Among the most popular fixtures of the season for the real racing aficionado, are the two-year-old barrier trials held at Randwick in mid-September. Juveniles that have been seen galloping in the home paddocks, or sold at the fall of the auctioneer’s hammer just months before, carry silk for the first time. It is an occasion only for the racing purist, with no bookmakers and no betting, and although the amenities of the Randwick racecourse are freely available, the attendance is never large. Such trials have been a part of the club’s traditional racing calendar for many years but rarely has the fixture ever been more keenly anticipated than in 1954. For some weeks before the trials that year there had been a real excitement abroad as the cold, sharp days of winter mellowed and lengthened into spring. And the reason for it was the early promise being shown by a small group of colts and fillies by a first-season stallion recently imported into Australia by Stanley Wootton. Nat Gould’s fables of yore were mild compared to the tales being regaled as to the speed of some of the progeny. The stallion’s name was Star Kingdom.
This horse that would become the most successful thoroughbred stallion ever to stand in Australia was foaled on the last day of April in 1946 at Cloghran Stud in County Dublin, Ireland. By Hyperion’s son, Stardust, Star Kingdom was from an unraced mare named Impromptu. While Impromptu never faced the starter, her sister Wrong Note did, and as the winner of seven races and a shared dead heat in another, she was by right of deeds on the track, the outstanding two-year-old in Ireland of 1943. Impromptu had a very short career at the stud, producing only two other foals. Standing just over 15.1, Star Kingdom was about the same size as Hyperion himself and the concentration in his pedigree came from Pilgrimage and her legendary daughter, Canterbury Pilgrim. Pilgrimage appears no less than eight times and Canterbury Pilgrim thrice in Star Kingdom’s pedigree. Canterbury Pilgrim, of course, produced the outstanding stallions Chaucer and Swynford, and it was aboard Swynford that Frank Wootton, Stanley’s brother, had enjoyed his greatest triumph.
Canterbury Pilgrim was the yearling filly purchased in 1894 by Lord Stanley, the future 17th Earl of Derby, and the mare that was mostly responsible for the resurgence in the fortunes of the Knowsley Stud. Star Kingdom was sold as a yearling for 3100 guineas at the 1947 Doncaster Sales to Wilfred Harvey, an English publisher. Registered as Star King (his name changed when imported into Australia) he was sent down to the Berkshire stables of J. C. Waugh at Chilton. The colt won his first start by ten lengths and five of his six appearances at two, including wins in the Sandown Park Stud Produce Stakes, the Richmond Stakes and the Gimcrack Stakes. It was Star King’s misfortune to be out in the same year as Abernant, rated by the great Sir Gordon Richards as the fastest horse he ever rode. It was Abernant who administered Star King’s only defeat as a juvenile when he beat him a short head in the National Breeders’ Produce Stakes in a controversial finish. At the end of the season, Star King was rated second in the Free Handicap, two pounds inferior to his great rival.
At three, high hopes were held for Star King in The Two Thousand Guineas, particularly after handsomely winning the Greenham Stakes, but at Newmarket, he ran ingloriously in the race won by Nimbus. It proved a disappointing season overall, although he did manage to win the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury in a two-horse field, albeit without any of the sparkle of his two-year-old form. It was to be a similar story at four when he won the Coronation Stakes at Chester at his seasonal reappearance only to fail in four subsequent appearances. It was at the close of the 1950 season that the prescient Stanley Wootton stepped in and purchased the colt for £6,000 and shipped him to stand at Baramul Stud in the Widden Valley.
The biography of Stanley Wootton’s early years was presented in the 1918 chapter of this chronicle. When we last met him, he had just accepted the King’s shilling and gone off to World War I with the 17th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers. Stanley returned to England as a war hero, receiving the Military Cross for having rescued a fellow officer during the Battle of Somme on July 7th, 1916. Dick Wootton, Stanley’s father, had kept the home fires burning at Treadwell House during the difficult war years but gladly passed the training baton to Stanley on the latter’s demobilisation in the early months of 1919. During the war, many former patrons of the Turf, some for patriotic and others for financial reasons, had abandoned the business entirely and some never came back. In their place, some of the nouveau riche entered the sport. Dick stayed around for much of the year to assist his second son and ensure a smooth transition before heading back to the warmth of the Australian sunshine and away from an England swept by the Spanish flu pandemic.
Whereas his older brother, Frank, had stayed in khaki longer and elected to become a jockey according to National Hunt rules upon being demobilised, Stanley transitioned to training almost immediately after he came out of the army. And not for him the jealous introspections of a less-gifted younger brother in the saddle. Working with the stopwatch and the studbook was a whole new game. It was one that he would master as few before him. Stanley Wootton’s initial string at Treadwell House comprised just twenty-two horses in the spring of 1919, including some owned by his father’s old patron, Sir Edward Hulton. But he quickly increased numbers as he got into his stride. Nonetheless, he did hit the ground running by saddling up a double at the 1919 Newmarket Craven Meeting.
Stanley Wootton’s template for a successful stable closely adhered to that of his father before him. It was a betting stable pure and simple, without the magnificent obsession of winning the English classics. After all, 10/1 was as good a price at Pontefract as it was at Newmarket or Epsom. Just like his father but even more so, Stanley owned most of the horses he trained, a trend that would become more pronounced with the passing of the years. Moreover, just like his father, he tended to buy his horses cheaply and placed them well. For a time in the early 1920s, Wootton even partnered some of his jumpers in races, his National Hunt jockey licence having been renewed in 1920. In three seasons between 1921 and 1926, Stanley Wootton trained more winners in England than any other trainer. Indeed, by the mid-1920s, Wootton owned so many horses that he had to expand his training operations to encompass nearby Shifnal Cottage as well as Treadwell House.
And again, just like his father, Stanley was to establish an immensely successful apprentices’ academy at Epsom that bridged the interwar years. While Charlie Smirke was the most successful jockey to graduate from the Wootton academy with his eleven English classic wins including four English Derbies, there were plenty of others. Vic Smyth was another top rider taught by Wootton and he won the 1923 English Oaks while Joe Marshall and Tommy Carey each rode English Derby winners in Trigo (1929) and Straight Deal (1943) respectively. Wootton also tutored Billy Stott and Frenchie Nicholson, who each became champion jockeys under National Hunt rules. Just like his father who preferred brothers who demonstrated aptitude in the pigskin – look no further than Ernie or Willie Huxley, not to mention Frank and Stanley Wootton – Stanley pursued the same policy with the like of the brothers Smyth, Dick, Cardell and Ingham.
Stanley Wootton and Australia were virtual strangers from the moment that he took up full-time training at Treadwell House after World War I, until he came to Sydney in October 1945 to visit his ailing father, who subsequently died in June 1946. While Stanley Wootton continued to train horses in England with consistent success until the mid-1950s, it is fair to say that after his father’s death he began to pay far more attention to the land of his birth. The first commercial stallion that Stanley Wootton purchased on behalf of Australian breeders was Confessor, a son of Fair Trial, for which he paid 7100 guineas at the Newmarket October Sales in 1946. A big, heavy chestnut horse Confessor had been trained in England by Fred Darling and was the winner of five races there including the Newmarket Buckenham Stakes.
Confessor was the first syndicated stallion imported here and the syndicate of eight owners included George Ryder, Reg Moses, Percy Miller, Frank Packer and Stanley Crick. In a formula that would become all too familiar in the postwar years in Australia, the syndicate was divided into forty shares with each shareholder holding five shares each. Those were the days when a stallion’s full book consisted of just forty mares. The principle of syndication as a means of buying expensive stallions was commonplace in Europe but a new experience for Australia. It was an acknowledgement that the price of top-class English stallions was now largely beyond the reach of one man. Confessor proved successful in Australia, siring nine individual stakes winners including, as we have seen, the 1952 V.R.C. Derby winner, Advocate.
The year after sending out Confessor, Stanley Wootton bought Kerry Piper and Newtown Wonder to stand in Australia, both stallions arriving here in late January 1948. A greater contrast in stallions would be hard to imagine. Kerry Piper, a son of the 1929 English Derby and St Leger winner Trigo, had won the Cesarewitch Stakes and four other races in England. Kerry Piper was the first stallion that Wootton and Alf Ellison of the Baramul Stud, owned in partnership and he proved most disappointing getting only one stakes winner in the 1954 A.J.C. Summer Cup. By comparison, Newtown Wonder, who stood at George Ryder’s Woodlands Stud, was a success in siring twenty individual stakes winners, although most of his stock could only last five furlongs and were at their best as early-season two-year-olds. Perhaps the best of his progeny were Apple Bay and Cultured. However, mixed was the success of these first three stallions that Wootton sent to Australia, he hit the jackpot with Star King.
Star King arrived here aboard the Perim in late January 1951 in the company of Makarpura, a horse that had run second to him at York in the prestigious Gimcrack Stakes at his last appearance as a juvenile. Upon his arrival Down Under, Star King’s name was promptly changed to Star Kingdom to avoid any confusion with a locally-bred racehorse of the same name. Whereas Star Kingdom was owned in a three-way partnership between Wootton, Ellison and R. F. (Reg) Moses, Makarpura was owned in partnership between Wootton, Moses and the former leading jockey, Ted McMenamin. I might mention in passing that while Makarpura ultimately disappointed Wootton, he did go on to sire fifteen individual stakes-winners, mostly in South Australia and Western Australia; but he was also responsible for getting Magic Symbol, the dam of Biscay and Star of Heaven, each of which carried the Wootton colours with distinction on the racecourse and the Star Kingdom genes with distinction in the breeding barn.
Wootton was attracted to Star Kingdom as a potential stallion for the Australian market, having seen him race as a juvenile and believed he would get early comers that upon maturity might stay a mile. These were just the type of horses that Australian race clubs were beginning to cater for, as the prestige of stamina here began to give way to speed. Moreover, Star Kingdom represented an outcross for a great many mares at stud in Australia because he didn’t carry any Phalaris blood. In the immediate postwar years, there had been a major concentration of Phalaris blood here with no less than seven influential Phalaris male-line sires viz. Law Maker (a son of Phalaris), Manitoba, Kinderscout, Brueghel, Nizami, Channel Swell (grandsons of Phalaris) and Nilo (great-grandson of Phalaris). The success of the Phalaris line had encouraged its continued use but there was now a mood for change to a fashionable outcross.
As mentioned above, the ownership of the son of Stardust was to be split three ways, with Wootton’s associate, Reg Moses of Fairways Stud, and Alf Ellison, owner of Baramul, as the other two partners. Ellison was then in the first flush of his success as a studmaster, having just been represented by Alister in both the A.J.C. and V.R.C. Derbies a couple of months before. The arrangement was that each of the three men would be entitled to send an equal number of mares to the horse. Star Kingdom’s initial service fee was set at 300 guineas and even before he had arrived in Australia the lists of broodmares for his first two seasons were already filled. Indeed, from his first book of thirty-seven mares, eighteen of the subsequent progeny managed to get to the racecourse.
Wootton’s faith in his stallion’s ability to produce early comers was fully borne out at those Randwick two-year-old trials in 1954. All told, there were nine of Star Kingdom’s progeny engaged, of which four won, one ran second, two ran third, while the remaining two, although unplaced, finished close-up. This showing was some debut for a stallion. Three of his winners came from the stables of Jack Green, who that year was to enjoy a wonderful season with his youngsters and finally establish his reputation as one of Sydney’s leading trainers. If there was anyone at Randwick that day wondering whether the catch weights and soft conditions of the trials would necessarily translate into success on race day, they were not left to ponder for very long. At the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, the Jack Green stable achieved a rare juvenile double when, with Bill Camer up, Kingster and Ultrablue, each by the new wonder stallion, won the Breeders’ Plate and Gimcrack Stakes respectively. Clearly, a new brand of speed and precocity had arrived upon the scene.
Unquestionably, the star of that first crop of Star Kingdom was indeed Kingster, the best two-year-old in what was to prove a very good year. Curiously, he was one of the few Star Kingdom foals to be absolutely top-class purchased as a yearling. Although there were others, Citius and Starover come to mind, almost all of his other outstanding sons and daughters were retained and raced by their breeders. Kingster had been purchased by the Randwick trainer Jack Green at the 1954 Easter sales for 1000 guineas. The dam of Kingster, Canvas Back, was an imported mare that had carried the Royal colours. Green had made his reputation in the early post-war years largely by winning races with unsound horses and cast-offs from other stables and the 1954-55 racing season was the first in which he enjoyed a stable full of sound young horses, many of whom he had selected at sales himself.
Jack Green had purchased Kingster on behalf of Les Gibson, a young man from Narromine, and he was only the second horse the owner had raced up to that time. There is an interesting sidelight to Gibson’s attendance at those sales that in due course was to see Jack Green hit the jackpot with another yearling purchased by an untried stallion. Les Gibson was friendly with a neighbour of his from Narromine, Bob Burns, and when he knew that Burns was interested in buying a yearling to race with his two sons, he suggested that they travel to Sydney together and that his friend consider Green for his trainer – sound advice as it turned out. For Green selected a bay colt by first-season sire, Brimstone, for the Burns family at a cost of 1100 guineas. It was the first horse owned by the Burns and he just happened to turn out to be Baystone.
After his Breeders’ Plate victory, Kingster was set aside for the rich prizes in the autumn. He resumed in February 1955, to easily win a minor race at Rosehill, and then made a hit-and-run visit to Melbourne for the valuable (£2,500) Merson Cooper Stakes. It was there that he clashed with his main rival of the season, Knave, a massive colt trained by Maurice McCarten, although Kingster proved superior on this occasion by half a length. Due to an oversight, Kingster wasn’t entered for the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, and in his absence, Knave confirmed the superiority of the Sydney colts by winning that classic comfortably in a fast time. A big strongly-made dark chestnut, Knave, a son of Faux Tirage, had also appeared at those Randwick two-year-old trials in mid-September and his development into one of the season’s best colts didn’t surprise anyone. The manner in which he finished off his trial that day coming right over the leaders, stamped him as a colt of real promise. Maurice McCarten trained Knave on behalf of his breeder, Tom Lowry of New Zealand.
Although not particularly tall, Knave was a very deep-bodied, heavy-topped colt, and for his height would have weighed more than any horse of his age for many a long season. Knave’s dam, Trick, descended from one of Australia’s best families, tracing back to Cyden and Teppo. Tom Lowry boasted a rather distinguished pedigree as well. Besides being a son of the man who had owned Desert Gold, he was one of New Zealand cricket’s batting greats, having captained a Test team on a tour of England. And so, the scene was now set for the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting to determine the best two-year-old of the season. There was considerable speculation before the Sires’ Produce Stakes as to whether Star Kingdom stock possessed stamina enough for the testing seven furlongs trip over the Randwick course. ‘Come quick, go quick, stop quick’ was the derogatory slogan being applied to the progeny of some of the speed stallions recently imported into Australia – most notably Newtown Wonder – and the adherents of Star Kingdom were anxious for their champion to avoid such opprobrium. Kingster’s Rosehill eclipse just before the meeting and Knave’s Flemington triumph were sufficient to see Knave go to the post an even-money favourite for the richest juvenile race of the season. Although Knave was wide for a good part of the journey, after a quick struggle in the straight, Kingster easily drew ahead to win by a length and a quarter.
It was something of an anti-climax then, when three days later in the Champagne Stakes Neville Sellwood on Knave outmanoeuvred Bill Camer on Kingster, to go down by a length to his archrival. In the aftermath of that event, stewards suspended Camer for one month for having tried to barge his way clear on the champion colt of the season. The club’s handicapper, Ian Feaks, subsequently confirmed Kingster’s status when he awarded him the top weight of 9 st. 5lb in the season’s Free Handicap, one pound more than Knave. Such was the reputation that Kingster and company had established for Stanley Wootton’s wonder stallion that the seventeen-yearlings from his second book sold through public auction yielded a staggering aggregate of 38,350 guineas, including the season’s most expensive, the future Royal Kingdom.
The intriguing question that exercised the minds of sporting men throughout the winter months of 1955 was just how far the Star Kingdoms in general and Kingster in particular, might extend their speed. Racegoers were divided as to the respective merits of Knave and the Jack Green-trained galloper for the Derby, but one man that remained relatively unperturbed about either horse was Randwick trainer, Ted Hush. In his stables was a rising three-year-old brown colt by Valognes that had broken through for his first win at his eighth and last appearance as a two-year-old in a six-furlong juvenile handicap at Rosehill in early June. But the manner of that victory – five lengths to spare from a big field after clearing out from the furlong pole – and the profits reaped from the betting ring, had given the canny trainer a certain Derby confidence. The colt in question, Caranna, had previously shown plenty of promise on the training tracks but poor barrier draws, and ill fortune in races had conspired to keep him a maiden for longer than he deserved. While pressmen wrote extravagant praise about the more prominent Derby candidates, Ted Hush, like Brer Rabbit, “laid low and said nothing”.
It was only interference that cost Caranna a three-year-old handicap at his seasonal re-appearance at Rosehill when Landy narrowly beat him, a result he subsequently reversed with the same colt at Warwick Farm a fortnight later. Caranna was then narrowly beaten in the Canterbury Guineas, won by Aboukir, before an authoritative win in the Rosehill Guineas assured the son of Valognes favouritism on Derby Day over the other ten colts engaged in the classic.
One famous name missing from the A.J.C. Jockeys’ Board on Derby Day 1955 was D. Munro. The former champion jockey after a long and fateful career had finally surrendered his licence on June 21, 1955, his last major victory coming when he partnered Lindbergh to win the 1954 A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes for trainer Harry Darwon. Many regarded Darby as the greatest jockey Australia had ever produced and he had won most of the important races on the Australian calendar except most notably perhaps for the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, Caulfield Cup, V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap, Australian Cup and A.J.C. Metropolitan. His honour roll of major race victories included; three Melbourne Cups (Peter Pan, Sirius, Russia); five A.J.C. Derbies; five V.R.C. Derbies; three Sydney Cups (Mosaic, Abspear, Veiled Threat); two A.J.C. Epsom Handicaps (Modulation, Shannon); A.J.C. Doncaster Handicaps (Venetian Lady, Mildura); A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes (Dark Sky, Flying Duke, Lindbergh); A.J.C. Champagne Stakes (Chemosh, Tonga, Wattle, Lindbergh); V.R.C. Oaks (Siren, Triode, Session). Within days of giving up his A.J.C. jockey’s licence, the club granted him a No.1 trainer’s licence.
The 1955 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
Hush also had a useful second string to his Derby bow in Gay Rannick, who won a restricted (10f) stakes race at Rosehill the week before. Knave was the public second elect. Maurice McCarten’s colt had seemingly thrown away the Canterbury Guineas when he nearly unseated Sellwood about thirty yards from the winning post after veering out to the gate leading to the saddling enclosure. However, he had then been on his best behaviour when contained by Caranna in the Guineas at Rosehill. The New Zealand colt, Romanos, who at his only Australian start in the Rosehill Guineas, had made up many lengths in the straight to finish fourth was on the next line of betting ahead of Landy, the sole representative of the Tom Smith stable. Landy had been bought as a yearling on behalf of the late Wallace Sawyer, of the Riverina family that had given Smith his first break into racing, but unfortunately, the wealthy grazier hadn’t lived to see Landy realise his potential.
After winning the Hobartville Stakes at his seasonal debut, Kingster had lost caste for the classic when beaten into second place in both the Hill Stakes and Guineas at Rosehill. Bill Camer, Jack Green’s stable jockey, had been committed to riding Kingster during the horse’s campaign and thus had relinquished the ride on Caranna to Athol Mulley in the Rosehill Guineas after having partnered the horse in his only two previous victories. Royal Gaekwar represented Queensland in the Derby while Talento and Magic Nib hailed from Victoria. One horse not expected to trouble the judge was Noble Archer, a full brother to Forest Beau and a half-brother to Waterlady, and the most expensive yearling sold at the 1954 Easter Sales. The Eastment brothers parted with 6500 guineas to secure possession, but his public appearances before that Derby had already established him as unworthy, both of his fraternal relationships and the extravagant expectations entertained for him by his owners when they outlaid their money. Noble Archer ran as the despised outsider of the Derby field.
Showers marred Derby Day, but despite this, the course itself remained in good condition. Athol Mulley, Caranna’s rider, had injured his leg in a racing incident at Hawkesbury on Tuesday before the Derby and was required to prove his fitness to the stewards before the race. There aren’t many jockeys that won’t come up with a doctor’s certificate when the mount on a short-priced favourite in a Derby is at stake, although it was significant that Mulley didn’t accept any mounts before the race and only one afterwards. But sometimes a man has to suffer for his art and in the little more than two-and-a-half minutes after the barriers crashed open, Mulley, injury or not, was to give a virtuoso performance. The early pace in the race was something of a farce with Neville Sellwood on Knave electing to take the lead from his inside barrier only to slow the field down markedly once he got there. Unlike many others inconvenienced in the subsequent crowding, Caranna enjoyed a perfect run in fourth or fifth position until about the half-mile when momentarily caught in a pocket.
The problem for a short-priced favourite in any big race is that every rival jockey rides to beat him. And it was coming towards the entrance to the straight that Mulley’s problems started. He attempted a split between Landy and the running rail but unlike his human namesake, this particular Landy was doing no race favours for anyone. Mulley made three attempts before escaping the pocket when Landy eventually tired and shifted ground. Caranna slewed almost sideways to get his run, and when Mulley drove him through on the outside of Gay Rannick, the colt came right away at the finish to defeat his stablemate and give Hush a Derby quinella. Prince Dante, the maiden performer, trained by Ernie Fellows, took the minor placing. Caranna might have returned to scale with a large splash of white paint on his hindquarters – a telltale sign of his clash with the running rail – but it was the jockey rather than the horse that was slightly lame. Though the winner might have had an excuse, his rivals certainly didn’t. Knave after an easy run in front had compounded rather quickly in the straight while Kingster, ridden from behind, was found wanting at the three when the pace quickened and only plodded on to finish sixth. It seemed that perhaps, after all, the Star Kingdom stock wouldn’t stay.
After the failure of Hydrogen in 1951, the disappointment of second placing with Electro in 1953, and the defection of Pride of Egypt in 1954, there weren’t many that begrudged Ted Hush his A.J.C. Derby quinella in 1955. Here was a man who had struggled toughly in his early years on the Turf. The taciturnity he showed towards pressmen when in the full career of success during his later years was understandable. Many pressmen considered that Hush fully lived up to his name when it came to imparting any news on a racecourse. But his first loyalty always remained to his owners. Something the public perhaps didn’t fully appreciate was his talent as a humorist. At the 1948 A.J.C. Derby Meeting, Azzalin Orlando Romano had the expensive Bernbrook engaged in the classic and the colt was regarded as not being without a chance. The colourful restaurateur, who had made a fortune from the illegal liquor trade, was renowned for his sartorial flamboyance and for puttin’ on the Ritz at the racecourse. On Derby Day that year he was resplendent in a top hat, frock coat and spats – dressed, so it seemed, for the presentation ceremony. As the Derby candidates milled around behind the barrier awaiting it to be lowered, a trainer seated in the stand next to Hush turned to him and asked: ‘What’s the delay?’ Hush, straight-faced, replied: ‘Perhaps they’re waiting on a gear change to one of the owners.’
Edward Oliver Hush was born near Coonabarabran, NSW, on March 13th, 1898. His early years were spent on the Deans’ family property ‘Lenark’ before enlisting in the Army in World War I. The youthful Hush served as a frontline runner or despatch rider for three years with the 13th Battalion, 4th Brigade Headquarters, sustaining an injury when a mortar bomb, shattered one of his kneecaps. Upon demobilisation, Hush worked for the Sydney bloodstock firm, H. Chisholm and Company, which in those days before their takeover by William Inglis and Son in February 1934, maintained a large sale yard and stabling accommodation alongside the Randwick tram depot, close to Randwick racecourse. Hush acted as head groom cum float-driver. It was in this capacity that he first attracted the notice of Fred Christey. Hush began training in very modest circumstances in the early 1920s when he gained his first licence from the Associated Racing Clubs responsible for pony racing at Kensington, Rosebery, Ascot and Victoria Park. His first client was Ken Austin, then principal of Chisholm’s and the man fated to own the 1956 A.J.C. Derby winner Monte Carlo. Later Roy Chisholm himself gave Hush a few ponies to train. But it was principally Fred Christey who set Hush on the road to training success.
Christey had a thriving business in the export of horses to the East. He purchased tried racehorses that had disappointed their owners and which he believed capable of improvement. Christey was responsible for countless numbers of exports over the years, and many of them passed through Hush’s stable. It was acting in this capacity that Hush first showed his ability at both improving a horse and then placing it to advantage in a race, thereby enhancing its resale value. One of the first horses that Christie entrusted to Hush was a six-year-old mare by Orby’s Pride named Leone. Years later, Hush’s daughter recounted: ‘Whenever we were broke, which was fairly often, Leone would win a Menangle Hundred and Mum would be able to pay the gas bill and settle up with the grocer.’
Leone proved to be a hardy mare that raced until she was eleven, winning races every season – and most of those wins came during the hard, biting years of the Great Depression with Ted McMenamin in the saddle. Leone was still racing when Hush made his first application to train under the auspices of the A.J.C. At the time Hush was renting eight boxes from James Barden’s Derby Lodge stables in Wentworth Street, Randwick. In 1938, when Hush obtained his No. 1 licence, he purchased the Derby Lodge stables outright from Barden at the cost of £2,750. It seemed to be tempting fate to train out of a yard that boasted such a provocative name and Clive Inglis chaffed him with the remark: ‘You’re taking a chance going into a place called ‘Derby’ – it may prevent you from ever training the winner of one.’ The name didn’t stay for long, but not because of any superstition on Hush’s behalf. He merely wanted to re-christen the premises Leone Lodge, in honour of the little heroine that had made it all possible.
If Leone was the horse that kept the wolf from the door during the hard times, then Dewar was the horse that got Hush going as a trainer in the good times. Owned by Fred Christey, Dewar, like his Scotch namesake, went well with water and was one of the best wet-track horses Sydney has ever seen, winning among other races a Tattersall’s Cup, and Anniversary and Tramway Handicaps. Hush’s first big win came with Abspear in the 1943 Sydney Cup for Jack Eisen, and it was Hush who had convinced Eisen to buy Abspear when he came up for auction as a tried galloper. Just three years after that Sydney Cup, Hush won the Melbourne Cup with Russia, a horse that he part-owned with Russia’s breeder, Gordon Leeds. Russia lost sixteen times before Hush managed to win a race with him, two months before he turned four. Hush ultimately developed Russia into a champion stayer although he was to fall out with his co-owner within months of winning the Melbourne Cup, purportedly over ownership of the Cup itself, and Russia transferred into the stables of Frank McGrath.
A tribute to the patience and kindness of Hush towards his horses is borne out by the number of good matrons that spent their racing days at Leone Lodge. Civic Pride and the full sisters, Wattle and Shading, were just three top fillies trained by Hush who as mares ultimately achieved great fame in the breeding paddocks. Studmasters are apt to recognise those men who can be trusted not to prejudice a future broodmare by either overexertion on the racecourse or the too frequent recourse to chemical substances. While Hush was to train Pride of Egypt, the best son that Civic Pride got at stud, as well as the early foals of Shading, death was to deny him the privilege of training those two great sprinters, Fine and Dandy and Time and Tide. But we can be sure that Hush would have been pleased that the Moses family entrusted his great friend Harry Plant with their destinies on the racecourse. The famous old stables from which Ted Hush sent forth the likes of Hydrogen, Pride of Egypt and Caranna, no longer exist. Originally built for James Monaghan in the early 1890s and first known as Mirridong House, the famous establishment was a landmark of Randwick, situated on a high elevation in Wentworth St, overlooking Centennial Park. Sadly, the relentless march of progress saw it demolished in 1963 to make way for four blocks of apartments.
The successful jockey on Caranna in the A.J.C. Derby was Athol George Mulley, one of the real characters of the Australian Turf. The great Tommy Smith believed that he had never known a better judge of horses than Mulley. Immensely gifted as a horseman, he endeared himself to a generation of racegoers after the war with his larrikinism and irrepressible humour. His absent-mindedness, witticism and laid-back attitude to life generated a fund of anecdotes about him, which were then refracted through the media, acquiring the embellishments that always accrue to good tales. Athol (‘Call me George’) Mulley was born in April 1924 on his parents’ small dairy farm at Kangaroo Creek, eleven miles south of Grafton.
An idyllic early childhood was rudely interrupted by the onset of the Depression when his father lost the farm and his mother walked out on the five children. George left school at thirteen to find a job and bring in some much-needed money. For a while he worked with his father on a leased farm, supplemented by work in a nearby sawmill at Tinsvale. Because of his small stature – at fifteen he was 4’ 6’’ and less than four stone – and natural riding ability, people were always suggesting he seek an apprenticeship in a racing stable. An unsolicited letter to Bayley Payten, after Payten’s photograph appeared in a local paper, saw Payten provide the train fare and invite the boy down to Sydney for a month’s trial. “My father came with me on the train. It was an all-night journey. He took me out to Payten’s stables and stayed there for one day and then had to leave.”
All his life Mulley would remain a boy from the bush at heart and those first few years in the big smoke away from friends and family proved difficult. He was constantly absconding from the stables and on one occasion, together with a strapper, hired a sulky and went rabbiting out near Goulburn. Invariably Payten tracked him down and persuaded him to return. Payten persisted because, from the very beginning, he recognised sheer natural talent in the lad. Dubbed the ‘vest pocket apprentice’, Mulley had to wait 2 ½ years before he was allowed to ride in races and at the age of seventeen still weighed only five stone. But once licensed, Mulley’s rise was sensational. His first winner came at Canterbury Park on 20th July 1940 on the Payten-trained Climax.
Mulley won the Apprentices’ Premiership in only his second season and in his fourth season, 1945-46, the year he came out of his time, won the overall Jockeys’ Premiership thanks largely to a string of wins on Bernborough together with Bayly Payten’s assistance, who that year won his sixth straight trainers’ premiership. Throughout his life, Mulley retained the highest regard for Payten. “For ten years, from the age of 15 until I was 25, Payten was like a father to me.” Payten’s death in September 1948 at the age of just fifty-two hit Mulley hard and came after a tumultuous two years that included marriage and the fallout from Bernborough’s Caulfield Cup failure. Mulley decided to pack his saddle and travel to see the world. He enjoyed successful riding stints in South Africa, England, India, Ceylon, Malaya and Singapore. Later he would ride for Madam Mareoti in France, and upon his return from that contract was asked whether he had tasted snails. Mulley replied: “I didn’t eat any but I rode quite a few”.
Caranna’s Derby success attracted belated attention to his sire, Valognes. Edgar Britt was associated with Valognes throughout that horse’s racing career in England. A brown horse, he was a son of the 1938 English Derby winner Bois Roussel, who was also the sire of Delville Wood and was owned by Colonel Macdonald Buchanan and trained by Marcus Marsh, for whom Britt was riding at the time. His first race in his three-year-old season of 1948 came in the Chester Vase, which he won rather stylishly defeating such good horses as Alycidon and Sayajirao. The stable considered him an excellent chance in the Derby. Unfortunately, like a number of Bois Roussel stock, he was of a highly nervous and excitable temperament. The crowd on Derby Day, and particularly the walk through the public car park on the way to the start at Epsom, saw the colt boil over and lose his chance before the flag had even fallen. Valognes failed to train on in his four-year-old season and Frank Thompson, the A.J.C. committeeman, was able to acquire him on behalf of Widden Stud in 1949. He didn’t have a lot of runners in Australia in his short career at stud before Caranna came along, although he did get two classic winners in Barfleur and Castillo in his first season. Caranna was probably the best of his progeny, although Pandie Sun was another handy galloper.
The breeding of Caranna provides another salutary tale in the capricious fortunes of bloodstock breeding. His dam Connette was the result of mating the stallion, Constant Son, with a Magpie mare – both stallions owned by Percy Miller and a particular cross that Miller favoured for its in-breeding – Dark Ronald, the sire of Magpie, was the grandsire of Constant Son. A black filly, Connette was bought as a yearling by the brothers Arthur and Gavin Cobcroft at Easter 1939 and was a winner at Randwick when trained by Bayly Payten. She descended from what was once regarded as one of the stoutest staying families in the Australian Stud Book, tracing to Cross Battery, the dam of Artilleryman. Brunette, the dam of Connette was also the dam of Hannah and her half-sisters, Honey Dew, and Platonic, who were all first-class matrons at Kia Ora foaling Lady Hannah, Book Link, and Plato respectively, among others. Curiously enough, when the Cobcroft brothers bought Connette, the underbidder was A. W. Thompson of Widden Stud. The Cobcroft and Thompson families had been closely involved for many years and so when the time came to send the mare to stud it seemed only fitting to choose a Widden stallion. But as a broodmare Connette was most unfortunate, missing and slipping foals quite regularly. Several of the foals she did have met with accidents in the paddock, and I am only aware of two of her foals ever having been tried on the racecourse.
The subsequent form was to confirm Caranna as a worthy Derby winner and, excluding Kingster, the classiest horse to contest the A.J.C. blue riband that year. Only a week after winning the Derby, he defied the traditional hoodoo that bedevilled so many horses making their debut at Caulfield in those days and ran away with the Guineas. Drawn suitably in three in the sixteen-horse field, Caranna and Athol Mulley won easily by three lengths from French Charm, with Knave claiming the minor money. Kingster battled on gamely to finish fourth in the race but without ever looking like a winner. The disappointment of the Caulfield Guineas that year was the 11/4 favourite Star Realm, the Sydney speedster and son of the sensational Star Kingdom, who tried to lead all the way before folding to beat home only one runner.
Caranna was then expected by many to win the W.S. Cox Plate despite the presence of the great Rising Fast in the field. As it turned out, the race proved a triumph for three-year-olds although it was Kingster that caused a boilover, when at 33/1 he beat Caranna by a neck, with the Victorian colt Sailor’s Guide two lengths back in third place. Those wiseacres who had written off the Star Kingdom breed over middle distances had been given cause to pause in their judgement by Kingster’s reversal of form after finishing only fourth in the Caulfield Guineas. The victory had much to do with the bold front-running tactics that Green and Camer devised for the race. Caranna was feeling the effects of an exhaustive campaign the following Saturday when beaten into third place in the Victoria Derby won by Sailor’s Guide.
In the autumn a strained abdomen muscle caused Caranna to miss the A.J.C. St Leger and Sydney Cup, and in his absence, both races were won by Sailor’s Guide, who in so doing staked his reputation to be regarded as the season’s best-staying colt. Sailor’s Guide was an interesting example of international breeding at the time. Maurice Point bred the colt having bought the dam, Jehane, in England, and had her served by Lighthouse to Australian time before she was shipped out. Subsequently, Lighthouse himself was imported to Australia and stood at Bill Mackay’s Tinagroo Stud at Scone. When Point offered Sailor’s Guide as a yearling at the Sydney sales, buyers weren’t interested, and it was left to the Dibb family to buy the colt privately and entrust him to George Daniel, a retired schoolteacher, to train on the Bendigo racecourse. In winning the A.J.C. St. Leger he denied Ted Hush the rare distinction of winning both the Derby and St. Leger with different colts in the same year, for Gay Rannick went under by only a short head. In winning the Sydney Cup, Sailor’s Guide became Australia’s highest stakes-winning three-year-old, eclipsing Carbon Copy, with earnings of £30,194. Later on, of course, he raced successfully in North America winning among other races, the Washington D.C. International on a protest.
Caranna was taken to Brisbane later in the season where he won the Q.T.C. St. Leger and lost the Brisbane Cup by only a long neck to Redcraze. As a four-year-old, Caranna won only one race, leading all the way in the weight-for-age Craven Plate, but he was placed in the best of company. Perhaps his finest run came in the Melbourne Cup when he went down to Evening Peal and Redcraze in the closest of finishes. George Moore was never destined to win a Melbourne Cup but Caranna certainly gave him his best ride in the race, even if it did cost him a lengthy suspension later for causing interference. Perhaps the Cup took its toll on the horse too, for Caranna seemed to lose all form in the autumn of that year.
Upon the death of Ted Hush in February 1957, Caranna was briefly transferred into the Randwick stables of Tom Smith but the little master had no luck with the horse in a handful of starts and by the time his five-year-old season began, Caranna was lodging with Frank Dalton. Whilst the horse never recaptured the glory of his spring three-year-old days, Dalton did cajole some good performances from the horse during the next two seasons including wins in both a Christmas Cup and a Lord Mayor’s Cup at Rosehill, together with fighting seconds in 1958 in the Sydney Cup behind Straight Draw and in The A.J.C. Metropolitan when narrowly beaten by his stablemate, Monte Carlo. Caranna was retired to the stud after The Metropolitan, standing at Mr E. N. Larkin’s property, Stoneleigh, at Wilberforce, NSW. He failed to make an impact as a stallion.
On reflection, that 1955 A.J.C. Derby field included some fine gallopers. Jack Green resisted the temptation to make a stayer of Kingster and in the autumn the colt won the V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap. He went on and won £31,527 and a total of 12 races including the George Main Stakes, All Aged Stakes and a Q.T.C. Stradbroke Handicap from 40 starts. However, perhaps the race that Kingster is best remembered for and unlucky not to win was the 1957 A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap. Ridden by Athol Mulley, Kingster went to the post as the 9/4 favourite but suffered a locked stifle from standing in the gates too long at the start. Last early, in the eighteen-strong field, Kingster made up a great deal of ground to finish fourth, some two lengths from the winner, Slogan II.
Retired to the Compton Stud on his owner’s Narromine property at an initial service fee of 150 guineas, he proved a failure as a stallion. Knave was another from that Derby who was much better suited to sprinting. He won both the 1956 Stradbroke and Epsom Handicaps before being sold to race in the U.S.A. where he not only won three races but sired the winners of almost $750,000 in North America. In contrast to the racecourse success of that pair, is the subsequent fate of Gay Rannick. As we have seen, this colt ran good seconds in both the Derby and St Leger at Randwick. Like Caranna, he was transferred to Tom Smith upon the death of Hush, and although Smith won with him, the horse ultimately proved disappointing. McCormack finished training Gay Rannick to win over hurdles in Melbourne.
Wow, I loved reading this story. My grandfather was studmaster to Caranna at Stoneleigh and I remember the horse raging around his loose box, he was a bit frightening when he was roaring. My grandfather was Dick Turner and he left me several of his old bloodstock books from that era..
Thanks for taking the time to drop me a line. I always appreciate feedback such as yours. Great memories, aren’t they? Perhaps you might read a few of the other chapters as well!
Sorry I didn’t acknowledge your reply but I try to resist reading your posts, only because I would spend all day doing so. They bring back too many memories of my childhood with my grandparents and the bloodstock studs they worked on. Please keep sharing your posts, it’s so wonderful to hear about the early days of racing and breeding in Australia.
I don’t think everyone realises that the industry didn’t always belong to the very, very rich.