting even before he took to riding steeplechasers, and Mazeppa and Sir William Don were his two best standardbreds in the 1860s – the latter the best in the land. The first high-class steeplechaser that Robert Orr owned and rode was Ingleside, but he didn’t keep him long, and it wasn’t until he was retained to ride Martin Loughlin’s horses over timber that his name really came before the public.
Orr always maintained that Narcisso, a horse originally brought out to Australia by Mr Goyder but sold to Loughlin was the best he ever rode at Ballarat and Flemington. Orr remained Loughlin’s preferred rider until the advent of Tom Corrigan. Just about Orr’s last mount in a decent race was the South Australian galloper, All Fours, in the Cup Steeplechase of 1876. When he took to racing on the flat, he shared in the ownership of Dreamland with William Bailey, another of Scobie’s clients, and that son of Trenton won the 1893 V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate in their colours. He looked to be a promising racehorse, but it was a long time before he won another good race – in fact, the 1901 V.R.C. Australian Cup as a nine-year-old – just months after Maltster’s blue riband. After he retired from business, Orr settled down in a stylish residence fronting Lake Wendouree where his great joy was tending his garden. This noted Ballarat identity died in October 1906, barely five months after his close friend William Bailey.
Although after the Derby Maltster was withdrawn from his other engagements at the A.J.C. fixture and set aside for Melbourne, the Ballarat stable continued to dominate the meeting. Scobie had only brought three horses across and the other two – Paul Pry and Ranfurly, both owned by Sir Rupert Clarke – carved up the meeting. All told Scobie’s team managed to win seven races and take almost half the stake money back across the Murray. Paul Pry won the Spring Stakes, Craven Plate, Wycombe Stakes and Randwick Plate while Ranfurly took out both the Suburban and Final Handicaps. Needless to say, during the settling at Tattersall’s Club on the Monday the wine flowed freely in celebration of Scobie’s team – compliments of Robert Orr and Sir Rupert Clarke, and the baronet paid a graceful tribute to his trainer for his ability to keep a horse up throughout a racing campaign.
Back in Melbourne and with a handful of aces, Scobie proceeded to play his cards with consummate professionalism. It was noticeable that when the first acceptances for the Victoria Derby were announced on October 8, Clean Sweep wasn’t among them but Maltster was. Frank Cumming had been advised by Scobie to incur no further liability insofar as the classic was concerned. After all, Maltster was the more brilliant and better weight carrier of the pair. Scobie held his resolve to stick to the handicaps with Clean Sweep. On the First Day of the V.A.T.C. Meeting, whereas Maltster went for the Caulfield Guineas, Clean Sweep went for the Toorak Handicap instead. Maltster was sent off as the favourite for the Guineas despite a 7lb penalty. He managed to claim the minor placing after some bumping at the half-mile and twice being disappointed on the home turn, the race being won by C. L. Macdonald’s Kinglike from Finland in a close finish. By contrast, in the Toorak, Clean Sweep played up at the barrier, got left, and wasn’t seen at the finish.
Maltster was then kept for the Victoria Derby while Clean Sweep re-appeared at the V.A.T.C. Meeting on the Second Day for the Coongy Handicap with the apprentice Arthur Richardson making up most of the 6 st. 10lb. the colt was asked to carry. Frank Cumming took £100 to £6 on the off-chance that Clean Sweep would get away alright. He did and Frank collected. Moreover, in relegating George Frederick and War God, two older horses and serious Melbourne Cup candidates, into the minor placings, Clean Sweep at once established his own Cup credentials. The 17-year-old, freckle-faced Richardson, was immediately booked for the Melbourne Cup ride with Bob Lewis unable to do the weight and reserved for Maltster. But first came the Moonee Valley Cup. Clean Sweep with only 7 st. 4lb on his back, was set down as a certainty by the public, and he duly won in a canter.
It was then on to Flemington and the V.R.C. Spring Meeting. Maltster had been somewhat out of the limelight since returning to Melbourne from Sydney. However, the son of Bill of Portland yet again demonstrated his class in the Victoria Derby, when only Kinglike and Barbarossa chose to oppose him in the smallest field since 1866. Scobie had withstood the temptation of challenging Maltster with Clean Sweep in the Derby, reserving him for the Cup instead. But Maltster did back up after the Derby and challenge Clean Sweep for the Cup, with each colt going to the post at 20/1 in the 29-strong field. Their stablemate, La Carabine handicapped with 9 st. 7lb and Willie Powell in the saddle, at 16/1 was even shorter than them in the market. The race favourite at 3/1 was Lancaster, Trenton’s half-brother and a brilliant winner of the Melbourne Stakes the previous Saturday.
Clean Sweep had continued to thrive in the day after his victory at Moonee Valley and Scobie, a very cautious man, told stable insiders that if they felt inclined to back anything outside of Lancaster, they “ought to have a little on Clean Sweep”. The risk with the Zalinski colt, of course, was at the start and in truth, there were moments of anxiety. Drawn the No. 6 ticket, Clean Sweep did shove his nose into the strands and was moved to the outside with the start delayed some quarter of an hour. Still, Richardson managed to get Clean Sweep away fairly well and he had worked his way in beside Maltster before they passed the stand the first time. Lying about fifth as they went past the judge, Clean Sweep maintained much the same position until approaching the sheds when another stablemate in The Bride made a forward move and Clean Sweep went with her. The race was all over half a mile from home. At that point, Clean Sweep on the outside was lying fourth and pulling double. Turning into the straight, Maltster was first, with Clean Sweep challenging. There was a short sharp tussle but the son of Zalinski proved too strong in the run home and went on to win by a length and a half in a time of 3 minutes 29 seconds. It was a peculiarly run race as all the time was made in the last mile and a quarter.
Maltster with 7 st 11lb beat the lightweight Alix by three-quarters of a length for the minor placing. La Carabine came in seventh. Despite the physical and nervous strain, Richardson defied his youth, jumping from the back of the Cup winner neither breathless from riding nor excitement. The jockey declared: “I thought he’d win all along, and I was certain of it ever since I did the fastest gallop of the season on him over a mile and a half on the sand last Sunday morning. The only thing I was frightened of was getting left at the start. This was my first mount in a Melbourne Cup.” Years later, James Scobie on the eve of retirement observed in his book “My Life on the Australian Turf”: “That season I could have won the Melbourne Cup with either Clean Sweep or Maltster. In their home trials, there was little to choose between these colts. Maltster was handicapped to concede Clean Sweep 11lb. This made Clean Sweep look like a good Cup proposition. We withdrew him from the Derby, and, escaping any penalty, he easily carried off the big handicap, by a length and a half from Maltster. Many candidates – even a stablemate, La Carabine – were preferred to Clean Sweep and Maltster, about each of whom 20/1 could be obtained.”
The Cup was a wonderful triumph for Frank Cumming and his colours of “white jacket, blue sleeves and cap”. The entire Cumming clan had been loyal patrons of the Scobie stable for years and Scobie’s confidence on Cup Day saw some good wagers landed in the ring. Cumming provided some of the poor children of Melbourne with boots out of his Cup winnings, a proceeding which cost him over £100. In his youth, Cumming had spent a great deal of time in Ballarat and it was when Corrigan, Scobie and Andy Ferguson were in residence there; he formed lasting friendships with all three. The first good horse Cumming owned was Corythus, ownership which he shared with his brother. Corythus would have won nine Nationals out of ten, but conceding 22lb to the great Redleap in 1889 was rather too much for him. He ran second, and a good second at that! Later on, the horse carried extraordinary weights successfully and many conceded that over hurdles he was even better than Redleap. I might add that two seasons after Clean Sweep, Frank Cumming raced that good filly Eleanor with whom he would win both the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and the Williamstown Cup. A daughter of Trieste, she cost Cumming 850 guineas, a good deal more than he had to pay for his Melbourne Cup winner. However, just like Clean Sweep, Eleanor would be well sold when Cumming decided to part company. The popular pastoralist and V.A.T.C. committeeman died in March 1905.
That neither his Victoria Derby win nor his hard run in the Cup had failed to flatten Maltster was shown when he stepped out and won the Flying Stakes and C.B. Fisher Plate on the last two days of the meeting to complete his spring campaign. Nor did the exertions of the Cup knock out either Clean Sweep or La Carabine. Each appeared on the Fourth Day with Clean Sweep winning the V.R.C. Spring Stakes and La Carabine the V.R.C. Handicap. Near the end of the month, Scobie even pulled off the Bendigo Cup with his own mare, The Bride. What a year Scobie enjoyed in that last of the nineteenth century! His prizes included the Australian Cup, Sydney Cup, Melbourne Cup, Moonee Valley Cup, Williamstown Cup, A.J.C., V.R.C. and S.A.J.C. Derbies, as well as a host of high-class weight-for-age events. It almost seemed as if Clean Sweep had been so named to encapsulate the achievements of his trainer that spring! It wasn’t a bad haul to be going on with, and just how Scobie did go on with it will become clear in the following pages.
Not for the last time, the Sydney and Melbourne handicappers disagreed as to the respective merits of two top horses when it came to the rich plums in the autumn. In January when the weights were simultaneously declared for the Sydney and Australian Cups, it was found that whereas Maltster was asked to give Clean Sweep 6lb in the former, there was only a difference of 2lb in the latter. As it turned out neither colt won either race and who would have thought that before the season was over Scobie would have lost the services of both, albeit for quite different reasons. Initially, each colt took up in the autumn the way they had left off in the spring. Each appeared at both the Caulfield and Flemington meetings.
At Caulfield, whereas Maltster won the St Helier Stakes, Clean Sweep upset his stablemate Paul Pry to win the St George Stakes. At Flemington, Clean Sweep upset his stablemate La Carabine to win the Loch Plate, whereas Maltster won the All-Aged Stakes. However, the best Maltster could do in the Australian Cup was run fifth and by the time the Sydney Cup came around he had already run his last race, having struck himself while being prepared at Randwick. How Robert Orr must have regretted refusing an English offer of 3000 guineas for the horse that had been made earlier in the summer. In Maltster’s enforced absence, the A.J.C. St Leger proved a hollow victory for Clean Sweep against his only two opponents and backers were called upon to lay 6/1 on the Melbourne Cup winner. Clean Sweep backed up for the Sydney Cup two days later despite his 8 st. 7lb. The Cup that year was fought out by two three-year-olds, but Clean Sweep wasn’t one of them. Rather, San Fran and Australian Colors, each carrying a mere 6 st 12lb disputed the finish, with Wakeful, who was attempting the Doncaster-Cup double, filling the minor placing. Taken across to Adelaide, Clean Sweep was very easily beaten in the S.A.J.C. St Leger and there seemed clear signs that he was feeling his legs.
Soon afterwards, Clean Sweep was sold by Frank Cumming through W. C. Yuille and Co., for a reported 2000 guineas to William Allison in England. After passing a veterinary examination, the 1900 Melbourne Cup winner was shipped off in the Sophocles, the same vessel that had taken Bill of Portland back to the land of his birth. The colt travelled under the care of Herbert Cripps, who as a 16-year-old had won the Melbourne Cup on Tarcoola for his father in his first ride in the race. So, two Melbourne Cup winners went off together. Clean Sweep did nothing for the reputation of Australian bloodstock in England where he proved a rank failure. In June 1903 we find him running last in a field of seventeen for the Apprentices’ Handicap Plate of 100 sovereigns at Newmarket over six furlongs in a field of seventeen and carrying the top weight of 9 st. 2lb. Clean Sweep was disposed of at the Newmarket Sales in December of that same year for the trifling amount of just thirty guineas!
But let us return to the main subject of this chapter. Maltster’s brief but brilliant career again emphasised, if emphasis were needed, just what a boon to Australian bloodstock had been the importation of Bill of Portland, the first St Simon horse to come here. Bill, as he became affectionately known, had been a good two-year-old in England winning the Bedford Two-Year-Old Plate at the Newmarket Spring Meeting; and a prominent English writer in ‘Horse and Hound’ regarded him as one of the best of his year, and a large price was refused for him. Unfortunately, he later became a ‘roarer’, which ruined his career on the racecourse and even rendered him something of a dubious proposition as a stallion. When he came onto the market as a four-year-old, William Allison was instrumental in arranging his purchase at 1100 guineas on behalf of W. R. Wilson’s St Albans Stud. But for his reputation as a roarer, he would never have been allowed to leave England. He arrived in Melbourne in June 1894, after a rather rough passage in the steamship Australasian around the Cape. St Albans already had a distinguished history, and Bill of Portland added one last glorious chapter. St Albans’ new stallion got away to a wonderful start when the great Bobadil came along in his first crop while his second included Merriwee – who credited Herbert Power with the Victoria Derby-Melbourne Cup double – as well as the Maribyrnong Plate winner, Scorn.
In June 1900 W. R. Wilson died without an heir, and the St Albans breeding and racing establishment came onto the market. The stud itself was broken up. The racehorses in training were sold in August, and in November, the breeding stock and the property were. The St Simon blood had become so sought after in England that the reach of British breeders even extended to expatriate sons of this emperor of stallions located in colonies on the far side of the world. Despite keen interest from Australian breeders including J. V. Smith of Bundoora Park, this was one auction where English money was always going to prevail, and Bill of Portland was sold for 4900 guineas to William Allison of the Cobham Stud in Surrey, acting on behalf of Jim Joel. In January old Bill returned to his native soil on board the Sophocles and was in charge of Ernest Day, the same young man that had accompanied Carbine on his historic voyage a few years earlier.
Curiously enough, Joel got a rather poor return for his money, and the horse proved disappointing in England. Joel sold him at the 1908 December sales for less than a tenth of what he’d paid, and the horse spent his final years at stud in Belgium. This does nothing to detract from the string of good horses that Bill left in Australia that would make their names as stallions in the years ahead including, apart from the hero of this chapter, the likes of Bobadil, Finland, Merriwee, Treadmill and United States. So much then for the theory that roarers merely beget roarers. The St Albans estate itself, where Maltster had been foaled and comprised some 802 acres and 35 paddocks, was eventually sold for £14,900 to Mr R. Govett, a Queensland pastoralist hailing from the Barcoo country. Its days of dominating Victorian bloodstock, however, were at an end.
Of course, at the time of Maltster’s breakdown, Bill of Portland’s reputation as a sire of sires still lay in the future and the demand for Australian-bred stallions, even if grandsons of St Simon, wasn’t great. In fact, several attempts were made by Scobie to get another race out of Maltster, but it was all to no avail. The horse was finally put up for auction in Melbourne on the last day of August 1903. Although Maltster had demonstrated his ability over all distances from five furlongs to two miles, winning eight of his sixteen races and £6,006 in stakes, no one rushed to buy him. Yet he was, in the opinion of Jim Scobie, one of the best five horses he ever trained throughout his career. Eventually, he fell to the brothers’ John and William Thompson, proprietors of Widden, who came across to Melbourne and got him for as little as 1350 guineas. Around this time the Widden Valley and the Thompson brothers collectively – whether the older John and William at Widden Stud or the younger James at Oakleigh Stud – were just then beginning to make something of a habit of owning the leading stallion in Australia.
Lochiel had stood at Oakleigh, and Grafton who replaced him there as lord of the harem was already poised to usurp the crown having been runner-up in the Australian Sires’ List for the 1902-03 season. There was considerable sibling rivalry between the brothers and the respective fortunes of the Widden and Oakleigh Studs. Whereas James Thompson had enjoyed much greater success at Oakleigh with first Lochiel and later Grafton, the acquisition of Maltster by the Widden Stud certainly redressed the balance. Maltster started there in 1903 at a fee of just fifteen guineas. The newcomer reached the stud rather late in the breeding season, by which time the best of the matrons had already pledged their troth elsewhere. Accordingly, our Derby hero got few choice mares that year, and of the limited number that he did get, most were owned by the sons of the Thompsons rather than John and William themselves. But one of the mares he received was a daughter of Lochiel named Loch Laya, and the result of their mating proved to be the remarkable Maltine, whose victories in the Gimcrack Stakes and Maribyrnong Plate immediately stamped Maltster as a coming force in bloodstock.
A few weeks after Maltine burst upon the scene, another daughter from a Lochiel mare in Maltsterdelle carried off the rich December Stakes. Maltster finished his first season with six or seven individual winners, which placed him eleventh on the Australian Sires’ Table – a remarkable performance with just one crop racing. In Maltster’s second lot came Miss Bass, Alawa and Malt Queen. The latter filly after a couple of modest victories carried off the December Stakes and then followed it up with both the Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes, retiring at the end of her two-year-old season with an unbeaten record of six wins straight. She died without ever seeing a racecourse again, but by then Maltster’s reputation was made as breeders and buyers alike were falling over themselves to book their mares to secure his progeny. The stallion spent his entire stud career at Widden. Even when the Thompson brothers decided to dissolve their partnership in 1909 after some forty-two years, Maltster, unlike the mares, remained their joint property.
While William sold his interest in Widden to John and moved to the Scone district where he acquired a portion of the old Turanville estate, which he named Yarraman Park, Maltster remained in his half ownership and at Widden proper. In the seven years from 1909 to 1915 inclusive, Maltster headed the list of winning sires no fewer than five times and was runner-up on the other two occasions. His best year at the sales came in 1910 when thirty-seven of his progeny averaged almost 600 guineas, and no fewer than eight reached the four-figure mark – the highest being 1750 guineas for Malt Blossom. John and William Thompson might have filled a big list for Maltster at one hundred guineas a mare but instead reserved him for their own matrons except for ten taken outside. Very soon his service fee climbed to 200 guineas. While he got winners from all breeds, he seemed to favour the blood of Lochiel and Goldsbrough most, and his best winners were Alawa, Beverage, Mala, Malt King, Maltine and Popinjay. Maltster also proved to be a champion sire of broodmares as the likes of Desert Gold, Eusebius, and Wolaroi attest.
I might mention that Maltster’s remarkable success at stud and the earlier confusion over the spelling of his name, saw the V.R.C. in February 1910 pass a special resolution acknowledging the error. It stated: “that any of his progeny nominated for racing under V.R.C. rules shall be considered properly nominated if the said horse’s name be (sic) spelt Maltster or Malster and no objections founded on misspelling shall be entertained.” A copy of the resolution was sent to the A.J.C. committee for their information, and they subsequently passed a similar resolution. Whatever the spelling, there was no doubting the prepotency of the horse in question. One man who did have faith in that prepotency from the very start was Jim Scobie. Accordingly, it was Scobie who persuaded Sir Rupert Clarke to send La Carabine on that long journey overland into the Widden Valley to be mated with her former stable companion in his very first season at stud. Scobie’s faith in the then-untried stallion was rewarded when that good filly Pretty Peg came along. It seemed only fitting thus, that it was Scobie who got to put the polish on arguably Maltster’s best son in Alawa. When Maltster died at Widden in June 1923 at the ripe old age of twenty-five years, he was arguably the greatest stallion Australia had ever known up to that time.