The Edwardian years of the early twentieth century represented a golden epoch in the history of thoroughbred racing, not just in England but in the mother country’s dominions and colonies as well. Having a reigning monarch who embraced the sport with passion certainly helped, and H.R.H. Edward VII had already won the English Derby twice by the time he ascended the throne in 1901, thanks, firstly to the victory of the great Persimmon in 1896, and then four years later to that of his full brother, Diamond Jubilee. The King was to achieve a third triumph in the race – and the first by a reigning monarch – when Minoru was narrowly awarded the race by the judge in 1909. The colourful and exuberant Edwardian era was quite a contrast to the doleful years of melancholy and black mourning under Queen Victoria after the death of her beloved Prince Albert in 1861.
Not for nothing did the English-born, Australian newspaperman John Norton describe Queen Victoria as a ‘dull and brainless woman’ and ‘a flabby, fat and flatulent looking scion of the most enobled line of Royal Georges.’ Edward VII was just as brainless but much more popular as a reigning monarch. And after the staid and sober years of the late Victorian age, he did much to elevate the Turf as a fashionable pastime on the social calendar, pageantry which suited the prosperous and bustling tenor of the times. It was certainly a sad day for racing when King Edward VII, after catching a chill on his Sandringham estate and suffering a series of minor heart attacks, collapsed and died on Friday, 6 May 1910. Perhaps it was altogether fitting that the last thing his eldest son and successor to the throne, the future George V, was able to tell him was that his horse, Witch of the Air, had won at Kempton Park.
During the first decade of the new century, Randwick’s Spring Meeting was one of the brightest threads in the rich tapestry of Sydney’s social life. After all, it wasn’t an age of restraint. Appearances were everything. It was a time of elegance and grandeur, a time to saunter and swagger. Despite a very different climate in a supposedly classless Australia, our racecourse fashions aped Edwardian England. And nowhere were class distinctions more sharply drawn in Australia than on the racecourse. The wealthiest of men sported silk top hats and frock coats while the wealthiest of women swathed themselves in exaggerated examples of the milliner’s and dressmaker’s art as they promenaded in the Randwick and Flemington birdcages. Dress denoted rank in the colonies, perhaps more so in the late Victorian and Edwardian years than in any other period. The middle and lower classes regarded it as a barometer of respectability. We can still catch a romantic glimpse of it over one hundred years later.
Following the example set by Edward, first as Prince of Wales and later as King, successive Governors of N.S.W. and Victoria, as we have seen, began to patronise the Turf. Sir Hercules Robinson was the first and most successful to do so, but up to the turn of the century, others had followed suit including Lord Carrington and Viscount Hampden. It was a tradition that the pompous Lord Hopetoun enhanced during his term of office in Victoria, too, when he initiated a dinner on Victoria Derby night at Government House for the V.R.C. committee and leading racing figures in celebration of the Flemington Spring Meeting. The first decade of the twentieth century saw vice-regal patronage of racing extend even further. Admiral Sir Harry Rawson and Lord Chelmsford were each keen and popular sportsmen during their respective years as Governors of New South Wales while the Earl of Hopetoun, elevated at Federation to become Australia’s first Governor-General, retained the same interest he had shown earlier during his gubernatorial stint in Victoria.
However, our second and third Governors-General, Barons Tennyson and Northcote evinced little interest in the Turf: in Tennyson’s case because – like his father the famous poet, he possessed more of a literary than a sporting bent; and in Northcote’s case because he was primarily a reactionary dullard. Lord Dudley, our fourth Governor-General was an active patron of racing, but it was the arrival in Melbourne in July 1911 of the fifth man to hold office, the enlightened Lord Denman, together with his charming and elegant wife Gertrude, that ushered in a whole new chapter of vice-regal sponsorship for the Sport of Kings. The youthful Denmans were to make a habit of attending the major spring, and autumn fixtures at both Randwick and Flemington and during their term of office would even run horses here, winning the Amateur Challenge Cup over 2 miles and 3 furlongs at Caulfield in September 1913, with their six-year-old galloper, Topmast. The vice-regal couple’s first foray into a significant meeting in Australia came on A.J.C. Derby Day, 1911. While the 36-year-old Lord Denman, a distinguished horseman in his own right, took a practical interest in the bloodstock, his consort, Lady Denman, ten years younger and a tall, slim and attractive redhead with a flair for fashion and the arts, proceeded to create more than a frisson of excitement among the crowd with her exalted appearance.
Let it be said that by 1911 the hallowed ground at Randwick was a worthy setting for such condescension by the Crown and no man was more responsible for this state of affairs than an ambitious but conservative Irishman with a background in mechanical engineering named Thomas Strettel Clibborn. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Clibborn originally arrived in Victoria in 1860 with the intention of farming in the Western Districts before drought crippled him financially. Eventually forced off the land, in 1868 he became manager of the stock division of Lord, Croker and Company based at Hamilton, where he also acted as secretary to the Hamilton Racing Club. Such was his administrative reputation that in March 1872 he was approached and appointed as secretary to the flourishing Ballarat Turf Club. A keen amateur horseman in his own right, Clibborn engaged in both hunting and steeple-chasing in the Western Districts. In 1873 when the A.J.C. required a secretary to fill the place of Buchan Thompson, committeeman Walter Hall induced Clibborn to apply. Thomas Clibborn was to hold the position for 37 years until his retirement in June 1910 because of ill health and failing eyesight. Clibborn was to provide the same sterling service to the Australian Jockey Club that his eight-year-older Irish compatriot and good friend, Robert Bagot, gave to the Victoria Racing Club.
At the time Clibborn assumed secretarial responsibility, the club’s affairs were in a somewhat parlous state with depleted finances and desultory record-keeping. Up until that time, general meetings of the club had been held in a room above Buchan Thompson’s livery stables on the corner of Bligh and Hunter streets. Clibborn set about cleansing the Augean, if not the Buchan Thompson stables so to speak, conducting an administrative revolution, and, given that for the first twenty-four years of his engagement he combined the role of treasurer with his secretarial responsibilities, the transformation was remarkable. In 1873 when Clibborn was appointed, the club only provided added money to stakes of £3,740; by the time he retired in 1910 the added money that year was £45,000. And more than anyone else, Clibborn was responsible for the elevation of the A.J.C. Derby to the status of Australia’s premier classic race. When he arrived in Sydney, the Derby was a sweepstakes race to which the club did not add a penny. It was his ambition to make it the best prize in the land as well as heavily endow the club’s weight-for-age races. Clibborn was the driving force that saw the A.J.C. build and occupy its own headquarters in Blight-street in 1901.
As we have seen, Clibborn initiated Hunt Club races at Randwick and promoted yearling sales in the saddling paddock there, which he himself conducted. The first six years of his secretaryship also happened to coincide with the governorship of Sir Hercules Robinson, a fellow native of County Westmeath in Ireland. The two men with their shared passion for the Turf became firm friends and Clibborn’s mansion ‘Holmesby’, Elizabeth Bay – the grounds of which are now subsumed into the eastern boundary of Beare Park, wasn’t far from Government House. Clibborn maintained that had it not been for the serendipitous arrival of Sir Hercules Robinson as Governor, the prosperity of the club would have been postponed for a decade at least. In recognition of Thomas Clibborn’s services, the A.J.C. altered the name of the New Stakes, run at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, to that of the Clibborn Stakes, a name that remained for many years until the inevitable changes wrought by the intrusive sponsorship of modern times.
Clibborn died on December 31st, 1910, six months after his retirement from office but he bequeathed a club and racecourse in a healthy state. Admission charges remained light. Ten shillings admitted one to the grandstand and lawn, and there was no extra charge at this time for access to the saddling paddock. Two shillings gained admission to the St Leger Stand, above the outer gate charge of one shilling. Alas, the accommodation had proved inadequate for the increasing crowds and in 1911 the A.J.C., with Charles Cropper having succeeded Clibborn as secretary, pulled the whole St. Leger Stand down and replaced it with a solid double-deck structure of brick and steel at the cost of £32,000 which was intended to accommodate 11,500 spectators.
Despite the rapid development of Randwick during the late nineteenth century and the burgeoning stakes under Clibborn’s careful stewardship, a number of talented horsemen were content to reign over tiny provincial kingdoms rather than chance their hand in the more hazardous environment of the metropolis. One man who showed such initial reluctance, but was eventually induced to swap comfortable domination of racing in the western districts of N.S.W. for the challenge of Randwick, was Tom Scully. Based at Coolah, lying in the Coolaburragundy River valley, Scully kept a hotel there and trained horses on the side. For years he was regarded as a particularly gifted horseman by some of the most notable squatters in Mudgee and the Liverpool Plains, who regularly kept his boxes full.
Numbered among Scully’s loyal patrons at those picnic race meetings were the likes of James Bettington junior of Brindley Park, John McMaster of Binnia Downs, David Watt of Ulinda, Gus Hooke of Turee and the Nivison family at Walcha. It was with horses belonging to such men that Scully regularly plundered the little meetings around Mudgee, as well as making occasional forays into the Upper Hunter, Dubbo, Tiranna and Bong Bong. For years Scully pursued this modest branch of racing, and with Loch Leven alone he won twelve picnic Cups. It was Scully’s rich patrons who felt that his talents were too conspicuous for confinement to these country circuits and urged him to try his hand in the big smoke, but it wasn’t until 1902 when he had broken in a rising two-year-old daughter of Lochiel that his mind was resolved. The filly in question was Marvel Loch, and to the end of his days, Scully swore that, except for Cetigne, she was the best horse upon which he ever slipped a bridle.
Given the significance of Marvel Loch to Scully’s career, not to mention that of her brothers and sisters, it is worth dwelling for a moment on her breeding by John McMaster at ‘Binnia Downs’ station, some eighty miles north of Mudgee. One of a large and successful family of sheep breeders whose forebears settled on the Liverpool Plains many years before, the McMasters all had a taste for the sport. They had long been strong supporters of the picnic and polo clubs between Quirindi and Mudgee. However, it was John McMaster who was the first to dabble in thoroughbreds when he purchased Marvelette, that splendid daughter of Marvellous, from Bill Kelso senior. Richard Rouse at Biriganbil, near Mudgee, had bred the mare and Kelso had won a number of races with her, mainly under Welter conditions, but wasn’t interested in keeping her once her racing days finished.
Around the same time, John McMaster also bought Hilda as a companion for Marvelette in the Binnia paddocks. In the spring of 1893, McMaster sent both mares to mate with Lochiel. Marvelette produced a chestnut colt, which was subsequently leased to a client of Bill Kelso junior, and, registered as Strathroy, won a number of races including the 1898 Summer Cup at Randwick and the 1899 Loch Plate at Flemington. The horse was later sold to go to India for a large sum, and there he further confirmed the prestige of his breed by winning both on the flat and over timber. Meanwhile, the result of Hilda’s mating with Lochiel had been Cremona, a mare who won several country races under Scully’s tutelage before she was judged good enough to be sent to Sydney where Joe Burton trained her to win The A.J.C. Metropolitan of 1899, and in so doing landed a series of handsome wagers for the men of Liverpool Plains when as much as 100/1 had been bet about her.
Marvelette was a short-pedigreed mare whose lineage could only be proved back to two generations; her grand dam was one of those horses that came out of the rich pockets that fringe the right bank of the Goulburn River, between Wollar and Baerami. It is a curious coincidence that some of the best short-pedigreed performers are traced to mares held by settlers in that neck of the woods. Perhaps it’s charitable to suppose that many ‘enterprising’ owners in those bygone days conveniently lost the pedigrees if indeed they ever knew them. After all, in times past, the Lawsons, Busbys, Bettingtons and Lees controlled thoroughbred studs in those regions and it is a matter of public record that quite an average of foals, and generally fillies at that, used to disappear annually, so much so that James Bettington for one gave up breeding thoroughbreds for a time altogether. Whatever the truth of Marvelette’s extended pedigree, the mare would come to exert a profound influence on Tom Scully’s training career.
While her next couple of foals weren’t in Strathroy’s class, the filly Marvelette foaled to Lochiel in the spring of 1900 showed such potential in early work for Scully in June 1902 that the 44-year-old trainer finally decided to forsake the dry air of Coolah for the stimulating breezes of Coogee. He would try his hand at Randwick at last. Sensible to the pulsing ambition to perform on a larger stage that had so long been constrained within, he was now convinced he had the talented horseflesh with which to try. Along with Marvel Loch, he brought with him a team of ten horses, all variously owned by the very same loyal patrons that had underpinned his success on the picnic circuit.
Scully moved into the stables in Botany-street so long occupied by Earnshaw, after the latter had transferred to the grander establishment, which he had only recently constructed. Unlike many of his training colleagues at Randwick, Scully had never gone through any formal apprenticeship to learn his business – instead he possessed a lively natural intelligence and had mastered horsemanship by study and application. Moreover, he was as unequivocal in his judgement of men as he was of horses. Some of the old hands at Randwick might have dismissed this latecomer and his provincial gaucherie, but that didn’t bother Scully one iota and proof that his Coolah skills had survived intact the migration to the metropolis wasn’t long in coming.
It would be difficult to conceive of a better calling card than Marvel Loch with which to announce one’s arrival to train at headquarters. Although only a small filly, she was of exquisite quality and in 1903 Scully prepared her to win the Tramway Handicap for John McMaster, and then set her for the A.J.C. Epsom-Metropolitan double. She had been breaking clocks on the track in the lead-up to that spring fixture but ran an unaccountably poor race over the mile on the first Saturday in which the stable’s second string, Faithful, a daughter of Metal, came within a neck of victory. As a result of the Epsom, Marvel Loch’s prospects of winning The Metropolitan two days later seemed non-existent, and one enterprising bookmaker offered £500 to £5 in the club that evening. Scully, flushed with the sound performance of Faithful and on the spur of the moment, accepted the wager and the little chestnut justified his confidence by winning the rich staying race cleverly. Capitalising on the proceeds, in November the following year, Scully moved into new stables that he had built for himself in Botany-street, next to Samuel Hordern’s establishment. Subsequently, Marvel Loch proved that Metropolitan victory was no fluke for over the next two years she would win the Caulfield Cup, as well as a host of important weight-for-age races. What a good friend the broodmare Marvelette turned out to be for Scully and her owner John McMaster, and it didn’t seem to matter all that much to which stallion she went.
The year after foaling Marvel Loch, she threw another filly, this time to True Blue. Registered as Noreen and raced in Tom Scully’s own colours, she was slow to mature but at the 1906 Autumn Meeting, at Randwick, she was in rare form finishing third in the Doncaster before winning both the Sydney Cup and Randwick Plate. The race for the Cup was a rather controversial affair that year with Noreen subject to a protest for crossing that took two hours before stewards decided the matter in her favour. The Randwick bookmakers evidently thought there was a good deal in the protest for at one time they were accepting as little as 3/1 that Noreen would be disqualified. Marvelette’s next foal was a big gross colt by Grafton, and the very opposite in build and character to his light-fleshed, distinguished half-sisters.
McMaster had made up his mind to keep Marvelette’s filly foals while selling the colts, but when he sent this fellow into the sales ring with a reserve of 400 guineas on his head, there was no demand. Instead of compromising on price, McMaster opted for retention and sent him off to Scully to be trained. Registered as Binnia, after his owner’s station, the colt won the 1905 A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes but fell short of Derby class later that year when George Stead’s team swept the board. Marvel Queen was yet another of Marvelette’s foals to win for Scully, and while Binnia was the last of her really good foals, Marvel Loch carried on the line for both owner and trainer when at stud to Lochiel she threw Lochano, who would win the 1912 Doncaster. Little wonder then that Scully christened his Botany St stables, ‘Marvel Loch’.
Nonetheless, as impressive as his list of big-race victories was, by the autumn of 1910, Scully had never trained a genuine Derby colt. It was at this juncture that his long-time picnic patron David Watt chose to re-enter the yearling fray. The Watt and McMaster families had intermarried with David’s father having married Jane McMaster at Abbotsfield back in 1843. A former top polo player, Watt was one of the more prominent of the Liverpool Plains pastoralists and the owner of Ulinda station. While Watt had enjoyed most of his racing experience on the picnic circuit in north-west New South Wales, Scully had rather unexpectedly won Watt the Hotham Handicap the previous October with Footpad, a big chestnut son of Sir Foote. The owner now decided to plough back some of his winnings on a likely classic winner at the Sydney Yearling Sales. Scully opted for the thickset, good-boned, dark brown yearling colt by the successful stallion San Francisco and the first foal of the former champion filly, Lady Wallace. Sold late on the second day at the Chisholm and Company stables, Watt was forced to go as high as 1050 guineas and subsequently registered the colt as Cisco. It was a sale marked by unprecedented prices and no fewer than fourteen yearlings that week went for four figures, eight of them being by the all-conquering Maltster. It was a sobering commentary on just how quickly racing in New South Wales had burgeoned.
Not so very many years before there were just a few breeders who bred for the public and Thomas Clibborn held a monopoly on such sales of yearlings when they were merely conducted in the enclosure at Randwick racecourse. Now Sydney boasted three major bloodstock agencies, and in the period of about fifteen years public breeders had sprung up everywhere. From humble beginnings when less than a hundred yearlings were offered at Easter time, the catalogues now included over four hundred lots. In recognition of the State’s foremost position in breeding matters, the Australian Stud Book, so long established in Victoria, had been passed over to New South Wales. The yearling sales aggregate at Easter 1910 was 69,888 guineas, at an average of 182 guineas. It was a particularly good result for John McDonald and his Mungie Bundie Stud, for apart from the colt from Lady Wallace the studmaster sold three yearlings by Maltster, which each brought a thousand guineas and more.
Expensive though Cisco was his price fell well short of the 1750 guineas given by Frank McGrath, on behalf of Harry Boan, for a colt by Maltster out of the imported Winfield’s Lass, which subsequently did nothing on the racecourse. Having induced Watt to pay big money for the son of Lady Wallace, once the colt started to show true speed in training gallops Tom Scully set about planning to recoup the whole of the outlay plus interest in the Breeders’ Plate. David Watt wasn’t the type of sportsman to let the ring go unscathed, and Cisco was well-tried in the market before landing the prize easily. After that Cisco proved most disappointing as a juvenile and in six more starts that season could only manage the minor placing in a mile nursery handicap behind Jacamar during the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting.
By the end of the season on the basis of disclosed form, the colt most likely from a Derby perspective was Gillamatong, a half-brother to the great Trafalgar. Like him, he raced in the now famous ‘brown, rose hoops and cap, brown sleeves’ of his breeders, the brothers Peter and Walter Mitchell of Bringenbrong and was trained out of the famous Coreena Lodge stables at Flemington by the great Walter Hickenbotham. Brought along patiently by the 63-year-old master trainer, Gillamatong had impressively won the Hopeful Stakes upon debut on the first day of the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting, and at 25/1 it was much to the surprise of his owners and the general public alike. He made it a rare double two days later, when, on the same card that Trafalgar won the Champion Stakes, Gillamatong took out the Select Stakes. Brought over to Randwick, he snaffled the Sires’ Produce Stakes with Cisco among others trailing in his wake, before blotting his copybook when unable to handle the penalty in the Champagne Stakes on heavy ground at his final start for the season.
The 1911 Randwick Autumn Meeting served to change the outlook on the forthcoming A.J.C. Derby profoundly, not just because of the affirmation of Gillamatong’s ability, but also as a result of three colts brought forth by Ike Earnshaw. The ace in Earnshaw’s flush was Jacamar, a full brother to the great Poseidon. The horse had failed to reach his reserve when offered at the yearling sales by his breeders, Will and Fred Moses, and despite 1200 guineas being bid for him, the brothers decided to retain him for racing. Familiar as he was with the family history of the colt, Earnshaw didn’t rush Jacamar and first produced him at Randwick during the summer where he gave him two educational races over unsuitably short distances. Those two lacklustre efforts served not only to educate the colt but also to mislead the bookmakers, and when Earnshaw put Jacamar in a mile nursery handicap on Sydney Cup Day, neither the trainer nor the Moses twins forgot to back him. In a field of eighteen and ridden by Fred Hood, the colt was supported down to 2/1 favourite and won by five lengths! Two days later Jacamar just as easily claimed the prestigious Easter Stakes.
Earnshaw’s other two colts, while not quite as rewarding for the stable were impressive nonetheless. Posadas, bred by George Lee of Kelso, was another by Positano but out of that great broodmare, Etra Weenie, and had cost Hugh Denison 1125 guineas. Doubtless, the influential businessman was hoping for another Poseidon, and Earnshaw had given him a measure of satisfaction when he appropriated the Champagne Stakes. St Medoc, the third of Earnshaw’s triumvirate, and a gelding by St Alwyne out of Emir’s sister, Birida, won the second nursery at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting after being backed convincingly, and like Jacamar had been offered at the yearling sales by the brothers Moses only to fail to reach his reserve of 1000 guineas and hence was also retained by the breeders.
The real irony of Earnshaw’s patience with this prospective Derby trio was that he wouldn’t be around to reap the benefits. On Tuesday evening following the end of the A.J.C. autumn gathering, Earnshaw, together with his patron Mr C. Jeffries Britten of Tamworth, left for England on both a bloodstock buying venture and extended holiday, one of the results of which was to be the purchase and importation of the stallion Tressady. While opinions might have been divided after the Randwick meeting as to the best Derby prospect when Mr W. A. Menzies, the V.R.C. handicapper, released his weights in June for the Melbourne Cup it was found that Jacamar headed the three-year-olds with 7 st. 11lb or 5lb over weight-for-age, while Posadas and Gillamatong had 2lb and 3lb less respectively.
The A.J.C. under Charles Cropper’s secretariat had made some improvements to Randwick since Tanami had taken the Derby twelve months before. The saddling paddock had been extended almost out to the Randwick road, after the horse stalls and other buildings in the northeast section had been removed and the land graded. A subway had also been constructed between the tram platforms and the St Leger reserve while the addition of an upper-storey deck to the members’ stand (later to become the paddock grandstand) at the cost of £27,000 had also been finished. Meanwhile, the old St Leger stand had been demolished and a replacement constructed, and although it remained unfinished, it was available for use on Derby Day. The A.J.C. enjoyed a significant advantage over the V.R.C. in funding such infrastructure, as it was able to charge a shilling for admission to the flat, whereas Victorians enjoyed the Flemington equivalent for nothing. Cropper’s hand was discernible in other subtler refinements: for the first-time penalties and allowances were shown in the racebook, while steeplechase fences were padded. There was another capital innovation as well. Once a jockey was weighed he remained in the jockeys’ room, and his horse was brought to him. The jockeys welcomed the change as it saved them from being pestered by people asking for tips, as was formerly the case when they walked through the crowd seeking their mount.
The 1911 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
Extravagant as the hopes and expectations alike of connections and the general public were that Gillamatong might be another Trafalgar, they were soon extinguished in the new season. The big colt resumed at Flemington during mid-August in a handicap for three and four-year-olds only to run a bad last and pull up quite lame. He never appeared on a racecourse again that season, and when he did belatedly resume racing as a four-year-old, he was but a shadow of his former self and was eventually sold by the Mitchells to E.E.A. Oatley for use as a stallion. Gillamatong might not have made it into the Derby field at Randwick, but sixteen other three-year-olds did – a record field with Jacamar a pronounced favourite. The size of the field was hardly surprising considering that for the first time the club had added £4,000 to the prize. Except for the Grand Prix de Paris, the race briefly became the best-endowed classic race in the world. To be sure the English Derby, Oaks, St Leger and Two Thousand Guineas were all worth about £6,000, but that sum was not given by the clubs under which those races were run. Instead, they only guaranteed the amount with all of it coming from the horse owners themselves, whereas the A.J.C. provided their prize without receiving anything in return in the shape of entrance money or forfeits. All those went towards the prize as well as the amount added by the club.
The Moses twins, in Earnshaw’s absence, had entrusted both Jacamar and St Medoc to Joe Burton. Posadas, on the other hand, had gone into the stables of Harry Rayner. The public rallied to Jacamar with the colt firming to 10/9 on course despite sharing his famous older brother’s tendency to sweat freely; his only appearance in the new season coming when a respectable and fast-finishing fifth with 8 st. 2lb in a field of twenty-one for the Chelmsford Stakes behind the classy New Zealand galloper, Los Angelos. The public’s second elect for the Derby was Woolerina, a Maltster colt that had created a big impression in his first season when he won the Nursery Handicap under nine stone, the race run immediately before Comedy King’s Melbourne Cup, and then on V.R.C. Oaks Day had waltzed away with the Mimosa Stakes by eight lengths at his last start that season. The colt had demonstrated that he had come back as well as ever when he won the Rosehill Guineas at his most recent outing on a day when his Victorian trainer, Jack Noud, won half the programme. It was to be quite a spring for Noud, and although the Derby would elude him, a few weeks later he would win the Caulfield Cup with the classy mare, Lady Medallist.
Wilari, sporting the colours of Herbert Power, was an interesting Derby runner. Power had bred the filly himself from Murna, a daughter of the great Etra Weenie. When his old friend George Lee sent Murna into the sales ring, Power had outstayed C. L. Macdonald and acquired her for 1175 guineas. She was a very big yearling that grew even bigger and was tried to be an exceptional mare, but after doing a great gallop on the Bonny Vale track when Power fancied her for the Melbourne Cup, she broke down and went to stud without returning any of her owner’s purchase money. However, Wilari, who, unlike her mother was only a pony, had won both the V.A.T.C. Federal Stakes and V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes in her first season and was beginning to make Murna look cheap. While James Wilson junior trained her during her juvenile season, his retirement from training, albeit temporarily, saw Wilari stay in Sydney after the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting and transfer into Risby’s stables.
Risby also ran Philio in Herbert Power’s interests, a grandson of the good broodmare, Yardley. However, the best-backed runner on the course outside of the favourite was Posio, a strapping Positano colt hailing from Victoria, trained by James Scobie and enjoying the services of Bob Lewis in the saddle. Not that Posio had much to recommend him on the form, for he had failed to run a place in his only four appearances including the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. However, at his most recent start, Posio had run a nice fourth in the Heatherlie Handicap at Caulfield. Tom Scully, on the other hand, had chosen to give Cisco just two races before the A.J.C. Derby. The first had been in the Chelmsford Stakes in which, despite a 7lb penalty, he finished just behind Jacamar, while in his final Derby trial he had been a good second in the Rosehill Guineas to Woolerina, beaten a length when the winner led most of the way in a leisurely-run race. Cisco might have been quoted at 14/1 in pre-post Derby betting, but on his trackwork in the days after the Rosehill Guineas Scully privately considered the colt a real chance.
There was very heavy rain on the Friday afternoon before the Derby with an inch falling in just twenty minutes and hailstones blocking the drains, but Saturday dawned with a cloudless sky. As a result, all attendance records were broken, there being considerably more than 40,000 people crowding into the course. The going was rather boggy near the half-mile post although the wonder was that it wasn’t worse. There was a bad mix-up in the Derby when shortly after the start Mashtun, Tom Payten’s representative, was forced onto the rails by Jacamar and the foot of jockey Foley was badly injured. Mashtun cantered behind the field for the rest of the race and later Albert Wood, Jacamar’s jockey, was suspended for six months over the incident.
At the turn out of the straight Alured, Cisco and St Medoc clapped on the pace with the favourite Jacamar poised behind them. St Medoc piloted the field for the next few furlongs although young Osborne on Cisco remained closely in touch. When Jacamar challenged a half-mile from home, Cisco matched strides with him. Cisco swept into the straight a couple of lengths behind Jacamar with Woolerina and Allured struggling to stay in the hunt. Into the straight and Jacamar and Cisco cleared away comprehensively from the others, but it was Cisco who outstayed his more fancied rival having three lengths to spare on the line, with Ladies’ Man, a neat but small son of Simmer, claiming the minor prize. Cisco had succeeded in the Derby where his brilliant dam, Lady Wallace, had failed six years before. The winning time was 2 minutes 37 ½ seconds – an accurate reading and the first occasion the electric clock had been used to time the classic.
In winning the Derby, Cisco became the first horse to achieve classic honours on the Randwick course after winning the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate as a two-year-old. Perhaps it didn’t seem that unusual in 1911 – after all, the Breeders’ Plate had only been going since 1906. But in all the years since, it is a double that has only ever been achieved by just six horses – Cisco, Beragoon, Heroic, Rampion, Moorland and Magnificent: not bad company at all! The 26-year-old William Osborne had ridden a splendid race on Cisco, tracking the leaders all the way and putting the colt into the race at precisely the right time. Osborne had spent his apprenticeship with Joe Burton and first emerged as a talented rider in staying races two years earlier when he won The Metropolitan for his master aboard Maltine, owned by John Spencer Brunton.
Like Cisco, Maltine wasn’t widely expected to stay the trip and Osborne had ridden a waiting race from the front. One man who derived much satisfaction from Osborne’s initiative and Cisco’s victory was the colt’s breeder, John McDonald of the Mungie Bundie Stud. Just before the meeting, he had been re-elected unopposed to his old position on the A.J.C. committee, and on the day itself, he was acting as a steward for the first time. I might mention that at Petty’s the night before the Derby, David Watt had taken 14/1 about his colt, having been reliably informed by Tom Scully that the horse was primed to run a big race. Accordingly, it was Watt that footed the bill for the celebration party with friends held that night at the Hotel Australia.
San Francisco, the sire of Cisco, had an interesting trans-Tasman career as a stallion. A son of St Simon and a full brother to the great St Frusquin, San Francisco was bred in England in 1898; and after a modest racing career was imported to New Zealand by Lawrence and Alfred Nathan to stand at the portion of Sylvia Park that the brothers leased. He served his first book of mares there in 1902, but when the brothers decided to sell out in December 1903, John McDonald paid 1500 guineas to secure San Francisco for his Mungie Bundie Stud. Although the son of St Simon only left behind two crops in New Zealand and few of them had raced before he crossed the Tasman, quite a number developed into fine gallopers including the C.J.C. Derby winner, Elevation, and the New Zealand Cup winner, Downfall.
It seemed, then, that McDonald had pulled off something of a coup for N.S.W. breeding. Alas, the firmer ground in Australia didn’t suit San Francisco’s stock and although he topped the Sydney yearling averages on a couple of occasions, Cisco, and the V.R.C. Oaks winner, Lady San, were the only two decent horses he got here. The return of San Francisco to New Zealand came about quite by chance and was triggered just a few minutes after Cisco had been knocked down at Chisholm’s. A visiting New Zealand journalist inquired as to whether the stallion was for sale given his poor record here. At the time John McDonald was on his way to Japan, but his racing manager sent a wire and caught the ship at a port in Queensland. McDonald replied that he would sell San Francisco for the same sum that he had paid, 1500 guineas, and as a result, the horse made his way back to stand at the Hon. John Ormond’s Karamu breeding establishment in Hawke’s Bay. While his second Kiwi stint wasn’t as prolific as his first, he still managed to get two more class gallopers in Flying Start and Gamecock.
The racing career of Lady Wallace, the dam of Cisco, was dealt with in some detail in our 1905 chapter. She wasn’t over-raced by Joe Burton and had just 28 starts over three seasons for 14 wins on the Turf. She was successful each season she raced and in her very last appearance on a racecourse beat all the cracks of the day at weight-for-age over a mile in the All-Aged Stakes at Randwick in 1907. The line began in Australia with her grandmother, Miss Mostyn, at Morphettville. She was a smallish chestnut sent out with a batch – the worthless Nautilus was one of them – selected by Arthur Yates for Sir Thomas Elder. Miss Mostyn was the highest-priced mare in the shipment having cost 400 guineas, but she proved to be worth more than all the rest of them put together.
John McDonald got the blood by buying Lady Mostyn, her daughter by Neckersgat, and before sending the filly to stud, unexpectedly won the 1897 Maribyrnong Plate. Apart from Lady Wallace, she also threw Lady San, the heroine of the 1909 V.R.C. Oaks, carrying Fred Merton’s colours. John McDonald could have been forgiven for thinking that in dropping a Derby winner as her first foal, Lady Wallace was about to reprise her succession of glories on the racecourse in the paddock. It wasn’t to be, although she proved better than most. Three seasons after Cisco she did get Balarang, one of the fastest horses of his time and a Tattersall’s Carrington and V.A.T.C. Futurity Stakes winner; and then at the age of nineteen, she foaled a future Werribee Cup winner in Noscitur. When the Mungie Bundie Stud was finally dispersed in 1926, the aged Lady Wallace was passed in at just 130 guineas.
David Watt, the Derby-winning owner of Cisco, was the only son and sixth child of the late David Watt who was Scottish-born and one of the old pioneers of N.S.W. and the Liverpool Plains. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, young David was educated at the King’s School, Parramatta, before starting his pastoral training at Pine Ridge, his father’s property where he eventually assumed the management. Upon the death of his father at Coonabarabran in March 1879, 24-year-old David purchased Ulinda, a station that his father had also owned. Later, he acquired Gowang, Kerbin, and Yarragrin, all properties around Coonabarabran in the northwest region of N.S.W. as well and some of which lands were formerly owned by Richard Rouse. Watt was active in promoting his own interests at Ulinda, while president of both the Coonabarabran Shire and the Coonabarabran Pastures Protection Board.
David Watt was a keen follower of most classes of sport but particularly polo and horse racing. At polo, he was a long-term member of the Weetalibah polo team alongside both John McMaster senior and junior. When it came to racing, Watt enjoyed the picnic race meetings of Tirranna, Bong Bong, and Bligh every bit as much as the pomp and circumstance of Randwick and was a popular figure at all those meetings between Walcha and Goulburn. While his finest success on the Turf came with Cisco in the 1911 A.J.C. Derby, he gained quiet satisfaction when his horse Footpad won the 1908 Bong Bong Cup. Apart from that pair, other horses that he raced with moderate success included Golden Ale, a chestnut Maltster colt for which he paid 800 guineas as a yearling, and Gillallambi, a brother to Desert Rose that he bought privately. However, in the years remaining to him after Cisco’s A.J.C. Derby triumph in 1911, until his own death in March 1924 at the age of sixty-nine, David Watt never looked remotely likely to reprise the glory of that blue riband!
Indeed, Cisco’s post-A.J.C. Derby career itself was largely a catalogue of disappointment. Watt was anxious to run the colt in The Metropolitan two days after the Derby, but Tom Scully demurred and opted for the Craven Plate instead in which Cisco ran poorly. A fortnight after his Derby victory he failed to run a place in the Caulfield Guineas won by Woolerina, having contracted a cold on the journey over to Melbourne. Scully had him back to normal for the Victoria Derby in which he was desperately unlucky to go under by a head to Wilari, having been knocked over going down the riverside at the back of the course and then being frustrated for an opening at a critical stage in the straight.
Wilari became the fourth Victoria Derby winner sired by Wallace and at 50/1, was the longest-priced victor in the history of the race. Jacamar having gone to the post as the favourite, slightly in the red, finished a half-length from the other pair. After failing in the Melbourne Cup with 7 st. 6lb, Cisco went for a spell and was brought back for the Sydney autumn. Teething trouble marred his preparation, and he failed in all four appearances, including a poor third in the A.J.C. St Leger behind Jacamar.
Nor was Cisco’s four-year-old season any more rewarding. Intermittent lameness in his off-foreleg contributed to his failure in a half-dozen appearances that spring culminating with a lamentable effort in the 1912 Caulfield Cup. Afterwards, Cisco suffered the ignominious fate for a Derby winner of being gelded and having his tendon fired before being despatched to his owner’s Ulinda property to languish for more than two years on the fertile Liverpool Plains. When he once again resumed racing during the summer of his six-year-old season, he did manage to win both the A.J.C. Anniversary Handicap and the Rosehill Rawson Stakes. Leg trouble forced him to miss his seven-year-old season entirely and then he returned to the racecourse for just one appearance only as an eight-year-old when the cunning Scully and Watt pulled off a £3,000 sting in the Auburn Handicap (8f) at Rosehill in May 1917. It was the first day that the Totalisator came into use at that course. Cisco had opened at 20/1 in the ring but had been backed down to half that price at flag fall. Cisco came back for one last campaign during the summer but the old warhorse, sniffing the battle from afar, failed to find any form at all, and was retired for good after the 1919 A.J.C. Anniversary Handicap won by the up-and-coming Kennaquhair.
As promising as the A.J.C. Derby class appeared on the race card in September 1911, none of the colts that ran in it did much as older horses. Both Jacamar and Posadas returned to Earnshaw’s stables upon the trainer’s return from England in November 1911 but failed to win anything of note. Jacamar proved greatly disappointing after the A.J.C. St Leger and was eventually sold to the prominent horse-trader, Tom Scott, and ended his days as a failure in India. Posadas never won another race after his Champagne Stakes and died of intestine poisoning in October 1912. St Medoc did win the June Stakes at Randwick but little else. Wilari, who, after the Victoria Derby, added both the V.R.C. Oaks and St. Leger to her record during that memorable three-year-old season, was to ultimately fail as a matron.
Although Cisco’s Derby win was arguably the highlight of Tom Scully’s training career, there were to be further triumphs in the years ahead. The very next season he won both the Rosehill Guineas and the Oakleigh Plate for the owner, Arthur Whitney, son of one of the original promoters of Cobb and Co., with Burri, a colt by Mimer that was purchased for just seventy guineas. As we have seen, Cetigne kept the Scully name before the public for a few years after the prominent pastoralist Tom Stirton bought the Derby winner at auction and put him into the “Marvel Loch” stable. Cetigne’s Newmarket Handicap and Villiers Stakes victories were supplemented by the likes of Bundella, a colt by Tressady that Scully trained to win the 1918 A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate for John McMaster.
Tom Scully’s last major race success came with Cetigne’s last win – in the 1920 V.R.C. Essendon Stakes at the Flemington autumn fixture. However, it wasn’t just with horses that Scully made his name in racing. Just a few years after Cisco’s blue riband there came a young lad from Islington, near Newcastle, to be apprenticed to Tom Scully and his name was Ted Bartle. Scully showed faith in the lad from the start, giving him early chances, most notably when Bartle successfully partnered with Braille for the stable in the 1920 A.J.C. Summer Cup. Had Scully not done so, Bartle would never have emerged as arguably the greatest money rider of his time. Certainly, it was a debt the jockey acknowledged later in life.
The great trainer died suddenly at the Hellenic private hospital, Randwick, in October 1924 at the age of sixty-six, after failing to recover from a major operation. The funeral at Randwick cemetery was preceded by a service at the Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, with the A.J.C. represented by Colin Stephen. Just a few months before, at the beginning of the new season and disturbed by intimations of mortality, Scully had encouraged his son Jack to apply for a trainer’s licence at Randwick, to which the A.J.C. only too readily acquiesced. Jack Scully took over the family stables upon his father’s death. The patrimony was in safe hands, and for a time he trained most of Sir Samuel Hordern’s horses. While never in the same league as his father, Jack Scully won enduring fame and fortune on the Australian Turf when he owned and trained the 100/1 outsider Old Rowley, to win the 1940 Melbourne Cup.
The aged gelding – a son of the imported sire, The Buzzard, from Syceonelle, the best three-year-old in Queensland in 1921 – had originally been purchased as a yearling by A.J.C. committeeman, Pat Osborne, for 500 guineas and trained by Bayly Payten. However, the horse had been so slow on the training track that out of frustration he was leased to Jack Scully with an option to purchase. The horse carried old Tom Scully’s colours too, – ‘orange, white sash, red cap’ – that his son Jack had taken over. Old Rowley might have been at cricket-score odds when he won the Cup, but, like his owner-trainer, he boasted a stout pedigree. And it proved the advice that old Tom Scully had never ceased to administer to his young family all those years before: ‘It might take time to show itself, but good breeding counts in the end.”
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