Kings of the Turf

A History of the AJC Derby From 1861 to 1983

1919 – Sam Hordern and Artilleryman!

A feature of the history of horseracing over the years in Australia, as in England, has been the involvement of several generations of the same prominent families in the sport.  In 1901 we were introduced to Samuel Hordern, who bred Hautvilliers, the Derby winner of that year at his Wilton Park Stud.  He was the first member of the illustrious Hordern retailing family to be active on the Australian Turf on a reasonably large scale, but it was a family activity that wasn’t to end with his death in August 1909.  His eldest son, Samuel (later Sir Samuel) embraced the sport with an even deeper passion than his father, and while this work isn’t intended to be a roman-fleuve on the Hordern family, some background information will be helpful. Born at the family mansion, Retford Hall, Darling Point in 1876 and educated at Sydney Grammar and Bath College in England, the younger Samuel was groomed to head the family business from a young age.  Over six feet tall and good-looking, active and invariably dressed in the height of the mode, he was described by contemporaries as ‘the last of the elegant Edwardians’. Indeed, he was the complete patrician. If I may paraphrase the expression of F. E. Smith in relation to Winston Churchill, Samuel Hordern was a man of simple tastes. He was always prepared to put up with the best of everything.

Retford Hall, Darling Point 1878 – Sir Samuel Hordern’s Birthplace

Samuel Hordern the younger, assumed control of the family business upon the death of his father, and with steady stewardship saw it continue to flourish.  The firm boasted that it dealt ‘in everything from a needle to an anchor’, goods that were mostly manufactured in Sydney factories owned by the company, or else imported from its own agents abroad.  As set down in his father’s will, the firm was sold to a private company in 1912, and Samuel became the governing director.  It was the same year that he built Babworth House, set on five acres of land at Darling Point, and which was considered to be the finest Art Nouveau house in Sydney.  Shortly after taking over the enterprise, the younger Samuel decided that he too would follow in his father’s footsteps by tilting at the great prizes on the Australian Turf. In an age of swagger perhaps no Sydney racing personality swaggered quite like this ne plus ultra of the elegant Edwardians with his cigarette holder jutting priapically in the air. A great favourite among women, he was charm personified and scrupulously agreeable, cutting a handsome figure on the racecourse.

The first horse to carry his colours was Rathkeale at the 1911 A.J.C. Spring Meeting in the Breeders’ Plate, and it was very nearly a winning debut, the colt being beaten a neck by the flying Ventura.  Samuel Hordern had to wait until the final day of the 1913 A.J.C. Autumn Meeting to enjoy his first success when his homebred Portrush won the Nursery.  Despite such occasional victories, it seemed for a time that the racecourse misadventures that had so dogged the father were being visited upon the son, particularly after a succession of high priced yearlings, broodmares, and stallions all failed to return Samuel the luck his pluck deserved.  Like his father, the young man inclined to the view that the most expensive often prove the cheapest in the long run, a philosophy in which one perhaps can afford to indulge when born into a fortune such as the Horderns’.  Nonetheless, it can be an expensive creed in the unpredictable world of bloodstock.

W. A. (Bill) Bryans (S. M.)

Perhaps nothing demonstrates this better than Sam Hordern’s spectacular failure with the stallion, Bronzino, an imported son of Marco, for whom he paid 10,000 guineas – a fabulous price at the time.  The horse had been a top-class three-year-old in England having won the two-mile Doncaster Cup and been only narrowly beaten for the 1910 English St Leger by Swynford on a day when a young Frank Wootton fairly outshone Freddie Fox in the saddle. Sam Hordern purchased Bronzino in July 1912 from James de Rothschild while he was on a visit to England with his bloodstock manager, W. A. (Bill) Bryans. At the time, Bryans was responsible for Messrs Hordern’s huge livery stables in Goodlet-street, Surry Hills. Remember, these were the days when all suburban deliveries from Hordern’s were done by horse-drawn vehicles. It might seem strange to a later generation that the same man responsible for livery stable horses was relied upon for advice on thoroughbred stallions, but such was life then.  Bronzino was initially installed at Wilton Park, and then, when Samuel Hordern established his own stud farm in 1914 at Petwyn Vale, near Wingen, under the management of Bert Everett, he was moved there.

The Expensive Bronzino (T. A.)

Having observed as a young man how his father had been fortunate enough to find a champion stallion in Haut Brion and then breed many top horses only to see them all sold to win prizes sporting the livery of other owners, he was determined to do it differently.  Accordingly, in the first few seasons that Bronzino was at stud, a prohibitive service fee of 100 guineas per mare virtually guaranteed outside matrons would not patronise the stallion. Thereby Samuel and his brother Anthony would exclusively retain all the progeny to race.  However, the plan backfired when it soon became apparent the horse was no Haut Brion and nothing but an unmitigated disaster.  There were other misjudgements as well. After racing Portrush as a two and three-year-old, Samuel sold out only to see the horse go on to win an Epsom in Australian record time later the same year. Clearly, mastering the Turf was going to be far more challenging than the world of retailing for this young emporium king.

It was thus with perhaps more hope than faith that Samuel Hordern journeyed across to Warrnambool for the dispersal sale of Sol Green’s Shipley Stud in January 1918.  At the time the Shipley Stud was one of the largest and most successful in Australia.  However, the exhaustive economic demands of the Great War and its debilitating effect on bloodstock prices in particular and racing in general, not to mention the war’s uncertain duration and outcome, had by 1918 prompted a number of the leading studs to call it a day.  Apart from Shipley, William Brown’s Segenhoe Stud also went under the hammer in the same month.  The famous bookmaker had established the Shipley Stud some years before, and it was there that he had installed his imported stallion and 1910 Melbourne Cup winner, Comedy King.

Sales Catalogue

At the time of Shipley’s dispersal, Comedy King was at the height of his fame as a sire and the toast of the racing world, having dominated the previous year’s spring classics, with the dual Derby winner, Biplane, and the VRC Oaks heroine, Folly Queen among his progeny.  In deciding to sell out, the old bookmaker in Sol couldn’t resist blaming the imminent introduction of the Tote into Victoria.  It is hard to imagine it now, but back then one of the most potent arguments against the Tote was the depressing effect it would have on yearling prices.  The case put was that the sidelining of bookmakers would make it impossible for owners to punt profitably on their own horses at fixed odds.  The beneficial effect of Tote revenue on boosting prize money being conveniently ignored.

Among the twenty-two-yearlings on offer at Shipley was a stylish young colt that was a full brother to the previous year’s Victoria Oaks winner.  Whereas most of the interest in the sale was focussed on the stallion Comedy King, and the price that he might bring, Hordern had his eye on this son of the all-conquering stallion from the New Zealand mare, Cross Battery.  A first-class three-year-old in the Dominion, Cross Battery had won the Great Easter Handicap among other races and for a time had raced over here.  She had been one of the foundation mares of Shipley, one of those Stepniak mares purchased by Green at the first Ellerslie dispersal sale; but she was widely regarded as a disappointment as a matron until Folly Queen had come along.  Of course, Samuel Hordern wasn’t the only party interested in purchasing the striking colt that day, but after some spirited bidding, he got in the final nod at precisely a thousand guineas.  It was the highest price realised among the yearlings sold that morning, which in aggregate fetched 8055 guineas. Regarding sales’ averages achieved up to that time, the Shipley dispersal ranked only behind the famous Maribyrnong sale in the history of Australian bloodstock.

Samuel Hordern’s bid of 1000 guineas didn’t look outrageous, by comparison with the 7300 guineas that Norman Falkiner had to part with to secure Comedy King for his Noorilim Stud.  Now the Sydney retailer had made some blunders in paying big prices for yearlings in the past, but this was to prove the happiest bloodstock deal of his life; and he immediately sold a half-share to his long-time friend Alex Murphy, one of a band of brothers who had pioneered squatting in the Barcoo country. Murphy had raced horses with the top Melbourne trainer, Phil Heywood, for a number of years, with the 1913 Caulfield Guineas winner, Andelosia, the best horse to carry his colours up to that time.

In Sydney, Hordern shared his horses between two trainers, Cecil Bryans and Tom Scully.  Nonetheless, he readily consented to Murphy’s suggestion that their new, joint acquisition enter the stables of Phil Heywood. Hordern and Murphy registered the colt as Artilleryman.  It made sense to leave the horse in Melbourne, particularly with the difficulties of interstate transportation occasioned by the War. Meanwhile, Samuel Hordern had decided that a change in his racing colours might break his run of bad luck.  The original colours, first registered in the 1911-1912 season, had been ‘yellow, dark blue sleeves, dark blue cap’.  It was at the 1918 Tattersall’s Meeting when Gloaming won the Chelmsford Stakes that Hordern’s new livery of ‘white, red sash and pale blue cap’ was carried for the first time.  It was indeed to prove an augury of better times to come.

Martin Stainforth’s Painting of Artilleryman (R.O.A.)

For a horse bred for stamina, Artilleryman wasn’t spared during his first season, contesting nine races of the highest class and managing to win just one – the prestigious Mona Nursery during the Caulfield Spring Meeting.  Placed in the Maribyrnong Plate, the son of Comedy King was expected to shine later in the season over more ground and indeed he went to the post as the favourite in both the Sires’ Produce Stakes and Ascot Vale Stakes at the Flemington Autumn Meeting. Artilleryman ran a good race in the Sires’ but found one better than him in Lisnavane, a half-sister to Cetigne, who beat him a half-length.  However, three days later in the Ascot Vale Stakes, he appeared to have trained-off altogether when he trailed in next to last in a field of five to end his season on a sour note.

It was just as well that Hordern didn’t bring Artilleryman across for the autumn meeting at Randwick. Racing in both Victoria and NSW during the late summer and autumn in 1919 was seriously disrupted by the influenza epidemic that was then sweeping the world.  No sooner had the clubs began to recover from the exigencies of wartime, than health constraints placed a dead hand on all activities.  Race meetings were suspended for five weeks in Victoria while N.S.W. fared even worse with two separate suspensions totalling nine weeks in all, and for a time placing the A.J.C. autumn fixture in doubt.

It is now largely forgotten that the buildings at Randwick racecourse were placed at the disposal of the Government for use as temporary hospital accommodation during the influenza epidemic, although ultimately no patients were received there.  For a time, jockeys were required to wear masks while riding trackwork.  The quarantine restrictions imposed on the N.S.W. border by the Holman Government meant that the best two-year-olds on each side of the Murray River didn’t meet that autumn, and their respective merits as far as the spring classics were concerned remained untested.  I might mention that the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting eventually did take place – but it was to be four weeks after Easter!


After the influenza traumas of the autumn, by the spring, racing in Australia was experiencing a tremendous post-war bonanza with bumper crowds and extensive wagering.  The A.J.C., in particular, was in a sound position thanks to shrewd stewardship and one man to whom much of the credit was attributed was the chairman, Sir Adrian Knox, who retired in September 1919.  Born in November 1863 as the youngest of eight children of Sir Edward Knox, the founding director of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, Adrian Knox had attended Waverley House in Sydney before continuing his education in England at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, where he took a degree in law.  On his return to Sydney, Knox was admitted to the colonial Bar in July 1886 and worked with his eldest brother at Lyndon Chambers, eventually succeeding to the practice with the untimely death of his brother in 1888.  Legal studies apart, from an early age Knox’s great passion was the Turf, a passion that only quickened when, during his time in England, the great Bend Or and Ormonde emerged upon the scene.

adrian knox 1912sm

Adrian Knox

Adrian Knox joined the A.J.C. committee in 1896 although it wasn’t until 1903 that he registered his racing colours of ‘green and white hoops, red cap’.  He never raced on a large scale but always kept a horse or two in training with Tom Payten and one of his earliest ventures was with the imported horse, Mimer, who won several races for him including the Tramway Handicap at the Tattersall’s meeting.  Popinjay and Vavasor were probably the two best-known horses to carry Knox’s colours. Popinjay won both the Oakleigh Plate and Futurity Stakes at Caulfield, as well as the 1913 Villiers Stakes at Randwick, while Vavasor, whom he raced on lease from Dr Ewan Frazer, gave Knox the 1910 Sydney Cup.  Still, it wasn’t as an owner that Knox deserves remembrance in these pages but for his judicious and judicial mind, which he brought to bear as a racing administrator.  Australia has had few better down the years.


Artilleryman was always a particularly striking, athletic colt – albeit a bit leggy and soft as a juvenile.  According to Heywood, the colt picked at his feed although a little coaxing with thistles or carrots generally brought him around.  During the winter recess, he was turned out for two months to spell at Bacchus Marsh, and when he returned to Heywood’s yard, he had furnished into an imposing specimen as borne out by Martin Stainforth’s much-celebrated painting done later that year. After a couple of quiet appearances in unsuitable sprint handicaps early in the new season, the colt announced his arrival on the scene with a narrow victory over a good field of older horses in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield, after securing a rails-run in the straight.  Sir Samuel Hordern’s presence on the A.J.C. committee meant that Artilleryman’s appearance at the Randwick Spring Meeting was de rigueur.  The colt’s only clockwise run before the blue riband came a fortnight earlier when, after drawing an outside position at the barrier, he ran third – beaten a head and half-head – in the Rosehill Guineas won by Elfacre.


P. T. Heywood

Eight horses accepted for the Derby in 1919 – six colts and two fillies – and Artilleryman headed the market.  Two Randwick-trained horses in Richmond Main and Millieme shared the second line of betting. Richmond Main sported the colours of the rebarbative John Brown and was a home-bred from Brown’s previous Derby winner, Prince Foote, out of a mare named Australian Gas.  The handsome chestnut colt took his name from the high producing Richmond Main colliery that ‘Baron’ Brown had acquired in the early 1900s and which at the time supplied coal to the Australian Gas Company.

Although the horse had failed to win in a half-dozen appearances as a two-year-old, he had been controversially placed in the Champagne Stakes at the autumn meeting.  Trained by James Barden as a two-year-old, John Brown had indulged in one of his regular fits of pique during the winter, and transferred the colt along with eleven other horses, into the stables of Frank Marsden.  The colt had caused an upset at his seasonal reappearance by winning the Chelmsford Stakes when ridden by the young stable apprentice, Reg Marsden, a nephew of the trainer.  Alas, the horse blotted his copybook when unplaced in the Rosehill Guineas, although he suffered a chequered passage.   For the Derby, the reins reposed in the experienced hands of Albert Wood.

The 1919 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:


Millieme, the only gelding in the Derby field, had been Sydney’s champion juvenile of the previous season.  A son of the Melbourne Cup winner, Piastre, and seemingly a genuine stayer, he had been bred at the Segenhoe Stud by William Brown and sold at the stud’s dispersal to Bill Kelso for 200 guineas on the same day that his sire was knocked down to the Defence Department for 500 guineas.  Millieme had finished second to Artilleryman’s third in the Maribyrnong Plate the previous spring, but it had been his emphatic victory in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick, after being last early in the race, that had brought him to Derby notice.  The New Zealand-bred horse, Pershore, was next fancied while others in the field included the Maribyrnong Plate winner, Gambler’s Gold; Varcotine, a somewhat surprise winner of the Hawkesbury Guineas; and the filly, Shapely, winner of the Easter Stakes at Randwick.  It is tantalising, if ultimately fruitless, to speculate how different the Derby result might have been if Ernest Lee-Steere had decided to send Eurythmic across to Jack Holt a year or so earlier than he did, and Eurythmic had taken his place in the field for the classic.

Make no mistake: this Derby was a two-horse race, and one could have guessed as much six furlongs from home.  Nearing the judge’s box, the first time, Richmond Main took charge and after turning out of the straight proceeded to increase his advantage from Varcotine and Gambler’s Gold, with Artilleryman well placed and Millieme at the tail of the field.  Although Albert Wood was making a good gallop in front, George Harrison allowed Artilleryman his head at the six, and by the half-mile had run at least two lengths clear of Richmond Main with the rest of the field already beaten.

1919 A.J.C. Derby Finish (Sydney Mail)

The pair swept around the home turn together with Artilleryman enjoying the narrowest advantage.  Although Richmond Main caught and passed Sir Samuel Hordern’s colt at about the half-distance, he managed to hold his ground on the fence to force a dead-heat.  It was one of the dramatic Derby finishes, an epoch of class and courage. Nobody seemed to dispute the fairness of the judge’s decision, and it was announced that the stakes would be divided.  Had there been a run-off, opinions seemed split on the likely result.  This first dead-heat in the classic posed a problem for the Governor-General’s wife, Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, with her having to make the one blue riband do the work of two presentations.

Richmond Main & Artilleryman (Graham Caves)

I shall defer a discussion of Frank Marsden, the trainer of Richmond Main, to a later chapter dealing with the champion filly, Furious, which he also prepared for the Derby.  But let me say that to the younger generation of racegoers gathered about the saddling paddock that day, it must have been difficult for them to imagine that the big man responsible for preparing Richmond Main had once been a highly promising jockey apprenticed to the Maitland trainer, J. Brown.

The fact was, however, that Frank Marsden as a young lad in 1889 had won the opening race at the first race meeting ever held at Warwick Farm on a horse called Golden Crown, going to scale at 7 st. 4lb; he made it a double later the same afternoon when he also won the Cumberland Stakes on J. Brown’s Margaret.  As Marsden matured, increasing weight forced him to forsake the lightweight pigskin saddle of a jockey for the more substantial heavyweight equivalent of a drover.  It was only much later in life that he had decided to try his hand at training.  Like almost all of the trainers that ever worked for John Brown – and there were quite a few of them – Frank Marsden eventually found himself peremptorily dismissed by the querulous old autocrat.  For Albert Wood, the successful jockey on Richmond Main, it was his second Derby, having won his first on Cetigne four years earlier.

Winning Owners: Messrs Murphy, Hordern & Brown

The sixty-two-year-old trainer of Artilleryman, Phil Heywood, had enjoyed a successful and colourful career on the Turf.  The eldest son of John Heywood, the man who saved the then provincial Caulfield racecourse from becoming a cemetery in 1861, Phil had been a capable rider over hurdles in his youth and had taken part in the first Grand National Hurdle at Flemington in 1881.  That same year he trained Santa Claus when he ran second to Darebin in the Victoria Derby, and just a couple of years later he prepared the Caulfield Cup winner, Calma, for his good friend Donald Wallace.  It was in 1884 that Heywood transferred from Caulfield to his extensive Orleigh Park property at Dandenong where he maintained his own private training track and from which he prepared countless winners over hurdles, fences and on the flat.

Heywood could be a plucky buyer of bloodstock when the mood seized him, and he was one of the principal actors in the drama conducted by Archie Yuille at the Newmarket sales in the spring of 1888 when Carbine and Tradition were the main attractions.  It was just after the spring meeting at which Ensign had luckily beaten Carbine for the Victoria Derby and at which Tradition, a massive son of Richmond, had run second in both Cups when generally judged to be only half-fit.  What Tradition might accomplish if trained in an orthodox manner was the question asked by the wiseacres?  Accordingly, when the big horse came into the ring, Phil Heywood, who was buying in partnership with the Cup-winning jockey Mick O’Brien, outstayed his old employer, Donald Wallace, by fifty guineas and got him for 3050 guineas.  Wallace, who had won the Melbourne Cup with Mentor a week earlier, bought Carbine instead for 3000 guineas; Tradition, raced by O’Brien and Heywood together, proved an expensive failure and as for Carbine, well… you know the rest.

Apart from Artilleryman, Hymettus, the dual Caulfield Cup winner, was probably the best horse Heywood trained in his long career although he won many good races with some descendants of Sappho including the likes of Traquette, Gold Brew, Andelosia and Ettefred.  Never a subscriber to the school of old-time trainers who believed in searching preparations for a horse, Heywood’s horses often entered the mounting yard looking a trifle plump in condition.  Still, given time there was no better trainer in Australia to get a horse ready for a set engagement.  When he went to Flemington to train, Heywood had much of Orleigh Park subdivided into market gardens, although he retained the homestead, stabling and training track until he sold the property to Dr A. E. Syme, who raced extensively under the pseudonym of ‘S. A. Rawdon.’  Heywood retained his interest in racing to the end, dying in Melbourne at the age of eighty-six in December 1942.

George Harrison (Graham Caves)

George Harrison, the Derby-winning jockey of Artilleryman, was born at Footscray in 1890 and was widely regarded as one of Victoria’s most accomplished horsemen. It would be tempting to suggest that after his first ride on Artilleryman, Harrison dismounted and declared to Hordern: “Something in the way he moves affects me like no other.” Alas, as much as I’ve searched, there is no such record and there might be a risk of plagiarism if there was. Nonetheless, I should note that Harrison rode with great success in the period 1908 to 1926 and apart from Artilleryman, was associated with the likes of Heroic, David, Nightwatch and Lilypond in some of their triumphs.  Harrison retired from the saddle in 1926 and took up a trainer’s licence, but lack of success saw him make a comeback to riding just two years later.  Harrison again returned to training in 1931, but the Depression years were tough for such a precarious living, and he retired from the Turf upon the outbreak of World War II.  Renowned for his loyalty and integrity, he was a life member of the North Melbourne Football Club and was well known for his charitable work in the district.  The former jockey died in his Kensington home in May 1949 at the age of fifty-seven.


A.J.C. & V.R.C. Handicappers Fred Wilson & Dr Lang (S.M.)

In the wake of that historical Derby dead-heat, there were much-animated discussions in public houses and teahouses alike as glasses and cups were emptied and filled, as to which was the better colt.  The arguments were spiced with particular relish in certain quarters by the fact that Artilleryman was bred, trained and partly owned in Melbourne, and the old inter-colonial parochialism – never far below the surface – certainly hadn’t died with the birth of the Commonwealth. Never mind the fact that the moving force behind Artilleryman was Sydney’s leading citizen.  Two citizens who took a particular interest in the debate were the A.J.C. and V.R.C. handicappers, Fred Wilson and Dr Lang respectively.

As it was, Artilleryman drew first blood when the pair clashed again at their next start on Guineas Day at Caulfield, and this time the colt sported the ‘grey, red sash’ of Alex Murphy for a change.  Artilleryman won the classic in a race record from Royal Comedy with Richmond Main, disadvantaged by his first experience on a left-handed course, relegated to third although less than a length from the winner.  That occasion was rather remarkable for jockey George Harrison who not only won the Guineas but collected the Debutant Stakes, Caulfield Stakes and Toorak Handicap as well.  While four winners in an afternoon is a rather commonplace achievement now, in the years immediately after the Great War, it was quite an achievement.

Richmond Main Winning the 1919 V.R.C. Derby

Alas, the aura of invincibility that George Harrison emanated on that Caulfield afternoon had thoroughly dissipated by Derby Day at Flemington.  In a race before the Derby Harrison suffered a fall, but maintained that he was still fit enough to fulfil his engagement. Artilleryman was sent to the post an odds-on favourite for the Victorian classic with as much as fives available about Richmond Main.  John Brown, the owner of the latter colt, was heard to abuse bookmakers for their lack of judgement.  In the race, old John was proved to be right when Artilleryman pulled himself to the front early on and Richmond Main, again with Albert Wood in the saddle, had the last shot, going on to win by a half-length. Harrison, who was probably feeling some soreness from his earlier spill, was sharply criticised for his ride and promptly lost the mount to Bob Lewis, who rode Artilleryman throughout the balance of his short career.

Richmond Main – Victoria Derby (S.M.)

Lewis’s first booking for the colt came the following Tuesday in the Melbourne Cup in which he was sent to the post at 10/1 with three older horses preferred in the market and with Richmond Main just a point longer in course betting.  Sir Samuel Hordern had two runners in the Cup that year, the other being the lightly weighted Kenilford, which he had bought only a few weeks earlier for a reported 3500 guineas plus trophy, should he happen to win the Melbourne Cup.  While two strings to an owner’s bow is an advantage to be seized, it was altogether unnecessary on this occasion.  Artilleryman might have been headstrong, but he raced kindly for Lewis in sixth or seventh place until the straight entrance when given his head.

The manner in which he contemptuously strode away from a quality field to win by a conservative six lengths and – despite carrying weight-for-age – still slice one-and-a-quarter seconds from the race record established by Nightmarch only the year before, was a wonder to behold.  Richmond Main emphasised the class of that season’s three-year-olds by holding on to second placing, a half-length ahead of the aged outsider Two Blues.  Whereas Artilleryman won the CB Fisher Plate easily on the last day of the spring meeting decisively beating Cetigne, Richmond Main was held over for the Williamstown Cup on the following Monday, which he won just as easily with ten pounds over weight-for-age.  Everybody acclaimed Artilleryman a champion after Cup Week, and conceded that Richmond Main was at the very least a clinking good horse.  The public anticipated their clashes in the autumn with relish.

1919 V.R.C. Derby – J.Brown, Lady Munro Ferguson, Sept. Miller

Alas, for the glorious uncertainty that is the racing game.  Even before Artilleryman had resumed at Caulfield in the autumn to win the St George Stakes, there were disquieting rumours that all was not well.  Slight swelling of his hock had troubled the horse, and Heywood called on veterinarians from the Melbourne University Veterinary School for an examination.  They agreed that the swelling was only a symptom of what was happening internally with the lymphatic gland, but the position of the swelling made an operation impossible.  Artilleryman seemed to pull up well enough and moved freely without favouring his affected leg after his comeback race, so Heywood pushed on with the autumn campaign.

At his next start in the V.R.C. St Leger, he won practically pulling up after leading over the final nine furlongs.  Both the King’s Plate and the Governor’s Plate at weight-for-age fell to him at Flemington, and the caravan moved on to Sydney. When he was untroubled to beat his likely rival in the St. Leger, Millieme, in the Rawson Stakes, it seemed the only doubt about the red riband was the size of the winning margin against his only two rivals.  Only a few bookmakers bothered fielding on the race, and they took 12/1 about Artilleryman going down with few backers for Millieme at 8/1 and none for the only other starter in Duntrim. Pandemonium was let loose on course when Lewis on Artilleryman tried to run his rivals off their feet.  Alas, the colt was dead meat in the last half-furlong, with Millieme going away to win nearly a length.  In some quarters Lewis was blamed for making too much use of the wonder colt early, given the race record time.  However, when the horse proceeded to fail to run a place in both the Sydney Cup and the All Aged Stakes later the same week, it was clear that something serious was amiss.

Artilleryman was sent to spell at Bacchus Marsh where the swelling in his hock worsened, and for some weeks the colt’s life hung in the balance.  Melbourne’s leading veterinary surgeon, Mr S. O. Wood, attended the colt and Sir Samuel Hordern asked his Sydney trainer, Cecil Bryans, to travel to Victoria and look the horse over.  For a time it seemed that Artilleryman might improve.  Part-owner Alex Murphy was also quite ill during these months of the horse’s enforced absence from the racecourse, and in early January 1921, Sir Samuel purchased the colt outright to save his friend any concerns in that direction.  At the time there was little chance that the Derby winner would ever race again but Sir Samuel was hopeful of saving the good-looking son of Comedy King for his Petwyn Vale Stud.

It wasn’t to be.  On January 29th, 1921, the horse succumbed to internal haemorrhaging, triggered when the growth in the pelvis extended rapidly and ruptured a blood vessel.  By a curious coincidence, his one-time part-owner Alex Murphy also died within twenty-four hours of his former champion.  Artilleryman was one of the great three-year-olds in Australian racing history, but just how great remains tantalising speculation; his victories that season were such that it enabled his sire, Comedy King, to win the first of his two Australian Sires’ championships.  How might Artilleryman have fared at stud had he been spared?  Certainly, Samuel Hordern would have guaranteed him good quality mares, but apart from King of Mirth, the sons of Comedy King were generally failures as stallions, perhaps none more so than Biplane, his other Derby-winning son.

Richmond Main was even less successful than Artilleryman after that fateful spring of 1919, and the Williamstown Cup was to be his last outright victory on a racecourse.  A leg injury prevented him from being trained again that season, and when he did finally re-appear the following August in a flying handicap at Randwick, he was as fat as a hog and proceeded to bleed from both nostrils as a result of his exertions.  Until then the horse had been the pre-post favourite for the Melbourne Cup.  Always a gross horse, Frank Marsden found him difficult to train after that, and his only other success on the Turf came when he shared a dead-heat with Poitrel in the weight-for-age Rawson Stakes as an autumn four-year-old. Richmond Main broke down irretrievably later on when being prepared for the 1921 Chelmsford Stakes.  Saved for his owner’s stud in the Hunter Valley, John Brown held hopes that he would continue the Prince Foote line. Sadly, the horse failed to sire any significant winners, although his owner’s policy of excluding outside mares surely hampered Richmond Main’s prospects.


1919 was a good year for Samuel Hordern, for apart from winning both the Derby and the Melbourne Cup, he together with Alex Murphy headed the Winning Owners’ List and it was also the year in which he received his knighthood.  In a long career in ownership, Artilleryman was unquestionably the best horse ever to carry Sir Samuel Hordern’s colours.  There were other good ones though, such as Pilliewinkie and Violoncello, both of whom he acquired as proven gallopers – a policy with which he enjoyed more success than paying big money for untried yearlings.  Pilliewinkie was an ex-New Zealand horse that won Sir Samuel the 1926 Australian Cup in record time and landed a fortune in doubles wagers with the Newmarket winner, Heroic.  Bob Jansen, arguably the leader of the Melbourne ring at the time, took the double for a king’s ransom on behalf of both sets of owners and their friends.

Violincello (Graham Caves Collection)

Violoncello was a notable instance of an English horse that improved markedly in Australia.  In England he was generally regarded as a sprinter, but, having cost Hordern 3700 guineas, out here he developed top-class form up to a mile and a half, winning both a Caulfield Cup and the inaugural W.S. Cox Plate.  Perhaps the unhappiest event in his years on the Turf – apart from Artilleryman’s tragic demise – came with the disqualification of his trainer, Cecil Bryans, in May 1924, over the running of his own mare, Corncrake.  The Bryans family had enjoyed a long-serving relationship with the Hordern family, as Cecil’s father had managed the extensive livery stables of Anthony Hordern and Sons in the days when horse-drawn vehicles made suburban deliveries.  The Bryans family moved out of their Botany-street stables and migrated to England, and it was a setback that Sir Samuel took very much to heart.

N.S.W. Premier Bavin & Sir Samuel Hordern (N.L.A)

Sir Samuel guided the fortunes of Anthony Hordern and Sons until 1926 when the trustees of the Hordern estate sold the concern to public investors.  Sir Samuel then took a suite of offices in Spring St from which to oversee his various business and community interests.  Never a ruthless man, he perhaps lacked the bastardry and imagination necessary to steer the large company in the cutthroat world of retailing.  However, Sir Samuel’s business and community activities extended far beyond the reach of just the family business.  He was a former chairman of the A.M.P. Society and held many directorships including the Commonwealth Bank.  But it was in the field of bloodstock and cattle breeding that he found his highest satisfaction.  Apart from his stud at Petwyn Vale, he bred some of the best Jersey cattle in the State at his country residence of Retford Park, and for 26 years, from 1915 until 1941, he was president of the Royal Agricultural Society.  For years he resisted the protests of the wowsers not to open the Easter Show on Good Friday.  It was mainly under his leadership that the R.A.S. Easter Show flourished from a small country-based fair into one of the world’s great agricultural displays.

hood_06807h samuel hordern

Sir Samuel Hordern Judging Cattle at the Royal Easter Show

Sir Samuel Hordern gave similar service to the A.J.C.: acting as a committeeman from 1917 to 1944 and becoming the club’s first vice-chairman for the last seven years of his tenure.  Broad-minded and tolerant, his patrician appearance and commanding presence was a feature of the Randwick and Moore Park landscape in the years between the wars.  In later life, he raced some horses with his only son, Sam Hordern junior, the best of which was Dynamite, a runner-up in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick.  However, Dynamite is perhaps best remembered for his antics before the 1948 Rosehill Guineas when he broke away and crashed through a gate into the Paddock enclosure and injured a few people.

Educated at Cambridge, Sam Hordern junior followed his father on to the committee of the A.J.C. – being proposed by George Main and elected to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Rodney Dangar in 1947 – and the committee of the Royal Agricultural Society, where he also served as president.  Sir Samuel died in June 1956 at the age of seventy-nine, having been ill for some years, leaving a son and two daughters, Lady Hordern having pre-deceased him in 1952 at the age of 74.  Sadly, his son outlived him by only four years.  It was in July 1960 that Sam Hordern junior died after a road smash outside Warwick Farm racecourse when on his way from his Retford Park estate at Bowral to a meeting of the council of the Royal Agricultural Society.  Hordern died in the ambulance on the way to Liverpool Hospital.  He left an estate valued at £725,000, which up to then was the fourth largest bequest in NSW history.  Upon his death, the long and active involvement of three generations of the Hordern family with the Australian Turf came to an untimely close.

Babworth House – Darling Point

With the passing of each year, those few surviving links between Sir Samuel Hordern and the Harbour City in which he dwelt are slowly severed and so the historic legacy diminishes.  However, a visitor curious to understand the extent of the great man’s footprint and the shadow he cast over Sydney social life could do worse than pay a visit to Mount Adelaide Road, Darling Point, and gaze upon the property that was his Sydney home, Babworth House.  Sited on the highest point of the Darling Point peninsula, this magnificent two-storey house with its broad gables juxtaposed with projecting balconies possessed a grand, grand ballroom with no less than twenty-four bedrooms and was set off by a stylish port cochere; it remains one of the largest and finest examples of an early twentieth-century grand house in the Federation arts and crafts style in Australian domestic architecture.  It was used as a location in the 1983 film “Careful He Might Hear You”.  Although the estate has been reduced in size since Sir Samuel’s death, and in 2002 the mansion itself was converted into apartments, the integrity of the original construction largely remains – set in its magnificent grounds and gardens with its balustrades and grottoes.  It requires little imagination to conjure up that lively dinner party hosted there by Sir Samuel to celebrate Artilleryman’s Derby and Melbourne Cup triumphs.



1918 – Roamin’ in the Gloaming: Australians Abroad!


1920 – Training Gambles: Fred Williams and Mick Polson!


  1. Laurel PALMER

    What association, if any did James Hamilton Webb and/or jockey John “Jack” Webb have with Artilleryman?
    Also the above article mentioned Nightmarch winning the Melbourne Cup in 1918, – the year before Artilleryman. But I understand that Nightmarch won in 1929. Is this an error or was there another Nightmarch?
    Any information would be appreciated.

    Laurel palmer

    • Ian Ibbett

      The 1918 Melbourne Cup was won by Night Watch. The 1929 Melbourne Cup was won by Nightmarch. Two very different horses.

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