Most racing men vainly spend a lifetime in their quest for a Derby winner. A chosen few come upon them with seemingly monotonous regularity. The Dandenong wholesale butcher, Roy McLean, was one of the chosen. In the previous chapter, we saw how he acquired Lucrative as a yearling in his first essay at ownership. On the morning of March 4, 1940, just two days after Lucrative had finished a length second behind Trueness in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington, Roy McLean and his trainer, Harry Freedman, were in attendance at the opening session of the Melbourne Yearling Sales conducted by Mackinnon and Cox Pty Ltd. The two men had spent considerable time inspecting the various yearlings on offer and had made up their minds to bid for Lot No 35 – a brown colt by the imported Law Maker out of Stage Wit. He was a beautiful stamp of a yearling although perhaps a little light in the thighs and gaskins. The colt was being offered by Les Aldridge and had been bred at his Kismet Park Stud at Sunbury, Victoria.
There was considerable interest in this yearling, and his pedigree did stand up to scrutiny. Law Maker, his sire, was a 16.1 hands bay or brown son of the all-conquering stallion Phalaris, already the sire of winners of more than 400 races and over £335,000 but more significantly still, well on his way to establishing an international dynasty through his various sons including Fairway, Sickle, Pharos, Colorado and Manna proving champion stallions on both sides of the Atlantic. Fairway twice headed the list of winning sires in England and twice finished second. Pharos also topped the list in England and enjoyed a similar distinction in France, where he sired two winners of the Grand Prix de Paris – Nearco and Pharis. Cameronian, another son of Pharos, won the Derby in England.
Law Maker was out of the mare Book Law, whom Alec Taylor trained at Manton to win the 1927 English St Leger, Jockey Club Stakes, Coronation Stakes and £31,785 for the second Viscount Astor. She was by Buchan, a brilliant son of Sunstar and twice winner of the Eclipse Stakes. Book Law had already proven to be a particularly talented matron even before Law Maker came along, being the dam of Rhodes Scholar, winner of the Eclipse Stakes and the St James’s Palace Stakes, as well as Canon Law, who also won the St James’s Palace Stakes. Law Maker wasn’t quite in their league as a racehorse but had been tried favourably by both Alec Taylor and Joseph Lawson, famous English trainers. The exceptionally hard ground made him difficult to train at two, although he had shown excellent speed. Only lightly-raced, Law Maker at three had won the York Sledmere Plate (10f) and run second in the Goodwood Chesterfield Cup (10f) and third in the Liverpool Silver Jubilee Cup (10f). Law Maker’s first crop were two-year-olds at the time of the 1940 sales, but he was already being acclaimed a success on the basis that his first runner, The Aisle, had dead-heated for the fillies’ division of the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes.
Les Aldridge had been lucky to acquire Law Maker as a stallion. In 1934 Colonel Milbanke, Harry Chisholm’s son-in-law was in Australia and visited Kismet Park; Aldridge asked that he keep his eyes open for a suitable stallion upon his return to England. Law Maker subsequently came on to the market shortly after Milbanke got home; he cabled the details of the horse to Aldridge, although Lord Astor’s initial asking price of 5000 guineas seemed a bit steep. At the time the Kismet Park studmaster was financially stretched for two reasons: firstly, his partner in the enterprise had recently walked out; and secondly, the proceeds from his sale of Richmond Park, near Adelaide, had yet to materialise during these hard years of the Depression. Aldridge responded to Milbanke’s cable by informing him that the sum of 3000 guineas was the most he could afford. Lord Astor wasn’t short of a quid, and, reconsidering the effects of the Depression on bloodstock values, relented.
At the time Aldridge had a surfeit of Manfred mares with whom he believed the Phalaris stallion would nick. Law Maker did, too, and together, the cross would eventually produce no fewer than five individual winners of principal races in Australia. However, Law Maker’s one and only Derby winner came as a result of a mating with an eleven-year-old daughter of the dual Caulfield Cup winner, Whittier. Stage Wit, the mare in question, descended from the imported Mermaid, who was bred in England in 1860 by Baron Rothschild and taken to New Zealand when just a two-year-old, although there is no record of her having raced. Stagegirl, the maternal granddam of Laureate, was foaled at the Shipley Stud and was a good racehorse, who won the South Australian Derby, Adelaide Guineas, V.R.C. Oaks and other races. Her brother, Falstaff, had been successful on tracks in New Zealand. Stage Wit was Stagegirl’s first filly. The dam of Laureate had been a failure on the racecourse when raced as a juvenile by Les Aldridge, finishing out of a place in all five starts. Still, it was a good producing family, as at stud, Stagegirl had thrown The Gay Mutineer, winner of the Toorak Handicap and the runner-up in an Ascot Vale Stakes; and Ambassador, runner-up in a Caulfield Guineas. Admittedly Stage Wit’s racecourse progeny hadn’t been that distinguished thus far although they did include Stage Law, a Flemington winner, and Sun Vin, the heroine of a Helenavale Cup.
Lot No 35, the latest yearling offering from Stage Wit, had been a mid-September foal and presented as a fine, upstanding yearling. At 600 guineas he was the most expensive of the Law Makers sold that year and to get him Roy McLean had to fend off prominent owner E. J. Watt and his trainer, George Price, who remained the under-bidders. Curiously enough, the price given was just £30 more than Lucrative had picked up for his minor placing at Flemington two days earlier. It was to prove a sound investment. While Lucrative had suffered misfortune in his quest for the Derby prize at Randwick when Maurice McCarten rode one of his rare ill-judged races, this fellow, in the very same hands, would bring redemption for McCarten in the same race and deliver yet another blue riband to his tyro owner and wizened trainer. Roy McLean registered the colt as Laureate.
Laureate, like Lucrative the season before, went into Harry Freedman’s Mentone stables. Freedman, an English-born Jew, had immigrated from Aldgate, London, to Australia in 1908 while still in his ‘teens, intending to become a farmer. Upon his arrival here, Freedman went to work for Phil Cahill on his farm in the Goulburn Valley. The young immigrant applied himself assiduously to all branches of farm work but later admitted that the care and management of horses came more naturally to him than anything else on the property. It was while working in the Goulburn Valley that Freedman had learned to ride and he found himself making a study of the farm horses – their care and requirements. It was this knowledge that stood him in good stead when he forsook farming after five years. The 1914 drought and the outbreak of War eventually put paid to his agricultural activities, and he entered employment in the Caulfield stables of Humphrey Bellamy. At this time, Bellamy was in the last months of his life as a public trainer but in the late 1880s and the 1890s he had forged his reputation supervising the preparation of horses at St John’s Wood, Alphington, and the better-known Mill Park, Bundoora, on behalf of the brothers, Albert and Septimus Miller.
Ah! What glorious memories are conjured up in the name of the Mill Park stables! Humphrey Bellamy directed its operations at the zenith of its fame, winning the V.R.C. Grand National Hurdle and Steeple double twice in the space of four years. Three of those victories came with that mighty steeplechaser Redleap, generally regarded as the greatest racehorse ever seen over obstacles in this country. It was the first of those Grand National Hurdles when the horse was trained out of St John’s Wood and backed with confidence, that yielded the money to build a new brick and bluestone stable block at Mill Park, christened ‘Redleap Stables’. It was out of which, Harry Freedman later rode, and later still, the place was used as the home of the Findon Harriers Hunt Club of which Humphrey Bellamy for a time acted as the Huntsman.
Of course, there was more to Mill Park and Bellamy than just those two double victories in the Grand Nationals. He supervised Redleap when the horse won the Australian Steeplechase with no less than 13 st. 12lb on his back. Redleap apart, other successful jumpers turned out by Bellamy for Messrs Albert and Septimus Miller included Eaglet (Grand National Steeplechase and Australian Steeplechase); Colonel Shilinski (Australian Hurdle and Steeplechase); Rawdon (Grand National Hurdle); Hayseed and Cardinal (Grand National Steeplechase); as well as the likes of Mernder, Studley, Elfie, Reny, Pingara, Sir Wilfred, and scores of others. Among the many good flat-racers were Boolka, Crown Jewel, and the St. Leger winner, Preston.
After leaving Mill Park to become a public trainer at Caulfield, the good times continued to roll. While there, Bellamy trained among others, Munderah for Peter and Walter Mitchell, when that colt won the V.R.C. St. Leger, River Handicap, and Place Handicap at the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting in 1905. Humphrey Bellamy retained a good relationship with the Miller brothers long after he’d relocated to Caulfield as a public trainer. Soon after Harry Freedman began riding for Bellamy in 1914, a vacancy occurred at the Mill Park stables at Bundoora and Freedman, with Bellamy’s blessing, moved there to start his racing career seriously as a cross-country rider. Both Albert and Septimus Miller were alive, and Neil Campbell was their trainer when Freedman joined the operation, although Albert Miller was to die only a year or two later.
Freedman enjoyed success in the saddle at Mill Park on the likes of Bowood and Flash Jack, but a series of falls, including a badly broken leg in January 1918 and increasing weight, saw him surrender his jockey’s licence. His last win in the saddle was aboard Rayon d’Or at Epsom in 1917. Freedman transferred to the ranks of trainers the following year and took with him all the lessons of horsemanship that he had gleaned during his time at the Redleap establishment. Unsurprisingly, Freedman’s first winners with the stopwatch were jumpers; his first of note was Pram, who won four steeplechases in six starts, while Warpram, King High, Secret Stone and Belgian Waif were others to figure prominently in his successful stables.
Slowly, however, Freedman’s reputation as a shrewd conditioner of horses grew as did his client base and the number of horses he trained for the flat. L’Elite, a dashing chestnut colt by Gay Lothario was the first high-class horse Freedman trained. At the yearling sales, buyers fought shy of the colt due to his ‘parrot mouth’. While the horse might have perished if turned loose in a paddock to graze, the physical deformity didn’t inhibit his galloping action. Indeed, there had been some notable racehorses with this very same drawback including the great English racehorse and stallion, St Frusquin, and closer to home, the Melbourne Cup winner, Poitrel. Anyway, Freedman looked past the deformity and with him he won some good races for his owner Leo Kearney, a stock and station agent from Murchison in Victoria. Kearney had at one time managed the Noorilim Stud for Norman Falkiner. Freedman had previously trained both Mithras and Stardom, out of the same mare. Races won by L’Elite included the 1933 V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and the following year the Mentone Centenary Gold Cup and the V.R.C. Cantala Stakes – the latter race named after the famous Caulfield homestead of Freedman’s old patron and former V.R.C. chairman, Septimus Miller.
The next ‘good un’ to come along was the four-year younger sister to L’Elite in Sweet Memories. Bred at the St Albans Stud and offered for sale as a yearling by her breeders, H. G. Raymond and H. B. Rankin, bidding stalled at 425 guineas and the filly was passed-in, her breeders resolving to keep her for stud duty. Because of his previous success with the family, Freedman successfully negotiated a lease. A brilliant early juvenile, she won the 1936 V.A.T.C. Debutante Stakes and then led from barrier to box to take the V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate at 33/1. In 1937 Harry Freedman demonstrated that he hadn’t lost his touch with jumpers when his own horse, Triteleia, a rangy gelding by Great Star, led most of the way to land the Grand National Hurdle. He was the first runner that Freedman had ever started in the race and the stable had supported him from 14/1 into 8/1 in the betting ring.
In the years to come, Freedman was to make a habit of winning principal races with horses that were his very first candidates in such races. Lucrative in the Victoria Derby was but one but other first-up attempts were to succeed in the V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap, Sires Produce Stakes, Debutant and Ascot Vale Stakes and the Caulfield Guineas. Freedman tended to take a conservative view of his horses and believed it unwise to start a horse in a race unless he considered it had a reasonable chance of winning. Anyway, such was Freedman’s succession of winners that in the 1936-37 racing season he dead-heated with Jack Holt for the Victorian Trainers’ Premiership when each man prepared 21 winners apiece.
Holt generously remarked at the time: “I had the better horses, but still I could not beat him.” Holt was responding to a toast proposed by the vice-chairman of the M.V.R.C., John F. Feehan at an informal function in the committee room after the last. Freedman in reply reminded that some 20 years before, he’d ridden a winner for Holt and felt greatly honoured to be sharing the trainers’ premiership with him. Freedman was destined to win the title outright when he trained 25 winners in the 1941-42 racing season – thanks mainly to Lucrative and Reception – when he pipped Fred Hoysted, also based at Mentone, by just one winner.
The next top galloper that Freedman put the polish on was El Golea, a stallion he trained to win both the V.A.T.C. Toorak Handicap and the V.R.C. Newmarket in the 1938-39 racing season, for the former Mayor of South Melbourne, Archie Crofts. Harry Freedman had El Golea, by Eastern Monarch, under his charge from his yearling days although the horse was initially the property of Roger Henderson. However, early in the spring of 1938, for health reasons, Henderson sold his horses and went to England. It was on the recommendation of Freedman that Archie Crofts, of Valiant Chief fame, bought him for 1000 guineas. El Golea won good races for Henderson, but within six months of purchase, Crofts had enjoyed a dead heat with him in the Toorak, as well as the Newmarket, which he won by a neck from Aurie’s Star. Indeed, it was Freedman’s achievements with El Golea that first attracted Roy McLean to Freedman’s Mentone stables, resulting in the purchase of Lucrative – and I’ve already retailed that horse’s achievements in our previous chapter.
Freedman had the happy knack of bringing out the best in almost every horse to come under his care. He treated each horse as an individual study, a philosophy perhaps best demonstrated by his making a first-class sprinter of the former Sydney galloper, Reception, during his title-winning season. By the time Lucrative and Laureate came along, Harry Freedman had demonstrated his training expertise across all classes of racing viz. two and three-year-olds, classics, handicaps, weight-for-age events, and jumping races. To what did Freedman himself attribute his success? He observed: “A trainer has to have his share of luck, of course, but I’ve found that thoroughness, good feeding and common sense are the most important things.” Perhaps his greatest attribute was his judgement of fitness. It certainly helped in his tilts with bookmakers!
Lucrative, a son of Gay Lothario, had been precocious enough as an early-season two-year-old to make a winning racecourse debut at Flemington in the first week of October. However, Laureate was given longer to mature, and his first appearance under colours came in mid-January when beaten as badly as a Salvation Army drum in a juvenile stakes race at V.R.C. headquarters. A fortnight later at a meeting of the Epsom Turf Club on the Mentone racecourse, Laureate picked up the first £20 for his owner when runner-up in a five-furlong juvenile handicap as the 6/4 favourite. Laureate was a trifle unlucky, being caught flat-footed upon barrier rise and losing some three or four lengths only to be running on strongly at the end. Next came the Alma Stakes run at Flemington in late February. Laureate wasn’t sighted until the race was nearly over and he began to motor in the last furlong to finish fifth behind the champion filly, All Love.
Laureate surrendered his maiden status when, in the hands of jockey Henry Mornement, he defeated his twenty-eight opponents in the Hopeful Stakes over five-and-a-half furlongs on the second day of the V.R.C. Autumn Carnival. In a race conducted down the Flemington straight, Laureate came on the grandstand side of the course leading practically all the way and although under the whip for the last furlong, showed gameness to win by a half-length from his stablemate, Miss Persia. It was a good result for the owner, Roy McLean, who backed Laureate straight out and supported his other runner, Miss Persia, a daughter of Law Maker, each way. He had no intention of backing the filly until he heard one bookmaker calling 100/1. The result confirmed to the sporting cognoscenti that Laureate had the makings of a stayer.
Certainly, Ormond, the correspondent for The Sporting Globe thought so; he recommended Laureate as a horse to keep an eye on. Ormond related the story of how he had visited Freedman’s stables a couple of days after Lucrative had won the Victoria Derby in the previous spring. Syd Rodda, Lucrative’s attendant, accosted the newspaperman and said: “Now I’ll show you the winner of next year’s Derby”, pointing out the yet unnamed Laureate. “You take my word for it; he’ll be around this time next year.” Laureate was saddled up four days after his maiden victory for the Gibson Carmichael Stakes on the last day of the Flemington meeting. Again Laureate finished nicely for second after giving the winner, Whisper Low, trained by Jack Jamieson, a tremendous start into the straight. Moreover, Laureate was checked twice during running. It was on the strength of those two performances at Flemington that Laureate accompanied Lucrative to Sydney for the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting. While Lucrative won both the A.J.C. St Leger and Sydney Cup, Laureate failed in his only two starts at Randwick viz. in the Fairfield Handicap and Wentworth Handicap.
Laureate’s autumn visit came against a backdrop of one of the most exciting two-year-old seasons for years. The leading colt was Yaralla, a giant son of The Buzzard trained at Victoria Park by Fred Cush. And as far as the colt’s owner was concerned, it was a case of beginner’s luck. How often do we see it? A man new to the ownership ranks and yet in possession of a prospective champion at his very first attempt. Egmont Palmer (Monty) Walker had always wanted to own a racehorse ever since he’d been a schoolboy. Born in Brisbane in 1881 and the son of the Hon. James Walker, a director of the Bank of New South Wales, Monty Walker had enlisted in March 1916 and eventually became a lieutenant serving in the 8th Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps. With the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, Monty returned to a safer but less exciting career at his father’s bank.
However, he’d always had a hankering to own a racehorse. Only at the outbreak of World War II was he in a position to do so. Accordingly, he attended the second day of the 1940 Sydney Yearling Sales at the William Inglis Newmarket yards with the intention of buying Lot No. 298, an imposing brown colt by the sire sensation of the moment, Beau Pere, out of Banita – an unraced French daughter of Dark Legend. Banita’s maternal line traced back to the champion English mare, Sceptre, foaled in 1899. Offered by the St Aubin’s Stud at Scone, this colt was only the dam’s second foal. Given that it was the first yearling for which he had ever bid, Monty Walker was somewhat swept up in the excitement of the moment, going as high as 3400 guineas before he had the good sense to stay his hand when the hapless Alan Cooper, standing very near to the auctioneer’s rostrum, upped the ante to 3500 guineas. At that price, the colt went to Talking’s former owner. Registered as Beau Son, he would find his way into the 1941 A.J.C. Derby field.
Having been thwarted by a more reckless bidder – and they didn’t come much more reckless than Cooper – Monty Walker was forced to look elsewhere for his proposed purchase. Strolling about the Newmarket stables, he spotted Lot No 334 offered on behalf of J. G. McDougall of the Lyndhurst Stud at Warwick, Queensland. During the pre-sales inspection of yearlings, Walker had been somewhat taken by this handsome chestnut colt by The Buzzard out of a half-sister to the 1940 Melbourne Cup winner, Old Rowley. The youngster was a brother to True Flight, a W.A.T.C. Derby winner and one-time Caulfield Cup favourite, and came from the same family as the Caulfield Cup winners, Flavinius and Maple. Having missed on his first choice, Walker asked that leading trainer of two-year-olds, Fred Cush to inspect this chestnut and, passing muster, our first-time buyer stepped up on that last Thursday afternoon in March and did his bidding.
He got the colt for 1200 guineas. When it came to naming the yearling, only one name would do – Yaralla! Permit me to explain. Monty Walker’s first foray as a thoroughbred buyer came about by virtue of a legacy from his aunt, the noted Australian philanthropist, Dame Eadith Walker, who had died in October 1937 leaving an estate sworn for probate at £265,345. An only child, upon the death of her father in 1886, Eadith had inherited a fortune which was valued at the time at close to one million pounds and included the impressive Victorian Italianate mansion, Yaralla, on the banks of the Parramatta River which still stands today. All things considered, in naming the first racehorse to carry his colours, Monty Walker could do no less than acknowledge the true source of his good fortune.
Indeed, there was almost a sense of walking with destiny when this novitiate owner sallied forth to register his racing silks. He had already chosen a set of colours, but upon arriving at the A.J.C. offices, he saw a picture of the 1931 Derby winner, Ammon Ra – the same picture that for some years hung in the Paddock Tea Rooms. Upon inquiry, the A.J.C. official told Monty that Ammon Ra’s colours had been passed in by Cliff Sheath and were currently available. On the spur of the moment, Monty Walker dismissed his original choice and opted for the famous ‘white, black sleeves, red diamond and red cap’ that Maurice McCarten had worn with such distinction just a decade before.
In placing Yaralla in the Victoria Park stables of Fred Cush, Monty Walker could not have chosen a better trainer for a rising two-year-old. It seemed a natural fit as Cush already trained the likes of Dark Elegance for Walker’s brother-in-law, W. H. Mackay. Prior to taking up training, the diminutive Cush had been a handy jockey and as far back as 1903 had won the A.J.C. Anniversary Handicap on Inkstand and the Tattersall’s Cup on Postillion. In the 1939-40 racing season just ending, Cush had achieved outstanding training success with his juveniles, winning no less than five races with Dark Elegance, three with Ensign, three with Royal Exchange, two with Black Art, two with Meneen, and one with Sunlit. As good as they had been, in this tractable, giant son of The Buzzard, he got something else again.
Weeks before the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate, the excitable Monty Walker, more effervescent than a sedlitz powder when discussing his first racehorse, broadcast to the world that not only did he have the Breeders’ Plate winner but the Derby winner, too! A gentleman possessed of lively fancy, Monty was to entertain the most extravagant ambition for his horse throughout his career. Monty knew all about flying from his World War I days, and in Yaralla he possessed the real thing. The colt had shown astounding speed from his very first gallop at Victoria Park. By the time he appeared at Randwick on Breeders’ Plate day, he had won all three of his barrier trials, and even though two-year-old winners by The Buzzard weren’t plentiful on the ground, the dogs were barking. Accordingly, it was little wonder that he opened and started the favourite on the day, although as much as 9/4 was available in the ring on flagfall. In the birdcage, Yaralla towered right above his fifteen opponents.
Despite being drawn on the outside, Yaralla, with the stable jockey Ted McMenamin in the saddle, overshadowed them in the race too, pricking his ears soon after straightening and going on to win by three lengths in one minute flat. Upon dismounting, McMenamin declared Yaralla the best two-year-old he’d ever ridden. The ‘Sydney Sportsman’ went into raptures proclaiming: “He is the most promising youngster this part of the world has produced for many a long day, and already the good judges are declaring that he might prove another Phar Lap or Peter Pan.” This was heady stuff. Dame Eadith Walker, the source of Monty’s newfound wealth, had been a noted philanthropist in her day and Monty demonstrated similar propensities when he turned up in the press room minutes after the Breeders’ Plate with bottles of champagne under both arms. It was difficult not to like an owner with such a sense of joie de vivre!
It was a similar riot of speed at Yaralla’s next two starts in the Kirkham Stakes and December Stakes at Randwick. Such was the big chestnut’s reputation that only two horses accepted to oppose him in the Kirkham and one of those, Final Victory, proved a virtual non-starter when he swung away as the tapes lifted. Yaralla romped home from Castle Song. Again bottles of champagne arrived in the racecourse press room, compliments of the owner. In the A.J.C. December Stakes run on Boxing Day, Yaralla, despite carrying a 7lb penalty, made another exhibition of the season’s two-year-olds when as the 2/9 favourite, he won easing up by two lengths in a time of 59.75 seconds.
Admittedly, Yaralla’s time was 1.25 seconds outside All Love’s Randwick, Flemington and Australian records for the distance, but this didn’t dampen the ardour of Sydney’s racing journalists who contended that they had not seen a more brilliant colt since Heroic won the 1923 A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate. The ‘Sydney Sportsman’ in a banner headline asked: “IS HE ANOTHER PHAR LAP?” Even that sober and experienced newspaperman, A. W. Dexter seemed carried along by the hype (or had succumbed to the blandishment of free champagne) in drawing comparisons with the Red Terror when he wrote about Yaralla in The Sun: “with the conformation of a four-year-old, and the breeding of a Cup winner, he may yet prove himself a second Phar Lap.” Part of the euphoria could be attributed to the War and the need for morale-boosting headlines, but much of it could genuinely be attributed to Yaralla’s achievements. If a big, strapping colt by The Buzzard could go so quickly in sprints, what might he not do over more ground? Cush put his charge away until the autumn.
When I stated above that 1940-41 was one of the most exciting and fastest two-year-old seasons in years, I wasn’t merely referring to the presence of Yaralla. For as brilliant as Yaralla’s debut had been in the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate on that first Monday in October, an even more brilliant filly debuted just two days later in the A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes. Moreover, she too was owned by a relative newcomer to the ranks of ownership and was also trained by a member of the Cush clan. The name of the flying filly was All Love, a big, rangy filly with a delightfully relaxed temperament and an extravagant stride.
She was only the second horse to be raced by Charles Glazebrook, a prominent wholesale poultryman in N.S.W. who cloaked his newfound passion under the nom de course of “Charles Vixen”. His first racehorse had been the good early juvenile, Stylish, of the previous season. Jack Cush, the man who put the polish on Reading, was the filly’s trainer and although sharing the same surname in a notoriously incestuous sport, was, strangely enough, no relation to Fred of Yaralla fame. A daughter of the first-season Felstead horse, Double Remove, All Love had cost Cush just 250 guineas when offered as Lot No 175 by Percy Miller at the Sydney Easter Yearling Sales on the first day.
The colourful tableau of eighteen well-groomed fillies elicited admiring compliments from the cognoscenti as they observed the parade in the Randwick birdcage before the running of the Gimcrack Stakes, although the cynosure of most eyes was Whisper Low, an impressive daughter of the all-conquering Beau Pere trained by Jack Jamieson for ‘Mr Constable’ or rather, Frederick James Smith. However, while the 6/4 was being snapped up by George Tancred and the betting boys behind the feared Jamieson stable who believed the filly was a past-the-post proposition, Jack Cush’s confreres were whispering big wagers about All Love, who that day would prove a thief of time. When the tapes went in the air, it was all over in just 58.25 seconds – a new Australasian record. All Love, partnered by Darby Munro and sporting the ‘green and white stripes, red cap’ that would soon become familiar on Australian racecourses, jumped to the front and was never headed.
Three lengths clear on settling, four lengths in front on the turn, the daughter of Double Remove majestically swept past the Randwick winning post six lengths clear. In the wake of this performance, racing writers went into overdrive. If the newspapers were to be believed, this filly was the greatest juvenile phenomenon since the acclaimed Ninetta Crummles, although at least, in this case, the phenomenon’s age was known with certainty! Only after the race did Cush reveal that just three weeks before, All Love had run a faster three-furlong track gallop than was ever registered by Reading at a similar stage of his career. I might add that the Randwick course was on fire during that spring meeting with no less than five records set. The track surface had been sheltered for some months by making use of the false rail, and on top of that, it was closely cropped on the eve of the meeting. It was after the Gimcrack that Monty Walker was rumoured to have offered 3000 guineas for All Love, but Jack Cush advised Glazebrook against accepting.
Whereas Fred Cush was reluctant to travel with his two-year-olds, no such antipathy disturbed his training namesake, Jack. So, while Yaralla pottered about his Victoria Park stables awaiting his assignment in the A.J.C. December Stakes, All Love was floated to Melbourne for the V.R.C. Spring Meeting. On the first Saturday she stepped out in a field of thirteen for the rich Maribyrnong Plate, and despite a 7lb penalty and a stiff headwind, cantered in by four lengths, although the race had been robbed of much interest by the late withdrawal of the Fred Hoysted-trained High Title, the Debutant Stakes winner, due to an injured hock. Five days later All Love appeared again over the same course and distance to win the Byron Moore Stakes in comparative ease and in a time that matched her Australian record and bettered the Flemington record by 1.25 seconds.
This was contemptuous superiority on a grand scale, as All Love had lost a couple of lengths at the start when another runner jumped across in front of her. It was a quaint superstition of Jack Cush to choose seven-letter words when he named yearlings for himself or his clients – a superstition to which he had stuck rigidly since registering Gravure, the dam of Reading. And rarely had those horses so named failed to win for him. All Love was merely the most recent example. As a trainer, he didn’t believe in galloping two-year-olds any more than necessary. “Once they are fit, you can keep them that way without regular sprints. They’re as clean as a new pin inside, and all they need is regular exercise.” And thus with Melbourne racing crowds agog at this latest speed machine, All Love returned to Sydney and a summer spell at her trainer’s Moorefield stables, during which time she grew into a most handsome filly.
Sportsmen around Australia were now salivating at the prospect of a clash between Yaralla and All Love, the unbeaten colt and the unbeaten filly, in the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick in the autumn. The clash came about alright, and when it did it was to prove one of the finest two-year-old contests seen at headquarters in many years. However, when it came, neither the colt nor the filly was unbeaten. All Love was the first to bite the dust when she resumed in mid-February in the Oakleigh Plate, conducted that year at Flemington. Jack Cush was caught in two minds when his filly drew post position twenty-four in the V.A.T.C. Federal Stakes, run on the same day as the Oakleigh Plate. The Moorefield horseman believed that the wide draw and the handicap impost of 9 st. 7lb rendered the filly’s task too challenging in that race, even though it was against her own age group.
He opted for a clash against the first-class older sprinters instead, although even in the Oakleigh Plate, All Love was suffering a significant weight-for-age disadvantage given her handicap of 7 st. 12lb. The daughter of Double Remove only beat two horses home in the race won by the sensationally-backed Zonda. Lou Robertson, who trained Zonda privately at Aspendale Park, made one of the great killings of his career that day when this daughter of Manitoba was backed in from 33/1 to 8/1. Still, Jack Cush gained some solace seven days later when All Love, despite her 9 st. 6lb cleared away from her opponents including Laureate in the Alma Stakes in the record-breaking time for a two-year-old of 1 minute 10 seconds. All Love’s success after failing in the Oakleigh Plate was reminiscent of the great Heroic, who achieved a similar feat after being beaten in the Plate, although he carried 10 st. 2lb to victory.
On the following Saturday and enjoying her third run in as many weeks, All Love (8/13) eloped with the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes in her finest style. Shooting to the front from the barrier rise, the Double Remove filly quickly strung out the field covering the first three furlongs in 35 seconds. After that, it was a simple victory by a margin of four lengths. Bartle declared after the race that he had never ridden a two-year-old with such a long stride. The performance over the seven furlongs seemed to dispel doubts as to All Love’s stamina. However, it was immediately in the wake of this triumph that All Love suffered her first defeat against her own age group. It came on the following Thursday in the Ascot Vale Stakes, and it was once again a matter of a 10lb penalty proving too much, although All Love’s indifferent start didn’t help. The winner was the Victorian colt High Road, trained by Lou Robertson, who in a stirring finish charged right across All Love (1/6) in the final furlong when he had her beaten and almost brought her down. Bartle entered a protest, but the V.R.C. stewards didn’t alter the placings, their intransigence in accordance with general opinion on the course.
By contrast, Yaralla’s first defeat came in more prosaic circumstances a month later when he resumed at Randwick in the colts and geldings division of the A.J.C. Fairfield Handicap (6f). Fred Cush had the colt forward enough to win with his 9 st. 5lb but he hadn’t factored in the rain-affected ground at headquarters. Given no peace in front by Mannerheim, Yaralla led to the furlong post but soon after both his heavy handicap and the heavy ground conspired to bring about his defeat, and he could only run the minor placing, finishing little more than a length behind Prince and Dick Whittington, to whom he conceded 26lb and 17lb respectively. Just four horses accepted for the rich £3,500 A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes on the following Saturday the first day of the Randwick Autumn Meeting viz. the three colts that ran the placings in the Fairfield Handicap, together with All Love. Despite his last-start defeat, Yaralla just shaded All Love for favouritism at 10/9 versus 5/4. Dick Whittington was 6/1 and Prince 14/1. There was an unprecedented interest in the race and not just from Australians at home. Hundreds of letters from members of our fighting forces in foreign climes arrived in towns and cities across the land thirsting for racing news.
How often have we inveterate racegoers seen it? A contest hyped to the heavens failing to live up to the expectation on the ground. Not this time. The 1941 Sires’ Produce Stakes was a race for true believers. It was the greatest two-year-old clash in living memory. Trainer Jack Cush and jockey Ted Bartle planned to run the champion colt off his feet with the filly. And they nearly succeeded. All Love stole a break at barrier rise and within the blink of an eye was two lengths in front of Yaralla. After a furlong, it was four, with a further six to Prince and four to Dick Whittington. Swinging for home, All Love was still two lengths to the good of Yaralla with Prince twelve lengths away, and Dick Whittington was looking for his cat. Into the straight and a furlong from home, Ted McMenamin moved Yaralla up to All Love and battle was joined.
Racing stride for stride over the last half-furlong, in a desperate struggle Yaralla proved his gameness and prevailed by half-a-head. Both Bartle and McMenamin conceded that their mounts were so tired, they bumped each other continuously in the last hundred yards with Yaralla rolling in and All Love hanging out. The time of 1 minute 23 3/4 seconds was only three-quarters of a second outside the Commonwealth record held by Lough Neagh and Mohican. The diminutive Prince, who gave them ten-lengths start at the half-mile got within a length of the pair at the finish, although this had more to do with the front two stopping than any powers of acceleration possessed by Prince. After their heroic exertions, the pair returned to scale somewhat distressed “with glossy skin and dripping mane, And reeling limbs and reeking flank” in a scene worthy of Byron’s pen. What a day it proved to be for Ted McMenamin! No less than four winners including the Doncaster on Mildura; the Autumn Plate on Beau Vite; and the Vaucluse Handicap on Rylstone.
After such exuberant theatre, the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes a few days later could only be flat and an anti-climax. And it was. Incessant rain leading into the fixture produced a quagmire track, conditions which Yaralla detested and which saw him displaced by All Love as the race favourite in on-course betting. A 10lb penalty impeded each, but Yaralla was beaten a long way from home. As we have seen, Yaralla was named after a convalescent home and that’s precisely what the horse was looking for fully two furlongs from out. However, the fatigues of the Sires’ Produce failed to exact any toll on All Love, who, despite her weight, won by three-quarters of a length from Prince with Felt Yet two lengths away third. Yaralla finished a length further back fourth with Mannerheim a bad last in the field of five. Clocking 1 minute and 16 1/2 seconds, it was the slowest time made in the race since Parkwood galloped through pools of water to win in 1929.
Despite his defeat in the Fairfield Handicap and his failure to run a place in the Champagne Stakes, Yaralla went into winter retirement at Keith Mackay’s Anambah property near Muswellbrook as the first favourite for the Derby. The best guide to popularity in those days was provided in the treble betting on the A.J.C. and Victoria Derbies together with the Melbourne Cup. Although Prince attracted some attention, punters had formed the opinion that Yaralla was hardly forward enough to reveal himself at his best in the Fairfield Handicap while in the Champagne Stakes, when the track was heavy, he nearly fell about three-and-a-half furlongs from home. It was the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes that loomed largest in the speculating public’s mind. Clearly, it had loomed large in the V.R.C. handicapper’s mind too, as Yaralla was weighted at 7 st. 6lb for Australia’s richest race.
Juxtaposed with the speed and excitement engendered by Yaralla and All Love, Laureate’s efforts at Randwick were disappointing. However, the journey over from Melbourne wasn’t entirely wasted. Maurice McCarten had made the colt’s acquaintance and informed both Roy McLean and Harry Freedman that he believed him a genuine Derby colt in the making. Returned to his Mentone stables, Laureate had his eighth and last start as a two-year-old at his home course on the last day of April. The occasion was a charity race meeting with the proceeds, exceeding £500, to assist the Alfred and Queen Victoria Memorial Hospitals. Laureate, burdened with nine stone, finished determinedly to win the six-furlong handicap for two-year-olds in the very last stride after spotting the leaders quite a start. It might have been only Mentone and a charity meeting at that, but Laureate’s finish had Derby written all over it. Immediately after the race, Roy McLean announced that, following the colt’s five-week winter spell at Monomeith with Lucrative, he would resume racing in Sydney in a Derby preparation modelled on Lucrative’s the year before.
Juvenile precocity on Sydney’s racecourses in that 1940-41 season wasn’t restricted to the horses alone. The season was remarkable for the emergence of a Grafton teenager who not only won the apprentice jockey’s title but the full jockey’s title as well. In March 1938, soon after Jack Thompson was first permitted to ride in races, he was suspended for one month for failing to ride out his master’s horse, Heroic Faith. I mention the fact because it was one of the rare occasions in a long career when race stewards had cause to be critical of his ride. From the moment that “Thommo” won his first race in the metropolitan area at Kensington on Miltiades in November 1938, he was hailed as the coming man. His remarkable horsemanship had first been revealed when riding buckjumpers at Grafton district shows as a boy. True, when he came to his master, Frank Dalton at Randwick, he was described as “a good rough rider, but crude on the racetrack.”
He was a quick study. A perfect judge of pace, he shone at both short and long distances. In physique and general behaviour, Thompson reminded many of Billy Lappin. In his first season, “Thommo’ rode 11 winners; in his second, 39; and in his third, during 1940-41, 106 to win the jockeys’ premiership and edge out Billy Cook. There were highlights in those years. In November 1939, at the age of seventeen, he rode doubles at Kensington and Rosehill while the following month, he won his first feature race, the A.J.C. Summer Cup, on J. J. Leahy’s Bringa. In September 1940, Thompson rode four winners at Rosehill viz. Serenade, Rodrigo, Ensign and Scientist, which took his tally to 77 winners. And then at the City Tattersalls meeting at Randwick in October 1940, he recorded a treble viz. Cradle Song, Forward and Don Byrne. And a week later, he rode a rare double for his master. At the time Dalton declared: “He will be the State’s leading jockey in another five years”. It didn’t take that long. Dalton added: “He does everything he is told, both on and off the course, and is keen to succeed. He is entirely fearless.” Although tall, at this stage, Thompson could still ride at 7-2 and was 5ft 7”.
The 1941-42 racing season opened promisingly enough for Harry Freedman when in the first week he won the Australian Hurdle with Merridale, a horse he raced on lease from the breeder, Rupert Hart and upon whom jockey McKee rode such a dashing race. However, as good as that was, Freedman’s dreams that year resided on the flat with Lucrative against the older horses in the rich weight-for-age races and handicaps, and Laureate against his own age group. Laureate’s lead-up programme to the A.J.C. Derby was planned to be the Hobartville Stakes, Chelmsford Stakes and Rosehill Guineas. However, for the true sportsman with a passionate love of the Turf, the new season promised more than most and it had little to do with either Lucrative or Laureate.
The reason was that in the closing days of July the thoroughbred that many in New Zealand regarded as a champion of champions, and a worthy rival to Carbine and Phar Lap as their nation’s greatest ever, had crossed the Tasman and arrived upon our shores. The coming of the rising four-year-old Kindergarten, bred and owned by Ned Fitzgerald, a fat-stock buyer from Gisborne on the North Island, engendered tremendous interest. A son of the outstanding English racehorse Kincardine out of a relatively mediocre racemare in Valadore, who had cost Fitzgerald just 30 guineas, Kindergarten had, after a modest juvenile year, exploded onto the New Zealand scene during a wonderful three-year-old season upon being transferred into the Ellerslie stables of Stan Bagby. Kindergarten was an equine freak in more ways than one. Although registered as a colt and later as a horse, he was actually a double rig – technically a double cryptorchid, with both of his testicles concealed in his abdomen. As such he was impotent, although he was anything but that on a racecourse!
Kindergarten arrived in Sydney as the winner of 13 of his 19 race starts and unbeaten in his last ten races including both the Great Northern Derby (in race record time) and St. Leger, as well as the Wellington Cup with 6lb over weight-for-age. However, the performance that had rendered Kiwi racegoers spellbound was Kindergarten’s victory in the Easter Cup at the Auckland autumn meeting, when against the older horses, he put up 17lb above weight-for-age and beat the best milers from both Islands. No less than that legendary man in the saddle, Hector Gray, described it as the greatest feat he had ever seen from a three-year-old. Kindergarten’s Australian campaign was being aimed fairly and squarely at the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups for which he was respectively, favourite and equal favourite. Curiously, the respective V.A.T.C. and V.R.C. handicappers had treated him rather differently: at Caulfield, he would be asked to carry 9 st. 2lb while at Flemington it would be 5lb more with the prospect of a penalty of up to 10lb to come if he took out the Caulfield Cup.
Kindergarten’s path to the Cups was being plotted by his trainer Stan Bagby, via a series of weight-for-age races in Sydney and Melbourne. Kindergarten’s Australian debut came at Randwick on the last Saturday in August against a field of seven in the A.J.C. Warwick Stakes that included High Caste, Lucrative and Freckles. Bagby confessed before the race that because of the soft tracks in New Zealand, he had been unable to give Kindergarten much fast work since the horse had last raced. Nonetheless, on the previous Tuesday morning Kindergarten had run a slashing trial at Rosebery, a course that many trainers preferred for working gallops because of its consistent nature in all weathers and its long uphill straight. Kindergarten, with his New Zealand jockey Larry Wiggins in the saddle, had run six furlongs in 1 minute 15½ seconds. A crowd estimated at 35,000 people attended Randwick to witness this new wonder horse from across the Tasman – about 11,000 more than attended the same meeting the previous year.
Racebooks were sold out before the first race and the few that survive down to the present day and keenly sought after at auction by New Zealand sportsmen. High Caste opened on course as the 7/4 favourite with Kindergarten at 2/1 and Lucrative at threes, but very soon Kindergarten was vying with High Caste for favouritism and the pair eventually went off at 7/4 with Lucrative well-supported at more than a point longer. The race was run at a cracking pace and yet, despite the small field, Wiggins soon discovered that Randwick was no playground for Kindergarten. He found plenty of trouble. In the straight, the New Zealand jockey unwisely persisted in attempting an inside run. With High Caste sweeping up on the outside and Lucrative, on the inside of that mountainous stallion, there was simply no galloping room for Kindergarten, who found himself badly bumped, bagged and buffeted. At the winning post, High Caste got up to beat the runaway leader Freckles, with a neatly-pocketed Kindergarten and Lucrative dead-heating for third place two lengths adrift.
Had Kindergarten been able to secure a run in the straight, it would have made for a decidedly intriguing contest. However, the real tragedy for Kindergarten wasn’t so much that the loss had snapped his ten-race winning sequence, but that he sustained ligament damage during the running. Kindergarten’s much-ballyhooed assault on the Cups was all over and eleven days later at 2.30 pm on Tuesday, September 9, the horse was withdrawn from all his Australian engagements. Kindergarten’s troublesome leg was pin-fired by a veterinary surgeon before the horse was transported back to New Zealand. Thankfully, Kindergarten made a remarkable recovery of sorts and while the Australian sporting public was never again afforded the opportunity of seeing this equine champion, he continued to dazzle on light preparations over the next few seasons back in his homeland.
Kindergarten’s breakdown and departure had those lucky Australian owners of promising three-year-olds and older weight-for-age horses such as Roy McLean, breathing a sigh of relief. Just midway through the first month of the new season and a fortnight before Kindergarten’s Australian debut, the Derby puzzle had become even more intriguing. Both Yaralla and All Love had to strike their colours the first time of asking – although admittedly under unfavourable handicap conditions. All Love (1/3) resumed at the Rosebery meeting held at Victoria Park on August 16, and despite opening a handy lead in the Cape Solander Handicap was run down by The Champion, to whom she was conceding 25lb in weight. Yaralla, on the other hand, bit the dust in the A.J.C. Tellers’ Handicap at the Randwick Bank Holiday Meeting when he ran the minor placing behind the high-priced Beau Son, although he was giving the latter no less than 28lb. The Jamieson stable, from where Beau Son emanated, landed one of its trademark plunges that day.
The outstanding colt and filly from the previous season then clashed at Randwick in the A.J.C. Hobartville Stakes, run on the same day as Kindergarten’s infamous Warwick Stakes. Included in the field was Laureate. It was almost a rerun of the Sires’ Produce Stakes: Munro bouncing out All Love and setting a cracking pace with Yaralla left to bridge the gap and the others in unavailing pursuit. Unlike the Sires’, All Love on this occasion was able to maintain her lead although she was a very tired filly on the post when she had but a neck to spare over Yaralla. Curiously enough, it was the first time that owner Charles Glazebrook had witnessed his champion filly carry his ‘green and white stripes, red cap’. Laureate, unsuited by the short trip, finished unplaced. The race was also notable for the fact that Ted McMenamin copped a two months’ suspension for crossing too sharply at the start, which meant a new rider for Yaralla in both Guineas and the Derby.
All Love was never taken too seriously as a Derby candidate, despite multiple strains of Carbine blood in her pedigree, and after the Hobartville all pretensions were dropped. The filly was transported to Melbourne by train for the shorter three-year-old classics beginning with the Moonee Valley Stakes in which she ran unplaced behind a promising colt named Skipton. Yaralla had his next Derby trial in the Canterbury Guineas, which yet again proved a pitfall for punters. Sent off the even-money favourite with McCarten in the saddle for the first time, Yaralla got caught in the last stride by the outsider, Chatham’s Choice, although the race was hardly a test of stamina. Rather than being subjected to the Guineas and the tight Canterbury Park circuit, Laureate was preferred for the Tattersall’s Chelmsford Stakes (9f) a week later, a race with penalties and allowances. It was an altogether unsatisfactory affair when the colt betrayed bad barrier etiquette and was hopelessly left at the start. Although he followed the field and made up a lot of ground, he finished a very bad last in the race won by Beau Vite.
Nonetheless, it brought the son of Law Maker almost to his peak and ready to rumble. The first explosion came exactly seven days later in the Rosehill Guineas, and owner Roy McLean anticipated it. Getting 20/1 about his money after Laureate’s barrier antics the week before, his son of Law Maker did lay down the law to his fellow three-year-olds in the most impressive staying performance of the new season. Seldom had Maurice McCarten been seen to better advantage. After some tardiness at the start, Laureate was still among the tailenders rounding the seven-furlong turn although McCarten had him running along in fifth place at the half-mile. The pace was solid throughout, and although on the home turn Laureate still had the task ahead of him, in the end, he won running away from Yaralla, the 2/1 favourite, and It’s Funny. The majority of punters leaving the racecourse that day considered the Derby riband was already heading to Melbourne.
The 1941 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:
The 1941 Derby took place against dramatic political events in Australia’s capital. On Derby Eve the Federal Labour leader, John Curtin was commissioned in Canberra to form a Government following the defeat of the Fadden Ministry on the Budget. The change in Government would see a more determined prosecution of the war and restrictions introduced that would in time dramatically impact racing. Still, the combat seemed a distant enterprise to those that gathered at Randwick on Derby Day. Fifteen horses had been accepted for the classic, and no less than seven of them had been sold at the William Inglis Sales during Easter, 1940. Laureate was the pronounced favourite. Freedman’s stable commissioners got busy in the ring, and the public followed. After all, a nod is as good as a wink to a blind punter. Best backed to beat the visitor was the Clyde Cook-trained It’s Funny owned by Sydney’s tallest sportsman, James Carr. It’s Funny, carrying his owner’s ‘orange and purple halves, purple cap’, gave promise of staying ability when he romped home in the Fernhill Handicap in the autumn and had finished an unlucky third behind Laureate in the Rosehill Guineas at his latest appearance. Yaralla, Beau Son and The Champion shared the next line of betting. Doubts about Yaralla’s stamina persisted, and few who had witnessed the Rosehill Guineas could imagine him finishing in front of Laureate, even with the assistance of the new whizz kid, Jack Thompson, in the saddle.
Beau Son was built along generous lines and boasted a wonderful pedigree as well as a colourful background. As we have seen, he was sold at the 1940 Sydney Yearling Sales for 3500 guineas to the free-spending Alan Cooper, and the son of Beau Pere went into Jack Jamieson’s stables. Then Jamieson and Cooper had a falling out during the 1940 Victorian spring carnival at a time when Cooper’s finances were again coming under pressure. Sportsmen were curious to see where the expensive colt might finish up. Subsequent to the Melbourne squabble, Cooper sold at least a half-share in the horse to Bill Smith, who was responsible for importing the colt’s sire into Australia from New Zealand. Only lightly raced Beau Son had created quite an impression when he lowered Yaralla’s colours at the Bank Holiday Meeting. However, he had been very disappointing in the Rosehill Guineas when vying for favouritism. The Champion, trained by George Price, was a full brother by Spearfelt to the former Queensland galloper, Spear Chief, and bought for 1300 guineas, carried the colours of Ernie Williams. The Champion earned his rating by his creditable fourth in the Canterbury Guineas and the fact that he was running on at the end of the Rosehill Guineas.
The only other runner under double figures was Pat Osborne’s Prince, a place-getter in both the Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes in the autumn and one of two representatives of the Bayley Payten stable in the race, the other being the outsider, The Bailiff. John Wren was hoping to duplicate his success of the previous year with Murmuring, a fine type of colt by Bulandshar and the winner of a mile race at Flemington before coming to Sydney. Perhaps the most interesting outsider in the race was Galliard, a sparingly raced colt by The Buzzard trained by Jack Cush, and thus a stablemate of All Love. Galliard only won his first race – a juvenile novice handicap – at Victoria Park on July 23, but his effort to finish an excellent second to the well-performed four-year-old mare, Connette, in open company in mid-August augured well for his classic prospects. After all, three-year-olds are at a distinct disadvantage in open company at that time of the year. As an aside, Connette in her own way would much later make A.J.C. Derby history.
At the start, Linemond, who was misbehaving, was sent to the outside of the field but was nonetheless the first into stride and led upon settling down from Yaralla, Prince, Galliard, Laureate and Chatham’s Choice. Yaralla soon pulled his way to the front although Chatham’s Choice, also refusing to settle, quickly displaced Monty Walker’s chestnut at the head of affairs, increasing the tempo passing the mile and the six. Meanwhile, McCarten, satisfied with the pace, had Laureate positioned nicely on the outside and just a couple of lengths off the speed while It’s Funny was languishing back in the pack. Yaralla again claimed Chatham’s Choice at the half-mile, and although he still led narrowly for home, he was to be quickly settled in the straight. McCarten dashed Laureate up to the leaders upon straightening, and although he seemed to falter for a stride, McCarten quickly delivered his characteristic coup de grace and swept away to a most decisive victory. Chatham’s Choice, who had pulled hard in the first two furlongs, lugged in inside the distance, inconveniencing Galliard but not costing the latter second placing at the post. Yaralla, who predictably had failed to stay, finished sixth while It’s Funny was never likely.
Law Maker, the sire of Laureate, was a lightly-tried Irish son of Phalaris, who had carried the colours of his breeder, Lord Astor, and had been trained at Manton by Joe Lawson. Book Law, the dam of Law Maker, was, according to the great Alec Taylor, the best filly he had trained at Manton since he had Sceptre there; she had won eight races including both The English St. Leger and the Jockey Club Stakes. Book Law’s dam was Popingaol – a full sister to Magpie, and she was also the dam of the Oaks winner, Pogrom. Imported by Les Aldridge to his Kismet Park Stud in late 1935, Law Maker was an immediate success when he produced the Caulfield Cup winner, Counsel, in his first crop. Law Maker spent his entire stallion life at Kismet Park and produced a number of high-class gallopers including the likes of Ungar and Cromwell, although Lawrence was undoubtedly his best son. Unfortunately, Law Maker’s life as a stallion was marred by recurrent arthritis, which contributed to his sudden death at Kismet in May 1949.
The A.J.C. Derby laurels that owner Roy McLean had been denied just twelve months before with Lucrative were now his with Laureate. It was the race he was destined to win. Two days after the Derby, McLean was unlucky not to land The A.J.C. Metropolitan with Lucrative as well. As we saw in the previous chapter, Lucrative, despite his heavy impost, was beaten a short neck after being carried off the course by Triggerman, who shifted out under pressure. It was bad luck for McCarten too, for McLean had laid the jockey a monkey to nothing on top of his winning percentage. It was another reminder for McLean that ownership had been quite a rollercoaster ride since the Dandenong butcher first embarked on his racecourse journey. Born in Port Melbourne, Victoria, in 1892 he spent most of his youth on the land and had been an admirer of various types of livestock for many years. In the 1920s he imported and exhibited Light Sussex fowls. Then he turned to fox terrier dogs and enjoyed considerable success with imported stock. But horses were always his first love and he was accustomed to them from the very start. He was a young grazier at Fairview Park, on the Upper Murray when World War I began. Like so many of his generation, he saw military service as an opportunity for travel and adventure and enrolled in the Second Infantry Brigade as early as August 17, 1914. His service number was 12.
Colourful circumstances surround the entry of many owners into the racing game, but few are as fascinating as those pertaining to Roy McLean. McLean’s initiation came – at all places – on the sands of Alexandria, Egypt, in 1915. It was soon after he had returned from the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. McLean had selected a remount to represent his regiment in the Alexandria Cup, a race open to horses nominated by all branches of the Forces to be conducted over six furlongs, which carried a prize of a silver cup. Canvassing about for a likely flier, McLean chose a horse subsequently called Mahommet out of a draft of remounts which Sir Sidney Kidman, the South Australian cattle baron, had forwarded for the troops. As events transpired, Mahommet excelled in several trials and, starting at 8/1, ran away with the soldiers’ cup covering the six furlongs in a tick over 1 minute and 12 seconds.
McLean’s selection of the Alexandria Cup winner was no fluke as his later years on the Turf attested. Returning from the War and successfully building up his meat business, McLean found himself financially well-off and decided to try his luck on the racecourse. He gradually built up a small team but wasn’t blessed with much success until Birdplay, a brown gelding by Drake, came along. Birdplay won good races at Mentone and Werribee and ultimately developed into a welter-class horse when trained by Harry Freedman. However, it was his purchase of Lucrative, as we saw in the previous chapter, that really transformed his racecourse fortunes.
McLean was a generous citizen and benefactor to Dandenong and indeed Victoria itself. When army recruiting was going full steam ahead the lads camped at Dandenong enjoyed many instances of largesse from the former member of the 2nd Brigade of the A.I.F. After Lucrative’s Victoria Derby triumph the year before, McLean made generous donations to a series of Melbourne charities as well as funding a Christmas party for all of the evacuee children in Melbourne. In March 1943 a ballot occurred for the vacancy on the committee of the Williamstown Racing Club occasioned by the death of Dr A. E. Syme, which Roy McLean won by eleven votes. It was yet another example of how ownership of a champion racehorse lends a candidate a higher profile. Of course, at the time, Roy McLean was the owner of both The Nook and Riverside, two fine properties on the Goulburn River at Nagambie. McLean acquired The Nook Stud from A. T. Creswick who had owned it for many years and had stood such stallions as Devizes, Thracian and Manitoba there. Riverside was formerly owned by Mr J. P. Arthur, and it was where Eastern Monarch had begun his stud career. McLean enjoyed mixed success as a studmaster and eventually sold out of The Nook Stud to H. C. (Slinger) Nitschke, the former Test cricketer, in November 1949.
It was the fourth time that jockey Maurice McCarten had touched his cap on an A.J.C. Derby winner and his sixteenth and final ride in the race. By the time the race was run the following year the great jockey had swapped the pigskin and the whalebone for the stopwatch and a suit. He had chosen progression to the training ranks, not through any loss of form in the saddle – he was seventh on the winning jockeys’ list at the time – but because he was concerned about the effects of excessive wasting on his health. His last ride came at Canterbury Park on May 2, 1942, when he partnered Metallic in the high-weight handicap and was beaten in the last few strides by his great friend Ted Bartle on Fermanagh. It brought the curtain down on a fine career that included two jockeys’ premierships in New Zealand and one in Australia. That one title that he did win here in 1938-39 was an absorbing contest right to the very end. It was only on the final day of the season, before a record crowd at Moorefield, that McCarten with 88 wins pipped Billy Lappin by one, with Ted McMenamin only a winner or so behind the champion apprentice.
In a career that numbered over a thousand winners and victories in most of the big races on both sides of the Tasman, McCarten was regarded as one of the great tactical riders of his day. When he first came to these shores, the critics condemned him for being too fond of the rails, but it wasn’t long before the same wiseacres were praising him for such an economy of effort. While neither a Caulfield nor a Melbourne Cup fell to his lot, McCarten won most of the others. He was particularly at home on the vast stretches of Randwick and twice won the Doncaster and Epsom Handicaps, likewise the Sydney Cup, while The Metropolitan which he won on Denis Boy was widely admired as one of his best exhibitions in the saddle. He was particularly adept on juveniles, sharp at the barrier but gentle on their minds, and trainers were only too ready to trust their best youngsters to his kindness and understanding as his half-dozen wins in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick attests.
When he first came to Sydney, he rode successfully for both Fred Williams and George Price, each of whom helped to get him established. McCarten wasn’t just admired for his jockeyship but for the qualities of the gentleman that he brought to the game. Racing, like most sports, doesn’t build character – it reveals it! Apart from the contretemps over the Royal Despatch case, McCarten enjoyed a remarkably good relationship with stewards in both Melbourne and Sydney. He accepted that his high profile imposed upon him certain responsibilities beyond the racecourse and his role as Treasurer of the Randwick Sportsmen’s Patriotic and War Fund Movement in 1940 is just one example of his sense of citizenship.
The Derby was Laureate’s only race at the 1941 A.J.C. Spring Meeting and the colt was quickly returned to Melbourne to start the 3/1 favourite in the Caulfield Guineas seven days later. Skipton, who had impressed everyone with the manner of his Moonee Valley Stakes triumph a fortnight earlier, was expected to be Laureate’s greatest rival. However, the pair were badly beaten in the Guineas, run that year at Flemington and won by Tea Cake from the Pat Quinlan stable. The race was defined by All Love’s tearaway tactics from the start when she established a long lead only to compound in the straight, but the damage was done.
Laureate after being bustled early on had nothing in reserve at the finish. Skipton was given time to settle, and while he ran past Laureate in the last few yards, he failed to get within three lengths of the winner. Next came the W.S. Cox Plate for which Beau Vite in the hands of Darby Munro, went off the 1/3 favourite. The price was justified too, when he lead all the way to beat Tranquil Star by a length-and-a-half, with Laureate coming home nicely to take the minor placing. The result ensured that on the following Saturday Laureate went to the post as the 11/8 favourite for the Victoria Derby. However, the Jack Fryer-trained Skipton, ridden by Norm Creighton, ran a magnificent race to fairly outstay Laureate to win by a length-and-a-half, with High Road taking the minor placing.
Thus Victorian-bred, owned and trained colts had won both the A.J.C. and Victoria Derbies. Harry Freedman wasn’t to know it at the time, but despite Laureate’s loss, a Victoria Derby was only a year away. Already in his stables was a two-year-old chestnut colt by the first-season Irish stallion, Enfield. The following spring Freedman would train the colt to win not just the Victoria Derby but the Caulfield Guineas and V.R.C. Melbourne Stakes as well. But back to Laureate and Skipton. Both horses were saddled up for the Melbourne Cup with the latter at 8/1 preferred to the former at 14/1. Rain, which had been threatening, began as the field made its way to the start on Cup Day. In the race, Laureate pulled hard early, and Harold Badger struggled to restrain him. Despite this, he looked like the likely Cup winner two furlongs from home when he dashed away rounding the turn. But his prospects dimmed almost immediately when struck with the whip, and Laureate rolled in towards the rail and collided with it. When Skipton, a lucky late ride for Bill Cook, made his run in the straight the race was well and truly over.
Skipton was the last three-year-old ever to win the Melbourne Cup and given the change in handicap and race conditions may well remain so. He was a son of the 1935 Melbourne Cup winner, Marabou, who was leased as a stallion to Alex Hunter and stood at his Northwood Park Stud at Seymour. Compared to Laureate, Skipton was a rather cheap yearling at just 250 guineas when knocked down to Hamilton publican, J. J. Kitson, who bought the horse as a birthday present for his wife at the Melbourne Yearling Sales of Mackinnon and Cox. Unlike the previous year’s sales, when no fewer than five yearlings realised four-figure amounts, the only animal to reach that mark at the Melbourne sales that year was the bay colt by Gay Lothario from Beneficiary, who was bought by T. H. McKay of the Kadina Stud in South Australia.
Registered as Trustee, the expensive youngster did at least win the 1941 P.A.R.C Sires’ Produce Stakes. This notwithstanding, the sales returns for 1940 were a measure of the debilitating effect that the War was beginning to have on racing and breeding in general. Curiously, Mrs Kitson didn’t even witness her colt’s victory in the Cup, preferring instead to listen in from her home in Hamilton in the Western District of Victoria. Laureate tired in the race to finish fourth. In reflecting on both the Victoria Derby and the Melbourne Cup, there is no doubt that in both races, Laureate’s respective jockeys, Maurice McCarten and Harold Badger, would have been much happier had they not been forced to go to the front quite so early. Laureate was a bold and extravagant galloper impatient of restraint if the pace was slow.
Sadly, the Melbourne Cup was to be Laureate’s last race. Following a spell of a few weeks in the rural splendour of Monomeith, some forty miles south-east of Melbourne, Laureate was brought back to Harry Freedman’s Mentone stables in mid-December 1941 to be prepared for the V.R.C. St Leger and the Australian Cup. Set to resume in the C. F. Orr Stakes in mid-February, on the day before Laureate kicked himself while rolling. The injury proved more severe than was first thought and led to the horse being scratched from all engagements and pin-fired in the forelegs before being turned out for a spell. How owner Roy McLean must have regretted selling Lucrative and not accepting a rewarding offer for Laureate to go to India instead. At the time, McLean stated that Laureate wasn’t for sale, but if he had been, a price tag of £10,000 would have been placed on the colt.
It made for disappointing autumn meetings at both Flemington and Randwick in 1942 for Skipton went missing in action as well. After their respective Derby triumphs and their Melbourne Cup performances, sportsmen had been hailing the two colts as the next wave of weight-for-age champions following upon the retirement of Ajax and Beau Vite. Skipton did at least make it back to the racecourse in the autumn after winning the Melbourne Cup, but a gut-busting run in the Futurity Stakes with 9 st. 11lb – the first time a three-year-old had carried the full 20lb penalty – soon saw him sidelined. In the absence of both Laureate and Skipton, the V.R.C. Leger fell to High Road and the A.J.C. Leger to It’s Funny. While Skipton did make it back to the track to win the V.R.C. Stand Handicap in the spring and run unplaced as the 3/1 favourite for the 1942 Caulfield Cup, no such resurrection attended Laureate’s efforts.
In June 1942 Laureate was put back into training and during his enforced absence had built up into a magnificent thoroughbred. Alas, the effort to reduce him to racing trim brought renewed problems with his troubled forelegs. Again he was thrown out of training, only this time, he was leased to the Pinaroo Stud at Werribee for a light season of stallion duty. Trainer Steve Murphy supervised that stud for a season or two on behalf of the Melbourne paddock bookmaker, Eddie O’Brien. Returned to the Mentone stables in January 1943, Laureate was confined to long roadwork – sometimes eight or ten miles a day on the hard roads from Mentone to Braeside and back. Afterwards, he would be given some swimming exercises. It was intended that he resume in the Futurity Stakes. However, once the training regimen extended beyond walking to trotting and cantering on the track, Laureate’s tendon again succumbed, and one morning in February he returned to Freedman’s stables lame. This time his actual retirement from racing and his imminent sale as a stallion was announced.
Roy McLean had initially hoped to stand his Derby winner at his own property, The Nook Stud in the Goulburn Valley, but the ongoing manpower shortages caused by the War rendered that impossible. Accordingly, in March 1943 at their Newmarket yards in Melbourne, Mackinnon and Cox auctioned Laureate. Given the fact that stallion importations from England were out of the question, there was some interest in the horse despite the uncertain future of racing in Australia. However, in the end, Eddie O’Brien was the successful bidder at 600 guineas. O’Brien had seen how very sure Laureate was with his mares at his Pindaroo Stud and wanted to extend the association. However, within months of having purchased Laureate, O’Brien abandoned any hope that Victorian authorities would remove the ban on bookmaking owners and decided to sell out his stud. It was in June 1943 that Laureate was knocked down for 800 guineas to the Queensland studmaster, F. J. Martin to stand alongside the speedy Duke John stallion, High Title, at his Dalby property. In retrospect, it is a shame that Roy McLean wasn’t able to stand Laureate at The Nook Stud when the horse was retired. Laureate would have been given better quality broodmares there than in Queensland and he ultimately proved superior as a stallion to the English import Culverhill that McLean was eventually able to secure for The Nook after the war.
The son of Law Maker’s unsoundness, at least meant Laureate was retired to stud with his vitality unimpaired by strenuous racing. His record read 16 starts for 4 wins, 3 seconds, and 1 third and £6,290 in prize money. Laureate proved a beneficial acquisition for the Queensland bloodstock industry, getting quite a few winners. Undoubtedly, his best horse was the great sprinter, Lucky Ring, owned by Les Freyer, for whom Norman Conquest trained the horse to win successive Q.T.C. Stradbroke Handicaps in 1949 and 1950. Conquest’s son, Ron, rode the horse on both occasions. A 400-guineas yearling, Lucky Ring was also runner-up in the 1949 Doomben Ten Thousand and was considered at the time to be the best Queensland sprinter since Bernborough. Other good gallopers sired by Laureate included Commentator, winner of the Tattersall’s W.J. Healy Stakes; and Jungle Law, winner of the Q.T.C. Queensland Cup and the Q.T.C. Metropolitan Handicap.
What, I hear you ask, became of those other leading candidates for the 1941 A.J.C. Derby? The best horse to come out of the race was the same as the best horse going into it – Yaralla! The problem with the Derby was that it was some two furlongs beyond his stamina. Freshened up after the spring, Yaralla won the 1941 A.J.C. Villiers Stakes at Randwick over the mile. In the next couple of years, this son of The Buzzard won a string of races including both the Hill Stakes and the A.J.C. All-Aged Stakes twice, A.J.C. Craven Plate, Warwick Stakes and the Canterbury Stakes. After a lapse of form, Yaralla came back to win the 1944 A.J.C. Challenge Stakes, when he carried 9 st. 7lb and came from third last at the top of the straight with a barnstorming finish. However, within a week of that triumph, Yaralla bled twice in the space of three days after gallops at Victoria Park. Monty Walker immediately announced the horse’s retirement and at the time he was the greatest stakes earner still racing in Sydney having won 16 races and some £13,915. At the time of Yaralla’s retirement, Monty Walker and Fred Cush at least had another fast horse to fall back on in the shape of Majesty, a 1600 guineas’ yearling by Golden Sovereign who had won both the A.J.C. Canonbury Stakes and December Stakes.
Trainer Fred Cush certainly regretted Yaralla’s retirement and always believed that his career had been abbreviated by the wet tracks upon which he was repeatedly called on to race. “I’ve never known a good horse who galloped worse when the going was soft. He just couldn’t handle it, and his exertions in the mud sapped his strength, ” Cush told journalists. Of course, these were the War years when racing was restricted, and trainers could not necessarily pick and choose when and where they raced with usual freedom. Yaralla initially went into H. S. Thompson’s Tarwyn Park Stud in the Bylong Valley to stand alongside Golden Sovereign, Marconigram and Melfort – all imports. Alas, Yaralla proved an indifferent stallion and in 1948 was relocated to Anambah Station, West Maitland, the former home of Beauford. Yaralla’s best winner at stud was the dual Townsville Cup winner, Yoorana.
I might also note in passing that Yaralla’s great two-year-old rival, All Love, never won another principal race after the A.J.C. Hobartville Stakes and was retired from the racecourse in September 1943 as the winner of £7,930. Although mated with the best of stallions at Kia Ora Stud such as Delville Wood and Channel Swell, All Love was a distinct disappointment as a matron. The best of her progeny was Flood Year, and the best it managed to win was a flying handicap at Forbes. Neither Monty Walker nor Charles Glazebrook ever again owned a racehorse to come within lengths of their respective favourites. Sadly, neither man outlived their horses, Walker dying suddenly at the age of sixty-seven in December 1948 at his Colebrook apartment in Double Bay, and Glazebrook at the age of fifty-one in St Vincent’s Hospital nine months later after a short illness. Ah! The transience of life and fame on the racecourse.
I might mention that Galliard, the surprise runner-up in that wartime Derby raced by the brick masters Reg Allott and Bill Dawes, relative newcomers to the sport, never won a decent race and thereafter the only time the horse passed the post first at Randwick was when he become a recruit for the mounted police on race days. Appropriately enough, the best stallion to emerge from the 1941 A.J.C. Derby was also the best-bred colt to contest the race. I refer to the expensive Beau Son. After passing through the hands of a series of trainers including Jack Munro, Beau Son was retired to his owner’s St. Aubins Stud at Scone in the Upper Hunter, he stood alongside the likes of Ajax, Manitoba, Genetout, Hua and Kuvera. That roll-call of stallions demonstrates the opportunities that the years of the Second World War briefly gave to locally-bred stallions. Indeed, by the end of the War in September 1945 more than half the sires advertised for stud in N.S.W. were Australian-bred.
Beau Son certainly seized his chance, serving his first book of mares in the spring of 1942. In a curious coincidence, Beau Son served that season at the St Aubins Stud together with an even more famous son of Beau Pere in Beau Vite. Wartime transport difficulties saw Beau Vite stand just one season at St. Aubins before being repatriated to New Zealand. While Beau Vite had been by far the better-performed racehorse, perhaps Beau Son just shaded him as a stallion. Beau Son sired thirteen individual stakes-winners of twenty-one stakes races, and his best progeny were Beaupa (A.J.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes and The A.J.C. Metropolitan Handicap), Oversight (A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap, George Main Stakes and Anniversary Handicap), and Opulent (A.J.C. Sydney Cup). By comparison, Beau Vite got twelve individual stakes-winners of twenty-three stakes races.