When Randwick trainer Dick Roden studied the catalogue for the 42nd Annual New Zealand Yearling Sales opening on Thursday 18 January 1968, there was only one colt that he really wanted to buy. Lot No. 27 was being sold by the Trelawney Stud at Cambridge, the property of the two friends, Seton Otway and Neville Souter, and both men knew a thing or two about breeding stayers. After all, each had bred a Melbourne Cup winner: Otway with Macdougal; and Souter with Foxzami. An early September foal, the brown colt on offer was by Alcimedes out of Beehive, a half-sister to both Foxzami and Bali Ha’i, the winner of a Great Northern St Leger at Auckland and later the Queen Alexandra Stakes at Ascot in England. Moreover, this yearling colt also carried some of the Foxbridge blood that had made Macdougal, whom Roden trained to win the 1959 Melbourne Cup, such a potent stayer. There was a sense of déjà vu for Roden as he marked the page in the catalogue, for just two years earlier he had done the same thing when he successfully bid for this colt’s full brother on behalf of Stan Fox for 7000 guineas. Registered as Honeyland, he had won the 1967 Canterbury Guineas while still a maiden galloper.
The problem for Roden now, however, was that the Alcimedes blood was the most sought after in Australasia and the achievement of Honeyland ensured that his later brothers and sisters cost a darn sight more than he did. Roden had been hoping to buy the horse for a stable client, Tom Whittle, who had made his fortune in the construction business, and who had accompanied Roden to New Zealand. In the end, Whittle’s commission didn’t extend far enough and Roden, along with Tommy Smith, remained an under-bidder for the colt as he was knocked down to Melbourne bloodstock agent, Frank Ford, for $16,500. It was a stiff price but nowhere near the highest on the first day of those sales, which were marked by an orgy of financial self-flagellation by John Foyster and his sons, Lloyd and John junior.
The fabulous Foysters, as the tabloid press with its penchant for childish alliteration, insisted on referring to them, derived their wealth from rutile mining on the far north coast of N.S.W. The family had created quite a stir when they first embarked on a buying frenzy at the 1967 Sydney Yearling Sales where their purchases included High Sierra, the $39,900 record-priced colt by Wilkes out of Blooming, as well as Gentle Ruler, the $25,200 record-priced filly by Ruler out of Cuddles. Neither horse even at this early stage looked like going within coo’ee of returning their purchase price, but this hadn’t dampened the acquisitive appetite of the Foysters for expensive bloodstock, as the opening of the 1968 Trentham Sales demonstrated.
On that first day, John Foyster and his two sons spent $218,250 – and in the process set new record prices in New Zealand for both a yearling colt ($37,000) and filly ($19,000). Foyster was to derive a very paltry return for his largesse at those sales, too, both on the racecourse and in the paddock, although the record-priced yearling colt would eventually find his way into the field for the 1969 A.J.C. Derby. Meanwhile, Dick Roden could merely watch and wonder as his budget extended only so far. Still, it was the colt from Beehive that had really appealed to him. As he and Whittle boarded the plane for the return trip across the Tasman, Roden consoled Whittle with the assurance that he would buy the construction boss a good yearling at the Sydney sales later in the autumn.
It was to be a fateful plane trip home for Roden. While the trainer flew economy class, the owner was parked in first class and during the flight Whittle engaged his neighbouring passenger in conversation, unaware at first to whom he was talking. When Whittle related Roden’s disappointment at missing out on the Beehive colt, the passenger revealed his identity. It was none other than the colourful, but as yet uncontroversial, Felipe Ysmael, who quickly admitted that in buying the colt, Frank Ford had been acting on his behalf. Ysmael was aware of Roden’s horsemanship by reputation and asked Whittle for an introduction. Dick Roden had more than a few vacant boxes in his Randwick establishment at the time. The decision by his former leading client, Stan Fox, to consolidate almost all of his horses at Rosehill in stables presided over initially by Tom Kennedy, had seen an exodus of some seventeen thoroughbreds from Roden’s training as recently as December 1967. Roden had first offer on the lucrative job by Fox but declined, being reluctant both to transfer to Rosehill and to swap his hands-on intimacy with a small team to the more detached management of a large one.
Roden’s initial conversation with Ysmael led to further negotiations in January back at Randwick; and the upshot was that Roden was appointed as the Sydney trainer for Ysmael and the Asian syndicate, as these masters of betting looked to diversify a training operation concentrated thus far largely in Melbourne and Adelaide. Initially, Roden received a half dozen two-year-olds, but the decision was also made by Ysmael to share the latest batch of yearling purchases among the syndicate’s various trainers. Roden had shown such interest in the Beehive yearling and had such a proven record, both with the colt’s family in particular and stayers in general that Ysmael agreed to allocate him to the Randwick horseman to train. The horse was registered as Divide and Rule and as such would win the 1969 A.J.C. Derby – only by then – in one of the Turf’s strangest paradoxes – Roden would own rather than train him!
Felipe Ysmael’s choice of Dick Roden as his Sydney trainer, based on Ford’s recommendation, was no mere coincidence derived from a chance meeting in the skies above the Tasman. Richard William Roden possessed all of the qualities that Ysmael valued in a trainer, i.e. superb horsemanship, uncanny judgement, and cool discretion. Oh, and perhaps the most prized quality of all as far as Ysmael was concerned – the proven ability to successfully pull off betting coups! Born in Mackay, Queensland, in 1926 this son of a veterinary surgeon, who happened to race a number of horses on the side, was taught to ride by his grandfather, Henry Roden, who in those days had maintained a property called ‘Boonie Doon’, situated in the pretty countryside between Capella and Clermont where he bred horses for the Indian market. As a child, attending the local Christian Brothers’ school, Roden spent many hours of his holidays on the property, imbibing the essence of horsemanship from old Henry. By the age of twelve, Dick Roden had graduated to working at the races, being paid ten shillings to spend an afternoon sitting between two stalls holding horses.
Mackay was full of horses during Roden’s youth. Mackay’s extensive sugar mills employed draught horses for transport and young Dick was a regular at the Mackay Turf Club’s Ooralea Park, where his father for a time was a committeeman as well as an honorary veterinary-surgeon. In his teenage years, young Roden had intended to follow in the same profession as his father – until sinus trouble forced him to give up his studies. A student for four years at the Queensland Agricultural College at Gatton, in the Lockyer Valley region, Roden had been a champion schoolboy athlete and for some years held the College half-mile record. He was house captain of Riddell House, a school prefect in 1943-44, the senior champion athlete in 1943-44-45, besides being in the school’s first XV Rugby team and first XI cricket team.
Roden was equally adept on horseback and as a youngster – though three years younger than George Moore – he more than once competed against him at the Mackay Show. A gifted amateur rider, Roden rode over a hundred winners on Queensland racecourses during the War years when, due to manpower shortages, amateurs were allowed to ride against the professionals. Increasing weight, however, saw Roden at the age of twenty-one become a steward with the Rockhampton Jockey Club, serving in that position for about twelve months before deciding to try his hand at training. However, it was while at Rockhampton that he met his future wife, Elaine Frawley. Her father, Neive, was on the same stewards’ panel as Roden, and later, after he became his father-in-law, was promoted to become the chief steward of the Queensland Turf Club.
It was in 1949 that Dick Roden nailed up his trainer’s shingle, at of all places, Toowoomba. His first winner came with Falcon Man in a maiden at Eagle Farm on Boxing Day in December 1950 – only his second starter in a race. After just two years and not inconsiderable success, Roden left Toowoomba and moved into the old P. J. O’Shea stable in Brisbane that much later was taken over by Neil Strong. The 1950s was to be the decade in which Roden really made his reputation, and the first horse to put him on the map was Gresford, a flying son of the 1942 V.A.T.C. Oakleigh Plate winner, High Title. Gresford was responsible for the first of the big Roden betting plunges and in December 1953 was backed from 66/1 into 6/1 to win a race at Eagle Farm. The horse was one of the first to be swabbed in Queensland when he subsequently failed on a heavy track.
His owner, a Darling Downs grazier who also happened to be a strict Christian, found the stewards’ action on that occasion so contemptible that he sold the horse to the 28-year-old Roden, who at that stage was the youngest trainer to hold an ‘A’ class licence in Brisbane. Next time the colt carried colours, he was backed in from 33/1 and bolted in! Such was the speed of Gresford and the general disdain in which sportsmen of the southern States held Queensland horses that Roden saw the opportunity for a real sting. In December the five-year-old was flown from Brisbane to Melbourne, the first racehorse to do so, and was set for the first division of the Fawkner Highweight at Moonee Valley. The stable had a £20,000 commission to place on the horse, and heavy betting support saw Gresford firm from 6/1 on the Friday before the race into 6/4 on the day itself and the stable ripped more than £40,000 from the ring when the speedster, ridden by stable apprentice David Hetherington, led all the way on the tight circuit from a very smart field. At least the men of Tattersall’s in both Melbourne and Sydney were now on notice. Gresford proved to be a top sprinter and in 1954 was good enough to win the Q.T.C. White Lightning Handicap over five furlongs.
In the 1954-55 racing season, the star of the stable was a Newtown Wonder filly called New Joy. As an older horse, New Joy won the Tattersall’s Queensland Healy Stakes. At around the same time, he also had French Charm, that good son of Gabador, in his stables with whom he won the 1955 Moonee Valley Stakes and the 1956 Theo Marks Quality Handicap. Racing aficionados even further afield were also suddenly aware of this young man from Queensland. The prominent New Zealand owner and breeder, Woolf Fisher, selected Dick Roden to be El Khobar’s trainer when he sent the crack sprinter across the Tasman for the Brisbane winter carnival in 1956. Curiously enough, Roden had tried to buy El Khobar at the 1954 New Zealand National Sales, but it was during the era of currency regulations which placed a quota on spending. Roden trained El Khobar to win the Doomben Ten Thousand, leading all the way from a wide barrier and carrying 8 st. 4lb, while the horse was still eligible for restricted races.
Afterwards, Roden brought him to Sydney to win the A.J.C. Warwick Stakes in which he defeated his compatriot and champion middle-distance galloper, Syntax. Some considered Syntax unlucky and the Sydney Turf Club, ever on the lookout for gimmicks, stepped in to promote a match race over 8 ½ furlongs at weight-for-age between the pair seven days later at Canterbury. Roden knew how to use the media even in those days, and despite starting the even-money outsider of the two, El Khobar was untroubled to beat the champion by six lengths in the last match race ever run in N.S.W. El Khobar was later exported to the U.S.A. where he proved successful both on the course and at the stud. Indeed, for a time he held a track record at Santa Anita.
A stranger to impulse, it was during that trip to Sydney with El Khobar that Roden, encouraged by good friends Neville Sellwood and Hal Cooper, made inquiries about stable accommodation in the Harbour City and almost one year later, in July 1957 transferred his operations to Randwick, having bought the stables of the retiring Dan Lewis at No. 4 High Street. The relocation made sense. Given the quality of Roden’s team and the superior prize money available down south, Roden also had the indentures of Mel Schumacher in his pocket at the time. Moreover, for a man who liked to try his hand in the betting ring, it made sense to leave the bailiwick of his father-in-law, Neive Frawley, who by then was the chief stipendiary steward of the Queensland Turf Club. The A.J.C. promptly granted Roden a No. 1 licence in September that same year. Feature race winners weren’t long in coming either, including Baron Boissier in the Colin Stephen Stakes at the 1957 A.J.C. Spring Meeting. The following year Dick Roden won the A.J.C. Queen’s Cup with a five-year-old gelding named Macdougal. Roden wasn’t to know it at the time, but this was the horse that more than any other – except for Divide and Rule – would change his life. How he got to train Macdougal is a tale of serendipity almost as charming as how he managed to come by Divide and Rule.
Macdougal had been bred at the Trelawney Stud in New Zealand and was by the French stallion, Marco Polo II, out of the aged Foxbridge mare, Lady Fox, who was seventeen when she dropped Macdougal. A poddy foal, he was bottle-reared at Trelawney by the stud groom, Miss Peggy Macdougal, which is how this future Melbourne Cup winner got his name. Offered at the New Zealand National Yearling Sales, Macdougal was bought by the Queensland grazier, Norman Brown for 1800 guineas. Alas, Brown died before Macdougal ever revealed his potential and the horse was raced by his son, Reg, and the executors of his father’s estate. Roden first met Reg Brown when the two men were introduced by a mutual friend at Brisbane airport while waiting for their suitcases after a flight. At the time, Macdougal was a four-year-old and had already passed through the hands of Pat Murray, Ted Hush, and after his death, Peter Lawson. Reg Brown was considering yet another change of trainer for his horse when he met Roden. Brown hailed from the Nonda Downs station at Julia Creek in north Queensland, and Roden originally came from Mackay. Perhaps it was the common geography of North Queensland in their backgrounds, but the two men clicked. Macdougal went into Roden’s Midstream Lodge stables.
A finicky eater, a weaver and a box-walker to boot, Macdougal required individual study. Roden was just the man to provide it. Within twelve months he coaxed Macdougal to that Queen’s Cup victory at Randwick but it was the next twelve months that was to prove a revelation. Starting in the winter sunshine of his native Queensland, Roden trained Macdougal to win an unprecedented treble of the 1959 Brisbane Cup, the A.J.C. Metropolitan and the Melbourne Cup. In the last of this magnificent treble, Macdougal carried 8 st. 11lb and defied a wall of horses in the final furlong. At the age of just thirty-three, Roden had become the youngest man to train a Melbourne Cup winner. Almost overnight he began to attract wealthier owners who bought richer bloodlines to win better races. One such bloodline was Emblem, the year-younger full sister to Wenona Girl whom Roden trained to win the 1961 V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. Another was Raajpoot, a son of Count Rendered with whom Roden won the 1961 Q.T.C. Derby and Queensland Cup. One such client was Reg Allott for whom he trained Hoa Hine to win the 1961 A.J.C. Flight Stakes and the 1962 Queensland Oaks. It was Allott who just a short time later introduced Stan Fox to Dick Roden and I have chronicled all that flowed from that meeting in my 1967 chapter.
When Felipe Ysmael consigned Divide and Rule to Roden, a number of other young horses were transferred as well, among them Tereus and Silver Strike. After the success with that pair, Ysmael allowed Roden to choose his own yearlings, at least for the balance of time that Ysmael was permitted to race his horses on Australian tracks. I have articulated the circumstances of the “Follow Me” affair and the subsequent disqualification of Felipe Ysmael in my previous chapter. As mentioned there, the disqualification led inevitably to that last day in January 1969 and Wright Stephenson’s in Melbourne when the first tranche of Ysmael’s bloodstock came up for sale. Whereas Always There and others failed to change hands at their unrealistic reserves, Divide and Rule at least, was knocked down to Roden.
When Dick Roden made the successful bid of $35,000 for Divide and Rule on that Friday, it seemed to many a high price for a horse that as a yearling had cost less than half that amount in New Zealand; and whose only two public appearances to date had seen him finish down the course. But, of course, Roden was in a unique position to judge the gelding’s potential, and from the moment the gavel descended the A.J.C. Derby was the race intended. Divide and Rule went to the spelling paddocks and before he would race again Dick Roden had suffered a nervous breakdown. It was brought on by the pressures of life in stables and having lost his two major clients, Stan Fox and Felipe Ysmael, in the space of just fifteen months.
In June 1969 the A.J.C. committee granted Roden six months’ leave of absence on medical grounds and permitted fellow Randwick trainer, Neville Begg, to train Roden’s string out of Midstream Lodge during the trainer’s indisposition. The decision excited some jealousy from rival trainers at the time because Begg already enjoyed course stabling at Randwick in his own right. At the time the handover occurred, Divide and Rule even then was back in work and displaying the unmistakable signs of promise in track gallops that would soon be realised on race day. In mid-July, the gelding resumed racing and earned his first prizemoney – $105 for finishing fifth in the MacArthur Quality Handicap at Rosehill.
Dick Roden might have been indisposed but in collaboration with Neville Begg, he chartered Divide and Rule’s course to the Derby with unerring judgement. On the first Saturday in the new season, Divide and Rule broke his maiden in the Graduation Stakes (7f) at Rosehill in the hands of Ron Quinton. Almost four weeks later he finished runner-up to the useful Bold Warrior, beaten three lengths on heavy ground in a midweek stakes race at Randwick. After failing to run a place in the Chelmsford Stakes behind Roman Consul, Divide and Rule then stormed into Derby contention when, following a chequered passage, he came from twelfth on the home turn to finish fifth in the Rosehill Guineas behind Portable. The Queensland Aboriginal jockey, Darby McCarthy, rode the son of Alcimedes for the first time that day and when he returned to scale confided to Roden his faith for the blue riband. Not that the man that had prepared Macdougal for his wonderful staying treble in 1959 needed any reassurance.
A feature of Derby Day was the official opening of the club’s new $4.6 million Queen Elizabeth Grandstand by the State Governor of N.S.W. Sir Roden Cutler. The new grandstand was five stories high, fully air-conditioned, with closed-circuit television, tote and betting facilities, and generous dining and viewing areas on two floors. Another new feature was the movators or moving footways, which carried members to all floors. The grandstand boasted accommodation for 5,000 people over four floors, two being for members and the other two being for the public. Undercover seating was supposed to have been provided for some 1,800 people but, speaking from experience, much depended on the direction of the wind if it was raining. While the stand might have been formally opened on Derby Day, many racegoers had enjoyed a preview of the facilities at the club’s official two-year-old trials on August 31st. The funds flowing freely to the club through the T.A.B. disbursements had made the new grandstand possible. Racecourse attendances might have been falling but the race club’s loss of admission fees was being more than offset by its T.A.B. disbursements. Accordingly, after years of appalling public facilities at Randwick, change was in the wind.
The 1969 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
A capacity field of twenty was accepted for the Derby – the largest since 1952. The favourite for the race was the Tommy Smith-trained Portable, the only representative from Tulloch Lodge. A son of Alcimedes, the gelding had cost Smith $15,000 at the New Zealand National Sales and was raced by his wife Valerie in conjunction with a group of friends. Smith had delayed Portable’s racecourse debut until late June when he ran unplaced in a Canterbury maiden before causing an upset at his second and last appearance as a juvenile when he won at the same course a month later. The gelding owed his Derby favouritism to his strong finish along the rails to win the Rosehill Guineas at his most recent start, thereby giving his trainer a fifth win in that semi-classic. The second elect was the New Zealand representative, Mighty Concorde. A son of the Australian-bred stallion Shifnal, a full brother to Todman, Mighty Concorde had been offered for sale as a yearling by his colourful Auckland breeder, Eric Haydon, but had been passed in at $2,000 and retained by Haydon to race in the stables of Colin Jillings.
Although he only won once from eleven starts as a juvenile, but for the presence of the outstanding Daryl’s Joy, Mighty Concorde would have won both the A.R.C. Eclipse Stakes and the A.R.C. Ellerslie Championship Stakes. Mighty Concorde failed lamentably at his first Australian appearance in the Rosehill Guineas, but a week later on the same course, he showed something of his true form by scoring a slashing win in the Welter at 50/1 and thus came back into Derby contention. Stan Fox was represented in the classic by Gay Twenties, a poorly performed son of Pharamond that Tommy Smith had bought for $6,500 on his behalf in New Zealand before the falling out between trainer and owner saw the horse transferred to Jack Denham. Perhaps the best outsider in the race was Gallicus, a good-looking son of the imported English stallion, Gaul. Gaul, a dual winner of the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket and a son of the great Alycidon, stood at Tom Flynn’s Oakleigh Stud and Gallicus had been sold by that stud as a yearling for $12,500 to the former leading bookmaker, Jack Shaw, who placed him in the stables of John Page.
In a large field and on a course deadened with rain, the 1969 Derby was always going to produce some hard luck stories, although Divide and Rule won with such authority at the finish that it was impossible to countenance any other result, had the race been run ten times over. The favourite, Portable, suffered a bump and almost fell in the crowded concourse past the winning post the first time, and although George Moore got him balanced again, he never seemed to be contented in the saddle thereafter. Flagrante piloted the field almost from the starting gates and was always going at a good clip setting up a long lead in the early stages. Mighty Concorde, who had crossed from his extreme outside gate to assume a good position going out of the straight, was skittled in the fretful rush near the nine-furlong marker and relegated to near the rear of the field. At the half-mile Flagrante led by five lengths from Lowland Prince with Index third, ahead of Full Stretch, Sunny Pintubi, Mountain Prince and Divide and Rule, who was perfectly placed near the rails.
Even at this stage, Darby McCarthy believed an interrupted passage was all that could deny him the prize. When the pacemaker Flagrante tired as the field swept around the home corner, McCarthy came around him and dashed Divide and Rule to the front on straightening. Mighty Concorde, who was in eleventh place on the turn, unwound a strong run and looked a real threat at the furlong but he only plodded at the finish to run into third placing. At the winning post, Divide and Rule was five lengths clear and running on as strongly as any horse in the race except for Gallicus, who sustained a powerful burst from fourteenth on the turn to take second placing on the line by a short head. Of the other favoured horses, Top Flat and Peter’s Empire both finished in the middle of the field showing very little dash. Although the time was only 2 minutes 33.5 seconds, it was a grand-staying performance by the winner, given the ease of his victory and the state of the ground.
The presentation of the Derby laurels was made by the 18th Earl of Derby, Edward John Stanley, who was touring Australia at the time. A grandson of the famous 17th Earl, who owned a string of outstanding racehorses descended from his legendary foundation broodmare, Canterbury Pilgrim, the 51-year-old Earl took a keen interest in Australian racing. Just twelve months before during a previous visit Down Under, he had called at Roden’s Randwick stables and been shown Divide and Rule when the horse was only an early two-year-old. Roden, who was sweet on the colt from the moment he was broken in, had confided to Lord Derby on that occasion that he thought he might win the next A.J.C. Derby. Now, as the colt bathed in the afterglow of victory, Lord Derby recalled the incident and related the anecdote to the large crowd.
Dick Roden’s illness that resulted in him temporarily suspending his training activities at Midstream Lodge had enabled the 38-year-old Neville Begg, the popular one-time foreman to Maurice McCarten, to claim his first Derby winner with only his second starter in the race – his first runner having been Planet Boy unplaced the year before. Reared in Newcastle, Begg’s early years were spent around racehorses as his grandfather, Ron Alsop was a small-time trainer at Broadmeadow. Even before he left school at the age of fourteen, Begg had been working for pocket money in local stables.
Immediately upon leaving school in 1945, Begg came directly to Sydney for an apprenticeship with McCarten, although rapidly increasing weight saw to it that his career in the saddle was very short-lived; he only had about half a dozen rides in races including one on McCarten’s good miler, Kiaree. Begg resolved to apply himself assiduously to stable craft instead. He quickly rose through the ranks as strapper to leading hand. Eventually, he became McCarten’s right-hand man and foreman serving in those various capacities during the halcyon days of Sweet Chime, Delta, Todman, Noholme and Wenona Girl. Nor were those years a matter of playing second fiddle in a one-man band. Some great trainers, if not great men, jealously guard their hard-earned virtuosity. Not for them, imparting the full benefit of their knowledge to ambitious and overeager underlings.
It was Neville Begg’s singular good fortune that he served his formative years of horsemanship with a great man who also happened to be a great trainer. Indeed, it was one of the paradoxes of Begg’s career that it took the fall of his hero and lodestar, to create the very conditions for his own rise. Still, when the time came to step out of McCarten’s shadow, Begg proved he was up for the challenge. In March 1967 as the 65-year-old McCarten’s life descended into torment plagued by debilitating ill health, Begg, after ten years as the stable foreman, finally decided to strike out on his own as a public trainer, renting four boxes at Randwick from Cec Rolls. In so doing, a number of McCarten’s long-term clients gravitated to him including such luminaries as the chairman of the Sydney Turf Club, Bill Longworth, Baramul Stud’s Alf Ellison and the wealthy Ryde identity Bill Graf, who was responsible for Begg’s very first winner with his first starter, Biarritz Star at Randwick on 27th March 1967. By the end of that first truncated season, Begg had trained just two winners from his small team.
However, early in the next racing season of 1967-68, Begg, who was living in nearby Arthur Street, applied for stables in the newly-built accommodation on Randwick racecourse itself, which the A.J.C. quickly granted. Begg christened the stables ‘Baramul Lodge’ – after the famous stud where Star Kingdom and Todman stood. Begg now had twenty-four boxes at his disposal, and other well-known owners such as Roy Pierce and Lloyd Foyster soon came under Begg’s banner. Begg’s string multiplied quickly during the next few months and by the end of 1967, he had more than thirty horses on his books. Divide and Rule’s victory apart, 1969 had been a momentous year in the training life of Neville Begg for earlier in the autumn he had saddled up Special Girl, a daughter of Wenona Girl, as the unplaced 8/13 favourite in the Golden Slipper behind Vain. Disappointing though Special Girl proved to be, Begg nonetheless finished the 1968-69 racing season as runner-up to Tommy Smith in the Sydney trainers’ premiership, albeit with 54 wins compared to the master’s 102.
Neville Begg’s book of clients at the time of Divide and Rule’s victory and in the months following began to look like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Sydney racing, and a number of successful studmasters were among them including Frank Thompson, Alf Ellison, the Kelly family of Newhaven Park, Maurice Point, Jim Fleming and the Foyster family. Added to this list were the likes of the Allen family, Stan Fox, Dorothy Allard and Jack Waterhouse. Thanks to the likes of Planet Kingdom, Affectionate, Final Bid, Biarritz Star, Red on Red, Con Girl, Coalcliff, Planet Boy, Gypsy Moss, High Sierra and Divide and Rule, Begg finished the 1969-70 racing season again runner-up in the Sydney trainers’ premiership with 72 wins behind T. J. Smith with 141 wins. Begg might not have won his premiership that year but a winner on the last day helped his stable jockey, Ron Quinton, to the first of his eight Sydney jockeys’ premierships. A holder of a No. 2 licence at the time of Divide and Rule’s triumph, the Derby brought Begg acclaim in the media and other victories saw him promoted to a No. 1 licence at the beginning of the 1971-72 racing season.
Jockey Darby McCarthy’s performance on Divide and Rule in the Derby was delivered with dashing bravura and proved the sweetest of victories; together with his triumph on Broker’s Tip in the Epsom, it made Derby Day, or rather, Darby Day, doubly an occasion to savour. If the measure of a man’s journey is just as much about where he starts as where he finishes and the obstacles he overcomes along the way, then for Richard Lawrence McCarthy life had been quite a journey. He was the first Aboriginal jockey to win the A.J.C. blue riband. Born in Cunnamulla, in southwest Queensland in 1944, he was one of thirteen children. Both his parents were part Aborigines and they raised their family on an Aboriginal camp behind the cemetery about one kilometre out of Cunnamulla itself.
Darby only experienced two years of formal education before leaving school at the age of eight to work as a ‘seeing-eye boy’ for an elderly woman going blind on a property in Yakara, near the borders of Queensland, N.S.W. and South Australia. McCarthy made the move to Brisbane when he was twelve. On a visit to the city to see his father in the hospital, Darby slipped away to Doomben racecourse and made inquiries with local trainers about the possibility of an apprenticeship. He was first indentured to Tim Hennessey and later on transferred his papers to Mal Barnes. He became dux of the apprentice school as well as twice runner-up. McCarthy recalls: “I had so much on the city lads. I had been riding horses since I could walk. It was just like breathing air for me. Most Aborigines can ride horses. The big grazing properties throughout Australia are run by Aborigines. They are just natural horsemen. But not many Aborigines have penetrated racing, which is an up-market, white-dominated sport.”
McCarthy’s precocious talent was quickly recognised in Brisbane. As a sixteen-year-old lad, he won the Tattersall’s Cup at Eagle Farm on Dow Street. In late 1962 he came to Sydney with his master, Mal Barnes, and the good stayer Alspick and partnered the horse to victory in both the Summer Cup and the Tattersall’s Gold Cup. Later that season McCarthy won the first of his successive Stradbroke Handicaps on Mullala. Although his reputation was growing in the Southern States, it was on Brisbane tracks that he enjoyed the greatest successes at this stage of his career. His many Queensland wins cost him his apprentice’s allowance long before he had come out of his time. In 1966 he won the Q.T.C. feature double, landing his third Stradbroke on Castanea and two days later piloting the New Zealand stayer, Apa, to victory in the Brisbane Cup. The following season McCarthy travelled to Europe and gained valuable riding experience in France, Ireland and West Germany.
Certainly, the 1969 A.J.C. Derby represented the apotheosis of his career and he seemed set for a glittering future. But as F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously observed “Show me a hero and I’ll show you a tragedy”. And the tragic dimension of McCarthy’s career surfaced the very next year. Following an argument with his girlfriend in 1970 he smashed his left arm through a glass window and severed the main artery and several nerves. Although his arm was saved and, against doctors’ expectations, he did make a return to the saddle, his finest days were behind him. In 1975 he was disqualified for riding a dishonest race at Hamilton and served a two-year suspension. The fast life exacted a high price on Darby McCarthy with two divorces and a descent into alcoholism after his retirement from the saddle. But in time he came to recognise his own plight and that of many of his fellow Aborigines and resolved to put something back into his community. In 1984 he established a school for Aboriginal jockeys on a property near Toowoomba. His resurrection was complete when the Australian Democrats in the 1987 Federal Election chose him as a candidate for the Senate, although the bid was unsuccessful. Later he worked for the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and helped to operate the Downs Aboriginal and Islander Housing Company, a voluntary, non-profit welfare agency.
For those visitors to the 1969 A.J.C. Spring Meeting with an eye and a taste for Sydney’s Turf heritage, there was another significant change to the city’s architectural landscape and it had nothing to do with the new Randwick Grandstand. George Adams Hotel in Pitt Street was no more. The famous Victorian-era Hotel with its opulent and ostentatious Marble Bar was gone. This establishment, a rendezvous since 1893 for the rich and famous, and those pretending to be so, had ceased trading on February 18, 1969, and was now in the process of demolition to be replaced on the same site by the Hilton Hotel. Although it wasn’t quite the end of the road for the Marble Bar.
When Adams Hotel was demolished, every section of the old bar was numbered, X-rayed, dismantled, documented, crated and stored. This entire time capsule of flashy, flamboyant nineteenth-century Sydney with its thirty-five varieties of colourful marble would be reassembled in the new Hilton Hotel, officially opened to the public on July 19, 1973. Alas, when the Marble Bar was rebuilt, it was subterranean, one floor below Sydney’s busiest street where no natural light would ever again brilliantly flood through its painted and stained-glass ceiling panels. The original paintings of nude females commissioned in 1893 by George Adams from Julian Ashton, however, still decorate the walls. Sadly, it’s lingering connection with the golden years of the Australian Turf was lost forever.
Acclaimed as a potential champion on the strength of his Derby victory, Divide and Rule gave the lie to such extravagant encomiums in his two appearances in Melbourne that spring; he could only finish sixth in the W.S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley and seven days later ran an inglorious third last in the Victoria Derby, each race being won by the brilliant Daryl’s Joy. What a vintage season 1969-70 was for three-year-olds! Daryl’s Joy, a prepossessing brown colt by Hyperion’s grandson, Stunning, from Rutha, and bred in New Zealand by Mr W. S. Bellerby at Martinborough in the Wellington Region of the North Island, had cost just $1100 when sold as a yearling at the New Zealand National Sales in January 1968. Owned by Dr R. C. Goh of Singapore, Daryl’s Joy had been placed in the stables of Syd Brown and was an exceptional two-year-old. The horse started fourteen times in his first season for seven wins, five seconds, and two thirds. During the first half of that juvenile season, Daryl’s Joy looked very good rather than outstanding when he only managed to win twice. However, the autumn on the North Island proved a revelation when the Stunning colt won the Au.R.C. Eclipse Stakes, We.R.C. Wakefield Challenge Stakes, Ma.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, the Au.R.C. Great Northern Champagne Stakes, and the Au.R.C. Ellerslie Sires’ Produce Stakes.
Syd Brown’s stables that season not only sheltered the best two-year-old colt in the Dominion but the best two-year-old filly as well in Wood Court Inn. How Brown managed to secure the owners of these two outstanding racehorses as stable clients is again an illustration of being in the right place at the right time. Brown had met Robert Goh, the owner of Daryl’s Joy when the Singapore/Malaysian businessman attended the Asian Racing Conference in Wellington the year before. Also in attendance at the conference was another Malaysian, Lee Kok Chee, who expressed an interest in racing a horse in New Zealand. Accordingly, Brown purchased the little Pakistan II filly out of the Boissier mare, Causeway, on his behalf, and, registered as Wood Court Inn, she won six of her eight starts as a juvenile. Little wonder, then, with such success among the two-year-olds that Syd Brown won the New Zealand trainers’ premiership that season. And, of course, it was no surprise when Brown opted for a 1969 spring campaign in Melbourne with both of his star gallopers. Accompanying them was an older weight-for-age horse in Hamua, and over the course of six weeks, Brown’s triumvirate won almost $100,000. Apart from Daryl’s Joy’s two victories, Wood Court Inn won the Caulfield One Thousand Guineas and Hamua the Caulfield Stakes.
A curious feature of that 1969 Victorian spring carnival was the absence of the class three-year-olds from both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. The A.J.C. Derby runner-up, Gallicus, was the only three-year-old to go around in the Caulfield Cup but could merely finish eighth while none of the placegetters from either the Randwick or Flemington Derbies contested the Melbourne Cup. Despite their absence, both Cups proved sensational in their own way that year and the sensations swirled around a four-year-old bay gelding trained by Bart Cummings on behalf of the brothers Charles and George Gawith. Big Philou, the name of the gelding, was by Le Filou out of Pink Lady, a daughter of Cuddlesome by Contact, and thereby he was a three-quarter brother to both The Dip and Light Fingers, two former topliners trained by Cummings. Bred by Jack Macky at the Pirongia Stud, the horse had cost 3500 guineas at the New Zealand National Yearling Sales. Unraced as a two-year-old, Big Philou was brought along slowly by Bart but won five of his eleven starts at three.
Big Philou surged into Caulfield Cup favouritism after finishing second – beaten a short-half head by the 33/1 outsider Hamua in the Caulfield Stakes – after having firmed in course betting from 20/1 to 12/1. Sent to the post as the 9/2 favourite in the Caulfield Cup, Big Philou got the race in the stewards’ room after being beaten a neck by Nausori, a five-year-old bay gelding ridden by Des Lake and trained by Arthur Ward at Randwick. The upholding of the protest led to a noisy demonstration amid suggestions of the Melbourne stewards’ anti-Sydney bias by those Caulfield punters in the grandstand and on the lawn, whose side-on view of proceedings didn’t reveal what the stewards’ head-on patrol film footage did. I remember talking to Arthur Ward at a racing function at the Hotel InterContinental in Sydney about the controversial decision some twenty-five years later, and he still remained deeply embittered.
Of course, the sensation associated with Big Philou that spring wasn’t restricted to Caulfield. At Flemington on Melbourne Cup Day, with Big Philou jostling Tails for Cup favouritism and bookmakers facing a pay-out of some $600,000 on the Big Philou Cups’ double, just 39 minutes before the race was scheduled to start the betting ring was silenced by a dramatic blast from the warning siren. To the shocked amazement of the on-course crowd of 85,600 people, the V.R.C. race caller Joe Brown announced that Big Philou had been withdrawn from the race by order of the stewards. In his absence, Rain Lover, handicapped with 9st. 7lb, fell in to win his second successive Melbourne Cup, by a head from the lightweight Alsop, with Ben Lomond two lengths away in the minor placing. It later transpired that Big Philou had been given a laxative called Danthron to ruin his chances in the race. The stewards eventually warned the perpetrator off racetracks for life although he was never gaoled over the incident. Big Philou, despite winning the V.R.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the V.A.T.C. Underwood Stakes the following year and running the minor placing in the 1971 Caulfield Cup, was never quite the same horse afterwards.
Some V.R.C. Spring Meetings are more memorable than others for the good, the bad and the ugly. While the reason for Big Philou’s dramatic Cup scratching served up the bad and the ugly, it was a very special three-year-old that served up the good. As impressive as Daryl’s Joy was in taking out the Victoria Derby and leaving Divide and Rule in his wake, it was another three-year-old entirely that stole the show that week at Flemington. I refer, of course, to Vain. On the first day of the meeting, when Daryl’s Joy won the Derby, this brilliant son of Wilkes won the V.R.C. Craven ‘A’ Stakes by twelve lengths. On the third day, Vain won the Linlithgow Stakes by six lengths and in so doing established a new record for seven furlongs at Flemington. And then on the fourth day, carrying no less than 8 st. 10lb, Vain won the George Adams Handicap over the mile. For those in attendance at Flemington that week, it was a privilege to bear witness.
What a prospect seemed in store for sportsmen in the autumn of 1970 with such cracking three-year-olds in our midst. However, sadly, too often horse racing consists of fleeting moments of greatness and that 1969 V.R.C. Spring Meeting is a case in point. The George Adams Handicap proved to be Vain’s last race. The horse always had a weakness in his near-fetlock joint as a result of an accident in the paddock as a foal. It hadn’t been a problem until he struck himself in a gallop at Mentone when being prepared for his reappearance in the William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley in late January. He was immediately retired to stand stallion duties at the Widden Stud. The Victoria Derby also happened to be the last race on Australian soil for Daryl’s Joy. Soon after he was sold to race in America. He proved successful there too, winning six races from seven starts including the prestigious Santa Anita Oak Tree Stakes at weight-for-age.
Greeted by a loud chorus of praise for his achievement in the Derby, the subsequent accomplishments of his rival three-year-olds, Vain and Daryl’s Joy, led some to reassess the merits of Divide and Rule rather less favourably. However, Dick Roden wasn’t among them. He had always believed that his colt had done too well in the Begg stables in the days after the Derby at Randwick and was too fat to do himself justice in Melbourne. The horse was sent to Jim Fleming’s Stone Lodge Stud for a spell. By the time the colt returned from his long summer break, Roden, having nursed himself back to health in his Wansey Road residence overlooking Randwick racecourse, had resumed training.
Even before the more mature Divide and Rule resumed in a six-furlong open handicap on April Fool’s Day, the former Queensland horseman had traced the outlines of a winter campaign in his former home State. The canny trainer thrived on dissimulation and intrigue when it came to tilts with the ring, and he derived a mischievous excitement from deceiving the sporting press when it suited. He now began to plan one of the most audacious stings of his life. Divide and Rule’s trackwork, together with his fast-finishing fourth first-up, confirmed Roden’s faith that the horse had the speed to win the Q.T.C. Stradbroke Handicap. All the while proclaiming that the Doomben Cup would be Divide and Rule’s Queensland mission and musing aloud that the Brisbane Cup was probably a trip too far at this stage of the horse’s development, Roden was laying the groundwork for an old-style plunge on Queensland’s richest sprint race.
After carrying 9 st. 9lb to win the Gallipoli Welter at Randwick on Anzac Day and then upsetting a field of sprinters over five-and-a-half furlongs at Rosehill, Divide and Rule was put by for five weeks. The horse was then flown to Queensland but proved a little unruly en route, hitting his head when being loaded onto the plane and sustaining a gaping wound. With the Stradbroke only ten days away drugs couldn’t be administered and instead, the wound was stitched and kept clean. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Divide and Rule ran poorly in a barrier trial at Eagle Farm behind Mr Hush on the Tuesday before the race, although the lacklustre performance had as much to do with the unknown fact that he raced in heavy shoes rather than the lighter racing plates. The horse blew like a grampus after the hit-out and Roden pondered aloud – with the racing press in full hearing – as to whether the colt was fit enough to do justice in the Stradbroke following his interrupted preparation. In a very public action, Queensland Turf Club stewards instructed the club’s veterinary surgeon to inspect the colt on the Friday before the Stradbroke thoroughly. Naturally, it came as no surprise to Roden that his charge was cleared to run.
A small team of commissioners had been organised to support the colt at both Randwick and Eagle Farm. The fitness cloud had seen Divide and Rule’s price get out to as much as 8/1 by the time the commission agents got to work. In Sydney, rails bookmakers Jack Waterhouse and Arthur Browning between them were claimed for $85,000. In the Brisbane ring alone it was estimated that Divide and Rule was backed to win more than $200,000. The weight of money saw the colt go to the post as the 5/1 favourite and in the hands of jockey Bill Camer, the money was never at risk. Divide and Rule flashed down the outside to win running away, establishing a new track and race record despite his impost of 8 st. 11lb.
Ironically, the runner-up to Divide and Rule that day was the Neville Begg-trained Gypsy Moss. The racing pressmen were not amused. A fortnight later he was beaten into second placing in the Tattersall’s Cup at Eagle Farm by Gypsy Moss, in a reversal of the Stradbroke placings. However, Divide and Rule was back to his best in what was to prove his last start in Australia when, after being backed by the stable into the even-money favourite, he effortlessly won the Doomben Cup, becoming the first horse to win the Stradbroke-Doomben Cup double since the inauguration of the latter race in 1933. A local orphanage, St Vincent’s Home at Nudgee, benefited from the victory with Dick and Elaine Roden pledging ten per cent of the prize money as a donation. This was a typical act of kindness by the Rodens.
There was some talk of sending Divide and Rule to America to race in the Washington International but a minor throat infection, and then a heel operation at Sydney University effectively scotched such plans and kept him out of racing in the spring of his four-year-old season. The much-bruited trip to the U.S.A. however, wasn’t abandoned but merely delayed and in the summer of 1970 he was leased to the wealthy American owner, Muriel G. Blum of Chicago to be trained by the famous Arnold Winick. Divide and Rule proved successful in the northern hemisphere winning two races there including the rich Hollywood Park Lakeside Handicap over a mile besides finishing third to the champion racehorses Cougar II and Fort Marcy in the rich Invitational Turf Handicap (1 ½ mile). In all, Divide and Rule earned an additional US$90,750 in America to complement the $80,745 he had won in Australia, and he completed his career with 8 wins from 25 starts. Upon his retirement from the racecourse Divide and Rule lived out the remainder of his days in glorious leisure at the Del Ray Training Centre, north of Miami. Dick and Elaine Roden on their many trips around the world afterwards never failed to call in and see their old champion whenever they visited America.
Divide and Rule’s transfer to the northern hemisphere saw Dick Roden, at the age of just forty-four, surrender his trainer’s licence. For a time he became a publican at Waterloo, although he and Elaine later established Roden Bloodstock with the couple eventually relocating to Queensland’s Gold Coast. It proved a lucrative business, and perhaps his most notable client was Brian Maher, the former Parramatta Rd car salesman cum Queensland entrepreneur, who was later gaoled over the ‘bottom of the harbour’ tax rorts of the 1980s.
The close-knit family that had sustained Dick Roden, wife Elaine, and sons Daniel and Richard, were there until the end. After a full life on the Turf, Dick Roden enjoyed his so-called ‘retirement’ years on the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast in his stylish home overlooking the Blackall Ranges. The master horseman died there in August 1991 at the age of sixty-five.
Great story i was fortunate to met Dick in the late 1980s. He was managing George Moores horses on the Gold Coast so i got to ride a lot of winners for George and John Moore the story brought back many memories. Dick told lots of stories.
Hi Danny, Thanks for your feedback. They were interesting times!
To put his true worth into perspective, Daryl’s Joy beat Cougar II on the two occasions they met and Cougar was later inducted in to the Hall of Fame in America.
Daryl’s Joy was a top liner in three countries, retired the richest earning horse in Australasian racing, but has slipped through the cracks somewhat as he race fleetingly in three countries and retired as a four year old.
A well written account of a great career. Some great memories.
Thanks for the positive feedback! Great memories indeed.
My first master was Trevor Harper who was apprentice and then foreman for roden and was travelling with Divide and Rule in Brisbane when he won the Stradbroke. Plenty of stories told of those days and Ysmail
Hi Steve, I’ll bet there are. Thanks for leaving the comment!
Nice to hear from you. Any stories you would like to share, I will pass them on to the rest of the family. Have a look on youtube at the 1959 Melbourne Cup and post race interview.
Totally enjoyed reading all about my Uncle. I have such fond memories of him. It was also wonderful to view the photos of Uncle Dick and Aunt Elaine!!
It’s nice to receive feedback like yours, Liz. Thanks for taking the time to write!