While the report of Flight’s death when foaling at Woodlands Stud in early October 1953 was no exaggeration, the obituaries that dismissed her as a failed matron were decidedly premature. It is a curious phenomenon of racing folklore within this country that unless a champion race mare throws a foal whose deeds on a racecourse closely match her own, she is often dismissed as a disappointment at stud. People remember with affection Wakeful’s son, Night Watch, who won the Melbourne Cup; and Valicare’s daughter, Siren, who won the V.R.C. Wakeful Stakes and Oaks; and rightly adjudge those two marvellous mares as champions of both course and paddock. But there have been many other champion mares such as La Carabine, Gladsome and Carlita to whom posterity’s judgement of their value as broodmares has been rather harsh. Of course, there have been instances when it has been grandsons and granddaughters that have resuscitated a fallen reputation as a matron. Desert Gold is a case in point. Although she managed to foal a couple of good winners, it was the deeds of her grandson, Gold Rod, which distinguished her as a matron. In this respect, she affords something of comparison with Flight.
Flight was the dam of only five foals, the grand mare dying when giving birth to the last. Four of her foals were colts, only one of which was a winner, of a few moderate races in Brisbane and country Queensland. But it is her one filly foal, the eponymous Flight’s Daughter by the imported Hyperion stallion Helios, which concerns us here. Like her mother, Flight’s Daughter was prepared for A.J.C. committeeman, Brian Crowley, by the veteran Randwick trainer Frank Nowland. In fact, she was one of the last horses trained by Nowland, who was seriously ill during her only racing campaign in the summer of 1951-52. Flight’s Daughter faced the starter on just three occasions – all in juvenile races at Randwick over unsuitable short distances, and all with a youthful Ray Selkrig in the leathers. She managed two minor placings and £285 for her troubles. Alas, such bald statistics do not tell the whole story of her racing talent.
So often a premature tryst in the mating barn is the lot of a well-bred filly that disappoints in her early appearances on the Turf. The owner of a potentially valuable matron is understandably anxious to avoid further devaluation of her by additional disclosures of mediocrity on the racecourse. Such anxieties did not unduly oppress Brian Crowley and indeed were not the reason for her early retirement. Nowland regarded the filly as very promising and thought she would come into her own once she got over more ground. In early morning gallops at Randwick, she worked with some of McCarten’s best horses, including Davey Jones and Deep River, and was capable of beating them. She was taken to Melbourne for the good juvenile races but contracted gastro-enteritis that almost resulted in her death. She never raced again, and it took a further two years for her to recover sufficiently even to do stud duty.
After Nowland’s death in April 1952, Brian Crowley for a time patronised the stables of Maurice McCarten before switching his allegiance to Jack Green during 1954. In casting around for a stallion to which to send Flight’s Daughter in the spring of that year for her first mating, he sought Green’s counsel. At the time Green was holding a handful of aces, precocious rising two-year-olds, from the first season crop of Star Kingdom who were just then about to hit the racecourse. His recommendation was unequivocal. Rarely has any bloodstock breeder been better advised; seldom has any trainer been better rewarded. Star Kingdom it would be then, and in due course, his trysts with Flight’s Daughter would produce two champion racehorses that would re-kindle the memories of Flight and once again bring glory to the fading blue and orange livery of Brian Crowley. The first of them was Skyline, a handsome though not robust, bay or brown colt, and our A.J.C. Derby hero of 1958.
It was in the winter of 1957 that Skyline went into Green’s Avoca Street stables. As was so typical of the Star Kingdom breed, he showed precocious speed from the start, and Jack Green chose the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate for the colt’s race debut. It was a season in which Green’s stables sheltered some other fast juveniles, such as New Gem and Secret Kingdom, so it wasn’t as if he didn’t have a measuring stick for Skyline’s talent. Although he threatened at the furlong post in the Breeders’ Plate, Skyline failed to sustain his run and finished fourth in the race won by Mighty Kingdom. Backed up a week later in the Canonbury Stakes on the final day of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, he lost his chance at the start but still managed to run third. Green declined the temptation of a southern visit and turned the colt out for a spell until the late summer. When Skyline resumed, he still lacked maturity and strength, and in this respect, he resembled Flight in her early days. Green brought him along slowly, and it was only after a couple of minor placings that the colt finally broke through for his first win in a Juvenile Handicap at Randwick a week before the Golden Slipper. Athol Mulley rode him that day and allowed him to lead from the half-mile, tactics that saw him going away from the big field at the post with four lengths to spare. Immediately afterwards, Green and Crowley declared Skyline a definite starter for the rich Golden Slipper.
Although he had been a warm favourite at Randwick, Skyline was a despised 25/1 outsider in the Slipper with most regarding Misting, a grey Meadow Mist colt from Victoria bred by Sir Chester Manifold at his Talindert Stud at Camperdown, a good thing. However, the race was run to perfection for Skyline with Misting setting a smart pace and Skyline slipstreaming behind. As race jockey Athol Mulley later observed: “Skyline was a one-paced horse, but he could keep going at the same speed all the way in a race. When Misting got tired in the straight, Skyline ran past him and won easily. The rest of the field never got into the picture.” If Skyline was lucky to win the race it was because of the absence of the filly Wiggle, the champion juvenile of the year whose connections, unlike those of Misting, declined to pay the controversial £1,000 late entry fee to secure a start. Wiggle wasn’t eligible to start in the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes a fortnight later either, and in her absence Skyline was sent to the post a prohibitive 4/7 favourite for that race.
Green and Mulley still hadn’t discovered that the trick to riding Skyline was to let him freewheel along at his own speed from the very start, a secret that was to remain such until shortly before the A.J.C. Derby in the spring. Fears about his stamina over seven furlongs inclined Mulley in the Sires’ to restrain the colt behind the pace until entering the straight. It was a tactic that backfired when Skyline showed no fight at all when letting down and he could only manage third behind Man of Iron and Nilento. On the same card Wiggle easily accounted for the Easter Handicap (6f) and had racegoers asking how different the Sires’ result might have been, had she been able to start. Skyline declined his engagement in the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes and was sent to the paddock instead, and in his absence Wiggle gave all her rivals a chance to see how she had earned her name when she careered away with the last of the major juvenile contests by six lengths. In mid-June, the flying Rego filly further underlined her class by becoming the first juvenile to win the rich Stradbroke Handicap against the older horses since Amber Down in 1916. It came as no surprise when she topped the Free Handicap for her year with 9 st. 5lb, two pounds above Misting. Man of Iron was ranked as Sydney’s top colt with 9 st. 2lb while Skyline was rated equal sixth on the list with 8 st. 8lb.
During the long nights of winter that year the question that exercised the minds of Brian Crowley and Jack Green more than any other was whether their colt was too brilliant to stay the Derby course. The answer to the riddle of the Epsom or the Derby seemed to be to let the horse resolve the matter. While never the sturdiest of colts, Skyline had strengthened during his absence from the racecourse and first-up as a three-year-old went under by a neck to Wiggle in the A.J.C. Hobartville Stakes. The stable went for a touch in the ring that day and although Skyline led the field by five lengths at the half-mile, he compounded in the straight. When he was easily beaten into third place in the S.T.C. Canterbury Guineas behind Prince Kerdieil and Bold Pilot a fortnight later it seemed to most observers that the Derby was out of the question.
But Jack Green and Athol Mulley remained unconvinced. As Mulley explained years later: “Skyline was a free-striding type; he resented being pulled about. After the Canterbury Guineas, we worked Skyline over a mile at Randwick. I suggested to Jack that we let him bowl along at his own speed and I would ‘click’ him up over the final three furlongs. Skyline ran the first five furlongs in twelve-and-a-half seconds to the furlong. Then he came home the last three furlongs in 36 seconds. It was an unbelievable gallop. Good enough to win a Melbourne Cup. It was then we decided to let Skyline run along in the Derby and let the others try and catch him.”
Alas for Athol, A.J.C. stewards stepped in and disqualified the hoop before Skyline was seen out again in public. The two-year disqualification followed action taken by the V.R.C. committee over the running of a horse called Cambridge in the 1958 Australian Cup; Mulley had ridden Cambridge, who finished fourth in the race. As well as Mulley, the V.R.C. ban also extended to Queensland bookmaker, Tom Marney, who had been fielding at Flemington on the day in question. For Mulley, it was perhaps the most serious interruption in a colourful career renowned for fiery clashes with racing officialdom. Although the ban was eventually reduced to seventeen months, it cost him dearly considering the fortune that attended the Green stable later that spring. In his absence, Mel Schumacher, a brilliant Queensland apprentice who had re-located to Randwick and only recently come out of his time, gained the mount on Skyline at his next start in the weight-for-age S.T.C. Hill Stakes. Instructed by Green to allow the colt his own way in front, Skyline ran the field into the rain-deadened ground to win by six lengths and clip four-tenths of a second from the race record previously held by Redcraze. Until then, Crowley had been undecided about the Derby or the Caulfield Guineas for Skyline’s next assignment. There was no such indecision now.
The 1958 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the following table:
Skyline was one of a field of nine that started for the A.J.C. Derby and many doubted that a son of Star Kingdom was capable of running out the classic distance. Favourite for the race was the little Victorian colt, Sir Blink, trained at Caulfield by Jack Godby for the first-time owner, Mrs W. M. Kellett. Mrs Kellett had bought the colt as a yearling for 475 guineas while holidaying in New Zealand, quite on the spur of the moment; upon returning to Melbourne she convinced her brother to become a part-owner. A son of the English stallion, Blue Coral, Sir Blink showed Godby sufficient speed early on to be prepared for the 1957 V.A.T.C. Debutant Stakes and although he failed to run a place, he did win his only other start that spring at Flemington.
In the autumn he showed the makings of a stayer by winning the prestigious V.R.C. Carmichael Stakes and the M.R.C. Avon Handicap, both over a mile. Any doubts that he might not be up to Derby weight were dispelled when he humped 9 st. 8lb to win the V.R.C. Ferndale Handicap at his final juvenile appearance later in the season in May. It was after Sir Blink had beaten worthy older horses in the open company of the Heatherlie Handicap on his home course that Jack Godby decided on a Sydney visit. The colt was a good thing beaten when third in the S.T.C. Rosehill Guineas after his jockey, Bill Williamson, had coveted the rails too richly and overplayed his hand. In trying to extricate himself in the straight, Williamson incurred both the wrath of the stewards and a one-month suspension that saw the Derby mount go to Arthur Ward in his place.
Apart from Arthur Ward, the real beneficiary of Sir Blink’s chequered passage at Rosehill had been the Tom Smith-trained Bold Pilot, and his Guineas victory, following on his second placing in the Chelmsford Stakes, saw him installed as second elect for the blue riband. Skyline shared the next line of betting with Prince Kerdieil, the S.T.C. Canterbury Guineas winner, who until his second behind Bold Pilot at Rosehill seemed an unlikely stayer. The only other runner in the race that attracted market support was the well-bred Valerius, a brother to the 1954 Derby winner, Prince Delville, amongst other good gallopers, trained by Frank Dalton for the A.J.C. chairman Alan Potter and the former committeeman, Keith Mackay. Valerius had cost 3700 guineas as a yearling and was an altogether better type than the diminutive Prince Delville. Dalton had shown remarkable patience with the big fellow, his racing debut coming in late March and the Derby was only his sixth start. Many were prepared to overlook the horse’s unplaced run in the Rosehill Guineas, given the slow early pace and the fact that Valerius had been forced to circle the field.
Moments before the Derby field was despatched, Sir Blink became restless. A barrier attendant took hold of his head to settle him down and as he did so the barrier was released. Consequently, the favourite was last away of nine. Now, it was Vladimir Ilyich Lenin who once famously declared: “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it ourselves!” A similar spirit of control actuated Schumacher who, after being the fourth to break, dashed Skyline to the front. However, Mel didn’t really allow the colt to use his stride until after a furlong or so. Skyline then put by the first half-mile in 49.5 seconds. Going along the back of the course, Schumacher had broken up the field establishing a break of around six lengths or more from Bardshah and Regal Jester, with another six lengths to Prince Kerdieil, eight lengths to Bold Pilot and Valerius with a gap to Sir Blink, Espalier and Woolsack last. Skyline was clocked to run the first mile in one minute and 38 seconds. So far, so good!
Between the half-mile and the turn, Skyline was given a ‘breather’ and the field closed on him to within about two lengths. But as Schumacher piloted the grandson of Flight around the home turn he stole another length. For a stride or two just before the furlong pole, it looked like Sir Blink with a magnificent finishing burst from the rear of the field might run Skyline down, but he failed to do so by one-and-a-quarter lengths. The little Star Kingdom colt had run the lot of them ragged. Prince Kerdieil languished a further three lengths back in third place. The clock, that infallible touchstone of truth, confirmed the incredible. Skyline had covered the mile and a half in 2 minutes 28.8 seconds, a new race record, clipping three-tenths of a second from Tulloch’s time of the year before. It was one of the finest exhibitions of front-running witnessed at Randwick for many years. The erratic and revolutionary genius of Mel Schumacher had never been seen to better effect.
A harum-scarum character, Mel Schumacher was born at Boonah, a small town about sixty miles southwest of Brisbane, where his parents kept a dairy farm. Originally apprenticed to Kevin Young at Deegan, neither the course of Mel’s indentures nor his life in general ever did run smoothly. A natural lightweight, the future enfant terrible of Australian racing had trouble even carrying the saddle and lead bags back to scale when he first started riding at a weight of little more than four stone. A dispute with Young, led to the Queensland Turf Club standing Schumacher down for six months. This contretemps, together with his lack of strength and a race fall, conspired to keep Schumacher out of the saddle for almost half of his apprenticeship up to that time. Schumacher’s prospects only brightened when he transferred his papers to Dick Roden in September 1956. Roden was then well on his way to establishing a considerable reputation as one of the best trainers in Queensland. A gifted amateur rider himself, Roden had quickly recognised the precocious talent of Schumacher.
In July 1957 the then 31-year-old trainer transferred his business to Randwick, having procured the stables of the retiring Dan Lewis, with the A.J.C. granting Roden a No. 1 licence in September 1957. Along with the eleven horses transported to Sydney, was his ace apprentice – ‘the best bet in the stable’ according to Roden at the time. Although Schumacher had ridden successfully in Sydney on ‘hit and run’ visits before, this permanent transfer quickly saw the lad blossom. He won a highweight handicap on Silver Phantom and the Newcastle Cup on Gallant Lee within weeks of his arrival. But it was his dashing front-running ride on his master’s horse, Baron Boissier, in the Colin Stephen Stakes at the 1957 A.J.C. Spring Meeting that made racing men sit up and take notice. It was a prelude to his exhibition twelve months later over the same course and distance on Skyline in the Derby. Schumacher had only completed his apprenticeship a couple of weeks before his dashing ride on Skyline, and despite the 21-year-old tearaway’s undoubted genius in the saddle, his antics had so exasperated even the imperturbable Dick Roden that the master trainer told him: “You’ve got a lot of gear of mine. Will you bring them back to the stables today? You go your way, and I’ll go mine.”
Of course, destiny would have another remarkable Derby Day awaiting Mel three years down the track but we shall get to that in due course. Meanwhile, Derby Day, 1958, in particular, and the entire A.J.C. Spring Meeting, in general, proved memorable for Schumacher. As if winning the Derby wasn’t enough, he came out aboard Turkestan in the Epsom Handicap, the following race on the card, and won the rich mile by a short half-head. The young man, who had only completed his apprenticeship in mid-September, proceeded to ride doubles on both the second and third days of the meeting while on the final day he took out the Canonbury Stakes on Fine and Dandy. Moreover, Schumacher’s good fortune carried onto Flemington’s spring carnival, even if that of Skyline did not. The controversial young hoop claimed the Maribyrnong Plate on Fine and Dandy and then won both the Hotham Handicap and Melbourne Cup on Baystone for Jack Green. What began to seem like a durable jockey-trainer partnership, however, was set asunder later that autumn when Schumacher declined to ride the out-of-form Skyline at Rosehill, preferring instead to ride Fountainhead in a race at Eagle Farm. Intensely loyal to his jockeys, Green expected a similar loyalty in return; never a man to be stood up at the best of times, the incident effectively marked the end of their working relationship for a considerable period of time, although in the late 1960s Schumacher was to again serve briefly as the stable’s first rider.
It seemed to all present at Randwick on Derby Day that a glittering career beckoned forth on the Turf for Skyline. Alas, even before the colt had been unsaddled, the truth was that the meridian splendour of his racing days had already passed. In one of the sadder epilogues to a Derby hero, Skyline was fated to win only one other race – an ordinary flying handicap – from twenty-one more starts on the racecourse. Taken to Melbourne immediately after the Derby, Skyline ran poorly in the Caulfield Cup won by his arch-rival, Sir Blink, and was then scratched from all further spring engagements. The first suggestion that something was badly amiss with the colt emerged during that Melbourne trip. His Caulfield Cup loss cost intimates of the Green stable dearly for Skyline had been coupled extensively in feature doubles with his stablemate, Baystone, who went on to take out the Melbourne Cup that year.
Sir Blink also won the Victoria Derby in the absence of Brian Crowley’s colt, in a punishing finish that saw him finish the spring as the highest-rated staying three-year-old. When he was brought back in the autumn, Skyline was restricted to sprinting; and in a Melbourne campaign, managed to finish runner-up in both the V.R.C. Lightning Stakes and V.A.T.C. Futurity Stakes but failed in the V.R.C. Newmarket won by his stablemate, Gold Stakes, on a heavy track. Incidentally, Gold Stakes in winning that Newmarket after previously taking out the V.A.T.C. Oakleigh Plate capped a remarkable season for Green. After running second last in the Doncaster when favourite, Green ended Skyline’s three-year-old season with a tilt at the Queensland Winter Carnival. Although he failed in the Q.T.C. Stradbroke Handicap, the colt showed something of his best form when he led for most of the journey to eventually run second in the Doomben Cup. It was to be his last glimpse of promise.
After being let down following his Brisbane commitments, Skyline began to scour badly with a complaint similar to Tulloch, and, as with Tulloch, Percy Sykes treated the colt. Like Tulloch, Skyline suffered from dysentery whenever Jack Green placed him back in work, which saw any comeback to the track continually postponed. For a time, he was even sent to spell at the Blandford Lodge Stud at Matamata in New Zealand. All told, Skyline was off the scene for thirteen months and when he did finally resume racing, in the weight-for-age Warwick Stakes in August 1960, was but a shadow of his former self. In eleven starts as a five and six-year-old after his comeback, Skyline managed just one minor placing in a distance handicap when pitched in on the weights. The horse finally retired after finishing an inglorious last in the 1962 Australia Day Handicap at Randwick and was sold as a stallion to do stud duty at Jack Shepherd’s Gyarran Stud at Muswellbrook.
Given the dynasty that the stallion Star Kingdom established in Australia and internationally, it is now hard to imagine that such a well-bred and well-performed son as Skyline retired to the mating barn without any fanfare or trumpets. It is even harder to imagine that he was a failure. But in the early sixties, the stigma attached to colonial-bred stallions remained. Kingster had been the first son of Star Kingdom to go to stud but he had served only a few mares before dying prematurely, although he did manage to get that smart filly, Blandster, and several minor winners. Todman was the next of the Star Kingdoms at stud and he created a sensation from the start by getting Eskimo Prince in his first season.
Whether or not the scouring disease that so ruined Skyline’s racing career also damaged his abilities as a progenitor is debatable, but it is interesting to reflect that both he and Tulloch, afflicted with similar complaints, each failed ignominiously at stud. Nonetheless, Jack Green’s faith in his old favourite, in the beginning, was touching. When the first of Skyline’s progeny, a filly from the mare Sol Dame, was sold through the Brisbane Yearling Sales, Jack Green flew to Queensland and successfully bid a record Brisbane price of 2000 guineas to obtain her. At the William Inglis Sales a month later, twelve yearlings by Skyline went under the hammer, averaging only 544 guineas compared to the overall sales average of 1220 guineas. All of them failed to shine. Perhaps the best horse Skyline ever managed to get at stud was Sky Sailor, a winner of both the Grafton and South Grafton Cups. There were other horses of moderate ability such as Sky Fighter, but nothing that remotely matched his own brilliance.
Skyline’s A.J.C. Derby victory was the only win in the race enjoyed by trainer Jack Green. No man enjoyed greater success with the progeny of Star Kingdom, and the full brothers, Skyline and Sky High were arguably the best horses to pass through his hands in an illustrious training career. Green was the complete horseman, a character that is perhaps not so common on the Turf today. Born at Mudgee, N.S.W., Green was reared at Arthur Buckland’s ‘Leadville’ property at Pine Ridge, near Dunedoo where his father was employed as a horse-breaker. In fact, Jack’s father not only broke in but educated and trained trotters at Leadville for Arthur Buckland, who, incidentally, was the father of the leading lady owner, Mrs Doll Clayton. As a young man, Jack Green was a good all-round athlete. A fine amateur boxer, he won 18 of his 22 bouts, not to mention the odd stoush behind the shearing sheds of the West that never figured on his curriculum vitae. At rugby league, Green represented the Western Districts of N.S.W. and subsequently played first grade for North Sydney. He was an accomplished amateur rider as well, and in 1937 won the White Horse Corinthian Cup at Rosehill on Babili – the horse that dead-heated with Peter Pan at Warwick Farm in the champion’s first race win in 1932.
Green first set up a small stable at Victoria Park in 1937-38, but, after failing to meet with success, he transferred his efforts to Newcastle just before the outbreak of World War II. With the coming of war, he enlisted in the Merchant Navy and was in the service for almost six years seeing action in the Middle East and New Guinea. Upon his discharge back to Newcastle, he turned his hand to bookmaking and punting but was down on his luck when he came across a former acquaintance, the owner-breeder Henry Lachmund, who suggested that Green once more go back to training horses, and promised to send him a couple. One of the horses Lachmund provided was the broken down Silent. Green, who had been granted a training permit by the A.J.C. in June 1947 and a No. 2 ticket some weeks later, managed to patch up the old fellow to take out the 1947 Summer Cup at Randwick.
Silent won other good races for Green, although his unsoundness gave the trainer many anxious hours. The old fellow broke down shortly after winning the Summer Cup, and he seemed finished as a racing proposition. However, Green persevered for more than a year, tailoring a particular training regime for the horse that was rewarded by success in the £1,500 Canterbury Park Cup in March 1949. Green treated every racehorse that came into his stable as an individual study. It was his success with Silent that led him to get Conductor to train as an older horse. Conductor, it will be recalled won the Rosehill Guineas and started the favourite in the 1947 A.J.C. Derby only to be beaten by Valiant Crown. Chronic rheumatism was to rob Conductor of a decent career, but Green managed to win a couple of races with him, including The A.J.C. Metropolitan in 1950 when he got the old horse in with a light handicap weight.
The real turning point in Jack Green’s career came with his move from Newcastle to Randwick in 1952 and his occupation of the Avoca Street stables previously owned by Pat Nailon, probably the best training stables in Sydney at the time. There was accommodation for twenty-four horses, and the boxes themselves were set in ample grounds of botanic splendour. A bucolic tranquillity pervaded the entire atmosphere with trees and shrubs aplenty, and Green had scope to indulge in his love of animals. At times the place was like a menagerie. But the horses thrived under such conditions. Magic Touch was the first winner Green sent out from the yard in November 1952. The success of the brilliant grey Silver Phantom in the A.J.C. Epsom Handicap the following year, when he smashed the track record, confirmed that Green had indeed arrived. At the 1954 Sydney Yearling Sales, he was the first person to perceive the promise of Star Kingdom as a first-season stallion. As we have seen, Green paid 1000 guineas for Kingster, the best colt of that first crop. Indeed, rarely has any trainer conducted a better bit of business at any yearling sales, when within the space of about forty minutes, Green had purchased both Kingster and Baystone, by Brimstone, who gave the trainer his only Melbourne Cup. By the time of those sales, Green had some big-spending clients behind him, and that year he gave 3800 guineas on behalf of Malcolm Campbell for Shannon’s younger brother, Jaseur.
But Green’s name will always be associated with the progeny of Star Kingdom, and it was in the blue and orange livery of Brian Crowley that so many of them raced. While the brilliant brothers, Skyline and Sky High were the most pre-eminent, there were others such as the flying fillies Andabri and Reveille, not to mention the smart sprinter, Aerial. But it wasn’t just for Brian Crowley that Green succeeded with first-class Star Kingdom stock as the likes of Gold Stakes, Kingster, Starover, Sunset Hue and Ultrablue, who carried other men’s colours attest. If he had a failing as a trainer, it was his belief that he could develop speed horses into stayers, something he tried to do with Karendi, Sky High and Romanda. Jack Green had to quit his magnificent Avoca St stables in 1966 when the property was sold and then razed to make way for high-rise apartments; he then moved into one of Randwick’s most famous old-time training areas known in the days of Tom Payten as Struggle Town. Jack’s new stables were in Middle St, Randwick, adjacent to the Inglis Sale yards. The former occupant had been Jack Mitchell.
Skyline was to be Brian Crowley and Jack Green’s only A.J.C. Derby winner although the two men were unlucky two years later when Skyline’s younger and more distinguished brother, Sky High, finished third in the race behind Persian Lyric and Le Storm. I will review that contest and Sky High’s brilliant career in the 1960 instalment of this chronicle. How singularly fortunate was Brian Crowley in purchasing Flight for just 60 guineas all those years before. However, lest readers conclude that Crowley was just blind lucky in acquiring Flight, I should mention that she wasn’t the only clever purchase at a cheap price that he made in a sales ring. The truth is that some men just seem much better than others at spotting value in bloodstock.
In 1960, Crowley went to New Zealand, and in a package deal, bought the five-year-old broodmare Emulation with a filly foal at foot for only 110 guineas. A daughter of the good English stallion, Dogger Bank, Emulation, like Flight, boasted the legendary English broodmare, Chelandry, as her fifth maternal dam. No doubt, it was this coincidental aspect of the mare’s pedigree that first attracted Crowley and he was hoping for a touch of déjà vu when it came to the breeding barn. Emulation’s foal at the time of Crowley’s purchase was by Davey Jones and she was in foal again to the 1951 A.J.C. Epsom Handicap winner. The filly at foot was subsequently registered as Aloha, who later produced High Ho, the winner of two races at Randwick for Sir Brian’s daughter. The result of the second Davey Jones mating was another filly, High Hat, who won races in the country before she became the dam of High Spots and Dancing Lady. High Spots and Dancing Lady each carried Crowley’s colours with distinction when they were trained at Randwick by Harry Plant. High Spots was the 4/9 favourite and minor placegetter in the 1969 A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes while Dancing Lady won multiple open flying handicaps and was stakes-placed.
Given the success of the brothers’ Skyline and Sky High, it was hardly surprising that in the spring of 1960 when it came Crowley’s first opportunity to mate Emulation with a stallion, he chose Star Kingdom. The resulting filly foal was the aforementioned Reveille, the best of Emulation’s foals and the winner of eight races for Sir Brian including both the A.J.C. Flight Stakes and Warwick Stakes, and the V.A.T.C. One Thousand Guineas. Crowley subsequently sold Reveille to the U.S.A. for a reported $50,000 where she proved an international stud success. Ribbon, a full sister to Reveille was the next of Emulation’s foals and she won good races in Sydney before going to stud to produce the gallopers, Gold Sash and Decoration, who also sported the Crowley family’s blue and gold silks with distinction. Over the next five seasons, Crowley mated Emulation with either Skyline or Sky High and the remarkable sequence of fillies kept on coming although their racecourse performances were somewhat underwhelming. However, Summit, Emulation’s last foal to Sky High, was killed after dropping just one foal but that foal was Skirnir, winner of the 1975 Q.T.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. Emulation had gone on producing up to the age of twenty-five and was finally put down three years later in August 1982, a fortnight after Sir Brian Crowley’s own death.
Despite the success that Jack Green brought to Crowley’s team of horses, the owner and trainer parted company in some bitterness and acrimony in early December 1966. The cause of the dispute was the alleged failure of Green to consult with Crowley about a cruising holiday that the trainer was taking to the U.S.A. and which would keep him out of the country for some weeks. Crowley objected to the fact that he was paying Green to train his horses and wasn’t informed as to the arrangements during Green’s absence. (Trainer Tom Ward was to manage Green’s stable in his absence.) When Crowley transferred out the good welter performer Carnival to Tommy Smith upon that horse’s return from a spell, but before Green had left on his cruise, the trainer wrote to Crowley formally instructing him to remove all of his other horses from his stable as well. Crowley said: “I read some weeks ago that he was going to America. He works hard and I think he needed the holiday. But I took strong exception to his failure to consult me, at any time, about who was to train my horses. I think an owner is entitled to that consideration.” Neither owner nor trainer was to enjoy the sort of success they had once shared upon going their own separate ways.
Jack Green died in tragic circumstances at the age of sixty-two in November 1972, as a result of injuries sustained in a motor accident near Flemington racecourse on V.R.C. Oaks Day. Green was commuting to the course in a hire car when he realised he had forgotten his binoculars. It was upon turning the vehicle around to retrieve them that the crash occurred. Rushed to Alfred Hospital, Green died nearly three weeks later. While at times there was a certain roughness in his manner, there was no ill-nature in Green’s disposition. He was a man’s man who lived life to the full and well understood its vicissitudes. Two incidents serve to illuminate the better angel of his nature. When the great Jim Pike was down on his luck and in impoverished circumstances, it was Jack Green who provided him with employment – saddling up the stable’s horses on race day and helping to educate his track riders in the artistry of the saddle. Likewise, when Green’s maternal uncle, Fred Foley, who had won the 1916 Melbourne Cup on Sasanof as a teenager, fell on hard times much later in life, it was Green who gave him a job in his stables and a room in which to live. Yes, Jack Green was made of a finer clay than most, and when he died, he took a man’s life with him.
In looking back on that 1958 Derby field, Skyline notwithstanding, Sir Blink and Valerius subsequently proved to be first-class horses. Sir Blink’s achievements in winning both the Caulfield Cup and Victoria Derby later that spring suggested that with Skyline restricted to sprinting in the autumn, the St Legers might be at his mercy. But at Flemington on a very heavy surface, Chicola gave him a galloping lesson, and he didn’t even bother to accept for the Randwick equivalent when Bardshah beat Valerius by a head after a somewhat farcical pace. Sir Blink showed his mettle the following year, however, when he not only won the Port Adelaide Cup but also was desperately unlucky to go down by a neck to Regal Wench in the Caulfield Cup when burdened with 9 st. 2lb. Sir Blink later shattered his near foreleg sesamoid in the 1961 Bendigo Cup and had to be destroyed. In all, he won ten races and £31,860 in stakes.
Yet it was perhaps Valerius that was to be the best horse to emerge from the class of 1958. The Derby probably came a bit too soon for him. A big raw-boned colt, he eventually furnished into a seventeen-hand stallion and genuine weight-for-age horse. Sir Alan Potter raced some high-class horses including Barfleur and Star Realm, but I think Valerius, which he jointly owned with Keith Mackay, was the best.
Potter and Mackay had first come together when they were members of General Dunster’s mounted force that fought in Russia in World War I and both knew a bit about horses. Although Valerius’s richest win was the 1960 Brisbane Cup, he is perhaps best remembered for winning the valuable Centenary Invitation Stakes at Randwick, and being the horse that broke Tulloch’s winning sequence of twelve races in the weight-for-age Colin Stephen Stakes at the 1960 A.J.C. Spring Meeting. Valerius was later sold to America.