No race on the Australian Turf carried more sentiment with the great trainer Tommy Smith, the least sentimental of men, than the A.J.C. Derby. After all, when Playboy took the event in 1949 it was Tommy’s first major race success and the prize money won, and the bets landed, set him up for life. Moreover, it was that breakthrough that saw clients begin to beat a path to his door. However, Playboy apart, for all of the Derbies he had won during the intervening years, none gave him more satisfaction than his triumph with Great Lover in the 1976 renewal of the classic. A homebred, T. J. shared in the ownership of the horse with his brother, Dick. The story really began when Dick Smith went to New Zealand on a holiday trip back in the fifties.
It was Tuesday, 15 January 1957 in high summer and many of the racing and breeding fraternity had gathered in the Waerenga Valley, south of Auckland, for a partial dispersal of the famous Alton Lodge Stud. The stud had been established by Sir James and J.C. (later also Sir James) Fletcher during the years of World War II and had won distinction during the forties under the guidance of bloodstock manager, Jack Lindsay. Alton Stud had been home to some great stallions including Balloch and Fair’s Fair. The great and the good gathered there that day not to inspect stallions, but rather to buy broodmares, as a partial dispersal of Alton’s famous stock of broodmares was to take place. In acknowledgement of the trans-Tasman composition of interested buyers, Sydney’s John Inglis had been handed the gavel and granted the honour of acting as joint auctioneer. Such was the interest from Australian studmasters including Tom Flynn of the Oakleigh Stud, John Kelly of Newhaven Park and Ray Bowcock of Alabama Stud that Inglis had chartered a bus to transport the group from Auckland to the stud itself. One hundred and fifteen lots were sold that day for a heady aggregate return of 58,340 guineas. Australian buyers spent almost half of that amount, some 24,025 guineas on just thirty mares.
Murray Bain, who had been the resident veterinary-surgeon at Alton Lodge for three years before his removal to Scone in the Hunter Valley to establish a veterinary practice there, bought eight mares totalling 10,300 guineas for his Australian clients. Included amongst them was the aristocratically English-bred mare, Bedtime Story, who was the equal top price of the sale at 3500 guineas. John Kelly bought Blue Trout, who had already produced a Feilding Cup winner; as well as Ashmaganda, a granddaughter of Hyades; and First Step who would produce Sandra Girl, a placegetter in both a V.A.T.C. One Thousand Guineas and an A.J.C. Flight Stakes. Tom Flynn bought Gold Point and Bride To Be while John Inglis as agent bought High Glory for Neville Sellwood. Yet for all of the combined wisdom and judgement of those experienced studmasters and bloodstock agents present at Alton Lodge that day, the greatest bargain of all escaped their attention and fell to the relatively unpracticed eye of a man buying his very first broodmare.
Dick Smith’s attention was drawn by brother Tommy to an English-bred mare named Holiday Scene, foaled in 1946 by the Fair Trial horse, Fun Fair, out of Tide Time. In fact, like many of the broodmares sold that day, she represented a package deal, for not only did she have a filly foal at foot by Fair’s Fair but she had been served by that stallion again. Holiday Scene had been a winner in Scotland when the Australian millionaire, F. W. Hughes imported her in 1950. For a time in the 1950s, Hughes joined a New Zealand joint venture with Alton Lodge and Holiday Scene was one of the mares that he sent over there. Hughes had mated her with the imported stallion, Finis, and her first foal was Scalzo. Holiday Scene’s second foal was Dolly Gold (by Balloch) and her third, Golden Holiday (by Gold Nib). Thence came that day of the dispersal sale in January 1957. Tom Powell and Dick Smith decided to go halves in the job lot that the allicient Holiday Scene represented, and she set them back 1000 guineas.
Neil Clarence (‘Dick’) Smith had been in with his brother Tommy from the very beginning at Randwick with Bragger. Born in Ivanhoe, Dick was the fourth child and the third son, a few years younger than Tommy, but a special bond developed between them during those hard times deep in their childhood and it was never to be cut asunder. While Tommy was the official trainer of Bragger, Dick acted as the strapper. In those impecunious days on struggle street after the pair had left Griffith and the Riverina behind, they shared a room at the Doncaster Hotel, Kensington, while Bragger was kept in a rented box not far away at 5/- a week. However, it was the earliest years of World War II, and when Dick was called up for army service, Tommy couldn’t see much point in renting a room on his own and so moved into an adjoining box in the stables with Bragger. Dick continued to help out whenever he was home on leave. The brothers would often reminisce about their mode of entertainment back in those days, long after they’d made sipping of Sunday champagne de rigueur at Tulloch Lodge: “We had a refrigerator in the feed room at the stable, but it would only hold two bottles of beer”. The refrigerator, Dick added, “was just a kerosene tin and a half-block of ice”. Still, those hard days didn’t last forever, and by the time Dick was done with the army, Bragger was winning races.
Having known adversity; Dick was now to know prosperity. As Tommy commanded the newspaper headlines in his headlong pursuit of racing riches, Dick was with him every inch of the way. It was a good fit, too. Whereas Tommy was short, voluble, excitable and mercurial, Dick was tall, laconic, unperturbable and constant. Whereas Tommy sought the limelight, Dick shunned it. And whereas Tommy was imperious and autocratic, Dick was collaborative and diplomatic. One thing the two brothers did have in common was that neither had been much good in the saddle. Tommy’s brief life in the pigskin was canvassed in the 1949 chapter of this chronicle. Dick’s life there was even briefer. It consisted of just one ride for his older brother Cecil when the latter was training a horse at Bethungra, close to where the boys were born. Cecil had trialled the horse to be a good thing and Dick, as a very unfashionable jockey, to say the least, landed the ride solely because it would guarantee longer odds. The Smith family piled on what money they could muster only to see the horse and Dick fail to negotiate the home turn and disappear into the bush. The abashed and embarrassed postilion didn’t show his face again until after dark.
Dick Smith married a local Griffith girl, Joyce Matthews, in 1948 and soon after they began their successful family life buying a property in Grosvenor St, Paddington, a locale that suited Dick’s early morning trackwork duties with his brother at Randwick. Such was the success of the burgeoning Smith fortunes in the years immediately following Playboy’s Derby victory that Dick Smith was able to pay £22,000 for the lease on the Light Brigade Hotel in Oxford St, Paddington in June 1953. In succeeding in having the licence transferred to him, he told the Licensing Court that some £16,000 of the lease money had been derived from betting. Asked the secret of his success, he responded: “I’m Tommy’s brother, that’s all.” Life as a publican cum horse-clocker and betting commissioner suited Dick, and both he and the Light Brigade prospered. Later on, Dick Smith supplemented his turnover when he also secured the liquor concession at the Newmarket Stables of William Inglis and Son. During the fifties, Dick’s racecourse betting activities had seen a firm friendship founded with ‘Longshot’ Tom Powell, one of the leading Paddock bookmakers, and a man who had first fielded at Randwick in 1934 and stayed until he retired in 1960 at the age of sixty-five.
Powell had been a pugnacious and colourful character on the Sydney sporting scene during those decades but had been gambling well before taking out his bookmaker’s satchel. As far back as the First World War, while serving on the HMAS Proctor, Powell took bets from his fellow naval servicemen and very soon after discharge, began fielding at John Wren’s Richmond racecourse in Melbourne on pony meetings. Powell had grown up in the southern city and had been familiar with the racecourse since the age of eleven when he used to earn two shillings at Saturday meetings at Flemington for holding up a bookmaker’s name board while accompanying the bookmaker as he walked about the Flat. Unlike Randwick, the Flat at Flemington was then open ground, and the public could enter freely.
Powell first took out a bookmaker’s licence in Melbourne, before gravitating to Sydney. Despite the almost 25-year-age disparity between the pair, Smith and Powell enjoyed the sporting life and each other’s company whether it be racing, a game of cards, or a boxing match at Sydney Stadium. By the time Dick and Tom Powell accompanied Tommy to that Alton Lodge dispersal in January 1957, a joint venture in bloodstock breeding seemed the logical extension of a very sporting friendship. And Dick Smith, in particular, was more than ready for his next role in life – that of a successful bloodhorse breeder. Each man had raced horses before. Indeed, Tom Powell had raced Sir Gregory, a 1000-guinea yearling, although it had been registered in his wife’s name. However, a breeding venture was something else.
It is interesting to reflect on the chronology of clues that slowly but inexorably revealed that in Holiday Scene the two men had secured one of the great New Zealand broodmare bargains of the postwar era. The first clue came when the chestnut filly that Holiday Scene had at foot when purchased hit the racecourse. Registered as Luna Park, she was a speedy two-year-old who ran second in the A.J.C. Keith Mackay Handicap at Randwick and won three juvenile races at Canterbury. At four she won two fillies and mares’ races at Randwick before being sold in October 1960 for 1500 guineas to Alan Morrisby. He, in turn, sold her to the Puen Buen Stud, from where she went to the U.S.A. The first foal that Dick Smith and Tom Powell bred from Holiday Scene themselves was Fun For All, who dropped in 1959 and came along after the mare had lost her Fair’s Fair colt and had missed to Delville Wood. Meanwhile, the offspring that Holiday Scene had left behind before coming across the Tasman were beginning to fire in New Zealand, albeit more in the breeding barn than on the racecourse.
Impressed by the family’s blood, at the New Zealand National Yearling Sales in January 1960, Tommy Smith paid 1000 guineas for a chestnut colt by Summertime out of Scalzo, Holiday Scene’s first offspring. Offered by the Kinross Stud at Te Kauwhata, Smith bought the yearling on behalf of the Chinese Singaporean businessman, Runme Shaw, who together with his brother through the Shaw Corporation, pioneered the film and entertainment industry in Singapore and Malaya, indeed the whole of southeast Asia. Registered as Moviegoer, he proved a top racehorse, winning among other events the 1961 V.A.T.C. Burwood Handicap and the 1962 S.T.C. W.J. McKell Cup. Three seasons after foaling Moviegoer, Scalzo dropped another chestnut colt in Scolvin, who proved smart enough to win the 1964 Q.T.C. Claret Stakes and eight other races. Apart from that pair, Scalzo was also the dam of Princess Scalzo and Sunny Chief, the winners of ten and thirteen races respectively. Dolly Gold, Holiday Scene’s second foal in New Zealand would prove just as fertile, in time getting three individual stakes winners in Fair Tiger (A.R.C. Alison Cup), Geyser Land (A.R.C. Cornwall Handicap and Mitchelson Cup), and Holiday Wagon (Moonee Valley Cup and runner-up in the 1975 Melbourne Cup).
However, Fun For All, a lovely athletic chestnut filly, is the real key to this chapter. Like Luna Park, she was a smart two-year-old, winning races at Rosehill and Randwick. At three she also won the A.J.C. Princess Stakes by three lengths as a short-priced favourite in the hands of George Moore as well as the P. H. Osborne Handicap and was good enough to finish third in the A.J.C. Flight Stakes behind her stablemate, Jan’s Image. Tommy Smith thought highly enough of Fun For All to start her in the A.J.C. Oaks later in the autumn, although the distance proved just beyond her and she ran unplaced in the classic won by Arctic Star. Soon afterwards Fun For All was retired to stud. In the year after foaling Fun For All, Holiday Scene was again sent to the Woodlands Stud stallion, Pipe of Peace.
The following season she foaled a rangy bay colt, which, continuing the trend in nomenclature, was registered by Dick Smith and Tom Powell as Amusement Park. Among quite some notable victories were the 1964 City Tattersall’s Gold Cup and in 1965 both the A.J.C. Colin Stephen Stakes and the S.T.C. Cup. Two years later Holiday Scene produced Lots of Fun (1962), again to Pipe of Peace. Small and only lightly-raced, Lots of Fun added to the T. J. Smith bank account some years later when she produced that good little stayer, Over The Ocean. Raced in partnership by Tommy Smith and Helen Byrnes, he won both a Newcastle Cup and a Canberra Cup and started the unplaced 7/2 favourite in the 1978 A.J.C. Metropolitan won by Ming Dynasty.
Holiday Scene’s next foal in 1963 was Fun Park. A fine type of bay filly, sturdily built, she had a rather extravagant galloping action but won five of her first six races, and as a three-year-old finished third in the A.J.C. Princess Handicap and fourth in the A.J.C. Oaks behind Farmer’s Daughter. After Fun Park, came Holiday Peace in 1964. A chestnut colt, he made no mark on the racecourse and achieved nothing at stud. Holiday Scene’s last foal was the filly, Peaceful Park by Sostenuto. Tried on the racecourse and trained, of course, by Tommy Smith, she did manage to win a Lilyfield Maiden at Canterbury in July 1969, although the race is better remembered as the one in which her stablemate Wilsight, on debut and ridden by George Moore, attempted to jump the fence near the 6-furlong post only to crash to the ground leaving Moore with a broken pelvis, a fractured collarbone, and a vow never ride at Canterbury again.
Peaceful Park proved somewhat disappointing on the racecourse and in 1970 became just one in the harem offered to the imported American stallion, Dignitas, then serving his first book of mares at Ferd Calvin’s Dawson Stud at Grose Wold. Syndicated at the cost of $225,000, this son of Round Table had won more prize money than any horse brought to Australia at that time and was also the costliest. Peaceful Park’s matches with Dignitas proved successful, and she became the dam of Romantic Park, who won three races in succession at Randwick in the autumn of 1975, and Qui Vive, a winner at Rosehill for the Beynon family. Another of Peaceful Park’s foals was Braloch, by Rock Roi, and although a Rosehill winner, proved a very costly horse to punters. After foaling Peaceful Park, the 20-year-old Holiday Scene was pensioned-off at the Woodlands Stud. However, she became blind and feeble and in Dick Smith’s words “it was more humane to put her down than try to keep her alive.”
I mentioned above that the key to this chapter was Holiday Scene’s daughter, Fun For All, and while she was a good class racemare, her real value lay in the breeding paddock. Fun For All’s first few matings were all with Wilkes, standing at Newhaven Park, and Dick Smith and Tom Powell raced the resultant progeny in partnership at Tulloch Lodge. While her first foal to Wilkes, Hoopla, was a failure, the next one, Royal Park, was a multiple metropolitan place-getter. However, when Chorus Girl came along in the spring of 1968, Smith and Powell suspected that in Fun For All they had a broodmare of real quality. Chorus Girl earned prize money in fourteen of her first eighteen starts. As a two-year-old having won twice at Rosehill, Tommy Smith took her to Brisbane where she ran second as the 4/6 favourite in the Q.T.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes behind Charlton Boy.
Indeed, Tommy Smith thought so highly of her that he started the filly as a two-year-old in the Doomben Ten Thousand, although she could only manage tenth behind Baguette. Chorus Girl earned $25,890 in stakes before Dick Smith and Tom Powell sold her to Japan at a time when even they still didn’t fully value the blood. In 1969, the year after dropping Chorus Girl, Fun For All produced Big Dipper to the stallion, Sweet Moss. A strapping chestnut, Big Dipper won three races on the trot and was being trained for the 1972 A.J.C. Derby when he went lame in the shoulder and had to be withdrawn. As an autumn three-year-old, he proved good enough to win a Quality Handicap at Warwick Farm.
In casting about for a likely stallion to match with Fun For All in the spring of 1971, Dick Smith and Tom Powell resolved upon a new first-season sire recently imported into Australia by Tom Flynn of the Oakleigh Stud. Seventh Hussar, a handsome, aristocratic bay horse was by the same sire as the famous Brigadier Gerard, Queen’s Hussar, and like the Brigadier, traced back to the legendary Pretty Polly. Seventh Hussar was the winner of five races in England and £7,538 including the Sandown Anniversary Handicap, Whitsun Cup and the Brighton Mile Challenge Trophy. The following spring Fun For All dropped a lovely bay filly. By the time it came to register her the partnership between Dick Smith and Tom Powell had soured, and Tommy Smith instead had supplanted Powell as Dick’s partner in the filly.
Blood proved thicker than water, but how Powell must have regretted the dissolution of the partnership as the performances of this filly unfolded. As prolific as the daughters and granddaughters of Holiday Scene had already proven both on the racecourse and at stud, this filly was to be something else again. Named after Dick and Joy Smith’s then 18-year-old daughter, Denise, she became famous as Denise’s Joy. Not particularly a thing of beauty with “lumps and bumps all over the place”, to quote Dick Smith, the filly was nonetheless pure poetry in motion. Dick’s wife, Joyce, demurred at her husband’s unkind description of Denise’s Joy adding: “I thought she was a lovely looking mare myself, especially when she kept on winning races.”
And win races she did. A brilliant early-season two-year-old, Denise’s Joy won the A.J.C. Widden Stakes at her first start and was runner-up in the S.T.C. Silver Slipper behind St Louis Blue at her second. Although she won three races in her first season including the V.R.C. Bloodhorse Breeders’ Stakes, it was a series of minor placings that marked her as unlucky – running second to her stablemate Toy Show in the S.T.C. Golden Slipper Stakes and third in both the V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate and the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes. At three she was magnificent, and her five victories included the M.V.R.C. Moonee Valley Stakes, V.R.C. Oaks, W.A.T.C. Australian Derby on protest and in race record time, and the Q.T.C. Oaks.
Much was asked of Denise’s Joy in her three-year-old season when she had no fewer than 18 race starts. The night before winning the V.R.C. Oaks, John Foyster offered $200,000 for her. Tommy and Dick declined, saying: “She’s family!” When, after winning the V.R.C. Oaks, Tommy announced his intention to run her in the Sandown Guineas and then take her to Perth, a pressman remarked that it was a hard program for a filly. Tommy retorted: “Dick and I bred her to race, not to look at.” The economist, John Maynard Keynes’s most famous maxim was that “in the long run we are all dead”. It was a view to which Smith subscribed in racing horses, whether his or somebody else’s. Fragile creatures that they are; there was not much point in patiently planning to win races tomorrow when there were good races to be won today!
Denise’s Joy never quite recaptured that form as an older mare, but as a four-year-old, she did win the V.R.C. Turnbull Stakes – beating the great Balmerino by a short-half-head – and the Gosford Cup. Given one last campaign in the spring of her five-year-old season, Denise’s Joy won the V.A.T.C. Underwood Stakes and the A.J.C. Craven Plate before being retired to stud duties after finishing unplaced on the last day of the Flemington Spring Meeting in the C. B. Fisher Plate. Her complete racing record from 51 starts was 13 wins, 9 seconds, 8 thirds and $300,230 in prize money. Moreover, Denise’s Joy won in the very best racing company over distances ranging from 1000 to 2400 metres. For all of the great fillies and mares that Tom Smith had trained up until the 1972 foaling season, including the likes of Waterlady, Waikiki, Kiss Me Cait, Flying Fable, Analie, Hartshill, Silver Shadow and Toy Show, he unhesitatingly nominated Denise’s Joy as the best. I shall return to Denise’s Joy as a matron later in this chronicle, but now it is time to usher in her year younger half-brother and the real focus of this chapter.
When Denise’s Joy was foaled, the blessed event occurred at the Castlereagh Stud at Denman conducted by Ken Bridge. Fun For All dropped Denise’s Joy – the first foal born at Castlereagh that season – while she was waiting to be served by the newly imported English horse, Spoiled Lad, then standing his first season. A chunky, powerhouse chestnut, Spoiled Lad had been trained in England in the Newmarket stables of the leading horseman, Bernard van Cutsem. The winner of five races from seven to eleven furlongs including the Epsom Blue Riband Trial Stakes and the Goodwood Extel Stakes, and £17,778 in prize money, Spoiled Lad wasn’t entered for the classics, but van Cutsem maintained that had he been, he would have won the English St Leger. The horse finished his three-year-old season with a Timeform rating of 129. Spoiled Lad came from the family of the champion racehorse Never Say Die, the sire of Battle Wagon, Mellay and Sostenuto.
By Pardao, Spoiled Lad descended directly from the legendary Chelandry in the female line and Chelandry as we have seen, was the grand dam of the champion Heroic, our 1924 A.J.C. Derby winner and subsequently seven-times Australia’s premier stallion. Tommy Smith had seen Spoiled Lad race and inspected him at van Cutsem’s stables during his visit to England in 1971. He liked the innate quality of the horse and remarked at the time that he reminded him a lot of Star Kingdom. When Castlereagh Stud was seeking a stallion, Smith recommended the son of Pardao and the horse was syndicated with the principal shareholders being Ken Bridge, Lloyd Foyster, Tom and Ernie Smith, and the well-known British comedian, Des O’Connor. It was Tom who recommended to brother Dick that Fun For All should be mated with Spoiled Lad, and the splendidly named Great Lover was the outcome. Imagine, in two successive seasons, two first-season stallions, and the result…two top racehorses in Denise’s Joy and Great Lover! Spoiled Lad was to get five individual winners in his first crop, but Great Lover was to prove easily the best of them.
The first shy hint in public that this latest of Fun For All’s progeny could gallop came at the official Canterbury Two-Year-old Trials in September 1975 when Great Lover won by three lengths from his nine rivals after being close to the lead all the way. Moreover, in clocking 54.9 seconds he equalled the fastest time of the day for the colts. That performance together with his track gallops at Randwick during the interim ensured that he went to the post as the 11/8 favourite for the first division of the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate, the opening event of the Randwick Spring Meeting. Drawn in eight and partnered by Kevin Langby, he found one too good in Sir Brian Crowley’s Blue and Gold. It was the first yearling Sir Brian had purchased in almost ten years. Although bred by Crowley and studmaster, Viv Bath, Blue and Gold had been offered for sale as a yearling, but when bidding stopped at $7,500, Crowley interceded and bought him himself, placing the colt in the Randwick stables of Albert McKenna. Great Lover lost some caste in finishing runner-up but stepped out over the same course and distance a week later in the Canonbury Stakes. Again the public supported him into favouritism at 4/5, and again he finished second, although never looking likely to catch the winner, Timurkhan.
Tommy Smith knew the colt wasn’t galloping up to his potential and the reason was that he was growing but not eating. The master trainer had no alternative but to send him to the spelling paddock. Brought back into serious training in early January, and aimed at the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington, Great Lover broke his maiden status in a 1200-metres handicap for colts and geldings at Randwick on Australia Day, winning in spectacular fashion on a heavy track by five lengths. Transported to Melbourne, Great Lover could only run sixth in the V.A.T.C. Trenton Stakes behind Pacific Ruler after stirring indignantly at restraint in the early stages of the race. Rather than push on to the Sires’ Produce with a colt that was still growing into his frame and a finicky eater besides, Smith again turned him out for the season. The matter of the colt’s Derby prospects was now to lay fallow for a few months.
It was a year in which the fillies were much better than the colts at Tulloch Lodge. Flaunting, Market Garden and As You Like It, were the stars of the show. Flaunting, a Showdown filly owned by Ken Cox, and As You Like It, a Dignitas filly owned by David Chrystal senior and junior, ran the minor placings in the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes behind Desirable, while Market Garden, a King Of Babylon filly raced by the Derby-King ranch, was runner-up to Vivarchi in the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes. But lesser two-year-olds such as Duke Ellington, Hermongers, Queen of the Heavens, Nageebee, Times Right and Silver Anniversary all contributed to yet another Sydney trainers’ premiership for Smith. Another two-year-old that Tommy trained to succeed that year was a Hail To Success filly named Successful Dream. The husband and wife team who owned the filly were Melbourne-based newcomers to Tulloch Lodge. Their racing colours of ‘yellow, red striped sleeves and cap’ would soon become as famous at Randwick as the bilious and cantankerous old greencoats the A.J.C. employed to maintain order in the club’s various reserves and car parks. The names of the new clients were David and Helen Hains.
Old and new clients alike ensured the stable yet again topped the million-dollar mark in prize money won. And this time, unlike the inaugural season of 1973-74, it came with a bang and not a whimper. It happened when Toy Show took out the 1976 V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap. And what a day that was! The effervescent Smith not only won the $50,400 Newmarket at Flemington but the V.R.C. Queen’s Plate as well – the second feature race on the card with Taras Bulba, besides winning no less than five races on the same afternoon at Rosehill. However, the two victories at Flemington gave him particular pleasure as he had the satisfaction of beating his arch-rival, Bart Cummings, who saddled up the respective second placegetters, Leica Show and Leilani. It was only the second time in his career that Smith had trained seven metropolitan winners Australia wide, the previous occasion coming on July 29, 1972, when he enjoyed six winners at Randwick and Joint Venture landed the Cumberland Cup for him at Eagle Farm. And one of his six winners on that July afternoon at Randwick had been none other than Chorus Girl, a daughter of Fun For All by Wilkes. However, the extent to which Tommy could claim the lion’s share of the credit for the achievement in 1972 was debatable. At the time, his younger brother, Ernie, was supervising the stable while the Master of Tulloch Lodge was relaxing on his annual overseas holiday in South Africa.
At the end of June 1976, Tommy Smith yet again set forth for distant climes. This time it was initially to the Keeneland Yearling Sales in Kentucky as well as travels in Ireland, England and France. While in America he even had his fractured leg – a legacy of a fall from his hurdling days – treated at the famed Mayo Clinic. And yet again while Tommy continued on his global peregrinations, brother Ernie was supervising Tulloch Lodge. One horse, in particular, came in for special attention. Great Lover had returned to the stables and was being set fairly and squarely for the A.J.C. Derby. Smith arrived back from his northern hemisphere sojourn in time to tune up Great Lover for his comeback race in the new season. And what a comeback race it was. First up after more than six months away from the racecourse over 1400-metres at Rosehill, Great Lover showed grit and stamina to win a Graduation Stakes in a desperate finish.
“It looks as though I might have another Derby winner, ” quipped T. J. to nearby racing journalists as he awaited Kevin Langby’s return to scale on the son of Spoiled Lad. “He is extra good this fellow, and you can bet he’ll be fit by Derby Day.” Now, colts and their ability to be trained to stay the Derby distance was a subject upon which Smith could have pronounced ex-cathedra. The wary took notice. True to his word, Smith sent Great Lover to Gosford just twelve days later. At first blush, it might have seemed an unconventional course for a potential Derby colt to chart, but only the previous year the progressive Gosford Race Club had initiated a new principal race over 1600-metres for three-year-olds called the Gosford Classic. It was framed as a logical Derby lead-up, and the $10,000 prize money on offer wasn’t to be sneezed at! A tight, turning circuit, the Gosford track wasn’t to Great Lover’s predilection. Nonetheless, sheer class and a conservative Langby ride, saw the chestnut prevail by a length.
The next stop was the Canterbury Guineas just nine days later, and another tight course unsuited to a long-striding colt. Smith saddled four runners for the semi-classic that year – Great Lover (13/4), Woodleigh Fair (7/1), Duke Ellington (14/1) and Chasta Bellota (40/1) – and proceeded to win the event for an unprecedented tenth time, albeit with the extreme outsider of his team. Brilliantly ridden by Peter Cuddihy, Chasta Bellota ran his rivals ragged when he led throughout – a tactic that is often seen to advantage over that particular course and distance. Lord Lex, a horse still eligible for Novice class, and Woodleigh Fair ran the minor placings, with Great Lover a disappointing fifth. A chestnut colt by the English stallion, Charlton, out of an unraced Irish mare, Chasta Bellota had been bred at the Gainsborough Stud in Queensland and offered on the first day of the William Inglis Yearling Sales at Easter 1975. Tommy Smith secured him for a stable client, Mrs P. M. Hantos for $12,000. Before the Canterbury Guineas, the horse hadn’t won a race, although he had earned prize money at each of his seven starts. The event seemed to confirm that it was a moderate season for three-year-olds and bookmakers had trouble declaring a genuine Derby favourite at that stage.
A fortnight later, came the $40,000 Rosehill Guineas and most sportsmen expected it to clarify the Derby picture, although its outcome in many respects, only served to confuse. The 3/1 race favourite rather surprisingly was Keegan, a brown colt by Alderney out of a daughter of Todman, bred by Stanley Wootton and raced by him in partnership with Alf Ellison. Trained by Neville Begg at Randwick, and named after the famous Liverpool footballer, Keegan had won his last two starts. Great Lover went to the post as the second favourite and while very prominent for much of the journey and leading into the straight, was run down in the final two furlongs to finish fourth, two-and-a-quarter lengths behind the first three who flashed across the line together. The camera declared for the Victorian colt, Fashion Beau, by a short-half-head from Great Lover’s stablemate, Woodleigh Fair, with the same margin to Keegan in the minor placing in a time of 2 minutes 3.04 seconds. Although the margin was narrow, bookmakers and punters alike now rallied to the cause of Fashion Beau as the A.J.C. Derby favourite. While Fashion Beau would ultimately disappoint at Randwick, his Rosehill Guineas win was the start of a memorable spring for the Caulfield trainer, Geoff Murphy, who had suffered the ignominy of disqualification earlier in the decade.
A chestnut colt by the imported English stallion, Rangong, out of a Pakistan II mare, Fashion Beau had been bred by Gerald Fell at the Fairdale Stud in the fertile Manawatu plains on the North Island of New Zealand. Caulfield trainer, Geoff Murphy had bought Fashion Beau for $14,000 as a yearling in New Zealand in the summer of 1975 on the second day of the National Yearling Sales at Trentham. It was a memorable trip for Murphy as he was quite taken by another yearling colt by Rangong out of Mikarla bred and offered by the Fairdale Stud at the same sales on the first day. A shrewd judge of bloodstock, Murphy got that colt for just $6,500. Registered as Hyperno, he would win a host of good weight-for-age races for Murphy before being transferred out of his Caulfield stables to Bart Cummings, for whom he would win a seventh Melbourne Cup. But back to Fashion Beau. A late September foal, Fashion Beau was beaten in his first two starts at Bendigo and Pakenham. He showed his first glimpse of form when he fell in to win a 1400-metres midweek handicap at Flemington in mid-April at 40/1 under the guidance of jockey, Wayne Treloar. Rested, Fashion Beau then resumed in the new season to win a 1200-metre progressive handicap at Bendigo in mid-August. Placings at Flemington (1400 metres) and Caulfield (1800 metres) in three-year-old events then justified the colt being brought across to Sydney for the Rosehill Guineas and A.J.C. Derby.
The 1976 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
A capacity field of eighteen horses accepted for the A.J.C. Derby perhaps unsurprisingly, given the seeming absence of a high-class staying three-year-old colt. While a nice track gallop earlier in the week seemed to Smith, a sweet harbinger of victory for Great Lover, the bookmakers didn’t think so with as much as 14/1 available about the horse. Fashion Beau reigned as the first favourite, and yet another Victorian colt in Salamander was the second elect. Trained by T. J. Hughes at Flemington, and stabled with Fil Allotta at Randwick, Salamander was bred to win a Derby and had shown outstanding potential in his limited career. Salamander was by the imported English stallion, Approval, a grandson of the great Alycidon, out of Sister Eve, and thus closely related to Hiraji, the 1947 Melbourne Cup winner and Caulfield Cup runner-up. Salamander’s grand-dam, the unraced St Brigid, was a half-sister to Hiraji and Mac’s Amber, who finished second behind Tulloch in the 1957 Caulfield Cup. Salamander had won his first four races late in the previous season, opening his account at Bendigo and then winning over 1600 metres at Flemington twice and Moonee Valley over the same distance. Salamander appeared likely to miss the A.J.C. Derby when he succumbed to a virus and missed critical trackwork. However, the gelding’s seventh in the V.R.C. Ascot Vale Stakes had encouraged Hughes to make the overland journey. Salamander’s only public appearance in Sydney came when he ran unplaced behind Ngawyni in the S.T.C. Hill Stakes.
Elton, a small but neat New Zealand-bred colt by Taipan II was on the third line of Derby betting. A high-class juvenile in his homeland, he had won the Wakefield Challenge Stakes and three other races, as well as placing second behind La Mer in the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes. Elton was being prepared at Warwick Farm by Syd Brown. Despite the stable jockey, Kevin Langby, preferring the mount on Great Lover, Woodleigh Fair, one of only two fillies in the race, was the most prominent of the four starters from Tulloch Lodge. A place-getter in both the Canterbury and Rosehill Guineas, Woodleigh Fair was a home-bred from the Woodleigh Stud at Waikanae and raced by her breeder, Ted Howarth. A prominent New Zealand sportsman, Howarth, apart from his duties as studmaster at Waikanae, served as a steward of the Wellington Racing Club and was to be a longtime member of the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Council and a future president of that body. For all of the money splashed about on yearlings at the New Zealand National Yearling Sales, Bart Cummings only had two runners in the classic. The first was Sir Sahib, a son of the W.S. Cox Plate winner, Rajah Sahib, and already a winner himself of the S.A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and the P.A.R.C. Port Adelaide Guineas. Cummings’s second runner was the high-priced Zelenski, a $24,000 yearling purchase at the Trentham sales. He was a son of the former champion miler, Chantal, who on Derby Day at Randwick in 1966 had made such a one-act affair of the A.J.C. Epsom Handicap.
The start of the classic was delayed for several minutes when Keegan refused to go anywhere near the starting stalls. However, once started, the race itself was dominated by Smith’s runners with Kevin Langby charting an impeccable course on the relative outsider, Great Lover. Drawn in the coveted rails’ stall, Great Lover was quick to begin and was never further back than fourth in the big field. Likewise Chasta Bellota, and although the chestnut son of Charlton had to negotiate a wide gate, the colt was travelling comfortably near the rail as the big field turned out of the straight the first time. Conversely, the public favourite, Fashion Beau, was always racing sluggishly in the hands of Peter Cook, who was hoping to emulate his father’s success in the classic. The contest was conducted at a moderate tempo, and Chasta Bellota made a determined bid to lead for most of the journey from his stablemate, Duke Ellington, in second place with Great Lover third on the fence followed closely by Elton. The lack of speed and the fitness and stamina of the frontrunners gave nothing racing near the back of the field a chance. Chasta Bellota boldly led around the turn and maintained his advantage passing the Leger but, O’ happy heart when Langby issued his challenge topping the rise. Great Lover borrowed Cupid’s wings in that final furlong and soared with them above a common bound quickly to have the race in his keeping. In the run to the winning post, Great Lover won by three lengths from his stablemate, with Elton a further length away in third placing. Salamander finished resolutely for fourth while Fashion Beau merely plodded to the line to end up an inglorious seventh.
An excited Tommy Smith skipped down the stairs to greet and lead in his homebred colt. The presentation was indeed a happy affair for the whole Smith family, rendered even jollier a few minutes later by the news – relayed to Dick Smith in the mounting yard by a nearby punter with a transistor radio – that Denise’s Joy had just won the rich V.R.C. Turnbull Stakes at Flemington. I enjoyed the official presentation myself. For a few years, I had been backing what I considered to be the best horse at double figures in the Derby but had been drawing blanks. It was an approach to wagering that perhaps echoed Einstein’s definition of insanity, i.e. that state of “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” 1976 was the year that the theory paid off as I freely supported Great Lover at 14/1 in early betting on the course. Those that didn’t figure he represented value at the price had discounted the sublime agency of Kevin Langby over the Randwick trip. Perhaps, after all, there is a destiny that shapes our ends. Certainly, Dick Smith could have been forgiven for thinking so when he looked back on that serendipitous visit to the Alton Lodge dispersal all those years before.
Seven days after the running of the Derby, Great Lover contested the V.A.T.C. Caulfield Guineas. Unwanted in the betting at 20/1 on the ground that was heavy, Great Lover ran a creditable third behind the flying grey filly Surround and Family of Man, despite meeting interference from Blockbuster during the race. In winning, Surround scored her sixth successive victory in a sequence that had started at Eagle Farm in late June and included the V.R.C. Ascot Vale Stakes and the M.V.R.C. Moonee Valley Stakes. Immediately after the race her trainer Geoff Murphy announced that Surround would miss the V.A.T.C. One Thousand Guineas in order to contest the W. S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley a fortnight later. As it transpired, Murphy won both races, with Surround’s stablemate, Savoir, winning the fillies’ Guineas while Surround smashed the course record by no less than 1.3 seconds to become only the third female and the first three-year-old filly to win Moonee Valley’s signature event. Great Lover could only finish twelfth at the Valley, having been one of the main sufferers in interference that occurred on the first turn out of the straight.
Great Lover’s spring campaign ended with the Victoria Derby. Seventeen horses ran for that Derby, and the 4/5 favourite was the quintessential boom gelding, Ashbah, trained by Bart Cummings. Great Lover went to the post as the second elect at 6/1 but was outclassed in a race made memorable by the blanket finish of Unaware, Salamander and Family of Man, with only short-half-heads separating them in that order. It was another triumph for the trainer-jockey team of Colin Hayes and John Stocker, who had taken the Caulfield Cup with How Now just a fortnight before. Ashbah ricked a muscle at the 800 metres and limped back to scale lame. Great Lover officially finished tenth and even Chasta Bellota, Fashion Beau and Elton finished ahead of him. Whereas Great Lover had come to the end of his tether, Chasta Bellota seemed to be thriving. The son of Charlton had won the G.R.C. Geelong Derby Trial Stakes (2200 metres) in his lead-up to the Victoria Derby and Tommy Smith had no hesitation in going west for a crack at the W.A.T.C. Summer Carnival. It paid off, too, with the colt winning both the Caris Diamond Quality Stakes (1800 metres) and the Western Australian Derby (2400 metres). Indeed, such was his form that Chasta Bellota started the 11/8 favourite for the W.A.T.C. Australasian Derby only to go down to the Victorian colt, Family Of Man, after giving a bold, front-running display.
Great Lover was never destined to recapture any of the glory of A.J.C. Derby Day. In five appearances during the autumn, the only glimpse of form came with his second placing to his stablemate, Visit, in the weight-for-age A.J.C. Apollo Stakes. At his last run in that campaign, he finished last in the A.J.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes, twenty-two lengths behind the winner, Ngawyni. Great Lover wasn’t even placed when Brigid Monks of Tulloch Lodge exhibited him in the thoroughbred class at the Royal Easter Show. Nor did things improve for Great Lover when he returned as a spring four-year-old. He did finish second behind his stablemate, Flirting Prince, in the Tattersalls Chelmsford Stakes, but a suspensory ligament gave way shortly after and Great Lover was retired and sold as a stallion prospect. In his racecourse career, he had won four races and $101,310.
The son of Spoiled Lad stood his first season at Capricorn Estates, Yass, owned by the Clementson brothers, Pat and Barry. Unsurprisingly, the brothers weren’t knocked over in a rush by broodmare owners to patronise the horse. Accordingly, after servicing just a handful of mares and an aborted offer for sale, Great Lover made one more appearance on the racecourse. It came in an open handicap over 1200 metres at Randwick in mid-July 1979. The brothers entrusted his training to 33-year-old Paul Luckie, who had been granted his licence only a few months before. As the young man quipped before the race: “Tom Smith is a hard act to follow.” And so it proved. Luckie in name but not in nature the novice trainer saw Great Lover finish an inglorious last in a seven-horse field after blowing in the betting from 33/1 to 100/1. After that, Great Lover resumed the lascivious adventures in the stallion barn for which he was named but without any significant results appearing on the racecourse.
As we have observed so often throughout this chronicle, three-year-old form and performances can vary markedly between the spring and the autumn. In this respect, the class of 1976-77 is particularly instructive. Excluding Surround, each of the major three-year-old classics in the spring and early summer had been won by a different horse viz. Fashion Beau, Great Lover, Unaware, Chasta Bellota and Family Of Man. None were considered worthy of a start in either the Caulfield or Melbourne Cups. Neither Great Lover, Chasta Bellota nor Unaware ever won another principal event on the Australian Turf. Ashbah, the expensive disappointment of the Victoria Derby would come back and at least win the V.A.T.C. St George Stakes, but that was all.
Surround after winning the V.R.C. Oaks was sent to the spelling paddock until the autumn when she resumed winning no less than six of her remaining ten starts that season including the V.A.T.C. Orr Stakes, V.R.C. Blamey Stakes, M.V.R.C. Alister Clark Stakes, A.J.C. Oaks, Q.T.C. Oaks and Q.T.C. Grand Prix Stakes. However, it was her defeats that were perhaps more defining, coming as they did in the really rich events with unplaced runs in the V.R.C. Australian Cup, A.J.C. Champion Stakes and Q.T.C. Brisbane Cup. In truth, she was a couple of lengths short of the form she had shown in the springtime. The major three-year-old event of the autumn, the A.J.C. Champion Stakes was won by the visiting New Zealand horse, Sir Silver Lad, with Salamander and Ming Dynasty running the minor placings, and Family Of Man fourth.
In many ways, Great Lover was a reversion in type to Smith’s earlier Derby winners, Summer Prince and Summer Fiesta. That is horses that were worked extremely hard on the track and in races to fit them for the Derby journey in late September/early October while still immature three-year-olds, or, as in Summer Fiesta’s case, based on foaling date, a two-year-old. The A.J.C. Derby might be won but perhaps at the cost of an extended and successful career as an older horse. Not all trainers were prepared to push their young staying stock quite so ruthlessly, although it should be noted that seven of the starters in that 1976 A.J.C. Derby were still two-year-olds at the time of its running.
It was this emerging pattern that had some committeemen of the A.J.C. such as the Vice-Chairman, Blake Pelly, publicly questioning whether the Canterbury and Rosehill Guineas and the Derby were run too soon in the racing season and should be deferred until the autumn. Nor was Pelly alone. Some S.T.C. committeemen agreed with him. Critics would instance that since 1962, Summer Fiesta, Royal Sovereign, El Gordo, Wilton Park, Silver Sharpe and Imagele hadn’t turned three at the time they won the A.J.C. Derby. Part of the rationale for any transfer to the autumn was also to remove a clash with the Victorian spring carnival. Leave the spring to Melbourne and claim the autumn for Sydney went the argument. The debate still had some way to run before the critical decision would be taken, but the result of the 1976 A.J.C. Derby and the subsequent breakdown or loss of form of some of its leading combatants certainly fuelled the argument.
The four best-performed racehorses to emerge from the 1973 Australasian foaling season over the full course of their careers were undoubtedly Surround, Family Of Man, Ming Dynasty and Hyperno. Surround only raced three times after her three-year-old season and all when a spring four-year-old, before being forced to retire to stud after straining the tendons in her near foreleg. This champion daughter of Sovereign Edition finished with a racing record after 28 starts, of 17 wins including one dead-heat, 2 seconds and 2 thirds. Surround’s prize money totalled $346,330 – the most won by any mare in Australasia up to that time.
Family Of Man matured into something of an iron horse, and from 78 starts over six seasons enjoyed 21 wins including a dead-heat, 16 seconds including a dead-heat, and 13 thirds for $650,540 in prize money. A very versatile galloper that won at the highest level over distances from 1200 to 2400 metres and a particular favourite of George Hanlon, his most notable victories were the 1977 Caulfield Stakes and W. S. Cox Plate. Despite his ordinary bloodlines, he proved fairly successful at stud too, and among his winners was the Group 1 winning sprinter, Sonic Express. However, in the debate as to whether the A.J.C. Derby was run too early in the season or not, it wasn’t Family Of Man, but rather Ming Dynasty and Hyperno from the 1973 foaling season, that posed the most fascinating speculation.
On Derby Day at Randwick in 1976 few people would have considered that the stylish, grey, three-year-old gelding that was beaten a half-neck into second place in the last race on the card – an A.J.C. Trial Stakes over 2000 metres, would emerge, not only as of the best of his age to race that day, but also be a feature of metropolitan race fixtures in Sydney for some years to come. Bart Cummings had purchased the horse for $4,500 late on the second day of the Inglis Summer Sales in January 1975. Lot No. 341 was described in the sales catalogue as a chestnut or grey colt by Planet Kingdom out of Chow Mein, bred by Lloyd Foyster at the Gooree Stud, Mudgee. Bart initially bought the colt with the intention of racing him in partnership with his wife, Valmae. However, he succumbed to requests and sold two shares including one back to Foyster himself. Ming Dynasty would mature into one of the most colourful and durable characters on the Australian Turf and a very high-class racehorse, winning among other races, two Caulfield Cups, two Australian Cups and an A.J.C. Metropolitan and $547,425 in prize money. However, the A.J.C. Derby came along just a few weeks too soon as suggested by his win over the same course and distance in the 1976 A.J.C. Summer Cup when he carried 54 kg to victory against older horses. Upon his retirement from racing, the big-hearted and popular Ming Dynasty became an official mount for the A.J.C. Clerk of the Course, starting his new duties on Sydney Cup Day 1981, and carrying them out for some years after.
Hyperno was the other high-class racehorse to emerge from that 1973 Australasian foaling season as an older horse. A first season son of the imported stallion Rangong, as mentioned above Hyperno had been purchased as a yearling for $6,500 by the leading Melbourne trainer, Geoff Murphy. A slow developer as many of the Rangong stock proved to be, Hyperno only raced once as a two-year-old for an unplaced run in a Werribee maiden. Twelve days after Unaware had won the Victoria Derby, Hyperno broke through to win a Bendigo maiden over 1600 metres in the hands of Alan Travena. The gelded son of Rangong then proceeded to claim five metropolitan victories as well as filling the minor placing in the V.R.C. St Leger during that season. As a four-year-old in Geoff Murphy’s hands, Hyperno managed to win some good races including the Newcastle Gold Cup, C.F. Orr Stakes, T.S. Carlyon Cup, S.T.C. Tancred Stakes and the Adelaide Cup as well as running the minor placing in Gold and Black’s Melbourne Cup.
Leg problems and bad attitude restricted Hyperno to just two racecourse appearances as a five-year-old when placed in both the J.J. Liston Stakes and the Toorak Handicap. It was during Hyperno’s convalescence in the spelling paddock of Geoff Levett’s property that one of the horse’s owners, Dr Ray Lake successfully implored Bart Cummings to take over the training of the horse from Geoff Murphy. Such, then, were the circumstances in which the Cups’ King gained the horse that gave him his seventh Melbourne Cup. But Hyperno was to give him more than that. Over the next two years, Hyperno would win the V.R.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes (twice), Australian Cup, V.A.T.C. Blamey Stakes (twice), Caulfield Stakes as well as finishing runner-up behind Ming Dynasty in his second Caulfield Cup with 59 kg. Hyperno was acclaimed the 1980-81 Australian Horse of the Year for a remarkable string of performances when a seven-year-old. An injury ultimately ended Hyperno’s racing career but not before he had done so much to burnish Bart’s reputation with ‘problem’ older horses!
However, let’s return to that 1976-77 season and the horse that is the main subject of this chapter – Great Lover. The cumulative deeds on the racecourse of both Denise’s Joy and Great Lover during that 1976-77 racing season were such that at the prestigious dinner of the Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association held during Easter, 1977, Fun For All was adjudged “Best Brood Mare of the Year”. Dick Smith’s daughter, Denise, received the carved trophy on behalf of her father and uncle. It was a night of joy and laughter and no small achievement. After all, the judges chose Fun For All from a field of some 18,000 broodmares. Within weeks of winning the award, Denise’s Joy added to both her and the Smith family’s glory by annexing the Gosford Cup. Still, amidst the sunshine of triumph, there invariably lurks the shadow of tragedy. Few could have guessed that even then Dick Smith was touching the brink of eternity. It came on a black Friday in mid-September 1977 while he was watching the official two-year-old barrier trials at Canterbury Racecourse. Just two years before at the very same venue, Dick Smith enjoyed heart palpitations when he watched the unraced Great Lover win the eighth heat.
Heart palpitations of a different sort stopped him this day. After watching a heat, he got up for a toilet stop and collapsed in the washroom. He was rushed to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Camperdown, bleeding internally and the victim of a clotting abnormality. Knowledge of Dick Smith’s tenuous hold on life, cast a pall of gloom over the Rosehill Guineas meeting the following day. It was one of those very rare Saturdays that Tulloch Lodge failed to win a race on the card and its two high profile candidates in the feature race, Flirting Prince and Marceau, each disappointed. One suspects that winning races that day didn’t weigh all that heavily on Tommy Smith’s mind. Particularly after an urgent appeal had been made over the course public address system for blood donors for his brother. Eight of Dick’s friends and colleagues jumped in a car for a headlong dash to Royal Prince Alfred. Alas, it was in vain.
Some two hours later, Tommy Smith was called to the secretary’s office and told the grim news. Despite anticipating the sad tidings, his raw emotions showed. In Bert Lillye’s apposite phrase, Dick “was a gentleman and a gentle man.” A Requiem Mass was held at the Our Lady of the Rosary Church, Kensington, with the funeral at Waverley cemetery. Later, in a heartfelt gesture of appreciation, Tommy and Val Smith sent a substantial donation to the Red Cross Blood Transfusion Centre. It had provided approximately eighty pints of blood in an endeavour to keep Dick Smith alive. At the time of his death, Holiday Scene’s descendants had won more than fifty races and over half a million dollars for Dick and his partners. And then there was the money from the sale of a number of Holiday Scene’s descendants viz. Chorus Girl to Japan; Romantic Park and Bell of Peace to Singapore; Royal Park to Perth; Centennial Park to Adelaide; Luna Park to the U.S.A.; and the local sales of Hoopla, Big Dipper, Peaceful Fisher and Lots of Fun. Holiday Scene was a gift horse that kept on giving.
Dick Smith might have gone but the bloodlines of Holiday Scene and Fun For All lived on and continued to flow with all the strength of the mighty Mississippi. However, Fun For All herself never did produce another foal after Great Lover. She slipped or missed in seven consecutive seasons from 1974 to 1980, including two attempts to different stallions in Seventh Hussar and Zab in 1977. Other stallions tried during this period included Space Bird, Dignitas, Mount Hagen and Planet Kingdom. Fun For All wasn’t served in either 1980 or 1981, and she missed twice more in 1983 and 1984 – to Mighty Kingdom and Prince Ruling, before all hope was abandoned. This wonderful broodmare died on January 10, 1985.
Nonetheless, the womb of time would continue to demonstrate how lucky Dick Smith had been to acquire her back then on that January day in 1957. Great Lover might have proved a failure at stud; Denise’s Joy was to prove anything but. Quick on the racecourse, the big bay mare was equally quick in the breeding barn. Denise’s Joy ran her last race on November 5, 1977, in the C. B. Fisher Plate at Flemington. A week later she was at the Stockwell Stud and pregnant to Showdown. Eleven months after, the filly to be known as Joy and Fun was the happy issue at the Woodlands Stud where Denise’s Joy was waiting to be served by Blazing Saddles. That consummation occurred nine days after foaling, and again Denise’s Joy went directly into foal and the filly subsequently registered as Bolt of Lightning was the result.
Both Joy and Fun and Bolt of Lightning went into Tulloch Lodge to be trained, but although they showed speed, neither proved of much value as racing propositions. However, as breeding propositions, it was a very different story. Joy and Fun produced three individual stakeswinners viz. Euphoria (1984 A.J.C. Champagne Stakes); Jewel In The Crown (1985 V.A.T.C. Health Stakes); and Christmas Tree (1987 S.T.C. Pago Pago Stakes, Tatt’s Roman Consul Stakes, M.V.R.C. Red Anchor Stakes twice). Bolt of Lightning would produce two stakeswinners in Jolly (A.J.C. Fernhill Handicap) and Eastern Star (Q.T.C. Sir Edward Williams Handicap). It was a dream start for a broodmare, but the best was yet to come even if the flow of winners wasn’t always to be smooth. In 1983 Denise’s Joy would foal Clifton Gardens, the dam of Miss Minden (V.A.T.C. Mona Nursery Handicap) and in 1987 came Joie De Vivre, the producer of two stakeswinners of five stakes races including Arlington Road (A.J.C. All Aged Stakes, Frank Packer Plate and S.T.C. Phar Lap Stakes).
However, in 1991 came the foaling jackpot with the birth of the filly Joie Denise. Bred by the Arrowfield Stud from a mating with the champion stallion, Danehill, Joie Denise was the only one of Denise’s Joy’s progeny to win a stakes race – two in fact – the 1995 Q.T.C. Queensland Oaks and the A.J.C. Toy Show Quality Handicap. Moreover, at the Arrowfield Stud, she produced two stakeswinners of ten stakes races viz. Sunday Joy foaled in 1999 (A.J.C. Australasian Oaks, M.V.R.C. W.H. Stocks Stakes, B.T.C. Tommy Smith Slipper) and Tuesday Joy (A.J.C. Chipping Norton Stakes, Apollo Stakes, S.T.C. Coolmore Classic, The B.M.W., Ranvet Stakes, V.R.C. Wakeful Stakes, M.V.R.C. W.H. Stocks Stakes). In turn, Sunday Joy at the Arrowfield Stud would go on to produce More Joyous, the champion mare, who, like her dam, was trained by Gai Waterhouse, and went on to win some twenty stakes races.
Holiday Scene and the unbroken line through her female progeny seems a neverending joy story of racing riches. And I’ve only concentrated on the most dominant line from Holiday Scene through Fun For All and Denise’s Joy. The branch lines within the Australian Stud Book, while less prolific were also immensely rewarding. In life, Dick Smith was a man who shunned the expletives that seem so prevalent around the racecourse and in stables. He was a quiet-living man who desired nothing better than to enjoy happy family life and a good card game. His favourite adjective when either angry or excited was ‘bloomin’. It was a word rendered famous in Alan Jay Lerner and Fritz Loewe’s musical ‘My Fair Lady‘. One might observe that in the broodmare, Holiday Scene, Dick Smith found his very own ‘fair lady’ at that famous Alton Stud dispersal in January 1957. At the time that he and Tom Powell laid out their 1000 guineas to secure ownership, they could have been forgiven for thinking “wouldn’t it be loverly if Holiday Scene could produce us a winner or two.” Had Dick Smith lived another forty years, I’m sure that he would have echoed Eliza Doolittle’s immortal words: “It was abso-bloomin’-lutely still!”
Thank you Ian
Easily the most complete and ACCURATE summation of the Denise’s Joy / Fun for All story.
Your knowledge of the detail fascinates me – I thought some of the Fun for All details were mine alone after 47 years
One CORRECTION – Dick Smiths description of Denise’s Joy as a foal is absolutely wrong
She was a cracker – big, strong and athletic from the word go.- and certainly no lumps or bumps.
You are making an enormous contribution to the history of the Australian thoroughbred
I suggest you submit your entries to Wikipedia
Thanks for your feedback, Ken. It is much appreciated. I shall adjust those comments on Denise’s Joy as a foal. I think that the comments related to her later on as a racehorse as regards the bump and grind of racing rather than as a foal.