When the leading Victorian racehorse trainer Fred Hoysted attended the second day of the William Inglis yearling sales in April 1949, he held a commission to buy a couple of well-bred yearling fillies for his long-time client Alec Creswick and The Nook Stud. Creswick’s family had first established the stud at Nagambie back in 1918 and it was his forebear Henry Creswick who had chaired the famous meeting in 1864 that had founded the Victoria Racing Club. It is easy to understand why the pedigree of lot No. 285 so attracted Fred Hoysted when he first received the sales catalogue – but then it always is in hindsight, particularly after the yearling in question has made good. The lot on offer that Hoysted had circled on the page was a brown filly by the champion Kia Ora stallion, Midstream, from Urunalong – a daughter of Magpie bred at the same stud. The Midstream-Magpie nick was one especially favoured by Percy Miller and had already been responsible for the likes of Shannon and Delta. As we have seen, Miller was fond of retaining well-bred daughters of Magpie for his Kia Ora Stud if they failed to bring the price in the sales ring that he believed was warranted. Although he raced some in his own colours, others he leased to selected trainers for a brief racing career before becoming matrons.
Urunalong was an example of the latter, and she raced as a two and three-year-old in the nomination of R. M. Nieriker, a son of the veteran Randwick trainer, Tommy Nieriker, who had won the A.J.C. Derby on Gibraltar all those years ago. A sister to Carry On, who as a three-year-old filly had won the 1931 V.R.C. Australian Cup (2 ½ miles), Urunalong proved quite useful on the racecourse winning a Summer Nursery at Randwick in her two-year-old season while as a three-year-old she managed minor placings in both the Canterbury Cup and the James Barnes Plate. Accordingly, with performances to match her pedigree, it came as no surprise when she proved a valuable broodmare and at the time of the 1949 Easter Sales had already produced Lilette, a winner of the Alister Clark Stakes, and Cherie Marie, the maiden winner of the 1945 V.R.C. Oaks.
In truth, Hoysted spent more time inspecting the catalogue than inspecting the yearlings before that hurried trip to Sydney, and had only given Lot No.285 the most cursory physical examination prior to the sale. Indeed, the stud attendant in charge of Urunalong’s yearling daughter seemed reluctant to take her out of the horsebox for any of the would-be buyers seeking an inspection. Understandably so, as events transpired. Hoysted believed that he would see all that he needed when the filly entered the sales ring. However, persistent and, at times, heavy rain marred the Newmarket yearling sales on that Thursday, April 21. When Lot No.285 was finally led into the ring around lunchtime to be sold, Hoysted was sheltering from the rain, and from where he stood he couldn’t get a clear view of the filly. The leading Melbourne trainer finished up bidding 1150 guineas before the auctioneer’s hammer fell to his satisfaction. Feeling rather pleased with himself for getting the yearling so cheaply, it was only upon visiting her in her box later that afternoon that he realised the reason why. The daughter of Midstream and Urunalong had a badly twisted near foreleg!
Clive Inglis, recalling that particular sale twelve months later, wrote: “Everyone who inspected her closely as a yearling reckoned with her crooked leg and frail frame she would never even stand training, let alone do any good. But even with the turned-out leg, for Hoysted she passed muster.” Well, not quite. Upon returning to Melbourne, Hoysted confessed his oversight to Creswick and offered to take the filly off his hands for the price paid. Creswick, with a lifetime of racing experience behind him, declined the offer. After all, he wanted the filly for breeding as much as for racing, and the physical deformity wasn’t likely to inhibit her stud potential. Alec Creswick reasoned that at 1150 guineas she would make a valuable addition to his band of broodmares even were she to fail to stand a preparation.
The Master of The Nook Stud then proceeded to register the young lady as True Course and hoped for the best. And in the end, that is what he got. The best juvenile of her year in Australia and a galloper who was to mature into the country’s finest staying filly the following season. By way of contrast, the highest-priced yearling at those Newmarket sales, realising 3500 guineas on a bid from F. W. Hughes and the Kooba Stud, was the bay colt by Le Grand Duc out of the champion three-year-old filly Session, winner of the 1940 V.R.C. Wakeful Stakes and Oaks. Subsequently registered as Court Session, the colt was found guilty of never doing anything on a racecourse, and thereby proving yet again the sheer folly of extravagant bids for sales-toppers, even when the man doing the buying purportedly possesses the Midas touch!
I might add by way of a footnote that Fred Hoysted indulged in a rather inspired burst of buying on that second day of the William Inglis Yearling Sales. Just five minutes before purchasing True Course, he had put his hand up for another of the Midstream progeny in lot No. 281, a brown colt out of Gazza for which he paid 1300 guineas on behalf of his client, Rupert Watson. It was a tidy sum but nowhere near the price that the animal would have commanded, had the prospective buyers present been aware of the potential of his year-older brother sheltering in the stables of Maurice McCarten. Alas for Percy Miller who was selling the colt, Delta had only run once in his life at that stage and finished second in a Maiden Handicap at Canterbury. Registered as Midway, this younger brother of Delta as we shall see, proved an excellent second string to True Course in the classics. In comparison to that pair, the second filly that Hoysted bought that day to complete Creswick’s commission, a bay filly by Valiant Chief subsequently registered as Wonderland for 650 guineas, proved ordinary.
The man whose rare judgement was responsible for the purchase of these two Midstream yearlings was, in fact, the outstanding Victorian trainer of his generation; his slow, steady drawl disguised a first-class racing brain that understood most aspects of horsemanship including more than a smattering of veterinary science. An immensely practical horseman, he had used his experience and knowledge to the full in assuming the mantle of Jack Holt. Indeed, Fred Hoysted won his first premiership in the same year that Holt won his last – in the 1937-38 racing season when both men shared the title. Hoysted eventually went on to win seventeen Melbourne trainers’ premierships in all, including seven in succession and trained some of the best horses to race in Australia. Born in May 1883 at Wangaratta, he was the fifth of twelve children of English-born Henry (Harry) Hoysted, a horse trainer, and his Victorian wife, Winifred. Henry’s father came from County Kildare, Ireland, and a love of horses ran in the blood.
Fred was destined to become the most famous member of this renowned Australian racing family. He began his career on the Turf at the age of twelve as an amateur jockey and rode his first winner, Wicket, at Bright in 1895. His first city winner came at Maribyrnong the following year when he partnered with Bosnia, one of the small team that his father trained for the Victorian country circuit. Harry Hoysted won plenty of races in the country, and when he did come to town, he maintained his averages with the likes of All Gold, Salamander, Tomboy and Winnie. It was only ever a grafting existence for his son Fred as a jockey, however, and his life in the saddle ended rather abruptly following a fall at Beechworth in 1911. After that he turned his energies to full-time training, joining his brother ‘Tib’ in the Wangaratta stables that had been left to the boys upon the death of their father in 1906. In April 1913, only a couple of years after retiring as a jockey, Fred Hoysted married Ellen Dedrick at Wangaratta, a local girl, and the marriage would produce five sons and extend a racing dynasty.
Fred’s training partnership with Tib prospered, too. The brothers not only successfully trained racehorses but were small-time breeders as well. Fred did well out of the stallion Duke of Melton, and for a time he also stood October (sire of Bitalli) and later Blackadder on their Wangaratta property. The brothers eventually fell out in November 1926 when in a race at Albury, Fred’s horse Rakwool defeated the odds-on favourite, who just happened to be trained by brother Tib. An argument ensued, and the brothers then went their separate ways with Fred in January 1927 moving out of Wangaratta and relocating to the bayside district of Mentone and into the house and stables at the top of the hill in Collins-street from which he was to train for the next thirty-nine years. The brothers might have severed their partnership but they never lost their friendship and occasionally raced horses together in later years, Paljune among them. When he first settled at Mentone, Fred concentrated on flat-racers and kept the wolf from the door with the likes of Marwa, Wa Hoax and particularly Qustar and Rakwool.
Within just four months of the move, Hoysted had won fourteen races including six in the metropolitan area and one horse, in particular, played a significant part. The horse was Qustar, a gelded son of Quaestor that was not only trained by Hoysted but was bred and owned by him as well. Moreover, Qustar was the horse that at his very first start in a Maiden Plate at Wangaratta gave Hoysted’s little apprentice son, W. J., his first winner at his very first ride. A little more than twelve months later both horse and jockey combined again to enjoy their very first win in the metropolitan area. The big-striding gelding went on to win Welters at Caulfield and Flemington when supported in the ring and did much to keep Hoysted’s name in the newspapers during this critical transition phase in his training career.
The other horse that advertised Hoysted’s unique brand of horsemanship was Rakpool, the very horse that had caused the breach with Tib Hoysted in the first place. Ironically, it was Rakwool that first opened Fred’s eyes to the possibilities of jumpers. A son of Woorak that Hoysted trained for E. Y. Sheil, a pastoralist in the Seymour district, Rakwool gave Fred his first big race success when he won the Grand National Steeple in 1931. Bob Inkson was in the saddle that day at Flemington and in the soft ground he led all the way. 1931 was very much a year of mixed fortune for Hoysted. He might have won the Grand National, but it was also the year that he lost his beloved wife and soulmate who died at the age of just forty-three. However, in October the following year, Fred Hoysted re-married and this time to Mary Brown, a nurse. It, too, was to prove a happy marriage.
For a time it seemed that Hoysted’s name was linked more with horses over the jumps rather than on the flat. He trained the great Redditch to win the Grand National Steeplechase and the Australian Steeplechase in 1933. Owned by Albert Loddon Yuille but leased by him to his good friend William Wood, Redditch was one of Australia’s all-time great jumpers. In 1934 this son of Red Dennis won the Australian Steeplechase for the second time and was runner-up in the Grand National Steeplechase when he gave almost four stone to the winner. Redditch lost his life during July 1935 as a result of a fall in his third appearance in a Grand National Steeplechase. A much-loved racehorse, the gunshot that ended Redditch’s life on that Saturday afternoon echoed not just around Flemington, but indeed all of Australia. It was as a direct result of the outcry over the death of Redditch that brush fences replaced the hard posts and rails in Melbourne’s hunt races. Hoysted subsequently named a block of stabling in his Mentone property after the champion.
In March 1938 a journalist from the short-lived Frankston and Somerville Standard visited that Mentone establishment, and his article affords a later generation with a glimpse of the place. Hoysted christened the overall house and stables ‘Qustar’ after the horse that helped so much in his early months after leaving Wangaratta. The home was a red-brick villa situated on the hill in Collins-street, and the extent of the property would have surprised most Mentone people who knew the locale but entertained little idea of the industry hidden behind the bungalow. The land comprised some six acres and was on a belt of sand, which although not much good for cultivation, proved excellent for producing winners. Hoysted spent thousands of pounds on the property during the thirties as the money began to flow.
The conveniences and the stables were built to form a courtyard in the centre with accommodation for 25 horses, although this increased after the War. There were no brickyards for the Hoysted horses, and every nook and cranny of the establishment where a horse was likely to land was sand – and inches deep. There were elaborate harness and feed rooms and a special electric crushing machine for serving up fine oats to the most fastidious racehorse. Some appointments wouldn’t have been found at other stables of the period. In 1938 Qustar Stables boasted a sand rolling enclosure with solid walls some eight feet high and containing sand that was real beach sand. A short steeplechase schooling track was used for teaching the beginners before they ever visited the racecourse to jump. A structure of which Fred was very proud was the ‘bullring’. It was the only ring of its kind down the line and rival trainers also occasionally made use of it.
Fred Hoysted’s first important winner on the flat came in the 1937 Adelaide Cup which he won with Donaster ridden by Scobie Breasley, a horse he trained for the V.R.C. committeeman James MacLeod. Recruiting a young Scobie to partner his horse was no accident by Hoysted. Throughout his training career, he would have the best of jockeys riding his horses – in particular, Harold Badger and Bill Williamson. Two years after that Adelaide Cup, Hoysted prepared Pageant to win the V.R.C. Australian Cup for the Toorak sportsman, Mr H. E. Spry. At the 1944 Flemington Spring Meeting, Hoysted landed the Victoria Oaks for the same owner with Provoke, ridden by Harold Badger. Badger and Hoysted also combined to take out the 1947 V.R.C Newmarket Handicap with the lightweight Gay Queen for the Dabscheck family.
Jockey and trainer went back some way together, as Harold won a Highweight Welter at Williamstown back in 1931 on the great Redditch before the horse had ever taken to timber. However, the 1947 Newmarket Handicap was to be Badger’s last major victory on a Hoysted-trained horse. A fall from the Caulfield Cup winner, Columnist, the following year affected Badger’s vision and the modest, natural lightweight jockey who had served his apprenticeship with leading Flemington trainer, Dick Bradfield, and who had won five successive jockey premierships in Victoria between 1938-39 and 1942-43, retired from the saddle. Badger’s retirement saw Scobie Breasley riding for Hoysted for a time but eventually, Breasley gave way to Bill Williamson as the natural successor at Hoysted’s Mentone stables.
The son of a machinist who was born in Williamstown, Victoria, in 1922, Williamson had been apprenticed to his great uncle, F. H. Lewis, brother of Bobby, at Epsom. Even before he was apprenticed at the age of fourteen, Williamson had ridden work for Alex McCracken at Mentone, and Fred Hoysted had thus watched the lad’s jockeyship from his early years. It was only after being discharged from the army in which he served as a driver with the 119th General Transport Company that Williamson’s career took off, firstly with Lou Robertson, and secondly, and more significantly, with Fred Hoysted. Williamson’s alignment with the Qustar Stables at Mentone came at a most opportune moment. During those years immediately after the War, the sport of horseracing boomed throughout Australia and the period saw Hoysted’s client base expand evermore. Included among the owners for whom he trained were Rupert Watson of Perricoota Station, A. W. Watkins, Sir Harold Luxton, T. L. Baillieu, P. J. Lennon and, of course, the Creswick family. And it would be with one special filly by Midstream raced by the Creswick family that Williamson’s name would always be linked in Australia. Fortuitously, she came along very early in Hoysted and Williamson’s relationship.
Indeed, by the time True Course walked through the stable portals to begin her racing career in that spring of 1949, Hoysted was supervising the largest training establishment in the land and already enjoyed a superb reputation with juveniles. During the previous 1948-49 season, the trainer had won no less than twelve two-year-old races with five fillies. Crooked leg or not, True Course ran right up to her name from the very first moment she was first tried on the track. In gallops, she never showed the slightest sign of favouring the twisted near foreleg, and if the leg had worried her, it would surely have manifest itself in Melbourne, for the strain is always on the near front when racing anti-clockwise. The Mentone stable pulled off a good betting coup with True Course when she made her racing debut in the first two-year-old race of the season, the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes for fillies at Flemington on the first day of October. At acceptance time on Thursday, Honette from the same stable and in the same race was a street corner tip and Williamson was given out as the jockey while True Course, it was said, would be ridden by the stable apprentice J. Vasil. On Friday, True Course was backed in from 8/1 to 3/1. On the day of the race itself, the riders were switched, and while Honette drifted on course from 9/2 to 10/1, True Course was backed for more, firming from 3/1 to start the 9/4 favourite.
Despite being drawn on the extreme outside, the well-grown, brown daughter of Midstream was always prominent in the big field of 21 starters, and, twisted tootsie or not, put up a lulu of a performance, to run out an easy winner. It completed a busy week for owner Alec Creswick, who had been acting as ringmaster for the Melbourne Royal Show. Rather than the Maribyrnong Plate, True Course’s next start and her only defeat came in the V.R.C. Mimosa Stakes on Cup Day when she was beaten by the Ajax filly, Ajanni, owned by F. W. Hughes and trained by Jim McCurley. True Course was then off the scene until mid-February. As impressive as the daughter of Midstream had been in her two starts, it was hardly suggestive of her domination to come in the juvenile ranks. Indeed, the filly subject to most speculation at the end of the V.R.C. Spring Meeting was Mighty Song, a racy chestnut daughter of Ajax trained by Dan Lewis on behalf of the Kelly family. Mighty Song certainly looked the goods when she contemptuously beat her rivals in both the A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes (race record) and the V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate in fast time at her only two starts.
True Course resumed from her three-month summer spell to win the V.R.C. Criterion Handicap (5f) in mid-February by a length and a half, and then a fortnight later the V.A.T.C. Teppo Stakes by the same margin. Set for the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, True Course went to the post as the 5/2 second-favourite behind Flying Halo, the St Magnus gelding leased by Frank Collins, a Waubra storekeeper, and trained by Orme Marshall. On the third line of betting was Mighty Song, the flying filly who had tasted defeat for the first time when she weakened badly to finish sixth in the Merson Cooper Stakes at Caulfield just the week before behind Flying Halo. Mighty Song opened up a lead of at least six lengths early in the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes only to finish last but one. Coming off a quick pace, Bill Williamson dashed True Course through on the fence soon after entering the straight to hit the lead only to be tackled by Flying Halo with a furlong to go. However, True Course pulled away in the run home to win by three-quarters of a length in a time of 1 minute 24 ½ seconds that equalled the race record held jointly by Kuvera, Gold Rod and Hua. Later that day, Midway completed a double for Hoysted and Williamson when he won the Hopeful Stakes on the same card, the very race after his year-older brother Delta had taken the V.R.C. St Leger.
Hoysted then set True Course for an assault on the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes double, giving her extensive work in the clockwise direction on the Mentone track before heading north. No filly had won the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes since Cyden in 1926, but True Course wasn’t to know that and she gave Bill Williamson a winner at his first ride at Randwick. I might add that in ending the male domination of the event, the girls did it in style – for they filled all three placings with Even Flow and Regazza running second and third. In fact, the same three fillies filled the placings again in the Champagne Stakes too, True Course being untroubled by her full 10lb penalty although the minor placegetters did so in reverse order. True Course, like a number of her compatriots from Victoria at around this time, found the mobile starting stalls a rather strange experience in Sydney.
Although a filly that liked to be given time to find her feet in a race, her antipathy to the stalls militated against her in both appearances at that Randwick autumn fixture, and she had to come from seemingly impossible positions in order to triumph. Her Champagne Stakes victory boosted her earnings to £13,154 – a record for a juvenile filly in Australia and placed her second to Mollison (£17,348) in the all-time list of two-year-old stakes winners. Moreover, Alec Creswick finished the 1949-50 racing season as the leading owner in Australia thanks largely to this doughty daughter of Midstream. The manner of her barnstorming finishes allied with the undoubted stamina on the distaff side of her pedigree had Alec Creswick and Fred Hoysted dreaming of the Derby during those long Victorian winter nights that followed as their putative champion rested in a paddock adjoining the Mentone stables.
In the absence of the Free Handicap, the best guide to the professional handicapper’s ratings of two-year-old form in those days rested with the publication of the Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup weights. With their declaration in mid-July, it was found that True Course had been given 7 st. 5lb in the Caulfield Cup and 7 st. 3lb in the Melbourne Cup, or 3lb and 2lb respectively over weight-for-age. The last filly to win the Melbourne Cup had been Sister Olive in 1921 but she carried only 6 st. 9lb. It was a measure of the respect in which the Victorian handicapper held True Course although she was destined not to start in either race. True Course resumed racing in the new season at the end of August when she ran the minor placing in a fillies’ handicap at Moonee Valley. One week later in a field of six at Caulfield, she finished runner-up to Comic Court in the weight-for-age Memsie Stakes, beaten three lengths. It was then off to Randwick for a tilt at the A.J.C. Derby.
The 1950 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
The apparent absence of an outstanding colt for the season and the doubling of prize money offered by the club saw eighteen horses accepted for the renewal of the A.J.C. Derby in 1950. True Course, the only filly among them, remained the uneasy favourite for the race. The second elect was Aristocrat, trained by Tim Sweeney at Randwick, and the subject of heavy betting in the fortnight before the race as a result of a fast-finishing fifth in the Rosehill Guineas after coming from a long way back. The Fred Hood-trained Careless, the winner of both the Hobartville Stakes and Rosehill Guineas and yet another son of Midstream, was next in the betting. In running away with the Guineas in heavy going, Careless had staged a last-to-first form reversal following his disappointment in the Chelmsford Stakes. However, many doubted the value of the form on the firm ground.
Good support saw another Victorian visitor in Alister backed into sevens while Karangi, the Ted Hush representative and a minor place-getter in each of the Guineas’ races, was next fancied. French Cavalier, the Canterbury Guineas winner trained by Maurice McCarten for Adolph Basser was not seriously expected to stay the journey and as much as 16/1 was available in the ring. An interesting runner drawn in the rails barrier was Rumyle, bred by Cecil Frost, who managed the Widden Stud so successfully for many years. Sold for 2100 guineas as a yearling on the same day as True Course but about ninety minutes later, the bay colt was out of the good race mare Magi, who was trained by Max Laidlaw to win the A.J.C. Campbelltown Handicap among other races. Two starts before, Rumyle had surprised by winning a Randwick Novice over ten furlongs but had then failed to handle the heavy ground in the Rosehill Guineas.
A changing feature of the racing scene in the years immediately after World War II was the greater presence of Victorian-based jockeys riding at Sydney’s spring and autumn carnivals. The dramatic improvement in reliability and frequency of interstate commercial flights eased the task of our leading horsemen wishing to ply their trade in cities other than their own. Scobie Breasley, Reg Heather and Bill Williamson were among those Melbourne based jockeys who were to achieve notable success at Randwick during the period. A glance at the Jockeys’ Board for that 1950 A.J.C. Derby would have also served as a reminder of just how many of Australia’s best riders had originally hailed from Queensland viz. Neville Sellwood, George Moore, Billy Briscoe, Noel McGrowdie and Tommy Hill.
Sixty-six thousand people were in attendance, and considering the large field and the rich prize, the 1950 running of the A.J.C. Derby was a remarkably clean contest, and the first-ever started from the mobile barrier stalls. Alister, drawn in ten alongside True Course, again showed his inexperience and dislike of the mobile starting stalls, lashing out and being caught flat-footed when the gates opened thereby conceding a couple of lengths to his rivals. But he quickly mustered some early speed to take up a position on the rails although well back. Jockey Reg Heather allowed him to become properly balanced before making any demands. Gallant Roger flew the flag early and at the ten furlongs led at a smart clip from Auld Acquaintance, French Cavalier, Careless and Rumyle – with both Alister and True Course well rearwards but near the rails. Aristocrat, who had been forced to race wide early, was beginning to move forward into a reasonable position.
At the six, Auld Acquaintance had usurped the lead from Gallant Roger followed by My Lord, Rumyle and French Cavalier. The order then remained relatively unchanged until the field approached the three when Rumyle strode to the front, while both Alister and True Course, blessed by a glorious passage on the inside rails, continued to make easy ground to be third and fourth respectively on the home turn. In the straight, it was a race that any number of horses could have won. True Course challenged with all her customary gameness but her run ended very soon, and it was left to Alister to claim Rumyle over the last furlong to win with something in hand. The courage of True Course enabled her to defy Auld Acquaintance for the minor placing and go closer to winning than any filly since Tea Rose six years earlier.
Nonetheless, although Alister didn’t have to cover an inch of extra ground from the ten furlongs until he moved around Rumyle at the Leger, the manner of his victory was such that it admitted no hard luck stories from the connections of any of his rivals. Rumyle, the runner-up, and, like the winner, another son of the imported stallion, Whirlaway, ran a bold race in the hands of the stable’s champion apprentice Tom Mullane. It proved a topsy-turvy day for the young hoop. Mullane had won the Breeders’ Plate earlier on Lloric for his master, Harry Darwon, and owner, Reuben Symonds, and Rumyle went close to giving the same three principals a memorable double. But a little more than a half-hour later, Mullane suffered a horrific fall on Owner’s Lass in the Epsom Handicap, damaging vertebrae in his back that was to keep him out of the saddle for almost six months. The Epsom result did prove something of a consolation for both Fred Hoysted and Bill Williamson, however, after the defeat of the Derby favourite, when they landed Achilles a narrow winner in the rich handicap for Tom Baillieu. Williamson would go on to win the Epsom Handicap again with his next two rides in the race when he partnered Davey Jones for trainer Maurice McCarten in 1951 and Connaught for trainer Fred Allsop in 1954. But I digress.
Alister only stole upon the 1950 Derby scene after winning a mile three-year-old handicap at Caulfield in early September. As a juvenile he disappointed, carrying silk on six occasions but was conspicuous only once, when finishing a useful third in the Gibson Carmichael Stakes at Flemington during the Autumn Meeting. It was only after his Caulfield win that his connections decided on a Derby raid. Alister was responsible for a sound Derby trial in his only race in Sydney when he finished brilliantly from last in a big field to be beaten a head in a Rosehill handicap run in race record time, after blundering badly from an outside barrier stall. Jockey Bill Williamson offered no hard luck stories on True Course, saying that the filly’s run had ended at the top of the straight.
However, the day belonged to Alister and his winning connections, owner Bill Balloch and Mentone trainer, ‘Snowy’ Wolters. Balloch, a master baker from Melbourne, was a well-known identity in Victorian trotting circles and when night trotting had begun in Melbourne only about three years before, Balloch had been appointed a stipendiary steward to the Trotting Control Board. At the time he owned some first-class gallopers in Snowy Wolters’s stable but given his newfound responsibilities divested himself of his team, including Denhoti, Carey and Scotwyn for £10,000 to the well-known sportsman, Ossie Porter, who was then making his first lavish expenditures on the Turf. But the pull of the greensward proved difficult to resist for Balloch, and he was soon back buying thoroughbreds, notably Cragwil, who ran in the 1949 Victoria Derby only to fall about two furlongs from home.
In acquiring Alister as a yearling on behalf of Bill Balloch, Wolters went way beyond his original commission of 1000 guineas. He had bid as much as 300 guineas above the amount and was just about to let Alister go when Randwick trainer, Jerry Carey, who was sitting alongside, remarked: “If he is worth 1300 guineas, he’s worth 1500 guineas!” Fortified once more, Wolters bid the 1500 guineas and got him. Balloch named the colt after the late Alister Clark, a friend and former chairman of the Moonee Valley Race Club for many years, and widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading rose-fanciers. Rosarians everywhere keenly awaited Clark’s ‘new flowers’ each year and the name seemed particularly appropriate for a colt from a mare named New Flower. Apart from the Derby winner, both the owner and trainer of Alister were to enjoy considerable success together with other horses during the fifties including that brilliant sprinter Gay Saba.
For debonair breeder Alfred Owen Ellison, Alister marked an impressive beginning for his newly established Baramul Stud in the Widden Valley. Born in Queensland on January 1st 1903, Ellison was the middle boy of a fairly evenly spaced family of six children born of a Methodist minister and a cultivated and scholarly mother. Educated at Newington College, Sydney, in his last year at the school in 1919 he was Senior Prefect and awarded the Old Boys’ Prize. Ellison subsequently won an exhibition to attend Sydney University where, in residence at Wesley College, he established a strong academic record graduating with a B.A. in 1924 and a Law degree with Honours in 1927. After serving as an articled clerk with Robson and Cowlishaw during his university studies, almost immediately upon graduation ‘A. O.’, as he was commonly known in legal circles, began his city practice ‘A. O. Ellison & C0.’ in a one-room office, sparsely furnished with a desk, a telephone and a typewriter. From its foundation, the firm assisted N.S.W. manufacturers in relation to their rights and liabilities, including those under industrial relations and occupational health and safety legislation. It quickly expanded into insurance litigation in 1933 and relocated to one of the city’s wealthiest streets.
Ever since his childhood in Queensland, Ellison had enjoyed an affinity with both horticulture and horses. As his legal practice expanded and he began serving on a range of company boards, Ellison had the money to indulge his hobbies. Initially, he started breeding horses on a seven-acre property at Wahroonga and later as his interest expanded and prior to his purchase of Baramul, he kept mares at the Widden Stud. Indeed, it was through his relationship with Widden that Ellison became aware of the land formerly known as Joe’s Paddock, and then Barramul, coming on to the market. The property had been used for breeding some good bloodstock in the past but was a 900-acre dairy farm when he purchased it in 1947.
Ellison dropped one “r” from the name Barramul for it to become Baramul, and then spent the better part of four years developing the best type of pasture with ryegrass and lucerne being lavishly spread on the ground. In time, Ellison would expand the property to encompass some 5000 acres with two-fifths of the property under lucerne. The Baramul brand, which was an image of a barbed tail taken from a wyvern, derived from the heraldic symbol of his old school, Newington College. Baramul under Ellison wasn’t just famous for thoroughbreds. ‘A.O.’ was an enthusiastic grower of camellias and soon realised that the soil there was capable of producing prize-winning plants. Indeed, together with Professor E. G. Waterhouse, Ellison arranged displays of camellias at the Macquarie Galleries and David Jones. In due course, he even had a variety of camellia japonica named after himself. Alf Ellison was an early committeeman of a revitalised N.S.W. division of the Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association and in 1950 he was elected unopposed to its presidency.
Alister was just one of three horses offered by him at the 1949 Sydney Yearling Sales, in the first yearling draft from the property. A solicitor in his professional life, Ellison had built up a large practice in Sydney and served on a wide range of company boards. Initially, he started breeding horses on a seven-acre property at Wahroonga, and one of his early purchases came in 1943 with the unraced three-year-old filly, New Flower. Purchased for a trifling sum of sixty guineas, she was a daughter of our 1938 Derby hero, Nuffield, and a three-quarter sister to the unlucky Silver Standard. Her first foal to Veilmond was Set Purpose, winner of the A.J.C. Squatters Handicap among other races and runner-up in the Breeders’ Plate. Alister came along as her fourth foal after New Flower was sent to the imported Widden stallion, Whirlaway, and brought 1500 guineas at the same sales that had seen True Course change hands. It was actually in 1947, the year of Alister’s foaling that Ellison bought Baramul, a former 900-acre dairy farm. While the farm was transformed, Lionel Israel reared Alister at Segenhoe Stud. Ellison’s success as a studmaster, however, eventually resulted in Baramul expanding to more than 5000 acres, and as we shall see, for a time become one of the most influential studs in the Widden and Hunter Valleys.
Whirlaway, although only lightly raced because of the War, was a successful performer in England and was twice placed at Ascot over one-and-a-half miles. A son of His Highness The Aga Khan’s unbeaten Bahram, the winner of £43,086 in stakes that included the English Derby and St Leger, Whirlaway was the first of that stallion’s progeny to arrive in Australia. Whirlaway’s dam was a half-sister to Scottish Union, yet another winner of the English St Leger. Imported to Australia by Frank Thompson of Widden Stud to stand alongside Brueghel, Whirlaway began his stud career here with a succession of smart juveniles in his first season, with the likes of the A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes winner, Rhumba, as well as Curiosity and Lady Pirouette. Alister came along in the stallion’s second crop and was an early October foal.
Whirlaway became the first stallion since Multiform in 1905 to sire both the first and second place-getters in the A.J.C. Derby although Rumyle like Alister was bred from an outside mare visiting the stud. After Alf Ellison purchased Baramul Stud, he and Frank Thompson became neighbours. Moreover, the two men had much to do with each other as they were vice-chairman and chairman respectively of the Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of Australia. As the two Whirlaway colts, Alister and Rumyle slowly developed Derby form there was some good-natured banter between the two men as to which would be the better. There was much mutual satisfaction when the two horses finished first and second. And to cap a wonderful day for Frank Thompson and Widden, Achilles, the Epsom Handicap winner had also been bred there being by their former stallion Ajax.
It was the second and last A.J.C. Derby win for Victorian jockey Reg Heather, who had learnt his trade under Jack Holt, and was arguably the best jockey that trainer produced. A vigorous rider with a fierce determination to win, his rumbustious style incurred the wrath of Victorian stewards on more than twenty occasions. It was the jest of Victorian punters that the Income Tax Department registered Heather’s occupation as ‘part-time jockey’. A few years before his success on Magnificent in 1945, he had sought to establish himself in Sydney, and although he rode well here, the winners didn’t come. Upon returning to his home city of Melbourne, Heather’s fortunes changed for the better, and he quickly became a leading jockey; he began a long succession of big-race victories when he was successful on Capris in the 1936 Q.T.C. Stradbroke Handicap. Apart from his Derby wins on Magnificent and Alister, Heather also won the Caulfield Cup on Royal Gem in the year of Bernborough’s controversial defeat.
Perhaps Heather’s outstanding feat in the saddle was to win the prestigious V.A.T.C. Toorak Handicap on no less than seven occasions. Nonetheless, arguably the jockey’s most satisfying moment came at the 1954 V.R.C. Autumn Meeting when, before The Queen, he won the Sires’ Produce Stakes on Acramitis, a colt bred by his wife at their Marylands Stud, Hallam. Heather had even been granted a day’s amnesty on a two months’ suspension to enable him to take the ride on which he broke the race record. Heather also enjoyed successful stints in America, India and Ceylon and eventually retired from race riding in May 1959 after twenty-eight years. Sadly, within a year of relinquishing his jockey’s license, Reg Heather died of a heart attack in Dandenong Hospital in April after having been admitted for observation. For some years after, his wife Mary continued to conduct their Marylands Stud.
Alister’s subsequent racecourse career may only have been short-lived, but it was distinguished nonetheless, although he was destined never to clash with True Course again. Both he and the filly were returned to Victoria to honour their respective engagements at the Caulfield Spring Meeting, but while True Course travelled home by air, Alister refused to settle when loaded onto the aircraft and had to be removed, to return eventually to Melbourne by rail and motorboat. Whereas Alister finished a sound second behind the outsider Merry Scout in the Caulfield Guineas after another slow start on the opening day of the meeting, True Course won the One Thousand Guineas a week later and was then put aside for Flemington. Alister meanwhile beat Iron Duke in a close-run thing at Moonee Valley for the W.S. Cox Plate. It makes an interesting comparison of the way prize money has changed in the years since to observe that the Cox Plate was worth just £1,100 and a gold cup to the connections of Alister, whereas in his earlier appearance at Randwick he earned more than £8,000.
Come the V.R.C. Spring Meeting and Fred Hoysted reserved True Course for both the Wakeful Stakes and The Oaks, which she won brilliantly with Bill Williamson, while the stable relied instead on Midway, owned by V.R.C. committeeman Rupert Watson, to challenge Alister for the Victoria Derby. And a bold challenge it was too, as Neville Sellwood adopted tearaway tactics on the brother to Delta in an attempt to upset the odds-on Alister after the colt wouldn’t settle. Alister, however, wouldn’t be denied and strode away over the final furlong to win easing down although the gallant Midway claimed second money for the Hoysted stable. That victory saw Alister go to the post as the favourite for the Melbourne Cup. Heather couldn’t make the weight of 7 st. 6lb and Jack Purtell accepted the mount, preferring the colt to the eventual winner, Comic Court, which he usually rode. When it was reported in the Truth newspaper that Purtell (he of the prominent proboscis) was likely to ride Alister a pound or so overweight, one insensitive wag was heard to remark: “I can’t understand why. Surely he only has to blow his nose.” It wasn’t one of Purtell’s sweetest rides: in a particularly rough race, the chestnut was trapped four wide for much of the journey and, after being badly stripped about the hocks, knocked up to finish eighth.
Alister was never entirely sound after that Cup run and only withstood one more preparation. The colt resumed in late January and won handicaps over the mile at both Moonee Valley and Caulfield carrying big weights before going down to Midway by the narrowest of margins in that year’s St Leger at Flemington. In the latter event, Heather failed in his effort to take the race in the stewards’ room afterwards, the official race film not supporting the extent of the alleged interference. Apart from the contretemps between the two favourites in the straight, the race that year was run at a farcical gallop, with the first mile taking well over two minutes. Brought to Sydney for the St Leger at Randwick in what proved his final race start, Alister, with Heather on board, attempted to lead all the way but failed to quite see out the distance and weakened into the minor placing behind Aristocrat and Midway. Alister was found to be favouring his near foreleg after the race and was immediately scratched from the Sydney Cup. The injury effectively ended his career. Retired to stand as a stallion, initially at Alex Hunter’s Northwood Park Stud at Seymour in Victoria at a fee of 200 guineas, Alister proved disappointing.
Like Alister, True Course was never as good again after that spring of 1950, although in the autumn she did manage to win the Adrian Knox Stakes at Randwick in the hands of Jack Thompson. True Course was brought back into training as a four-year-old by Fred Hoysted and garnered both the Heatherlie and Coongy Handicaps at Caulfield in six starts with her spring campaign ending in an unplaced run in the Moonee Valley Gold Cup of 1951. Brought back into the stables in the autumn of 1952, Fred Hoysted soon realised that the great mare risked breaking down were she to be kept in work, and her retirement was quickly announced. During her three seasons on the racecourse, True Course had 27 starts for 12 wins, 5 seconds and 4 thirds and earned £25,654/10- which put her fourth on the all-time list of stakes-winning mares of Australasia. The three above her were Flight, Tranquil Star and Chicquita. With the exception of the A.J.C. Adrian Knox Stakes, Bill Williamson was the partner of True Course in each of her other victories.
While True Course might have been finished on the racecourse, Bill Williamson was just getting started. Williamson won his first Victorian jockeys’ premiership in that 1951-52 season and a few months later won his only Melbourne Cup on the great New Zealand galloper, Dalray. The following year Williamson partnered Hydrogen to victory in both the Brisbane Cup and W. S. Cox Plate. Five more Victorian jockeys’ premierships were also to come his way during the 1950s as he continued to enjoy the patronage of trainer Fred Hoysted and other leading trainers. Leaving Redditch aside, up to the point of her retirement True Course was arguably the best racehorse that Hoysted had ever trained and the best racehorse Williamson had ever ridden. When the daughter of Midstream walked out of those Mentone stables for the last time, the 68-year-old trainer must have believed that the twilight of his career would end without his ever having had a renowned champion racehorse through his hands. But racing is a funny game, and it had one last trick to play insofar as the Hoysted-Williamson team was concerned.
In the spring of 1954, Australia was privileged to witness one of the most magnificent stayers ever to grace our racecourses. I refer to the New Zealand champion, Rising Fast. Following a long and drawn-out saga over the horse’s running in the Te Awamutu Cup in December 1953 when the trainer and jockey of Rising Fast, and, for a time, the owner and horse himself were disqualified, Rising Fast’s owner, Leicester Spring, resolved never to race in New Zealand again. Accordingly, it was a new trainer, Ivan Tucker, who crossed the Tasman with Rising Fast in the autumn of 1954 to campaign at the Brisbane winter carnival. The son of Alonzo registered his first Australia success in the J.H.S. Barnes Stakes at Eagle Farm in the first week of August. Tucker then moved on to Melbourne with the Caulfield-Melbourne Cups double as his objective. After an unplaced run in the Memsie Stakes at Caulfield in early September, Rising Fast then proceeded to win eight of his next nine starts including the J.F. Feehan Stakes, Turnbull Stakes, Caulfield Stakes, Caulfield Cup, W.S. Cox Plate, L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes, Melbourne Cup and C.B. Fisher Plate. It was a devastating exhibition of raw staying horsepower with an admixture of sheer brilliance.
As much as Leicester Spring would have liked to have kept Rising Fast in Australia, trainer Ivan Tucker and his wife wished to return to New Zealand for Christmas and so all the parties re-crossed the Tasman. Soon after his return, Tucker won a race at Ellerslie in Auckland with a mare named Bright Gem, who subsequently returned a positive swab. Tucker was suspended for a year, which upon appeal, was increased to two. Hence once again Rising Fast’s owner was seeking a new trainer for his champion. He approached 72-year-old Fred Hoysted. Nobody would have blamed Hoysted had he declined. After all, he was an old man and Rising Fast would be burdened with big weights in any of the rich handicaps the horse contested. Moreover, Hoysted knew that Spring had his heart set on another crack at the Caulfield-Melbourne Cup double. This seemed like Don Quixote tilting at windmills, an impossible dream to many people, but Hoysted accepted the challenge.
Rising Fast endured a distressing voyage to Port Melbourne in February 1955 to join the Mentone stable and Hoysted was appalled when he saw the horse’s condition. To quote Maurice Cavanough: “On arrival he was standing in his own droppings which had not even been once mucked out and his feet (quoting Fred Hoysted) were rotten.” That voyage probably explained Rising Fast’s very ordinary form that autumn. In six starts he won only one race, and that was the weight-for-age Carbine Stakes of two and a quarter miles at Flemington when he defeated his only opponent, Electro, by sixteen lengths. In the gelding’s last race that campaign he finished a struggling eighth with 9 st. 13lb in the Sydney Cup. It was no doubt those series of failures that influenced the Caulfield and Flemington handicappers to allocate Rising Fast 9 st. 10lb in each Cup. Hoysted had been expecting more.
In eleven racecourse appearances that spring with Bill Williamson in the saddle every time, Rising Fast proceeded to win four races including that historic 1955 Caulfield Cup by three lengths. Moreover, despite receiving a 4lb penalty that lifted his Melbourne Cup weight to 10 stone, Rising Fast came within three-quarters of a length of landing the Cups double-double when he finished a gallant second behind Toparoa. During that V.R.C. Spring Meeting, Rising Fast also won the L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes and the C.B. Fisher Plate on the first and last days. That 1955 spring campaign with Rising Fast, particularly the Caulfield Cup, was to be the capstone of Fred Hoysted’s illustrious training career and the apotheosis of his partnership with jockey Bill Williamson. While he would continue to hold a trainer’s licence until the end of the 1965-66 racing season, Rising Fast’s retirement would see him wind down his stables and help his sons establish themselves in the game. Fred Hoysted died in February 1967 in his Mentone home, and his estate was sworn for probate at $111,144. Fred’s memory is honoured today with Racing Victoria’s ‘Fred Hoysted Award’, presented each season to the leading Victorian trainer.
As Fred Hoysted aged and began to wind down his stables, Williamson looked for greener pastures and, as a number of Australia’s leading jockeys did at the time, ventured to Europe. In 1960 he accepted a contract to ride for two very successful seasons for the leading Irish trainer, Seamus McGrath, winning among other races the One Thousand Guineas and Coronation Stakes. Afterwards, Williamson moved to England to ride for Harry Wragg, winning the 1968 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the great Vaguely Noble. Williamson won the Arc again the following year on Levmoss after he had renewed his association with McGrath. Nicknamed ‘Weary Willie’ by the English press, the sleepy-eyed, quiet Australian enjoyed remarkable success in Europe and would ultimately win thirteen classic races there. A relaxed and patient jockey, as his one-time rival Ron Hutchinson observed: “He was just a wonderful stylist, so nice to watch, a straight back, low in the saddle and perfect balance.” Williamson finally hung up his saddle in 1973 when he became the official racing manager for the Indian shipping tycoon, Ravi Tikkoo. Williamson returned to Melbourne in 1976 but retained his connection with the Sport of Kings by acting as the assistant starter for both the V.R.C. and V.A.T.C. before his untimely death from cancer at the age of 56 in January 1979.
Whereas Alister failed to leave his mark at stud, True Course proved quite successful. One of her daughters, Eld, won the 1967 V.R.C. Wakeful Stakes for Alec Creswick, while two other daughters in Celandine and Sentence threw Midlander and Jury respectively, two very good Melbourne stayers who carried the Creswick colours with distinction, each being a serious Victoria Derby contender in their turn. Older sportsmen will remember Midlander for his gallant third behind Light Fingers in the Melbourne Cup and the more than occasional recalcitrance he could exhibit on the racecourse that at times cost punters dearly! Alas, Fred Hoysted didn’t live to train all of the progeny of True Course. Two of his sons – Norman, better known as Bon, and Bob – were to train successfully, including both Midlander and Jury for the Creswick family, although they are best remembered for their association with that wonderful sprinter of the late seventies and early eighties, Manikato. Bob Hoysted also trained the great Rose of Kingston on behalf of David Hains, a mare that not only won the A.J.C. Derby in 1982 but at stud foaled a Melbourne Cup winner in Kingston Rule.
A third Hoysted son is remembered for quite another reason. Walter, as we have seen, was a promising jockey as a boy but he made the headlines in February 1966 because of his very public protest against the use of the whip in horseracing. Hoysted took a double-barrelled shotgun to Flemington races and delayed the start of the first event, the Fulham Hurdle, by forty minutes. A single shotgun blast into the summer sky that day announced his arrival on the inside of the course proper near the barriers. He declared he would shoot the first jockey who charged his mount out of the gates.
Police were summoned and the race was delayed until he surrendered himself to the police. Walter Hoysted subsequently appeared in court where he was found guilty of a minor public order offence and fined £40. Strange, isn’t it, to reflect on a more innocent age? Eventually, the V.R.C. took out a Supreme Court restraining order preventing Walter from entering racetracks. The debate over whip use endures to this day. I might add that Walter’s protest wasn’t entirely in vain. Sometime later the V.R.C. changed the rules pertaining to whip use. The ‘persuader’ was reduced in size, and the fore and hindquarters became the only part of a horse’s body that could be hit, and, even then, for the most part, only if the horse was in the finish. Alas, Walter Hoysted became the black sheep of the Hoysted clan and was barred from entering his brother’s stables. He lived the balance of his life anonymously until his death in 1980. On reflection, Fred Hoysted left quite a legacy!
I can’t resist a postscript to the story of Fred Hoysted, the Australian foals of 1947, and that 1950 A.J.C. Derby field. The champion racehorse to emerge from that year’s crop would, in fact, be trained by a Hoysted but it wouldn’t be Fred, rather it would be his cousin, Percy, at Warwick Farm. When Alister, Rumyle and True Course were contesting for Derby honours at Randwick, there was a nondescript three-year-old bay colt by the stallion Felt Yet out of the mare Sing Again, sheltering in a Brisbane stable. Only forty-three days earlier he had broken through for his first win in a Maiden Handicap at Eagle Farm. He had been purchased out of the paddock when a yearling by prominent Queensland trainer, Jack Booshand. Some years before, Booshand had trained his sire to win the Queensland Guineas. He registered the colt as Carioca. As an early-season two-year-old, Carioca showed such speed in track trials at Toowoomba that Jack Booshand brought him over to Sydney although he was beaten in his two starts there in November 1949.
Unfortunately, in the autumn of 1951, Booshand was kicked in the head and injured when helping a horse to be shod at Albury while travelling there with his team for the Albury Cup meeting. While recovering in hospital, Booshand resolved to give his friend Percy (‘Duck’) Hoysted a twelve-month lease on Carioca. The two men had been friends since their days as apprentice jockeys. Before transferring to Sydney, Percy Hoysted had resided at Wagga and for a long time had been a leading rider in the Southern Districts. When he did finally hang up his saddle, he made a successful transition to training and won many races from his Forsyth-street stables in Wagga. Alas, Hoysted only managed to win a Novice Handicap at Hawkesbury in late May with Carioca before the horse’s foot became infected and he was prevented from racing. Because of that setback and the fact that Hoysted hadn’t been afforded many opportunities with the horse, Booshand then extended the lease for another year until July 1953.
Carioca’s next campaign in the spring and early summer of 1952 was to be a revelation. Resuming with an unplaced run at the Tattersall’s Club September meeting and a second in the Kensington Handicap during the Randwick Spring Meeting, Carioca was finally introduced to Billy Cook. For Cook, it was to be the ride of a lifetime! Carioca proceeded to win seven races on the trot including the prestigious Villiers Stakes-Summer Cup double at the 1952 A.J.C. Summer Meeting. Freshened up with a nine-week break from racing, ‘Duck’ Hoysted then brought Carioca back for an autumn campaign that culminated with victories in both the A.J.C. Chipping Norton Stakes and Sydney Cup. In the following spring, the son of Felt Yet returned to Randwick and triumphed in The Metropolitan with 9 st. 7lb beating the great Hydrogen by a long head, after conceding the four-year-old 4lb in weight. The 48 hours leading up to that race were rather dramatic. Carioca had run third in the Epsom Handicap with 9 st. 7lb on the previous Saturday – beaten five lengths when the 5/4 favourite in Australian record time by Silver Phantom. That race knocked it out of Carioca and Hoysted was seriously considering scratching the horse from The Metropolitan. Potter and Parry-Okeden, respectively the chairman and secretary of the A.J.C. interviewed Hoysted and made clear that the club would direct its own veterinary surgeon to inspect the horse before he could be withdrawn.
Carioca would continue to race and win into his seven-year-old season and by the time he was retired from the Turf he had accumulated stakes winnings of some £35,662 and a record of 20 wins, 7 seconds, and 9 thirds from 44 races. In all bar five of those starts and two of those wins, Carioca was trained by ‘Duck’ Hoysted. ‘Duck’ was no chicken when he first leased Carioca – he was a 60-year-old trainer with a lifetime of horses behind him. However, just like cousin Fred at Mentone, ‘Duck’ at Warwick Farm knew what to do if the right horse walked through the stable portals. In Carioca, he got the horse of a lifetime!