In 1933 the popular Victorian owner and former champion cyclist, Charlie Kellow, won the first of his two A.J.C. Derbies. Each was with a homebred, sired by his champion stallion Heroic, and each was a first-class racehorse. The story of how Kellow bred the first of these winners, the bonny little colt Hall Mark, who took the coveted race in 1933, is intriguing and will be told in due course. But let us start at the beginning and explain the phenomenon that was Charles Brown Kellow. In April 1909, Melbourne Punch published an enlightening profile into his character that bears quoting in part:
“Charlie Kellow is speed personified. His lean, sinewy frame, his tense face, thin-lipped, sharp-featured, have speed – awful, immeasurable speed written all over them. His eyes are bright and glittering, and as hard as diamonds, with gleams as cold and as flashing. Behind a pair of motor goggles they gleam, ruthless, unswerving, ignorant alike of the meaning of fear or danger. The man with these eyes will go on always. When obstacles present themselves he will go over or under or through them. He will never turn aside. Then there are his hands – thin, nervous, powerful, reminiscent of steel wire and electricity, the hands of the man whose mind is always made up in a flash, who never stops for consideration, but resolves inflexibly as he acts. That is Charlie Kellow, who in less than twenty years has succeeded from a humble position as a warehouse clerk to that of one of Melbourne’s leading citizens – a successful trader, a lucky speculator, a fearless investor – one of the few Victorians whom Mr Prout Webb assesses annually at five figures. It is a great achievement, but it is speed which has done it.”
Charlie Kellow was a Castlemaine boy and his extraordinary adventures in life seem like extracts from a ‘Boys Own’ Annual. He was born into a wealthy family of graziers in October 1871 in Sutton Grange, Victoria. His uncle was Sir James Patterson, one-time Premier of Victoria during the recession of the 1890s and one of the hardest, shrewdest men who ever disgraced Victorian politics. When he was old enough young Charles was sent to be educated at staid and conservative King’s College at Clifton Hill, Melbourne. After a few years there, he became a clerk in the office of a firm of auctioneers in Collins-street but soon left auctioneering and turned his attention to warehousing with Sargood, Butler and Nichol. But Kellow was never going to be happy working for others. The lad’s irrepressible nature and extraordinary energy were never going to be contained in either the groves of academia or routine office or warehousing duties.
A born entrepreneur and salesman, and a natural athlete to boot, Kellow at the age of nineteen turned his attention to Western Australia. Kellow’s youth and travels coincided with the burgeoning popularity of the newfangled safety bicycle. He was equally at home on both the traditional and the new safety bicycle but he could read the trend. The old-fashioned high bicycle was becoming a memory of things past as a new cycle boom was just beginning to rage. But the new bicycle was still in a state of evolution. Every year new models and new makers sprang up and every year brought marked improvements. If one wanted to make money out of the boom, it was necessary to become either a bicycle agent or a racing cyclist. A big man – 13 stone at peak fitness – Kellow became a champion cyclist in handicaps and during the 1890s contested races throughout Australia. Kellow had what many faster and better riders lacked – a strategic mind and as a result, won many races by generalship and track-craft. In cycling the most important thing then as now, was to know when to race. Kellow’s timing was impeccable.
When Kellow returned to Melbourne from Western Australia he discovered that W. H. Lewis, a noted cyclist who had established himself in Elizabeth-street as a cycle agent, was in need of a partner. Lewis had been there since 1889, but he had done nothing remarkable in a line of business in which it was practically impossible not to make money. Kellow joined him in 1893 and new enthusiasm and flair were instilled into the enterprise. Within a year the firm had moved into better premises at 54 Swanston-street, and everywhere the fame of the new establishment was being advertised. Kellow and Lewis set out to win races on the bicycles they were selling. In those days, this was the main recommendation for any bicycle. The staid city gentleman who meant to calmly pedal his way from South Yarra to the heart of the metropolis was swayed in his choice of a bicycle by the knowledge that somebody else partnering the same machine had won the hundred-mile championship.
In 1894 Kellow came third in the famous Austral Wheel Race – then the Melbourne Cup of the cycling world. In 1896, from the fifteen-yard mark, Kellow won the race and with it a tidy fortune. Never shy about backing himself, Cheeky Charlie had taken the generous odds from the gentry who wear bags and ‘lay the field’. In many respects, that Austral victory was the foundation stone upon which the rest of his life’s successes were built. In 1897 Lewis retired from the firm and Kellow prospered. He built an eponymous bicycle marketed as the ‘Kellow’ and sold it far and wide. He knew that the boom wouldn’t last and he did all the business that he could before it ended. Within just a few years, he was Mr Cycling in Melbourne and although he faced many competitors, he was easily distancing them!
Then came the motor car. Charlie Kellow wasn’t in on the beginning of the cycling boom and always regretted his late start. It wasn’t a mistake that he was about to make with the coming of the motor car, a more lucrative form of transport on wheels. Kellow had a motor car in Melbourne almost before anybody else. He sold it and then got another. It was in 1898 that Kellow made the switch from bicycles to motor cars. He secured agencies with several leading makers of motor cars including Talbot, Renault, Minerva and Albion. The business that Lewis had established in 1889 transmogrified into the Kellow Motor Company and eventually moved to 260 Exhibition-street, Melbourne, advertising under the slogan: “Kellow’s For the World’s Best Cars”.
Kellow embarked on a series of endurance drives and publicity stunts behind the wheel that drew attention to his business. In 1905, for example, he and his sidekick, Harry James, set a 24-hour endurance record of 556 miles in a 12-horsepower Humber. In 1908 driving a 15-horsepower Talbot, the same pair broke the Melbourne to Sydney record in 25 hours and 40 minutes. Nothing succeeds like excess and by 1910 the Kellow Motor Company in Exhibition-street was importing a range of popular and expensive vehicles from Europe and America in a bid to satisfy a voracious motoring public. Eventually, as Kellow-Falkiner Pty Ltd, the company served as a distributor for Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Packard and Wolseley cars. ‘Be first’ became Kellow’s motto – whether on the road, on the track, or in the smallest detail of the business.
Kellow was never one to let legal proprieties to stand in his way and in that same year, the High Court of Australia fined him £1,980 for invoice manipulation and the evasion of customs duty. Mr Justice Higgins was scathing in his criticism of Kellow who admitted to 33 separate offences of the 148 charged against him. His Honour, after hearing the particulars, stated that he adjudged the defendant guilty of having made false entries, and attempted to evade payment of duty, with intent to defraud. He thought the Crown had been very lenient in what It proposed as penalties. He thought it his duty to call attention, not merely to the offences of this particular defendant, but to the mode in which, if the alleged facts were true, firms in England particularly, lend themselves to the grossest frauds on the Customs, and the greatest lying on the part of importers. It would be extremely desirable to the Customs Department if it would call the attention of those in authority to the extraordinary conduct not only of Kellow but certain men with whom he had been doing business. No firm in England that he (His Honour) could conceive, would let Kellow have their blank invoices, except for fraudulent or lying purposes.”
Nonetheless, his motoring business flourished and as it did so, Kellow in his search for other picaresque adventures, proceeded to embark on a dashing career with a horsepower of a different kind. As the son of a successful grazier, Kellow had long been interested in horses and rode successfully to hounds with all the dash of his cycling days around the district where Essendon now stands. He supported the Melbourne Hunt Club as well as the Yarra Glen and Lilydale Hunt, and the Oaklands Hunt, and often raced horses at their meetings. Having registered his famous ‘gold jacket, green sleeves and cap’ with the Victorian Racing Club, Kellow initially retained Cecil Godby at Caulfield as his first trainer although W. S. ‘Billy’ Cox trained a couple of jumpers for him at Flemington.
I believe Kellow’s first involvement with Jack Holt came in September 1914 when he transferred the unsound Barios out of Cecil Godby’s stable upon the latter’s recommendation, who believed the waters of Mordialloc would benefit the horse. Jack Holt’s methods soon saw Kellow send other horses to him including Earlborn the following year and in May 1916, Golden Rock. While Earlborn took a while to find form, Golden Rock within a matter of months had won the Mornington Welter at Caulfield and landed some good bets to boot. Kellow had bought Golden Rock as a tried galloper from the owner-trainer Charles Wheeler for whom he’d been disappointing but Holt’s wizardry did the trick. Holt quickly became Kellow’s trainer of choice and a firm friendship developed between the two men that extended well beyond the racecourse.
It wasn’t long before Charlie Kellow’s colours were being saluted or abused in better races. In 1920 Blue Cross won the first of two successive Standish Handicaps for the motoring magnate and later in the same year in the presence of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales, Earlborn won the Prince of Wales Cup at Flemington. Blue Cross, a bay gelding by Linacre, was originally trained by Holt for Askin Foster but upon the latter’s death, Holt recommended that Kellow buy the horse. And what a good buy he proved to be! Apart from successive Standish Handicaps, Blue Cross won the 1921 V.R.C. Newmarket at juicy odds with Holt encouraging Kellow to support the horse in the betting ring. Earlborn presents an even more interesting set of circumstances. A bay gelding by the imported stallion Earlston, Earlborn cost Kellow 460 guineas as a yearling and was initially trained by Cecil Godby but had proved disappointing. However, Holt did manage to improve the horse and it was as an aged gelding that he enjoyed his finest hour when he won the V.R.C. Prince of Wales Cup at Flemington on June 5, 1920, at a special Birthday Meeting of the club in the presence of the future King Edward VIII.
The circumstances of that victory were particularly controversial in more ways than one. Only the previous Saturday at Moonee Valley, Earlborn had started a firm even-money favourite for the Mount Alexander Handicap only to run unplaced. In much heavier going at Flemington before the Prince of Wales, he outstayed his opponents – some of them the same horses and over the same distance of a mile and a half. The official presentation was marred by a noisy and hostile demonstration against both Kellow and Holt. Earlborn had firmed in course betting from 10/1 into 7/1 in the closing minutes before flagfall. The staid and conservative Melbourne newspapers reliably weighed-in on the controversy with a full measure of sycophancy and obsequiousness.
The Australasian in a pompous editorial pontificated: “If every horse ran consistently, what meaning would attach to the oft-quoted phrase ‘the uncertainty of the turf’?’ Experienced racing men with sporting instincts do not ‘demonstrate’. They know that a satisfactory explanation is not readily forthcoming for every change in a horse’s form. The people who make the fuss are usually those who do not understand racing. Apart from any other consideration, the hostile demonstration in the presence of the Prince was in very bad taste.” The Weekly Times printed: “It was unfortunate that unpleasantness should have occurred over Earlborn’s win in the Prince of Wales Cup. Respect for the Prince should have restrained those who were angry regarding what was unquestionably a reversal of form on behalf of the gelding.” Respect and restraint aren’t words that one would ever associate with the future King Edward VIII and seem absurdly comical in retrospect.
Not that the controversy ended there. Kellow celebrated his victory rather too liberally that evening and driving his Rolls Royce home after both the races and a hearty dinner, he knocked down a pedestrian on the corner of Bourke and Swanston-streets. Kellow was charged with driving under the influence and appeared at the City Court a week or two later together with the eminent barrister Leo Cussen to represent him and a phalanx of character witnesses including Holt and William McCulloch of Navarre to appear for him. Read now, the court proceedings and findings are laughable and worthy of the satirical pen of Dickens who knew a thing or two about how the law is applied, or rather not applied, to the rich and powerful and how often justice is bypassed completely.
Remember that Senior Constable Black who was at the scene of the accident averred that Kellow was ‘stupid drunk’. Constable Henderson testified that “Kellow wasn’t sober and had disregarded the traffic warning. Kellow seemed stupid-muddled. He was incapable of driving the car.” Sergeant Cone, who was in charge of the City Watch House when Kellow was brought there, declared that Kellow was unsteady in his gait, erratic in his manner, and under the influence of drink. Instead of making any remark about the charges laid against him, he “sat down like a fool,” and looked at a newspaper.
Against this evidence, Holt, McCulloch and other witnesses who had either been with him or spoken to him on the night of June 5, each swore the defendant was not under the influence of liquor. McCulloch said that he had known the defendant for fifteen years, and had never seen him so broken up and depressed as he had been that night over the Earlborn incident. Holt said that he had remained with Kellow all evening because of the defendant’s depression. Kellow was so worried about the incident said Holt, that he continually declared that he would never race again and had gone so far as to tell say that he, Holt, could have all his horses and their equipment. Kellow himself said that he only had one or two drinks on the racecourse, a glass of lager beer at Scott’s Hotel with his dinner, two cups of coffee and two glasses of port wine soon after dinner, and a whisky and soda sometime later. Apparently, Jack Holt stayed with Kellow in the car for a time as they viewed the illuminations celebrating the Crown before Holt left him to catch a train to Mordialloc.
The motoring magnate said that he was quite ‘knocked silly’ by the accident, for the man he knocked down seemed to have appeared as suddenly as though he “had come from the clouds or dropped from a balloon.” The Bench retired for twenty minutes, and when they came back the chairman said that a majority had come to the conclusion that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to warrant a conviction on the more serious charge of being under the influence of liquor while driving a motor car and that the case would, therefore, be dismissed. There was no evidence against the defendant on the negligent driving charge and that charge was subsequently dropped. Let’s leave the last word to Charles Dickens: “If the law supposes that,” said Mr Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is an ass – a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience – by experience.”
Perhaps I might add here that not all of Kellow’s exploits that mixed motor cars and horses ended in such ignominy. Kellow’s commercial motoring background, together with his interest in thoroughbreds saw him uniquely placed to help solve the problem of road transporting racehorses to the rich country meetings that began to proliferate in the late 1920s in Australia. As the demand for larger and more efficient means of carrying horses grew, his company Kellow-Falkiner Pty Ltd developed a new model that was soon widely adopted by major stables. Built on a Leyland-chassis with a six-cylinder engine, the vehicle was 22 feet long and the design allowed the sides to serve as ramps when lowered.
Now, this chapter is supposed to be about Hall Mark as well as Charlie Kellow and I could be accused of taking my time getting there. So, here goes. The genesis of Hall Mark and the 1933 A.J.C. Derby came in the late summer of 1926 when Jack Holt was preparing Heroic on behalf of Kellow, to win the V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap. Despite a handicap of 9 st. 8lb, Holt was very confident about the chestnut. At the same time, James Scobie had set Pilliewinkie, owned by Sir Samuel Hordern, to win the second leg of Flemington’s big autumn double, the Australian Cup. Now it is unusual for racing stables to share information about their so-called ‘good things’ to outsiders. However, the common link here was Charlie Kellow himself, who had horses trained by both men and so confident were the respective stables of Holt and Scobie that each could appreciate the opportunities of synergy presented by the rich double.
The pair confided in each other and then persuaded a number of their patrons to club together to take out a series of communal wagers in doubles betting. Much of the commission was laid with prominent Melbourne bookmaker, Bob Jansen, who afterwards claimed it was the biggest transaction that he had ever handled on the two events. When Heroic and Pilliewinkie duly obliged, the plunge was estimated to take as much as £150,000 out of the Melbourne ring. Only days after the successful gamble, Charlie Kellow parted with 800 guineas from his winnings to purchase a yearling filly by Cyklon from the outstanding race mare Deneb at the Melbourne Yearling Sales. The yearling’s older sister, Cyden, the previous Saturday at Flemington, had run Rampion to a neck in the Sires’ Produce Stakes. Deneb herself had been a top two-year-old, winning the Ascot Vale Stakes at Flemington and finishing second to Wolaroi in the Sires’ Produce Stakes on the same course. Moreover, she was a full sister to Trey, the dam of Trivalve, and the yearling filly was, therefore, a sister in blood to that grand champion.
In celebration of the sensational betting coup and as a means of commemorating it, Kellow registered the filly as Herowinkie, a truncated combination of the respective names of the two horses that had delivered the windfall. Alas, Herowinkie did not quite live up to her pedigree on the racecourse although she wasn’t persevered with after her juvenile season. She failed to win in seven starts but did manage placings at Moonee Valley and Flemington. Charlie Kellow had an understanding with Herbert Thompson and kept a handful of mares at Tarwyn Park for matings with Heroic. Retired as a three-year-old, Herowinkie now joined this harem; she missed in her first season and then threw two colts to Heroic in successive years. It was a rather audacious experiment by Kellow even to match Herowinkie with Heroic at all, given that stallion’s concentrated in-breeding to both Bend Or and Hampton. Herowinkie herself boasted some strains of the same blood. But Kellow was nothing if not a buccaneering soul, audacious in all of life’s adventures. While the first colt, Some Hero, proved somewhat ordinary, he nevertheless won six races including the V.R.C. Myross Handicap at Flemington. The next season, however, Kellow struck the jackpot, for the second of those Heroic colts was Hall Mark.
Kellow’s cycling and motoring adventures aside, it was his record bid to acquire Heroic on February 2nd, 1925, that really brought his name before the sporting public throughout Australia. We have already seen in our 1924 chapter how Kellow enjoyed seeing his own colours carried to victory by Heroic in the 1926 V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap as well as a string of weight-for-age races. However, it was with the progeny of Heroic that he raced that securely established Kellow as the dominant owner of the 1930s. Few owners have shown as much faith in a stallion as Kellow showed in Heroic from the very first of his offerings to step into the sales ring. Price was no object as the former champion cyclist bid up for the youngsters. Any doubts that Heroic was going to make it as a stallion were effectively scotched on the first day of asking his first progeny to race. It came at Flemington on October 4, 1930, with the running of the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes. There were three divisions that year instead of two, because of the number of colts and geldings that accepted for the race. While Heroic’s progeny failed to win any of them, he did provide the three runners-up and two of them, Gordon’s Leap and Gallantic, carried Kellow’s colours.
A fortnight later at Caulfield on the day that Amounis won the Cup, Charlie Kellow got the quinella in the Gwyn Nursery when Gallantic gave Heroic his first winner as a stallion, while the expensive Bold Bid, also by Heroic, ran second. Bold Bid had cost Kellow a cool 1200 guineas at the Sydney Easter yearling sales and was in James Scobie’s stable while Gallantic was with Jack Holt. Bold Bid would go on to finish second in both the V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate and the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes while Gallantic would run the minor placing in both the V.R.C. Ascot Vale Stakes and the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. It really wasn’t until this 1930-31 racing season that Holt began to train two-year-olds in any number.
Prior to that year, one could count on one hand the number of juveniles he had seriously saddled up. No doubt the Heroic youngsters encouraged him to strike out in a new direction but it wasn’t just Charlie Kellow who wanted to race two-year-olds that season but Mrs L. Buxton as well, and she had a good one in High Brae. I might mention here that not all of Kellow’s purchases turned up trumps around this time. Back in the spring of 1928, George Stead brought two fillies across the Tasman to run in the Gimcrack Stakes viz. Lady Seaborn and Gay Ballerina. Prior to the commencement of that Sydney spring meeting where the fillies were to make their debut, Stead attempted to sell them both to Kellow. “There is little between them as gallopers,” said Stead. “They are both good.”
Kellow, instead of acting on the tendered advice, consulted their trainer, Donovan, who gave it as his opinion that Lady Seaborn was a shade the better galloper in any trials to which the pair had been subjected. Naturally, Kellow chose Lady Seaborn. Gay Ballerina subsequently contracted a cold, and, failing to find a purchaser was sent back to New Zealand, where, after winning half a dozen races for her breeder, she was sold to Herwald Kirkpatrick of Bellevue Hill in Sydney. Even before she was shipped to her new home, Gay Ballerina won enough in prize money to repay her purchase money, and the Adrian Knox Stakes and the Carrington Stakes at Randwick came her way after she came to Australia. By contrast, Lady Seaborn was most unsatisfactory at racing. Having missed out on Gay Ballerina, Kellow might have thought his chance of ever winning the Adrian Knox Stakes had gone with her. Not so!
Curiously enough, despite having the right to send a number of his own mares to Heroic, most of Kellow’s early winners by the stallion came from the sales ring. For example, the honour of breeding Gallantic fell to the New Zealand studmaster, Ian Duncan of Windbag fame. Gallantic, out of the English broodmare Esther, was the first of the Heroics to ever go through the sales ring and was one of a batch of yearlings that Duncan had sent across the Tasman that year. It was an impressive pedigree as Esther herself had been bred by His Majesty King George V in 1913, and was by Santry from the Persimmon mare, Persepolis. Alas for Duncan, the filly was only a pony and Kellow was able to get her for 200 guineas. A pony or not, at two she was one of the best fillies of her year.
Among the other colts and fillies from Heroic’s first crop to successfully carry Kellow’s colours were Heroic Prince and Pacific Flight. In June 1931 while the best two-year-olds were spelling, Banjo Patterson in the Sydney Mail speculated on the Derby prospects for the coming season and observed: “It may be that some of the Heroics will turn out to be stayers, and they certainly have plenty of pace; but if an Heroic is to win it will probably be one from Melbourne, as Mr Kellow pretty well cornered the Heroic market at last year’s yearling sales. It is a case of ‘Tis not in mortals to command success, but we’ll do more – Sempronius – we’ll deserve it.’ If lavish expenditure of money will win a Derby, then Mr Kellow certainly deserves it.”
As things turned out, that year the Derby at Randwick fell to Ammon Ra and Jack Jamieson, the man in the black stetson, while the Derby at Flemington went to Johnnie Jason, the runner-up to Ammon Ra at Randwick. No Heroic horse filled the placing in either race. However, had Banjo’s prognostications included the Oaks as well, he would have been nearer the money, although it wasn’t a case of lavish expenditure. In November, Gallantic, Kellow’s cheapest Heroic purchase, stepped out at Flemington in the hands of Frank Dempsey, who temporarily resumed his partnership with Jack Holt, to win the 1931 V.R.C. Oaks in runaway style and then came out the following autumn at Randwick to claim the A.J.C. Adrian Knox Stakes. In so doing, it was the first real sign that Heroic would throw sons and daughters that stayed the classic distance.
Heroic’s second crop, the foals of 1929, collectively were not as good as his first although they did number Vauntry who won both the V.A.T.C. Debutant Stakes and the V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate. It was also true of the Heroic youngsters that raced in Kellow’s colours, with the moderate Green And Gold and Top Hole being the best of them, both having been purchased in the sales ring. Kellow’s homebreds seemed to be taking their time coming through. But they were on their way. So often votaries spin the mystical web of destiny about a champion, but only after the championship prize itself has been snared. In the case of Hall Mark, such retrospective insights were altogether unnecessary. From the moment of his foaling, while no bells rang nor portents blazed the sky, greatness was expected. Stan Redford, who managed Tarwyn Park where Hall Mark first saw the light of day, marked the little fellow down as a Derby winner within days of his birth, and suggested as much to Herbert Thompson.
A lovely balanced and symmetrical colt, he reminded many of a smaller version of his sire. Hall Mark was kept at Tarwyn Park until mid-February 1932 when he was transported to Melbourne in the company of three other Heroic yearlings bred by Kellow. Even this movement was reported in the popular press with The Argus correspondent writing: “Mr Kellow is very hopeful that another Heroic is among them.” Little did he know, there was. Not all of the four youngsters were destined for the Mordialloc stables of Jack Holt but the one that mattered was. By the time Hall Mark made his racecourse debut at the Caulfield Spring Meeting in October 1932, it seemed the whole of the Turf world was aware of the aura of his impending greatness. But Hall Mark failed to run a place in the Debutant Stakes, his first essay on the Turf. Despite the disappointment, Jack Holt considered him good enough to win the Maribyrnong Plate, but Hall Mark slipped and fell at exercise a few days prior to that race. So, instead, it was decided then to keep him for the Flemington Stakes, a minor juvenile handicap run later during Melbourne Cup week.
Well-supported by Kellow and his close friends, Hall Mark narrowly failed to land the race. The performance didn’t pass entirely without notice from the stewards. The going that day was much faster on the grandstand side of the course, and Billy Duncan received a three months’ holiday for cutting rather too sharply on the little colt towards the outside rail shortly after the start. In the circumstances, Jack Holt decided that the horse, too, should enjoy a spell of similar duration, albeit not at the stewards’ behest. When horse and jockey were finally reunited in the autumn something of the mooted promise began to be realised.
Hall Mark was the medium of a big plunge when he resumed at Williamstown in February, but could only manage third. Similar disappointments awaited his supporters at Caulfield in two races, in the latter of which Hall Mark was galloped on and slightly injured, forcing him to miss the rich Flemington Autumn Meeting. It was really only when he was brought over to Sydney that he showed his rivals a clean pair of heels, narrowly winning at each of his three appearances, the Fairfield Handicap, Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes. He only finished a head in front of Maid of Orleans, another Heroic youngster, in the Sires’ Produce race, albeit running a race record. But the fact that Hall Mark was meeting the filly ten pounds worse, at a distance a furlong less in the Champagne Stakes, prompted many to support Maid of Orleans to reverse the result.
Even the big-betting Kellow entertained doubts and, as was the case in the Sires’ Produce, he again let his colt run loose. But the little fellow had continued to thrive during his Sydney sojourn and this time, he had a neck to spare on the filly. When the curtain finally came down on the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting, Charlie Kellow was entitled to wonder whether he had a Derby colt. Indeed, many were beginning to believe that most likely here was the first genuine stayer to be sired by the champion Heroic. The £5,866 that Hall Mark had won was mostly responsible for Kellow heading the list of winning owners in Victoria for the season. Further confirmation that the colt was considered the best of his year came when he led the three-year-olds in the weights for the Melbourne Cup, being allotted 7 st. 8lb or 2lb over weight-for-age – the same task that had been set for Manfred eight years earlier.
After the Sydney Autumn Meeting, Hall Mark wasn’t put out of training when he returned to Mordialloc but was instead turned out into one of Holt’s many paddocks where the trainer could keep a protective eye on him. The horse didn’t grow much after that autumn but did thicken into a sturdy customer and well up to Derby weight. When he resumed racing in a mile handicap for three-year-olds at Flemington in mid-August, the start of that memorable campaign, he had done a lot of pace work but had few fast gallops, yet still only went under by a head, conceding the winner, Brutus, about two stone. In the absence of Billy Duncan, Holt’s own apprentice, Reg Heather, rode Hall Mark and took advantage of his 7lb claiming allowance, although the lad’s inexperience probably cost the colt victory. It was one of those rare occasions when Holt trusted a fancied horse to an apprentice rider. Still, Reg Heather wasn’t your average apprentice.
However, a week later, with Frank Dempsey substituted in the saddle, the little chestnut was backed up at Williamstown to win the weight-for-age Underwood Stakes narrowly from a good field that included two Newmarket winners, and equalling the course record for the mile. It came as something of a disappointment, then, when Hall Mark was rather easily beaten into third place in the weight-for-age Memsie Stakes in his final trial before the Derby, although Holt attributed the failure that day to his backing-up the horse too quickly on a soft track after the hard run at Williamstown. Nonetheless, the failure enabled the stable to secure a more lucrative price about their charge for the Randwick blue riband. Once in Sydney, Holt only allowed Hall Mark to work well within himself on the training tracks and never once set the colt to make smart time over any extended ground. Holt was a trainer that generally regarded pressmen and touts as his natural enemy, and while he and Kellow were both convinced their son of Heroic would get the Derby trip, he wasn’t about to advertise the fact in the racing weeklies.
I might observe that 1933 was a year of significant change for Sydney racing. In January the various Associated Racing Clubs (A.R.C.) decided to apply for registration with the A.J.C. Victoria Park had already been granted that status, and now Kensington, Ascot and Rosebery sought to enter the fold. Despite some resistance from the metropolitan registered racing clubs jealous of the number of racing days these former pony clubs might get, the A.J.C. granted registration, effectively ending the blight of unregistered racing in this State. Colin Stephen and the A.J.C. committee were to be congratulated on the achievement of the merger while Jack Underhill, acting on behalf of the A.R.C., complemented Stephen’s efficiency during the negotiations. Registration meant amnesties for those jockeys who previously followed their calling on the associated courses. As a result, the A.J.C. Calendar in April showed as many as 164 licensed riders in Sydney, not to mention the 108 apprentices.
In respect of the latter, the principal club recognised an obligation, and 1933 marked the establishment of the A.J.C. Apprentices’ School, together with its associated gymnasium, for lads, apprenticed to licensed trainers, with an initial enrolment of 81 pupils. Maurice McCarten was selected as the role model for apprentice riders and lectured at the school on riding methods. Convinced that the worst of the Depression had passed, the A.J.C. also announced increases of £3,700 in the stakes for the Spring Meeting. On the course, other changes were noticeable: the colourful auctioneering or calling the card by bookmakers at Randwick was outlawed.
If the bagmen were less vocal, the void was filled by the voice of Lachie Melville who was the man behind the microphone when official course broadcasts were permitted over amplifiers for the first time at the Warwick Farm Spring Meeting of 1933. There were other changes at Randwick as well. That year the steeplechase fences were demolished, and the steeplechase course used to provide an additional grass training-track. The A.J.C. committee decided that were steeplechasing to again figure on a Randwick programme, the fences – apart from those on the hill – would be of the portable type, although jumping seemed to be dying on Sydney racecourses.
The biggest issue that confronted racing in 1933 was the debilitating influence of the continuing Depression and the extent of illegal S.P. betting away from the course. Off-course betting had increased dramatically during the Depression, an unintended consequence also of Lang’s Winning Bets Tax legislation. On the eve of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, an interstate conference was held to discuss the problem. The conference made drastic recommendations to the Federal and various State Governments. These included: that telephones not be permitted to be used for betting; that broadcasting stations confine their broadcasts to descriptions of the running of races without any details as to starting prices etc., which were to be suppressed until the end of the programme; that similar restrictions be applied to newspapers; and that tipping for gain be made a public offence. Announcing the decisions, the Chief Secretary said that the conference had unanimously agreed that the Commonwealth Government be requested to amend the regulations to authorise either the refusal of an application for, or the cancellation of, a telephone if the postal authorities were satisfied that it would be, or was being, used for illegal betting.
This, then, was the background against which the A.J.C. Spring Meeting was played out. The field for the A.J.C. Derby numbered eight, with Out Back, owned and trained by Dan Lewis, the only filly in the race. Hall Mark is that rare commodity amongst Derby winners, a champion with well-disclosed form prior to the race who nevertheless fails to go to the post as the favourite. Although the betting was tight, that honour went to Blixten, a colt by Night Raid trained by George Price for the Smithden partnership and carrying the familiar colours of ‘orange and white stripes, black cap’.
He had run second in the Maribyrnong Plate but wasn’t trained seriously in his first season until the autumn when he won the A.J.C. Fernhill Handicap, carrying 9 st. 1lb at his final appearance; he had been denied his chance in the Sires’ Produce Stakes because the owner of Night Raid, hadn’t subscribed the stallion for the race. Well-fancied for the Derby after his Fernhill performance, Blixten had confirmed his promise with a narrow but impressive victory in the Rosehill Guineas, coming on the scene wide and late.
Next fancied after Hall Mark for the race was Break Up, a colt carrying the famous Phar Lap colours, given that he was both owned and trained by Harry Telford, and, to complete the glorious association, ridden by Jim Pike as well. Although he had won a division of the Gibson Carmichael Stakes at two, and ran second in the Memsie Stakes to Waltzing Lily at three, it was difficult to escape the suspicion that he owed much of his market prominence to the faint echoes of the stable’s glorious past. The New Zealand challenge was headed by Deputy Ruler, a son of Chief Ruler and a colt who had run second in the Great Northern Champagne Stakes at two. At his latest start, he had caused a boil over in the Sir Herbert Maitland Stakes (7f) on the tricky Victoria Park circuit when at 33/1 he had lowered the colours of Ammon Ra, then on the comeback trail. Although hailing from the Dominion, Deputy Ruler was one of three horses (Blixten and Waikare were the others) that George Price was saddling-up for the race. The only notable exception from the field was the Jack Jamieson-trained Limarch, winner of the Breeders’ Plate and Kirkham Stakes the previous season, but deprived of a Derby outing by a quartered heel that had troubled him after winning the Hobartville Stakes.
The 1933 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
Jack Holt’s main concern prior to the race was the prospect of a slow pace in the first few furlongs, which might cause Hall Mark to fight for his head. He needn’t have worried for although speed was lacking, the son of Heroic relaxed beautifully into the hands of Darby Munro, who was riding him for the first time. Outback led early, and when Hall Mark was sluggish at the start, Munro elected to lie back in the field alongside Blixten on the rails. At the nine-furlong-post, the two favourites only had one horse behind them. Munro – and McCarten on Blixten – played cat and mouse over the next half-mile or so as first one, and then the other, tried to pocket his rival. At the half-mile Munro made his move on Hall Mark and the little fellow went so fast that at the home turn he was in front with Deputy Ruler. Although the latter went with him for some distance, Hall Mark proved too strong in the run to the post winning comfortably.
The time registered was nearly six seconds outside the race record, although this was primarily attributable to the heavy rain in Sydney throughout the week before. It marked the first victory in the race for Jack Holt and achieved with his very first starter; while for the 20-year old jockey, Darby Munro, he had managed to match his older brother’s only win in the classic, and done it eighteen months sooner. I might mention that for the racing aficionado there was an air of magic, a numinous shimmer about Randwick that day, despite the inclement weather, for three champions won the three consecutive principal races on the programme. No sooner had Hall Mark taken the Derby, the third race on the card, but Chatham took out the Epsom, the following event with no less than 9 st. 10lb; while Rogilla scored a decisive win in the Spring Stakes, the fifth contest on the six-race card.
Hall Mark was whisked back to Melbourne for a start in the Caulfield Guineas, with the mount on this occasion entrusted to Sydney lightweight apprentice, Jack O’Sullivan, to get him acquainted with the horse prior to the Melbourne Cup, for which he had been engaged, given that Munro couldn’t make the weight. However, Sullivan or not, in the Guineas Palphar proved too nippy. Although Hall Mark did manage to win races on the tricky Caulfield circuit, he was never really at home there. Then came the Victoria Derby and one of the easiest victories seen in that race for 30 years; the winning margin was officially given as five lengths, but it was closer to seven. Strange to say, despite Hall Mark’s A.J.C. Derby, there was a suspicion by some at that stage that the little fellow didn’t really stay and that a fast pace at Flemington might find him wanting. Well, the pace was on all right, and Hall Mark beat them for both speed and stamina, matching Phar Lap’s race record of 2 minutes 31 ¼ seconds, despite a strong headwind all the way down the straight. Few people knew at the time that he was suffering from a cracked heel on the off-hind front foot and that he carried a dressing in it into the Derby.
The problem had been caused by an incident during Hall Mark’s visit to Sydney. One morning when Hall Mark was being led to Randwick by his regular groom Alan Maloney, the son of Heroic lashed out exuberantly and grazed his off-hind leg. The cut seemed superficial and didn’t preclude him from doing his usual exercise. However, the tan track at Randwick was very damp that morning and some of the extract-juice from the tanbark penetrated the cut. Maloney observed the precaution of having a veterinarian treat the wound and in due course the cut soon mended. Alas, the trouble was that the new skin sealed in the tan extract which ultimately led to infection, something that only became apparent after the colt’s exertions in the Victoria Derby.
Hall Mark was lame after the race, which set up a very anxious 72-hour vigil before 3.40 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon. On Monday morning Hall Mark galloped well but was quite lame upon cooling down. The Melbourne bookmakers, smelling blood, generously extended the colt’s price for the Cup to double figures. On Tuesday morning Hall Mark was still lame but Jack Holt believed, or at least hoped, that the lameness might improve with movement. Hall Mark was transported to Flemington by train and once on the course, Charlie Kellow consulted with the V.R.C. veterinarian Mr S. O. Wood, who also called in Dr E. F. Bordeaux for a second opinion. It wasn’t until 1.30 p.m. that the learned men pronounced that Hall Mark was fit to take his place in the field. Instantly the colt’s price was slashed to 5/2 although by flagfall it had receded to 4/1, with Rogilla, handicapped on 9 st. 4lb, starting the 5/2 favourite. Hall Mark’s Cup weight as a classic-winning three-year-old was 7 st. 8lb, a handicap beyond the reach of his usual jockey, Darby Munro.
While Munro’s talents were deployed in favour of Rogilla, as we have seen, Jack O’Sullivan, the young Sydney apprentice fresh from his triumph on Regal Son in the A.J.C. Metropolitan Handicap, was requisitioned for Hall Mark. O’Sullivan was nearly out of his time but could still go to scale under seven stone. Billy Duncan, who would have been the first choice for the ride, remained on the injured list. Now, many young apprentices show a flutter of form with the aid of the 7lb allowance and then quickly wane but O’Sullivan had kept up his record long after forfeiting that advantage.
Yes, he might only have been a 21-year-old apprentice to Sydney trainer R. C. Stanton and having his first mount in a Melbourne Cup but that day he rode Hall Mark like a veteran. It helped that the speed in the Cup that year was genuine and as a result, few hard luck stories emerged. Hall Mark enjoyed a rails’ run for much of the journey and then O’Sullivan chose precisely the right moment in the straight to execute his coup de grace. In so doing, he momentarily pinned-in his looming threats of Topical, Gaine Carrington and Shadow King to gain the decisive advantage. Hall Mark won narrowly but impressively from Shadow King, who claimed his fourth successive placing in the great race. Rogilla, despite the presence of the Darb, proved an abject failure.
There was an interesting postscript to the Cup. Given the injury, Holt had decided to race Hall Mark in the race with plates behind for the first time, previously having only used clips on his hind feet. When the farrier had arrived at Holt’s stables that morning to fit them for the Cup, he had brought about a dozen sets but none suited the little chestnut. Holt then remembered a pair of hind plates worn by Heroic in the Newmarket Handicap and kept on the wall as a memento of that famous victory. The plates were taken down and were found to fit the son of Heroic perfectly. After the Cup win, Kellow had them gilded, retaining one and giving Holt the other.
The results of that spring must have given Holt’s former regular jockey, Bill Duncan, mixed feelings. But for his disastrous fall at Williamstown a few months before that had ended his career as a jockey, he would have partnered the chestnut throughout that campaign. The little bloke had been Duncan’s particular favourite. After riding him in his work at Mentone during his two-year-old days, Duncan used to go to breakfast every morning with Holt but invariably insisted on dressing the colt before returning to his home.
In the wake of his gruelling spring campaign, Hall Mark enjoyed a spell in one of his trainer’s Mordialloc paddocks where Holt could keep an eye on him. It might have been better if Hall Mark had missed the autumn of his three-year-old season altogether. In the V.R.C. St Leger, he was looked upon as a certainty, but the best he could manage was a dead-heat with Limarch, although the pace was farcical and many were critical of Pike’s ride. At Randwick a few weeks later, Limarch won the A.J.C. St Leger outright, while Hall Mark finished last in a field of three and seemed a tired horse. It wasn’t always thus. Hall Mark continued to race until the autumn of his five-year-old season, performing at a consistently high standard in both handicaps and weight-for-age races. Sometimes the weights he was asked to carry in handicaps proved too much for his diminutive frame, but there were occasions when he proved more than equal to the challenge. Perhaps the win that really set the seal upon his greatness and versatility came in the famous 1935 Doncaster when handicapped with 9 st. 8lb.
Hall Mark was only a fraction of an inch under 15.2 hands and not really intended as a beast of burden, although sometimes I think the ability to carry weight is more a matter of action than size. Hall Mark was lame when he got off the train in Sydney on that particular visit, again the victim of a cracked heel although this time it was the near hind. Holt managed to get him to the post for the Chipping Norton Plate at Warwick Farm, a race in which he went down narrowly to Rogilla after a torrid struggle. Afterwards, the heel burst, which proved to be Hall Mark’s salvation as it enabled the draining of the pus from the foot. Holt then shod him with a special bar shoe that afforded the horse some protection after arranging for the farrier to cut away a portion of the infected part of the hoof. After missing some crucial gallops, the Sydney Cup was clearly out of the question, but the horse progressed such, that Holt hatched a plot for the Doncaster instead, in what appeared to be a rather weak year for milers.
On the Tuesday before the Easter weekend, Hall Mark galloped really well, and on the following day Charlie Kellow and Jack Holt snapped up the 20/1 on offer, accepting one bet of £10,000 to £500 from bookmaker Jim Hackett and coupling the horse with several Sydney Cup candidates in doubles. By Thursday, Hall Mark’s price had come into 12/1, and while that price was still available early on the day on course, Holt’s confidence was such that public support followed his lead and he eventually started a 9/2 favourite for the big mile. When old Jack put his money down in those days, he seldom left it there. As the field went to the post Holt confided to intimates: “If it were nine furlongs I would declare him unbeatable. It’s not the weight, but the distance which might defeat him.” Holt needn’t have worried. Despite being drawn wide, Hall Mark, with Keith Voitre in the saddle, was always in the vanguard and scored narrowly from the lightweight High, after a neck and neck struggle in the straight.
However, Hall Mark then had to survive the hoisting of the protest flag, prompted by jockey Bill Cook’s allegations that the Derby winner had savaged High on the shoulder fifty yards from the post. Still, Hall Mark managed to keep the race even in the steward’s room. In the wake of the Doncaster congratulations, Charlie Kellow didn’t forget those who had been indispensable in the great conquest. “There were actors in the piece other than my little horse “, he acknowledged. Jack Holt and Keith Voitre both deserve a pat on the back, as does that blacksmith chap who did the finest piece of work on a horse’s hoof I’ve ever seen.” Hughie Solomons was the smithy in question, and the job he made of Hall Mark’s injured heel would have done credit to a Macquarie-street surgeon, not to mention the unique shoe and racing plates he cast, which nonetheless, conformed to regulations. A few days later at the meeting, Peter Pan had Hall Mark’s measure in the All Aged Plate when he beat him by three lengths in Australasian record time. In the Melbourne Cup weights of that year, the V.R.C. handicapper J. H. Davis rated Hall Mark a stone less than the year-older Peter Pan, and it was probably a fair assessment of their respective abilities allowing for age.
Hall Mark ran for the last time in the King’s Cup in South Australia in May 1935, finishing unplaced. His complete racing record was 52 starts for 18 wins, including his St Leger dead-heat, 16 seconds and 9 thirds for a total of £28,619 in prize money. Charlie Kellow had come to a prior arrangement with his friend Herbert Thompson, who wished to have Hall Mark join Heroic at his stud. Consequently, he stood his first few seasons at Thompson’s Tarwyn Park at a fee of 100 guineas. Great hope was expressed in his stallion potential, despite his small stature – 15.1 hands – and Thompson had acquired him with an optimistic view to extending the Valais line.
Hall Mark’s retirement came at a time when colonial-bred stallions such as Heroic, Windbag, Spearfelt, Manfred and Rampion, were all doing quite well. Alas, Hall Mark proved disappointing in the barn and following the death of Charlie Kellow in April 1944 was eventually sold for 475 guineas and re-located to Frank Fraser’s Burnside Stud at Ingham on the far north coast of Queensland. He did manage to sire one good colt, however, in Hall Stand (A.J.C. Sires Produce Stakes, Hobartville Stakes and R.R.C. Rosehill Guineas) and another useful performer in Haddon Hall, who won the A.J.C. Kirkham Stakes. In Queensland, he proved quite useful to that state’s bloodstock industry and up to the end of the 1951-52 racing season had sired the winners of £78,900. Hall Mark was destroyed at the Burnside Stud in April 1953, having been ill for some time.