“The future belongs to those who plan for it.” It is a simple philosophy of life and one that Adelaide horseman Colin Hayes lived by every day. When he eventually realised his dream and first established the Lindsay Park Stud, nestled amidst the rolling green hills and massive, majestic redgums of the Barossa Valley in the Mount Lofty Ranges, Hayes had that philosophy inscribed on an iron plaque and placed on the grand entrance gates to the property. Colin Sidney (C. S.) Hayes, gentleman and racehorse trainer extraordinaire, might be regarded as the third man of Australian racing in the second half of the twentieth century. Together with Tommy Smith, seven-and-a-half years his senior, and Bart Cummings, three-and-a-half years his junior, Hayes came to exercise a disproportionate influence on the Australian Turf that lost nothing in comparison with the aforementioned pair.
Hayes was born in Semaphore, a beachside suburb in the city of Adelaide, on February 16, 1924, the son of Benjamin Hayes, an engineer with the Adelaide Steamship Company, and his wife, Olive (nee Marten). A close-knit family, it was brought even closer together with the sudden death of the father, aged forty-seven, at their Shorney St home in Sandwell when Colin was only ten. The father’s death left Olive Hayes with five children, Colin being the youngest. Arthur, the eldest son and some thirteen years older than Colin, stepped into the breach and shouldered the paternal responsibilities becoming a second father to the young boy. It was to be a very special bond that lasted all the days of their lives. Educated at Lefevre Primary School and Woodville High School, Colin followed in his father’s footsteps and began his working life as a welder and boilermaker with the Electricity Trust of South Australia.
Olive Hayes had wanted her youngest son to study accountancy but the lad was always practical and opted for mastering the trade of welding, and master it, he did. Nor did he ever lose the talent. Years later, after he was comfortably ensconced at Lindsay Park, Hayes took much satisfaction in highlighting to distinguished visitors some of that property’s fencing that he himself had spent so many Sundays welding. However, from his earliest years horses were his true passion while Don Bradman was his sporting hero. There was no racing tradition in Colin Hayes’ family background. The boy just loved horses. As a twelve and thirteen-year-old, he would spend his pocket money on lessons at a local riding school. By the age of seventeen, he could catch horses that other people could not; he was breaking them in too and riding the odd brumby in rodeos. Indeed, he fractured his spine in a fall after one such rough ride, an injury that rendered him physically unfit for service in World War II. In those years the local blacksmith would often knock on the front door and ask Hayes’ mother: “Is Colin there? Could you get him to come and catch this horse for me?”
A talented amateur rider, Colin Hayes’ first racehorse was an aged brown gelding by the good English stallion Amalfi, which he managed to buy for just £9. Hayes bought him off a fellow who had brought a herd of rodeo and gymkhana horses down from the station country and had them in a paddock out at Gepps Cross, near the saleyards. The old gelding was the only thoroughbred amongst them. Given the significance of the purchase to Hayes’s future career, in later life, the trainer enjoyed regaling racing journalists with the story of his negotiating prowess at the time of purchase. The stockman in charge of the herd initially wanted £12 for the horse but was prepared to take a tenner. Hayes only had nine quid and proposed tossing for it. He won. And thereafter ‘C.S.’ would continue to win with thoroughbreds all the days of his life. He led this, his first thoroughbred, home to Semaphore on the seat of a bicycle.
When that coin was tossed South Australia was gripped by drought in the dark years of World War II, and there was a government ban on racing. Given the closure of Adelaide’s racecourses, Hayes schooled his aged gelding for the show ring and because he was such a safe jumper, he proceeded to register the horse as Surefoot. In 1945 when the War ended and the ban on racing was lifted, Hayes applied for an owner-trainer’s licence with Surefoot his only charge. It took a while to get him to the racecourse but when he finally did so in November 1946, Surefoot was registered in the joint ownership of Hayes and his old friend, Oscar Heysen. Heysen, a successful city businessman and a capable amateur rider in his youth, was some 53 years Hayes’ senior. Despite the age gap, the pair got along famously and Heysen proved to be Hayes’ earliest and staunchest patron.
Now, there has been much ill-informed, mischievous rubbish written about the early days of Hayes and Surefoot and about how Colin partnered the horse in a race at Cheltenham, chancing his honeymoon money on his prospects. So, let’s get the facts right. After three unplaced runs during November at Victoria Park, Cheltenham and Morphettville, when the horse was ridden by professional jockeys, Hayes’s only race ride on Surefoot came at the Cheltenham Amateur Turf Meeting on the last day of the month. The race in question was the Thurlga Stakes over 9 furlongs and 60 yards for amateur jockeys.
Surefoot was weighted on the limit at 10 stone, although Hayes rode him one pound overweight. Opening in the betting at 14/1, Surefoot got out to 20/1 before being backed into 16/1. The Hayes’ money was on. At the start, the pair nearly came down and were last early. Surefoot was a nervous, thin-skinned horse who wouldn’t take the whip and Hayes could only sool him along. Despite being off the bit for the whole journey, Surefoot managed to get up to run third in the last stride. Given that Hayes and Heysen had backed the horse each way, Hayes’ honeymoon pot – if that’s what it was – multiplied, although marriage to his beloved Betty wouldn’t take place for another twenty-one months. I might mention that the winning jockey in the following race that day at Cheltenham was a future training rival of Colin Hayes: Grahame Heagney of Tobin Bronze fame.
The real accretion to Hayes’s savings in those pioneering days came just under five months later with only his second ride in a race. The horse in question was Vivalite, a daughter of Heroic’s Pride, and the race was the Rutland Trial Stakes at Cheltenham Park. While Hayes neither owned nor trained the horse, he had broken her in and was the first to ride her on the tracks. As a result, he had secured the mount on race day from owner-trainer Jim Martin. Backed into 6/1, Vivalite and Hayes, to borrow a Turf phrase, ‘brought off a good thing’, winning easily and with his winnings from the ring, Hayes now had a bank of more than £500. He was already dating Betty Munro, the couple having first met in 1943, but rather than continue courting by horseback, Hayes bought a 1944 Dodge, which was handy in driving her to the Semaphore Palais for dances. After their marriage and honeymoon in September 1948, Hayes returned to Semaphore, sold the Dodge, and subsequently used the proceeds and the balance of his savings to build a four-box stable at Semaphore, on the beach near the city. From the very beginning, he was animated by a spirit daringly ambitious and even in those early days, Hayes was thinking beyond the normal parameters of a racing stable in Australia, although his biggest dream would have to wait.
Surefoot was the horse that kept the wolf from the door in those early years. Although not a big gelding, he was a good jumper provided he was down in the weights. The son of Amalfi gave Colin Hayes the first of his 5,333 wins as a trainer when on October 15, 1947, he won the Doctors’ Trial Hurdle at Strathalbyn worth £125. Apart from the prizemoney, the stable had backed him from 5/1 into 3/1. Although his form could be patchy, the faithful Surefoot eventually won Messrs Heysen and Hayes more than £2,000 with victories and placings on courses as far apart as Mount Gambier, Murray Bridge and Victoria Park. In March 1948 Surefoot ran the minor placing in the £2,100 Great Eastern Steeplechase at Oakbank, albeit some 75 lengths behind the winner. Perhaps his best win was the 1949 Fullarton Steeplechase at Victoria Park, worth £300 to the winner, while a few days later he finished second in the Grand National Steeple at the same track. Surefoot twice won the Adam Lindsay Gordon Steeplechase at Mt Gambier.
A man of understated fashion in his stylishly-cut suits, complemented by the ubiquitous Fedora pushed off his forehead, the young Colin Hayes was as well turned out as his horses, while in a social context he was charming, relaxed and self-effacing. Moreover, there was a refreshing wholesomeness about Hayes in a sport too often associated with chicanery and double-dealing. These qualities allied to the ability that Hayes demonstrated in his training and placing of Surefoot, soon attracted wealthy clients to his stable, which he cultivated with assiduity. George Birchmore, a retired Northern Territory station owner was one, while another was Edward Dixon of the Waite River station. It was on Friday, April 21st 1950 that Hayes took out a professional trainer’s licence for the first time. The following week at Morphettville his horse, Great Moon, dead-heated in a division of the Tobruk Handicap. Perhaps the most notable of Hayes’s early clients was Dave Greenfield of Roxby Downs station and for him, he trained that smart sprinter, Sir Roxby, a winner at Caulfield in November 1951. After that Caulfield race, Hayes immediately flew back to Adelaide as he was meant to be the best man at the wedding of owner-trainer Melville Bowyer, but he failed to reach the church on time!
However, if Colin was sometimes late for his engagements, his horses rarely were. The winners began to come thick and fast. Two of Hayes’s most staunch supporters were Celsus Morton and Jack Clanchy. Morton owned the Pandie Pandie station on the Birdsville track while Clanchy hailed from Kamaran station, 370 miles west of Winton. Despite their geographical differences, the two cattlemen often raced horses in partnership and one of their best gallopers in the early fifties was Pandie Star. A son of Star of Baroda, Pandie Star gave Colin Hayes his first major race wins. A smart two-year-old, Pandie Star won the P.A.R.C. Oaklands Plate worth £1,000 over five furlongs at Cheltenham in December 1953 and the following season brought Hayes his first South Australian Derby when relegating the great Matrice into the minor placing. In 1954 Pandie Star became Colin Hayes’s first runner in a Melbourne Cup carrying the soon to be familiar colours of ‘white, green sash, black sleeves and cap’.
The year 1954 was also one in which the Hayes stable began to train multiple winners on racecards. In April at Murray Bridge, Hayes trained his first treble when Sir Rapid, Mighty Force and Homburg all saluted the judge. He accomplished doubles with Pandie Star and The Beau at Morphettville in July and with Adjustment and The Beau at Cheltenham in November. It was such repeated successes that saw new clients such as D. D. Frith, H. W. McEvoy, T. A. Bourn, A. T. Andrews, N. H. Peel and David Coles beat a path to his door and in 1956 win the first of his twenty-eight South Australian trainers’ premierships. Hayes was still enjoying success with hurdlers such as Birmingham at the time and winning races at Oakbank and elsewhere but the real money was on the flat. The next top galloper to enter the portals of Surefoot Lodge was Pandie Sun, who carried Celsus Morton’s ‘gold, light blue sleeves and cap’ to success in some of the country’s top staying races. Perhaps he is best remembered now as one of the triple dead-heaters in the 1956 V.R.C. Hotham Handicap.
This son of Valognes was in cracking form that spring and before coming to Melbourne had won both the McLachlan Handicap and Labour Day Cup at Morphettville. The best stayer in South Australia at the time, Pandie Sun won the M.V.R.C. Moonee Valley Cup and the £6,000 V.R.C. Olympic Year Cup on that same trip. Ron Hutchinson was Pandie Sun’s regular rider and the lifetime friendship between him and Hayes was forged during such successes. Pandie Sun was the horse that first brought the Hayes’ name before the eastern racing establishment and remained his calling card on his visits to Victoria over the next couple of seasons, with a minor placing in the 1957 Melbourne Cup and victories in the 1957 Herbert Power Handicap and the 1958 Turnbull Stakes. But there were other class gallopers as well. In 1957 on the same card that Tulloch won the Caulfield Guineas, Hayes trained Princess Tirage, a daughter of Faux Tirage, to win the V.A.T.C. Debutante Stakes when partnered by Ron Hutchinson.
In the early years, Hayes never campaigned his horses in Sydney and it wasn’t until September 1960 that the stable won its first race here when Trackmaster, ridden by Bill Pyers, scored in a welter handicap at Canterbury. There is a Rufe Naylor flavour to the events surrounding that welter well worth the telling. Hayes was on his way back from Brisbane’s winter carnival with a couple of horses and thought he’d try his luck. Trackmaster had finished second over a mile in a highweight at Eagle Farm only a fortnight before, carrying 10 stone with Kevin Mitchell in the irons. Hayes opted for the welter on Canterbury Guineas day with Trackmaster in a bid to recover some of his travelling expenses as he was intending to send the horse on to Melbourne. The trainer was good friends with some influential tennis players who raced horses, including Jack Kramer and Lew Hoad. Together with those well-known racing identities Bob Barnes and Ted Harris, that quartet saw an opportunity for a betting coup.
Hayes went back to Adelaide and left the horse behind. Not only did he have a stable to run in South Australia but, so the theory went, his absence from Canterbury would lull bookmakers into a false sense of security. While Barnes and Harris arrived at the track just before the race started and placed a small series of bets, Lew Hoad remained at home to place the larger S.P. commission by telephone at a pre-arranged time. The welter was the last race on the card and Trackmaster was being ridden by the top South Australian jockey Billy Pyers, his only ride of the day. With Colin Hayes listening in the course broadcaster’s box in Adelaide, Trackmaster, starting at 9/1 led throughout and fell in to win by a neck after running off the course when approaching the winning post. However, the sting in the ring wasn’t as lucrative as it might have been. While Barnes and Harris collected their bets on the course, Lew Hoad, who’d had a late night the night before, tired of waiting for the last race, fell asleep beside the telephone without placing a single S.P. wager!
In a 1970 interview with the Sydney Morning Herald’s racing journalist, Bert Lillye, Colin Hayes observed: “The secret of being a successful trainer is good horses. After that, it’s four-fifths hard work and routine, with the other fifth, intuition. But it’s the last fifth that really counts.” Hard work, routine and especially intuition were all at play during the first half of the 1960s, a period in which Colin Hayes consolidated his reputation in Adelaide as the leading trainer. He repeatedly won the Adelaide trainers’ premiership and made increasingly regular forays into Melbourne with horses like Trim Boy, Princess Ada, Alarm Bell, Aladdin’s Lamp, Wine Label, Prince Ming, Millionairess and Bright Blend. However, it was a period in which the stable never had a really top-class racehorse. Yes, Hayes won the South Australian Derby with Royal Chat in 1960; the Adelaide Cup in 1962 with Cheong Sam; and the 1963 V.R.C. Queen’s Cup with Aladdin’s Lamp. And yes, Rose of Summer and Bright Blend did finish runners-up in the V.R.C. Oaks and Victoria Derby respectively. But none of those gallopers really went on with the job.
There were other setbacks too. In April 1963 Colin Hayes lost his friend and brother, Donald, when he together with another man, were killed after a semi-trailer they were driving and loaded with nine thoroughbreds, overturned near Wagga. Four of the horses also died in the accident including a Todman yearling bought for 2200 guineas at the Inglis sales only the previous Tuesday. Such reverses took their toll. While Colin Hayes had long been touted as the coming man from Adelaide in respect of training horses, it was a young man from Glenelg that happened to arrive first. And, figuratively speaking, as we have seen, Bart Cummings did so on the back of Le Filou.
It is a remarkable coincidence, is it not, that two of the three greatest Australian racehorse trainers of the second half of the twentieth century were born and raised in the relative isolation of Adelaide, rather than the more populous eastern state capitals. Born three-and-a-half years apart and living their formative years just twenty minutes apart – in the Adelaide beachside suburbs of Semaphore and Glenelg with Morphettville racecourse in easy reach, the careers of Colin Hayes and Bart Cummings present an interesting contrast. There were similarities of course and I don’t just mean geography.
All their lives, both men subscribed to the philosophy of keeping their horses happy in the fresh air and open spaces, and each ultimately achieved it in his own way at Lindsay Park and Princes Farm. Both men, having grown up near beaches, understood the value and importance for horses of sand gallops and swimming. Indeed, in later years both men expressed frustration when the old sand track at Flemington was replaced by a car park. And both men understood that horses are creatures of habit with fine memories and quirky characters and each catered for it in their different approaches to training. In short, both men had a finely-tuned sensitivity or instinct for the animal that brought them their livelihood. Each man understood a horse’s subtle eye and body movements in the same way that a horse understands those same eye and body movements in man.
But still, their differences divided them more than their commonalities united them. Whereas Colin Hayes had the advantage of seniority over Cummings, unlike Bart he suffered the disadvantage of coming from a non-racing family. Everything Hayes learned, he taught himself. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it frees one from the burdens of dubious traditions often passed down in racing families. On the other hand, when the traditions handed down are intelligent, sound and proven, the bequest is indeed a boon. Bart always acknowledged his everlasting debt to his father. As he wrote in ‘BART my life’: “I learnt everything I know about horses from my father, and in more than half a century of training, I have always seen myself as simply continuing to apply the lessons he taught me.” I might observe here that experience is a commodity cheaply taught but dearly bought and the truth of that aphorism also played itself out in both men’s lives.
Perhaps more than any other racehorse trainer in Australia, Colin Hayes got under Bart’s skin. And if anyone doubts me, I refer them to the two or three cursory but derogatory references to Hayes in Bart’s ostensible ‘autobiography’. It is no accident that in the photograph shown at the beginning of this chapter, Tommy stands between Bart and Colin. There were a few reasons that explained this antipathy. A certain professional rivalry was always going to manifest itself when these two men of energy and genius working in the same narrow field, came together in the relatively small, provincial city that was Adelaide in the 1950s. Horse training is a ruthless profession that demands winners. Rival trainers are a threat. And racehorse owners are hard to come by and jealously guarded by trainers when they do. But there was another element at play here as well and that was the sectarian divide that was such a feature of Australian life right up until the 1960s, but thankfully is no more.
Hear me out here. South Australia was originally established as a planned colony of free immigrants, promising civil liberties and freedom from religious persecution. It was the only state settled widely by groups of Christian dissenters not aligned with the Church of England. Nonetheless, sectarianism with its clear faultlines of Anglo-Protestantism versus Irish Catholicism was as rife in Adelaide up to and including the years after World War II, as much as any other capital city in Australia. Perhaps even more so because of its relatively small size. The committees of the important and prestigious cultural institutions of Adelaide such as the leading race clubs were dominated by Protestants and yet so many of the horse trainers and jockeys historically in Australia were drawn from poorer Irish-Catholic backgrounds. It was a class divide – and Hayes and Cummings came to maturity operating in that environment.
By 1961 and the time of the Cilldara blinkers incident, in the dismissive words of Bart Cummings, “Colin Hayes had become the trainer of choice for the old-school Adelaide establishment”. I discussed the events surrounding the running of Cilldara and Bart Cummings’ subsequent 12-month disqualification in my 1977 chapter and don’t propose to repeat the details here. However, the fact that Colin Hayes trained for, and was good friends with Wyndham Hill Smith, chairman of the Port Adelaide Racing Club and the man Cummings saw as the architect of his downfall over Cilldara, only served to sharpen the rivalry. Hayes might have won his first Adelaide trainers’ premiership fully ten years before Bart secured his, but in terms of big-race victories with high-class horses, it was the younger man who stole the march. Three Melbourne Cups on the trot – including winning quinellas in two of them – and two champion racehorses to boot in Light Fingers and Galilee!
The year 1965 was significant in the careers of both men. Cummings trained his first Melbourne Cup quinella with Light Fingers and Ziema, a feat which brought him to the notice of Australians everywhere, while Hayes secured possession of Lindsay Park. While Hayes might have stolen the initial advantage over Cummings in Adelaide during the late 1950s partly due to his seniority and useful connections, the decade of the 1960s decidedly belonged to Bart. It was faintly ironic that the first genuine weight-for-age horse that Hayes trained was Fileur, a 1964 son of Le Filou, the stallion that more than any other had earlier put Bart Cummings on the map. In the matter of New Zealand yearling sales and the progeny of Le Filou, Hayes came to the party later than Cummings. However, thereafter the respective trajectories of their careers headed in rather different directions with Hayes as much driven to become a successful commercial breeder as a successful trainer of thoroughbreds. By comparison, Cummings’ achievements as a breeder always paled into insignificance relative to his transcendental triumphs as a trainer, Saintly notwithstanding. Yet curiously enough, it was Hayes rather than Cummings, who, in the fullness of time with his Lindsay Park operation, would come to change the way racehorses were trained in Australia.
Lindsay House and Park in Angaston represent one of the great historical properties of Australian colonial history. Its story begins with George Fife Angas who was born the son of a coachmaker in May 1789, in Newcastle, England. At the age of fifteen, he became an apprentice in his father’s business only to be appointed overseer some five years later. Just before his twenty-third birthday, Angas married Rosetta French, a marriage that was to produce seven children. It was in 1824 that Angas moved to London where he first established a shipping firm and then quickly extended his activities into banking. In 1832 as agitation increased for a separate province of South Australia to be declared, Angas joined the committee of the South Australian Land Company in London and soon became its driving force. Its purpose was the acquisition of vast tracts of pastoral land in the colony of South Australia and Angas’s banking connections made it possible.
Angas himself initially acquired some 4,000 acres in the Barossa Valley. The valley was named by Colonel Light, South Australia’s first Surveyor-General, after Barrosa (Hill of Roses) in Spain where he had fought against the French during 1811 in the Peninsular War. The spelling mistake was never corrected and Barossa it remained. The original Lindsay Park homestead was built during the 1840s before George Fife Angas even landed in the colony and had been intended for his son-in-law, Henry Evans, who had designed and built it. The grand mansion was constructed of marble and sandstone – all quarried from the property itself, while the walls were panelled with English oak. After the arrival of George Fife Angus, the family snapped up even more land and in 1856 built a second sandstone pile at nearby Collingrove, although a more modest construction in comparison to Lindsay House. It was from these two homesteads that the extended Fife family came to control a land empire that at its peak spanned twelve million acres within the state.
Over the years Lindsay House became more Edwardian than Victorian in design, as various alterations and additions were made to the original homestead, which only rendered its three storeys and 38-rooms even more impressive. Five successive generations of the Fife family lived continuously at Lindsay Park and Collingrove. However, it was in 1965 that an ageing Sir Keith Angas let it be known that he was prepared to sell Lindsay Park to the right buyer at the right price. Colin Hayes had for a time been conducting the Beaufields Stud on the Gawler River, sixty kilometres from Adelaide. Hayes, together with a small syndicate of his friends including Wyndham Hill Smith, jockey Ron Hutchinson, tennis promoter Jack Kramer, S.A.J.C. vice-chairman Don McKay, Harry Cornell and Peter Richardson, had bought the stud in 1962. Earlier the same year Hayes had made a trip to England and Europe buying bloodstock. For a time the Irish stallion Hawa, a son of Golden Cloud, stood at Beaufields before Hayes sold the horse to New Zealand. However, even by 1965 Beaufields was becoming too small to contain the syndicate’s ambitions and the prospect of acquiring the richer pastures of Lindsay Park was beguiling.
Hayes on behalf of his small syndicate began negotiations. Hayes drove to Angaston with his long-time friend and bloodstock auctioneer David Coles. Sir Keith asked Hayes why he wanted to buy Lindsay Park? Hayes told him he simply wanted to raise good horses. A fortnight later Sir Keith informed Hayes he could buy it and on July 1st 1965 the newly named Lindsay Park Stud Syndicate assumed control. The original landholdings were some 400 hectares, a Hans Heysen landscape come to life, which over the years more than doubled. In time, the purchase was to change the very way that racehorses were trained in Australia. Hayes had always believed that horses could be prepared better in the country, a belief that became a conviction after observing the major racing stables on a tour of England. And Lindsay Park with its rolling pastures of sandy loam upon limestone and marble; its stately mansion and chapel; its coach houses and its cemetery; its herd of deer and its extensive gardens, all seemed just like an idyllic pastoral symphony of England.
Colin Hayes had always wanted to establish a large and successful commercial breeding operation and his team now set about making over Lindsay Park into the showplace of the Australian thoroughbred breeding industry. It was here that Hayes’s superb organisational abilities came to the fore. In May 1965 while negotiating to buy Lindsay Park, Hayes had gone to New Zealand on behalf of his syndicate in a bid to buy Sobig. Although the stallion passed the veterinary examination and a £50,000 offer was made, Sobig’s owner-breeder, Gordon Mitchell eventually resolved to keep his stallion. Hayes had to look elsewhere. Accordingly, the first sires that Hayes then stood at Lindsay Park were Romantic, a son of Princely Gift which he brought over from his Beaufields Stud as his foundation stallion, and Ruantallan and Atilla, by Ribot and Alcide respectively, which he soon bought from Europe on behalf of the syndicate. All three stallions would produce some high-class winners for Hayes in the seasons to come.
As much as he wanted to start training his horses at Lindsay Park, the absence of proper facilities for breeding or training there stayed his hand. It took just five years to transform the place into a world-class training centre. Meanwhile, Hayes continued to work out of his established Semaphore property, which now occupied an acre or so. During the second half of the 1960s, the best horse Hayes trained – and mentioned above – was Fileur, a beautifully bred son of Le Filou out of Dulcie, owned by Lady Monahan and her sister. A full brother to Gay Filou and Fulmen, Fileur won the M.V.R.C. Moonee Valley Stakes as a three-year-old and then as an older horse proved a consistent weight-for-age performer over three seasons winning among other races the C.F. Orr Stakes, Memsie Stakes, Turnbull Stakes, C. B. Fisher Plate and the V.R.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He also finished runner-up to Rain Lover in the 1968 Melbourne Cup.
Another good stayer that Hayes trained during this period was Impetus, a full brother to Sobig and with this son of Summertime, he won the Moonee Valley Gold Cup and Herbert Power Handicap in 1968. All the while these principal race triumphs were being supplemented by wins in lesser races, often by home-breds from Lindsay Park. Hayes never lost his enthusiasm for jumpers either and some of the big plums fell in his lap such as on Easter Monday in 1965, when he won the Great Eastern Steeplechase at Oakbank with Kooroshali and in 1970 the V.R.C. Grand National Steeplechase with Black Butt. The relocation of his training operations from Semaphore to Lindsay Park in 1970 was to be the making of Colin Hayes’ training career. The stabling and paddocks and the training tracks covered some 74 acres and he officially began training there on August 1st, 1970.
A few of his Adelaide clients who liked the convenience and proximity of the Semaphore stables dropped off but even more, were soon attracted to the sheer professionalism of Lindsay Park. Lester Piggott on a visit in January 1969 described it as “the best breeding and training set-up in the southern hemisphere.” As Hayes’ client base expanded, Lindsay Park ushered forth a regular stream of high-class racehorses – many of them homebreds – that vied for the richest prizes in Australian racing. The move to Lindsay Park also happened to coincide with the arrival of a stout staying three-year-old bred on the property, Clear Prince. A son of Ruantallan out of a Le Filou mare, Clear Prince impressively won the 1970 South Australian Derby and the Geelong Derby Trial Stakes, and Hayes entertained high hopes that the colt might give him his first Victoria Derby. He didn’t. He could only run sixth behind Silver Sharpe, but Clear Prince captured the headlines three days later when in the hands of Peter Cook, he ran third in the Melbourne Cup to Baghdad Note – beaten less than a length with the featherweight of 6 st. 12lb.
Alas, as promising as his future seemed to be, Clear Prince broke down after that Melbourne Cup and was quickly retired to stud. Denied glory with the son of Ruantallan, Hayes quickly made up for it with some big-race victories in his first few seasons training out of Lindsay Park. Romantic Son won the 1971 S.A.J.C. Marlboro Plate; Wine Taster the 1972 S.A.J.C. Adelaide Cup; and Bush Win the 1973 S.A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and the 1974 V.R.C. Australian Cup. 1974 was also the year in which Colin Hayes enjoyed his best season with a three-year-old yet when Haymaker, a son of the imported Stunning, won him his first Victoria Derby and W.A.T.C. Australian Derby. Raced by a syndicate of five friends including Betty Hayes, Haymaker was bought as a yearling at Trentham for NZ$5,600 when offered on account of breeder Gordon Pollard. Haymaker was out of the mare Summer Queen, a full sister to Bright Blend, which Hayes had trained to run second in the 1962 Victoria Derby, and later won a South Australian St. Leger and Port Adelaide Cup.
It was an early example of Hayes’s liking for a family and repeatedly buying a particular broodmare’s progeny. Three seasons later Hayes would acquire a grey filly out of Summer Queen and race her successfully as Minuetto. The very next season after Haymaker, along came that wonderful mare How Now. How Now was certainly no brown cow. A brilliant three-year-old, she was owned by George Frew, head of the Commodore Hotel group, together with Ron Nestor, Alan Johnson and Brian Rayner – all of whom worked together. How Now won the V.R.C. Wakeful Stakes and the A.J.C. Oaks and the following spring was well nigh unbeatable at weight-for-age in Melbourne when she won the V.R.C. Craiglee Stakes, V.A.T.C. Underwood Stakes and Caulfield Stakes. This New Zealand-bred daughter of In The Purple topped off that spring campaign by taking out the Caulfield Cup with 52 kg on a heavy track, after a superb ride from a wide draw by John Stocker.
For all of the stallions that stood at Lindsay Park in the 1970s, which apart from those already mentioned included Boone’s Cabin, Bright Finish and Estaminet, it was a high-class French racehorse for which Colin Hayes completed negotiations in the winter of 1971 that would come to have the most profound impact. Without Fear – the horse in question – was a son of Baldric II out of Never Too Late, a daughter of the English Derby winner Never Say Die. A strikingly handsome stallion with a kind temperament, he was classically bred on the celebrated Princequillo-Nasrullah cross. Lindsay Park syndicated the stallion into fifty shares of $4,600 each, placing a total valuation on the son of Baldric II of $230,000. Bred by Mrs Howell E. Jackson at the famous Bull Run Stud in Virginia, Without Fear had been foaled in France in 1967. He only had four race starts in his life. He won his only two races as a two-year-old viz. the Prix de Saint-Firmin (1000 metres) and the Prix Herod (1600 metres) and in so doing shared an equal second topweight of 59 kg behind Breton in the 1969 French Two-Year-Old Handicap. Colin Hayes saw him race that year and was immediately attracted.
The following season Without Fear was beaten by a half-length in the Prix Djebel and then ran a poor race in the English 2000 Guineas behind the great Nijinsky. There were excuses for that failure as Without Fear injured his back on the flight over to England and probably should not have started. The colt was subsequently rested and brought back into work as a four-year-old but his back problem prevented him from being trained properly. The horse was retired without another race and placed on the market. Colin Hayes saw his opportunity. Few stallions have made a more sensational first-season debut than Without Fear. He got 47 live foals from 60 mares. And when his first crop began to race in Australia during the 1975-76 season, he got 30 individual winners of 49 races and $266,920 in prizemoney. It saw him finish tenth on the Australian Champion Sires’ List and become the leading sire of two-year-olds. Little wonder that by May 1976 Without Fee’s service fee had skyrocketed to an Australian record $10,000.
Among the winners that Colin Hayes trained from that first crop were Bodega, Fearella, Intrepid Star, Return To Reno, Truly Brave, Daring Escape, Nyasa and Going Great. But it was one filly and one colt in particular from Without Fear’s first issue that established the stallion’s reputation and reinforced Hayes’s. Desirable was the filly and Unaware was the colt. Desirable, owned by Bob Robertson, was a daughter of the Le Filou mare High Desire. A brilliant two-year-old she not only won the V.R.C. Lightning Stakes against the older horses but took out the A.J.C. and V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes double besides. When she was beaten into second placing in the V.A.T.C. Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield as the 4/5 favourite it was by a daughter of Atilla trained by Colin Hayes in Out Of Danger. By the time she was retired from the racecourse, Desirable had won 10 races from 22 starts and $207,070 in prizemoney.
Unaware was well-named being by Without Fear from Clipjoint. A daughter of Chatsworth II, Clipjoint and Hayes had a history. A good filly in New Zealand, Clipjoint had won the 1963 C.J.C. Canterbury Welcome Stakes. New Zealand trainer Merv Ritchie brought the brown mare across the Tasman in the spring of 1966 to contest the Cups. Hayes took over the horse when Ritchie went back, and later he bought her for stud. Not long after she had been in Hayes’ Semaphore stables, Clipjoint won a race at Victoria Park but returned a positive swab. Hayes was initially disqualified for a year but the verdict was overturned on appeal to the S.A.J.C. committee, but not before the trainer had spent a month sweating over it. Whatever the torment Clipjoint briefly caused Hayes over that affair, she more than compensated by dropping Unaware.
Raced by Nick Thyssen, Unaware was precocious enough to win by five lengths on debut over 1000 metres at Caulfield in early January 1976, and by the end of that calendar year, he had added the Victoria Derby to his tally and finished second in the W. S. Cox Plate. The following spring he was runner-up in the Caulfield Cup. Unaware finished his career as the winner of 9 races from 29 starts and $192,950 in prizemoney. His last race came when he finished second – beaten 13 lengths – to Ming Dynasty in the 1978 A.J.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes run on very heavy ground. Sold to the Castlereagh Stud at Denman for $225,000 as a stallion, Colin Hayes retained four shares in his old favourite. Unaware wasn’t a failure at stud and as a sire, went within a long neck of denying Colin Hayes his second Melbourne Cup when his son Rising Fear was narrowly beaten in 1986 by At Talaq.
Unsurprisingly, Without Fear’s second crop of yearlings was all the rage with buyers, one colt selling for a South Australian record of $47,000, while five of the breed sold on the first day of the sales for $26,300. Alas, when they began racing in the 1976-77 season, they proved a pale shadow of the stallion’s first crop although that was always going to be a hard act to follow. Nonetheless, it seemed that with each passing season the quality of gallopers emanating from Lindsay Park just kept getting better. The sporting public began to expect it. While Without Fear’s second crop might have been slightly disappointing on the racecourse, it was during that year that the stallion met royalty. Monday, March 21st 1977 was a red-letter day in the history of Lindsay Park with an afternoon visit by Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen was visiting Australia as part of her Silver Jubilee tour of the Commonwealth and included in the itinerary was a visit to the Barossa and Lindsay Park. It was a young David Hayes who opened the door of the Queen’s Rolls-Royce that day, as he’s been opening the door to success for so many wealthy racehorse owners in the years ever since.
Talk about one-upmanship. That visit by the Queen to the home of Colin Hayes must have really rankled his erstwhile Adelaide rival, Bart Cummings. By contrast, the most extended period Bart would spend in either regal or vice-regal company that year was with a drunken and pompous Sir John Kerr on Gold and Black’s Melbourne Cup Day, when conversation proved difficult to say the least. As a consequence of that Royal visit to Lindsay Park, the Australian Government arranged, as a gift to the Queen, a filly sired by Without Fear.
The stallion was put to a number of Lindsay Park mares and the best prospect, a filly out of Chulgin Princess was subsequently presented to the Queen in May 1980 on the lawns of Government House by the Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. Peter Hayes, Colin’s eldest son, together with Dick Thornbury, Lindsay Park’s senior resident veterinary surgeon, then accompanied the filly on her long flight to the United Kingdom. A racehorse as a gift from the people of Australia for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was always a calculated gamble. Sad to relate that the filly, registered as Australia Fair, couldn’t get out of her own ground on the few embarrassing occasions she sported the Queen’s colours and carried Willie Carson in public.
As disappointing as Australia Fair was for Lindsay Park, Colin Hayes more than made up for it with a clean-winded, little bay colt by Sobig that came into his hands at around the same time. Bred in New Zealand and raced by his breeder Peter Watson and five of his friends, the colt was out of the Better Boy mare Calling and had been rather unimaginatively named So Called. A disappointing twelfth at his only appearance as a juvenile, this son of Sobig served notice of his promise over a bit of ground when a close runner-up to Stormy Rex in the South Australian Derby at only his fifth start. Brought over to Melbourne, So Called then ran a race record in winning the Greenvale Handicap (1600 metres) on W. S. Cox Plate Day, which saw him promoted to equal favourite for the Victoria Derby the following Saturday. A late November foal, the Derbies came a bit too soon for So Called and he disappointed at Flemington in finishing only seventh behind Stormy Rex. However, he ended his spring campaign by successfully surprising the judge in the V.A.T.C. Sandown Guineas.
When So Called won at Sandown in the late spring, he did so with stable jockey John Stocker in the leathers. When So Called resumed at Caulfield in the early autumn, he did so with stable jockey Brent Thomson in the leathers. After sixteen years of riding for Colin Hayes, Stocker had been supplanted by the 20-year-old wunderkind from New Zealand. The break-up of the Hayes-Stocker team was painful for both men. John Stocker had been apprenticed to Colin Hayes as a young teenager and Hayes became both friend and master to the young man. In his sixteen years riding for the stable, Stocker had shared in most of its triumphs as it emerged from the relative isolation and obscurity of Adelaide to become a major player across the Eastern seaboard.
After the close of the 1977 Melbourne spring carnival, Hayes reflected on some of Stocker’s disappointing rides in recent weeks and particularly his unlucky ride in the Caulfield Cup on Unaware, when he thought his jockey was flushed out too soon. There were other niggling issues as well, such as Stocker’s failure to turn up at Flemington on time for Unaware’s Sunday track gallop prior to the Melbourne Cup. Hayes had been pondering a change of stable jockey for some time and it was while he was in New Zealand attending the Trentham yearling sales in late January 1978 that Hayes finalised contractual arrangements with Thomson. Unlike many leading trainers, throughout his life, Hayes was remarkably loyal to his staff and particularly his jockeys. He had regularly used Bill Pyers before the latter’s move to France, and then in the early days in Melbourne, it was Ron Hutchinson. Jim Courtney, who had been born in Tasmania but served his apprenticeship with his uncle Brian Courtney in Melbourne, had been Hayes’ stable jockey in Adelaide since 1971, winning multiple jockeys’ titles in the intervening years. Still, in life, all relationships come to an end whether by death or termination.
Brent Thomson had first come to the attention of the Australian sporting public when as a baby-faced 17-year-old, he was brought across the Tasman by fellow Kiwi Len Bridgeman to ride his horse Fury’s Order in the 1975 W. S. Cox Plate. Thomson on that visit looked far younger than his seventeen summers and perhaps there is some truth to the rumour that on the flight over an attractive Air New Zealand hostess offered him a colouring-in book and pencils. Still, any notion that here, was a boy on a man’s mission, was quickly scotched on the day itself. And what a day it was! While galeforce winds lashed Australia’s eastern seaboard, Melbourne reeled under torrential rain. After a drenching early in the day, the jockeys at Moonee Valley demanded that stewards call the meeting off. They did – but not until after the Cox Plate was run.
One of the reasons the stewards stayed their hand was that H.R.H Princess Margaret was present on the course. The Princess was touring Australia at the time to attend engagements connected with the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps of which she was the Colonel-in-Chief. When her itinerary was being planned, a visit to Moonee Valley as a guest of the race club committee was looked upon as a pleasant Saturday diversion in the spring sunshine. Officials hadn’t factored in the prospect that Her Royal Highness might need to be able to walk on water. For when she did finally greet the M.V.R.C. officials in the hallowed committee rooms, she had cast protocol and decorum aside and was standing only in wet, stockinged feet. The Princess had to remove her toe-peeper shoes when they became saturated upon her crossing the course. It had originally been planned for the Princess’s Rolls-Royce to be driven down the straight so the dainty royal feet could step straight onto a red carpet. But officials, fearing the Rolls would become bogged on the racecourse itself, changed the route. It wasn’t an option available to jockeys in the W. S. Cox Plate.
Thomson, displaying a maturity beyond his years, covered himself with glory as well as mud that day. It helped that he was at home riding in such inclement weather, given the adverse conditions so often confronting jockeys in their travels around New Zealand racecourses and particularly those on the South Island. Wisely, Thomson, discarding his useless goggles soon after the jump, followed a more experienced Kiwi in Garry Willetts on Taras Bulba for much of the journey. While some jockeys rode blind, Thomson’s masterstroke came when he cleverly switched to the inside running rail after turning for home to run down the leader Kiwi Can, whose rider had skirted wide. Two years later Thomson came back for his second ride in the W. S. Cox Plate, and under far more benign skies, again showed his mastery around Moonee Valley when driving Family Of Man to success. As we shall see, Thomson’s exceptional record in the race was to continue even more spectacularly in the years immediately after he teamed up with Colin Hayes.
Brent hailed from Otaki and was the son of the former jockey turned trainer, Kevin Thomson. A champion show rider as a boy, he proved a revelation from the moment that he was apprenticed as a fifteen-year-old and dubbed the ‘Whanganui Whiz’. Brent won at his second ride in a race on his father’s horse in March 1973 and thereafter lost his apprentice’s allowance more quickly than any rider in New Zealand racing history. At the close of the 1974-75 racing season, he was the leading apprentice in New Zealand. It was a title he won again the following year, and but for a broken collarbone the year after would have made it a hat-trick. Thomson set a record of 250 wins as an apprentice, a record broken later by the brilliant young Hastings jockey, Jim Cassidy (257). Apart from his exploits at Moonee Valley, perhaps the highlights of Thomson’s apprenticeship were his associations with the brilliant filly Mop and winning the 1976 A.R.C. Auckland Cup on Perhaps.
Relocation to Melbourne from across the Tasman was a transition a number of leading Kiwi jockeys were making during this period including Brian Andrews, Garry Willetts and Midge Didham. Thomson had expressed an interest during the 1977 Melbourne Cup Carnival that he would like to return to Australia under a permanent riding contract. He had only recently become engaged to Judy Ropiha, the youngest daughter of Woodville trainer Eric Ropiha. Cool, quiet and self-possessed, Thomson was only 20-years-old when he signed with Hayes and unlike Stocker, he could ride at 48.5 kg, an important consideration given the range of mounts then emerging from Lindsay Park. Moreover, he was a strong right-handed whip rider – a valuable talent in Melbourne where he would be largely based. Despite the disappointment, the friendship between Hayes and Stocker never fractured and the trainer would still seek out his former jockey’s services on rare occasions.
So Called began to reveal his predilection for middle distances in the autumn of his three-year-old season. After running second to his future stablemate Always Welcome in the V.A.T.C. Futurity Stakes, So Called was brought across to Sydney where he was narrowly beaten by Lefroy in the A.J.C. Australasian Champion Stakes before winning the A.J.C. Hall Mark Stakes (Thomson’s first win in Sydney), the start of a sequence of four wins on the trot that included both the V.R.C. and S.A.J.C. St. Leger Stakes. The son of Sobig ended his three-year-old season by finishing fourth behind Hyperno in the Adelaide Cup. However, it was as a spring four-year-old that So Called really came into his own and at weight-for-age he proved unbeatable, winning the Liston Stakes, Feehan Stakes, Underwood Stakes and ultimately the W. S. Cox Plate. So Called’s only failures that spring came in handicaps when he ran unplaced in both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups after starting a clear favourite in each.
Returned to racing in the following autumn, So Called broke down during the running of the 1979 C. F. Orr Stakes and was pulled up. The son of Sobig never raced again and went out of the game with a record of 25 starts; 11 wins; 7 seconds; 0 thirds and $250,885 in prizemoney. Retired to stud, he proved a useful stallion siring five individual stakes winners along with a number of other capable gallopers. However, let us return to the moment of his greatest victory: W. S. Cox Plate Day, 1978. In winning, Colin Hayes gained his first success in the event, atoning for seconds with Fileur (1968) and Unaware (1976). As he stood awaiting So Called’s return to the winner’s enclosure that afternoon, Hayes calmly informed the surrounding pressmen: “You have seen the real So Called today…I have said it all along: So Called is the best horse I have ever had.”
Now, Colin Hayes rarely misspoke on a racecourse but in paying So Called that supreme compliment he was wrong. For there already was a better horse in his stables, although his full potential had yet to be realised. Moreover, the 25,785 racegoers present at Moonee Valley that afternoon had seen him, even if, like Colin Hayes, they too, understandably failed to recognise his greatness. For precisely two hours earlier, in the second race on that card, a three-year-old gelding from Lindsay Park had gone under by a short half-head and a half-neck respectively in the Greenvale Handicap over 1600 metres. Seven days later, Dulcify, the horse in question, would win the Victoria Derby and pay down merely the first instalment on what would become a glorious reputation.
Perhaps just once in the life of a fortunate few racehorse trainers, there comes “a special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique to them and fitted to their talents.” That figurative tap on the shoulder came to Colin Hayes when he first perused the catalogue for the 51st New Zealand National Yearling Sales. If I can be forgiven the tortuous plagiarism of language just a little longer, whether or not all of his life had been but a preparation for that moment or that trial, I’ll let you be the judge. But make no mistake: Colin Hayes was walking with destiny at those Trentham sales in January 1977 and what followed for the best part of the next three years were to be his finest hours on a racecourse.
The 51st New Zealand National Yearling Sales at Trentham in late January was a lively affair insofar as Australian buyers were concerned. Over the two days, 197 lots destined for Australia were knocked down for $NZ 2,760,500 with Australian trainers Tommy Smith and Bart Cummings leading the charge. Each man bought eighteen yearlings, although Cummings’ spent $NZ 650,000 whereas Smith was more subdued, outlaying a mere $NZ 394,000. Much of the reason for the differential in their respective outlays came from the highlight of the sales. It was the record price of $NZ 120,000 paid by Cummings for a yearling filly by Oncidium from Acrimony on the first day. The trainer was acting on behalf of the hapless Sydney businessman, Cliff Vincent. Now, a willingness to spend this sort of coin at bloodstock sales has trainers pouncing with the sureness of Iago accosting Othello. The price eclipsed the previous record of $NZ 100,000 for each of two Oncidium colts in 1974 that subsequently raced as Gold Pulse and Inceptor. The purchase provoked more astonishment than envy and nobody was more surprised at the record price than the filly’s breeder, Patrick Hogan, who afterwards admitted he was expecting about $NZ 50,000.
Cliff Vincent’s wealth derived from his manufacturing and retailing of Amco jeans, a business originally established by his father, and in 1977 it was flying high. Only the year before Vincent had outlaid $250,000 in establishing his Charleston Stud at Braidwood with ten horses. Amco in advertising their denim jeans boasted that ‘it was the name on everybody’s hips’. Yet knowledge of jeans doesn’t imply any knowledge of genes, equine ones anyway. Registered as Acridium, the expensive filly proved an inglorious failure both on the racecourse and subsequently in the paddock and for a time, when it came to cupidity at bloodstock sales, Vincent was the name on everybody’s lips. In April 1985 the rueful proprietor of the Charleston Stud sold Acridium for barely more than half of what he had originally outlaid. But I seem to have gone off on a tangent.
For all of the headline-grabbing outlays on yearlings at Trentham that January, the best horse in the catalogue went for a song. The thoroughbred in question was a workmanlike bay with a parrot mouth, by Decies, a grandson of the great French stallion Pharis, out of the Todman mare, Sweet Candy. This colt was from the second crop of Decies and as we have seen, he got the classy Lefroy in his first. In both his bay colour and conformation this Sweet Candy yearling was far more typical of Decies than Lefroy. The winner of the Irish National Stakes at two, Decies had carried Nelson Bunker Hunt’s colours to victory in the Irish Two Thousand Guineas at three before he sent him across to New Zealand to stand at his Waikato Stud. A former dairy farm, the Texan billionaire had founded the stud in 1967.
Sweet Candy, the dam of the yearling, boasted a distinguished female line tracing back to Sugar Kandy, bred in England in 1936 and imported to New Zealand in 1941 by Ralph Holden of Hawke’s Bay. Had it not been for World War II, Sugar Kandy would never have been let go to this part of the world. After all, she was a granddaughter of the English One Thousand Guineas winner Cinna, whose sons Beau Pere, Mr Standfast and Balloch did such sterling service as stallions in the Antipodes. The maternal line between Sweet Candy and Sugar Kandy included such high-class mares as Pique and Sweet Nymph. Although placed several times on the racecourse, Sweet Candy was retired to stud in 1973 as a maiden performer. This bay colt was her second foal to Decies.
Now I often wonder based on pedigree why some yearlings sell so cheaply. Dulcify is a case in point. Even a cursory perusal of his bloodlines begs the question as to why Colin Hayes managed to get him for just $3,250 with Coles Bloodstock doing the bidding, while another Decies yearling filly with an inferior distaff pedigree, sold for $22,000 at the same sale. The answer lay in the colt’s parrot mouth. This condition is caused when the upper and lower jaws of a foal do not grow at the same rate. The result is that the horse’s top incisor teeth protrude over the incisor teeth on its lower jaw. Veterinary surgeons accord it the technical term of brachygnathism. It occurs in around 3% of foals and may improve as a horse matures. There seems to be a range of causes including poorly matched stallions and broodmares of different jaw shapes, malnutrition, mineral imbalances and certain diseases when a foal. Such horses often have difficulty grazing in pastures and thus require hay. Although it is regarded as a congenital rather than a genetic disease, some bloodstock breeders consider it to be a recessive hereditary condition and prefer not to breed from such affected animals.
Still, at Trentham in January 1977 Colin Hayes wasn’t looking for a stallion that might stand at Lindsay Park, but rather a colt that might run at Randwick and Flemington. Unlike his more established rivals, Tommy Smith and Bart Cummings, Hayes rarely hit the headlines by splurging obscene sums of other people’s money at yearling sales. By now one of Australia’s largest commercial breeders, he had less cause to do so than most. Of course, there were moments when he did pay record prices – Inceptor is a case in point – but the vast majority of his winners came from horses that an average owner could afford. Now, it is said ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’. For Colin Hayes, Dulcify knocked down at Trentham for just $3,250 proved to be the ultimate gift horse, but only because all other potential buyers did look him in the mouth and didn’t like what they saw.
As Les Carlyon once observed of Hayes: “CS is unlike many of the new men who must buy the ‘perfect horse’, who will forgive no faults in God’s engineering and who seem to forget that the qualities that make a champion, equine or human, ultimately come not from angles of bone, or size, or even blood. They are summed up by something you cannot see or touch, and it is called desire.” Along with Dulcify’s parrot mouth, Hayes saw a desire in the colt’s eyes. Besides, he liked the way he walked. In due course, Colin Hayes passed one-third title in the horse to his wife, Betty, and offered another third share to his friend and client, Alan Maller, who in turn induced his friend Bill Rigg to take half of his share over a round of golf. Maller and Rigg weren’t to know it at the time, but they’d just scored a hole in one!
In registering his name as Dulcify, the Hayes family had reverted to a late 16th-century verb that had fallen out of common usage; it was a play on the name of the dam, Sweet Candy. The word ‘dulcify’ meant to sweeten or to render more agreeable. The horse certainly had that effect on the Hayes family bank balance, although he never raced at two. Gelded early on, he did undergo a light preparation but was then left to develop in the Lindsay Park paddocks. In his absence, that season the juvenile ranks were dominated by a thickset, muscular gelding of explosive speed who was bought at the 1977 Coles Bros Adelaide Yearling Sales for just $3,500. Registered as Manikato, he was as South Australian as Colin Hayes, being by the 1968 V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap winner Manihi, a son of Matrice, out of Markato, a nondescript broodmare by Natural Bid.
There is an old fashioned romance to the breeding of Manikato that would warm the cockles of any hobby breeder’s heart. Ross Truscott, who bred the powerhouse chestnut, was the proprietor of a menswear shop in Adelaide. He only went into bloodstock breeding as a hobby when his children became too old and lost interest in show riding, which left an empty stable and yard in his home in the Adelaide suburbs. Accordingly, he decided to buy a broodmare. Attending the Adelaide sales he picked up Markato for $1300. Markato’s first foal, Grand Fiesta, couldn’t race because of injuries sustained when she was caught in a fence as a yearling.
Her second foal, Tumerah, was bought by Mal Seccull and she showed enough early speed on the track to prompt Seccull to return to the same sales the following year and buy her younger brother. Trained by ‘Bon’ Hoysted, Manikato made his racecourse debut at Cranbourne on January 25, 1978, and won by six lengths. His first city start came at Flemington ten days later. The event was the Mollison Handicap over a straight 1000 metres and Manikato racing on the slower, flat side of the course, was beaten by Karaman on the faster, opposite side. Over the same course and distance some ten days later, Manikato returned to the winners’ list. The next stop was Caulfield and the $80,500 Blue Diamond Stakes. Starting at a generous 12/1, the Manihi gelding had over two lengths to spare at the finish, running a time of 1 minute 10.8 seconds.
Immediately in the wake of that success Hoysted expressed a reluctance to journey to Sydney for the Golden Slipper. It was an early Easter that year and Hoysted retained a preference for remaining in Melbourne and the $48,000 V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes run on the same day – March 11th. It was owner Mal Seccull and jockey Gary Willetts that convinced Hoysted otherwise and the fact that the total Slipper prize money was worth $102,000 more was rather a convincing argument. Over the years a lot of horses have had trouble handling Rosehill at their first attempt. Not so Manikato who scooted over its turf on Golden Slipper day in a time that was a tenth of a second faster than he posted at Caulfield, relegating Smokey Jack and Jewel Flight into the minor placings. Manikato stayed in Sydney for the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes a fortnight later. Either the Slipper run took more out of the gelding than Hoysted thought or the slow ground at Randwick queered his pitch, but in finishing a bad fifth behind Karaman many dismissed the heavyset chestnut as just another Slipper winner in an ordinary year. Little did they know…
It was on Friday, October 28th 1977, on the eve of the V.R.C. Spring Meeting that the A.J.C. chairman Jim Carr first announced that the A.J.C. Derby would not be run the following year. The classic was to be switched from the spring to the autumn of 1979. The Australian Champion Stakes (2000 metres), would be run for the last time at the 1979 A.J.C. Autumn Carnival. A similar race to be called the Spring Champion Stakes (2000 metres) for three-year-olds would replace the Derby at the A.J.C. Spring Carnival. George Ryder, the S.T.C. chairman, informed Carr that his club would work with the A.J.C. in arranging or re-arranging suitable lead-up races to both classics.
On Thursday, November 24th 1977, at a joint press conference, the A.J.C. and S.T.C. revealed their new look spring and autumn programs. The main features of the 1979 Autumn Meeting were the bringing forward of the A.J.C. Liverpool City Cup at Warwick Farm to mark the start of the Sydney autumn carnival. The date of the S.T.C. Golden Slipper Stakes was changed to be conducted on the Saturday before the start of the A.J.C. Randwick Autumn Meeting. Randwick was re-arranged as follows:
First Day (Easter Saturday, April 14) – A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap; Sires’ Produce Stakes; Chairman’s Handicap, a new event of 2400 metres, the winner of which immediately qualifies for a start in the Sydney Cup; Second Day (Easter Monday, April 16) – A.J.C. Derby; Queen Elizabeth Stakes (w-f-a 2000 metres); The Galaxy (1100 metres); Third Day (Wednesday, April 18) – A.J.C. Oaks; All-Aged Stakes; Fourth Day (Saturday, April 21) – A.J.C. Sydney Cup; Champagne Stakes. The S.T.C. had responded in kind by shifting from the spring to the autumn, the Canterbury Guineas (March 17) and Rosehill Guineas (March 31), which traditionally had served as lead-up races to the Derby. Moreover, the S.T.C. would institute two new races in the spring of 1978, the Beauford or Peter Pan Stakes (1500 metres) and the Gloaming Stakes (1850 metres), as lead-up races to the A.J.C. Spring Champion Stakes to be run on Saturday, September 30. The former was scheduled for September 2nd, a fortnight before the Gloaming.
The transfer of the A.J.C. Derby brought other programming changes in its wake. The most obvious casualty of the A.J.C. was the Queen Elizabeth Stakes, which in more recent years had been run over 2400 metres on the last day of the meeting. The distance was to be reduced to 2000 metres and the race was now to be conducted at weight-for-age on Easter Monday. The S.T.C. Tancred Stakes, previously a good second-class handicap was altered by that club to weight-for-age and its prize money increased to $150,000. As such it was likely to encourage high-class Derby colts to compete for it en route to the classic. Moreover, moving the Sydney Cup from the traditional Easter Monday to the second Saturday of the meeting meant that those same three-year-olds might try for it as well. Nor were the programming changes restricted to Sydney alone. In Melbourne, the conditions of the Australian Cup (2000 metres) at Flemington were changed from handicap to weight-for-age and its prizemoney increased to $100,000.
So, this was the changing panorama confronting Colin Hayes as he plotted the racing programmes in August 1978 for his stable’s three-year-olds as the new racing season began. Not that Dulcify was on his mind. At that moment, Hayes was completely oblivious to any ability the unraced gelding might possess. Put into training in mid-winter, Dulcify was meant to have a barrier trial at Balaclava before his intended racing debut at Morphettville on the second day of September, but on the journey there he got down in the float and injured himself, thereby missing the trial. Accordingly, when the son of Decies stepped out for the Graduation Stakes over 1200 metres on the Morphettville course, nothing was known about him. The track was heavy from the constant rain and Dulcify had drawn the outside gate in a twenty-horse field.
From an opening price of 100/1 in the ring, come starting time Dulcify had blown out to 300/1. Imagine, 300/1 in an Adelaide Graduation about a future A.J.C. Derby and M.V.R.C. Cox Plate winner! This was bookmaking philanthropy on a grand scale! Given the state of the course, Dulcify’s wide barrier was arguably an advantage as the horse stormed down the outside to win by a length. A fortnight later over 1450 metres at Victoria Park, Dulcify ran unplaced behind his speedy stablemate Bell The Cat, before appearing on the last day of September to breeze in over 1600 metres back at Morphettville. The following week, Dulcify almost won the South Australian Derby when he hit the front in the straight only to be run down by Regal Jester within the shadows of the post. During these days Dulcify was making rapid improvement and Colin Hayes’ sights were now firmly set on the V.R.C. Victoria Derby and the same program to get there as he had pursued with So Called.
While all this was happening in Adelaide, over in Sydney the revelation amongst the ranks of three-year-olds was a tall, leggy chestnut daughter of Showdown named Kapalaran. Out of the former top-class race mare Better Gleam, Kapalaran was owned by Eduardo Cojuangco, a native of the Philippines and a close friend and adviser of their corrupt President Marcos. Cojuangco had raced a few horses in Australia over the years, including Redwood Honey with Peter Lawson back in the mid-1960s, but his outlays at the recent William Inglis Yearling Sales suggested he had now taken his commitment to the Australian Turf to a whole new level. Trained by Neville Begg at Randwick and ridden by Ron Quinton throughout her short career, Kapalaran, a $66,000 yearling purchase, had easily won her only two races as a juvenile, both at Rosehill.
In Filipino, Kapalaran means ‘beautiful’ and she certainly looked that when she brilliantly won the A.J.C. Hobartville Stakes and the inaugural S.T.C. Peter Pan Stakes and Gloaming Stakes in her first three appearances in the new season. Indeed, such was her domination in the Gloaming Stakes that she was sent to the post as the 1/2 favourite for the initial running of the A.J.C. Spring Champion Stakes on the last day of September. The race proved a boilover when Kapalaran could only finish fourth after being trapped wide for much of the journey. Tommy Smith scored a quinella in the event when Just a Steal beat March To Glory by a long neck, although the latter was desperately unlucky to lose as his saddle slipped a long way from home. The result lent lighter wings of illusion to Tommy’s Derby dreams.
The action then moved to Melbourne. When Manikato resumed after his winter sojourn at Flemington in the V.R.C. Ascot Vale Stakes, he’d had a change of trainer. The 58-year-old ‘Bon’ Hoysted had died as a result of a massive heart attack on May 1st. Owner Mal Seccull believed that Bon’s brother, Bob Hoysted, was his logical successor. After all, it had been Bob Hoysted on a visit to Adelaide for the Coles Bros Yearling Sales in 1977 who had actually done Bon’s bidding when Manikato went under the hammer. In the Ascot Vale, Manikato beat his old rival Karaman by a half-length in a race record time of 1 minute 9.6 seconds, with The Judge back in third place.
The next stop was Caulfield and a facile victory in the Marlboro Cup on a slow track. The intriguing question now was just how far Manikato might extend his speed. The Caulfield Guineas proved that the flying son of Manihi could run a strong 1600 metres at least when he again defeated Karaman, this time by almost two lengths after a bumping duel between the pair coming to the home turn. Manikato survived the protest afterwards even if jockey Gary Willetts didn’t. The performance flattened Manikato and he was off the scene until V.R.C. Derby Day when beaten a neck by the Colin Hayes’ trained Always Welcome in the Craven ‘A’ Stakes down the Flemington straight. At the time Manikato was suffering from a virus and had Bob Hoysted known, the chestnut wouldn’t have started.
Of course, the main event on Derby Day was the Victoria Derby itself. Dulcify and Brent Thomson went into the race as the third favourite and his only appearance since the South Australian Derby had come the week before at Moonee Valley when, for the first time in the hands of Thomson, he ran the minor placing in the 1600 metres Greenvale Handicap. Karaman went to the post as the 13/8 Derby favourite, having finished third in the W.S. Cox Plate. Best backed to beat Karaman was the T. J. Smith-trained March To Glory, whose Caulfield Cup failure was being overlooked in favour of his unlucky second in the A.J.C. Spring Champion Stakes. In fine weather and on fast ground, Dulcify really stamped his class although it was only his sixth start. In the eighteen-strong field, Brent Thomson allowed the wiry Decies gelding to relax and drop out of the event. However, once well into the long Flemington straight, Dulcify finished with an irresistible eclat to beat Karaman by one-and-three-quarter-lengths, with the erratic Turf Ruler filling the minor placing.
When it came to three-year-olds, the 1978-79 racing season was almost as rich in the ranks of fillies as it was in colts and geldings. After her Randwick failure, Kapalaran had gone to Caulfield and won the One Thousand Guineas in race record time. In that race, she had two lengths to spare over the runner-up, Scomeld. A Queensland filly by Scotian, a son of Smokey Eyes, and trained by Neil Dawson, Scomeld had first announced her credentials when she easily won the Q.T.C. Marlboro Stakes during the Brisbane winter carnival. In Melbourne, she came into her own when in the course of six days she snaffled both the V.R.C. Wakeful Stakes, defeating Kapalaran by a half-head, and then the V.R.C. Oaks rather more comfortably, relegating Safe Harbour and Kapalaran into the minor placings.
The Victoria Derby by no means spelt the end of Dulcify’s campaign. While he was never entered for the Melbourne Cup, a fortnight later Colin Hayes sent the gelding out for the V.A.T.C. Sandown Cup as the 3/1 favourite, a race in which he was desperately unlucky to finish sixth behind Salamander after being badly checked in the straight. Brent Thomson’s stirrup leather broke that afternoon and the gelding nearly fell. Taken across to Perth for the W.A.T.C. Summer Meeting, Dulcify appeared twice: he finished second in the Caris Diamond Quality Stakes (1800 metres), and on Boxing Day a disappointing fourth as the 6/4 favourite in the Australian Derby won by Kankama. The gelded son of Decies was then off the scene for two months as Hayes plotted both a Melbourne campaign aimed at the V.R.C. Australian Cup and a Sydney campaign aimed at the A.J.C. Derby. When Dulcify could only finish third last in a field of thirteen first-up in the Schweppes Cup (1600 metres) at Caulfield in late February, bookmakers believed that the gelding with the undershot jaw had bitten off more than he could chew when he accepted for the $101,000 V.R.C. Australian Cup.
Dulcify went to the post at the cricket score odds of 80/1 in a field that included the champion New Zealand mare La Mer as well as the cream of Australia’s weight-for-age horses. It looked like a fascinating contest on paper. Manikato was the 4/7 favourite on the strength of a dazzling hat-trick of victories at weight-for-age since resuming from a spell. The powerful chestnut had won the William Reid Stakes, C. F. Orr Stakes and the Futurity Stakes with lengths to spare in each event. The big question, of course, was whether the son of Manihi could sustain his speed for two hundred metres longer than he had in the Futurity. The Cup proved a huge anti-climax. Dulcify, after loafing at the back of the field for much of the journey, came with an electrifying finish just as racegoers were totally absorbed by Manikato’s successful efforts to forestall Family Of Man.
The veteran Perth jockey John Miller, substituting for a suspended Brent Thomson, drove Dulcify between the two of them and such was the strength of his finish that at the post the parrot-mouthed gelding had three-quarters of a length to spare. Although prior to the race Colin Hayes thought that Dulcify was coming good in his trackwork, he gave his charge little chance of beating Manikato. He now believed the gelding needed 2400 metres to show his best. The performance most certainly underlined Dulcify’s staying qualities. Manikato had set a cracking pace and the winning time of 2 minutes 1.2 seconds wasn’t that far off Sky High’s long-standing Flemington record. John Miller, the stormy petrel of Perth racing, who had first etched his name into fame at Flemington with the mighty Galilee, hadn’t ridden at the course since successfully partnering Colin Hayes’ Haymaker in the 1974 Victoria Derby. It was a memorable reunion for trainer and jockey, as the pair of them were unlucky not to take out the feature double, given that two days before Always Welcome and John Miller were only beaten a neck in the $101,000 Newmarket Handicap by Bart’s bolter, the 66/1 shot, Better Beyond.
As Dulcify’s autumn campaign unfolded in Melbourne, Scomeld’s unfolded in Sydney. The high-class filly who had announced her arrival at the V.R.C. Spring Meeting, resumed on the first Saturday of February at Canterbury in the Frederick Clissold Handicap when she breezed to an easy victory. At least she didn’t have Kapalaran to worry about. That well-bred Showdown filly had bowed a tendon when being prepared for her autumn comeback and never raced again. Kapalaran retired to her owner’s recently acquired Gooree Stud after just 9 starts for 6 wins, 1 second 1 third, and $109,850 in prizemoney. I might add that it was a tragedy for the Australian breeding industry when Kapalaran died shortly after giving birth to her first foal, a colt by Imperial Prince in October 1981. The colt, struggling during foaling, punctured Kapalaran’s uterus with the result that she bled internally and died soon after.
But let’s forget about Kapalaran and return to that other good filly, Scomeld. During the next four weeks, Scomeld went on to make it a hat-trick when she posted impressive wins over 1400 metres in the A.J.C. Apollo Stakes at Warwick Farm and the A.J.C. Silver Sharpe Stakes at Randwick. Having won five races on the trot over distances ranging from 1200 metres to 2500 metres, this Queensland filly became the subject of much ballyhoo from an A.J.C. Derby perspective, aided and abetted by her self-promoting owner, John Needham. A Queensland solicitor cum businessman, Needham had bought Scomeld for $40,000 as a tried two-year-old after the filly had won the Q.T.C. McDougall Stakes on debut at Eagle Farm and been placed twice in her next two starts.
Needham would later go on to successfully promote the concept of the Magic Millions as a means of auctioning yearlings in Queensland but for the moment he seemed intent on selling just one horse to the public and that horse was Scomeld. Such was Scomeld’s form and trumpeted reputation that she went to the post for the S.T.C. Canterbury Guineas as the 4/7 favourite despite the weight of history. No filly had ever won the semi-classic since its inception in 1935. Oh! When will punters ever learn! There might be times when one tilts at bookmakers and challenges history in the betting ring, but the bagmen need to be offering a lot more value than 4/7 to be tempted. Predictably, it all ended in tears for Queensland when Red Nose, a colt by Reindeer, gave Theo Green, hitherto better known as a trainer of champion apprentices, his greatest training triumph with a horse. Perhaps the richest irony of the result was that whereas the much-heralded Scomeld was being aimed fairly and squarely at the A.J.C. Derby, Red Nose wasn’t even eligible for the race because of a flaw in the Stud Book records of his dam Pin.
And so on to Rosehill where the new-look S.T.C. and A.J.C. Autumn Carnival got serious. In the wake of Manikato’s defeat in the Australian Cup, most of the sporting public believed that Bob Hoysted would abort his plans for the Rosehill Guineas and A.J.C. Derby with Manikato and chase the Doncaster instead. While keeping his options open about the Derby, Hoysted elected to run Manikato in the $125,000 Rosehill Guineas against his own age group over what was commonly regarded as an easy 2000 metres course. The punters were slow to learn the lesson from the Australian Cup and sent Manikato to the post as the 4/6 favourite with 7/1 freely available about Dulcify. For the second time in twenty days, Dulcify burst the bubble on the boom chestnut, which failed to run a place. It was left to the 66/1 chance, Champagne Boy, and Scomeld (8/1) to chase Dulcify home.
Manikato and Dulcify each backed up again at Rosehill the following Saturday but in different weight-for-age races. Bob Hoysted had abandoned all thoughts of the Derby with the son of Manihi and now had his mind focussed on the A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap at Randwick instead. Whereas Manikato streeted a good field to win the S.T.C. George Ryder Stakes over 1400 metres, Dulcify had his colours lowered in the new-look $150,000 S.T.C. Tancred Stakes over 2400 metres by the top New Zealand galloper Shivaree. Dulcify might have been beaten but it took a course record and a glorious ride by Roger Lang on the Dave O’Sullivan-trained horse to do it. It was noticeable that Brent Thomson had the son of Decies much closer to the lead that day than usual and at no stage did he resort to the whip. Come Randwick, it would be a different story.
Seventeen horses were accepted for the 1979 renewal of the A.J.C. Derby and Dulcify went to the post as the short-priced favourite. Best backed to beat him was the New Zealand colt Kankama. A late October foal by the English stallion Skyhawk II out of a Prince Poppa mare, this bay colt had been bred by his joint owners, Dr John Sullivan and Noel Taylor, each past presidents of the Auckland Trotting Club. Kankama was trained in Auckland by Mark Sullivan, the 22-year-old son of the owner. Kankama had made quite an impact after he had arrived in Melbourne as an unknown maiden performer in the spring.
Although he wasn’t entered for the Victoria Derby, Kankama did win the Derby Trial Stakes (2200 metres) at Geelong, coming from well back to sweep around the field on the home turn to win going away by four lengths in record time. Sent across to the West in the summer, Kankama got up in the last stride to beat Regimental Honour in the $200,000 W.A.T.C. Australian Derby on Boxing Day at Ascot. At his latest appearance, Kankama had finished seventh in the Rosehill Guineas and was being ridden in the Derby by the veteran New Zealand jockey, Bob Skelton, who had won his first N. Z. jockeys’ premiership as long ago as 1955-56. On the third line of Derby betting was the regally-bred colt, Down The Aisle, one of the many expensive yearlings purchased by the free-spending Bart Cummings at the 1977 New Zealand National Sales. A half-brother to the infamous Gold Pulse, Down The Aisle, was by Imperialist out of Bridesmaid, a daughter of the legendary Sunbride. Bart Cummings had paid $90,000 for the horse as a yearling at Trentham on behalf of a syndicate headed by Cliff Vincent, although as we have seen he was by no means the most expensive of either Vincent’s or Cummings’ gambles at those sales.
Another of Bart’s yearling purchases to make the field was Lord Folkestone, a glamorous silver-maned chestnut colt that at $20,000 had brought the highest price at the opening session of the Inglis Sydney Summer Yearling Sales. It was easy to see what had attracted Cummings at the time as the colt was out of the former top race mare Regal Jane, winner of both an A.J.C. Summer Cup and Queens’s Cup. Regal Jane herself was a full sister to the 1964 A.J.C. Oaks heroine, Jane Hero. Given Bart’s disqualification, Mal Barnes was saddling up both Down The Aisle and Lord Folkestone.
Tulloch Lodge had two representatives in the race, Career and March To Glory. Career, who raced in the familiar colours of Jack and Bob Ingham was by Showdown out of the good-producing Orgoglio mare, Kirana, and had cost $45,000 as a yearling. While his sprinter’s breeding didn’t inspire Derby glory, Career had won the S.T.C. Tulloch Stakes at his latest appearance. On the other hand, March To Glory was bred on staying lines and at $60,000 was the most expensive of the Oncidium yearlings that T. J. Smith had purchased at Trentham. March To Glory’s only win during the season had come in a novice handicap at Eagle Farm in August and he had failed in both the Canterbury and Rosehill Guineas.
Two interesting Victorian gallopers in the race were Hauberk and Gondolier. Hauberk was from the last crop of the Nearula stallion Red Gauntlet who did such sterling service at Tom Flynn’s Oakleigh Stud. Except for The Monk, who won the 1971 Q.T.C. Queensland Cup, Red Gauntlet hadn’t sired a horse that could get beyond a middle distance. However, the Epsom trainer Bob Hoysted regarded Hauberk as a stayer and the horse had run the minor placing in the V.R.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the spring. In his first appearance in Sydney, Hauberk had dead-heated for second with Happy Union behind Marceau in the S.T.C. Rawson Stakes, although his subsequently disappointing run in the S.T.C. Tancred Stakes suggested he might struggle in the Derby.
Gondolier seemed a particularly unlikely Derby candidate. A son of Le Cordonnier out of a Trictrac mare, he was trained at Cranbourne by T. J. Harrison. An early September foal, Gondolier had been mixing his distances. A winner of the V.A.T.C. Autumn Stakes over 1200 metres at Sandown in early February in which he beat Karaman and Turf Ruler into the minor placings, Gondolier had subsequently run the minor placing down the straight at Flemington in the rich V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap. Although he had finished down the course in the S.T.C. Rosehill Guineas, at his latest start he had finished a nice fourth – beaten a length – in the S.T.C. Tulloch Stakes.
However, if Dulcify was to be beaten in the A.J.C. Derby, many judges considered the likely candidate to do it was yet another Victorian representative, a near-black son of the first season stallion Century out of the mare Hello Love. Registered as Double Century, he had been purchased privately for $10,000 as a yearling by his principal owner, Clarke Shield, after an injury had caused his withdrawal from the Victorian Yearling Sales. Shield, who had made his money in a Melbourne transport business, recalled: “The little colt kept following me around the stud paddock, nudging me in the back. I just had to buy him.” Shield kept three-quarters of the colt while friends Frank Curtin and Jim Armstrong shared the remainder.
Double Century was being prepared at Flemington by Ron McDonell, the longtime Melbourne foreman of Bart Cummings during the late 1960s and much of the 1970s. Indeed, McDonell had only taken out his own trainer’s licence at the beginning of the 1977-78 racing season. McDonell had restricted Double Century’s first season to just four races in which he’d twice filled the minor placing at Flemington. His first start had come in December 1977 and he had closed out his juvenile year unsuccessfully at Eagle Farm on the last Saturday of the season. The champion Victorian jockey, Roy Higgins, after riding Double Century as a two-year-old had predicted to McDonell that the colt would develop into a top horse if given time to grow. “He is a youngster who just doesn’t know where to put his legs,” said Higgins.
As a spring three-year-old, Double Century could only run twelfth in Dulcify’s Victoria Derby, although he gave a taste of his talent when he stepped out to win the prestigious V.R.C. Batman Handicap on his home course five days later on Ladies’ Day. After failing in the V.A.T.C. Sandown Guineas, McDonell resisted the temptation of taking him to the West over the summer and targeted the V.R.C. Australian Cup and A.J.C. Derby/Sydney Cup in the autumn instead. While Double Century never did grow much after his spring three-year-old days, he did thicken and strengthen. The flashy son of Century first served notice that he would be a horse to be reckoned with when he won the Fentona Handicap at Flemington and the Stanley Plate at Caulfield in successive starts. In the V.R.C. Australian Cup, Double Century (33/1) was rushed along in pursuit of the dashing Manikato in the early stages and did well to finish fifth behind Dulcify. McDonell had then schooled Double Century extensively at Flemington in the clockwise direction in readiness for Sydney and while he had failed in the S.T.C. Phar Lap Stakes, his recent close third behind Career and Down The Aisle at Rosehill – beaten a long head and a short neck – augured well for his Derby tilt. At least, I thought so and had taken the eights on offer. Of one thing McDonell was certain. Double Century would stay the Derby course.
And so, to the A.J.C. Derby itself. What a dramatic classic and aftermath it proved to be! Dulcify had drawn eleven at the gate and Thomson was content to drop the bay gelding back near the rear. Holy Toledo with Linda Jones aloft led briefly from their inside draw until Kevin Langby on Lord Folkestone came across to take up the early running with King’s Ideal in close company. The pace was leisurely and on a surface that was officially rated as fast, the first 1200 metres went by in a relaxed 1 minute 18.6 seconds. Coming towards the home turn, Lord Folkestone was still in command although the usual sense of urgency began to tell on various jockeys who started to position their mounts for a challenge. Into the straight, Lord Folkestone surrendered while Holy Toledo boxed on gallantly on the inside fence as Career came to challenge. But it was soon apparent that the race lay between the two genuine stayers, Double Century and Dulcify, each making barn-storming runs down the outside of the Randwick straight. In the final two hundred metres, both horses appeared to shift ground as they drifted towards the centre of the course. The pair even touched near the hundred, before Double Century, straining with every fibre and sinew of his being, came away to win by three-quarters of a length. March To Glory was a further four-and-a-half-lengths away third.
I watched that Derby through binoculars from the top tier of the old Paddock Grandstand at Randwick and as a heavily pregnant Monica Shield, already the mother of three young children, walked out to lead back her husband Clarke’s putative champion, her eyes were brimming with tears of joy. Gloria McDonell, the wife of the trainer, stood near the winner’s stall overcome with similar emotion. Meanwhile, under an overcast sky in the Randwick birdcage, Ron McDonell was basking in the afterglow of victory. For years as the Melbourne foreman of Bart Cummings, he had stood unobtrusively in the background at numerous official presentations at Flemington and Caulfield while the principals wallowed in the spotlight. Now his hour had arrived. McDonell was excitedly speculating on just what penalty the A.J.C. handicapper, Ken Goodwin, might impose on Double Century for the Sydney Cup the following Saturday. A curious journalist asked McDonell whether the colt would stay the Cup distance? McDonell responded: “Two miles? He’ll stay ten miles!”
Amidst all the tumult and the shouting in the winner’s stall, few heard Brent Thomson nearby whisper to Colin Hayes of his intention to protest. It was only when the A.J.C. Chief Steward, John Mahoney, called ‘Protest!’ in his distinctive tones that the first chill suspicion of loss occurred to Double Century’s connections. The wailing siren and the announcement from the course broadcaster Geoff Mahoney confirmed the prospect. At the time, I didn’t think that the protest had a ghost of a chance of being upheld. After all, the winning margin had been no less than three-quarters of a length and Double Century was drawing away on the line. If the two horses had come together, it was only for a brief moment in the final furlong. Moreover, the rails bookmakers shared my opinion, as they freely sought to bolster their bags by declaring: “3/1 against Dulcify getting the race!” All in all, I considered my winning wager safe.
However, neither I nor the rails bookmakers had enjoyed the benefit of viewing the graphic head-on film footage of the final 300 metres of the contest. From that vantage, the interference caused to Dulcify over the last 200 metres was readily apparent. When Double Century started to shift ground first, Dulcify went out with him. Initially, the pair did not touch. Then about 100 metres from the winning post, the two horses did collide. Dulcify became unbalanced as a result and was thrown out of stride. In the stewards’ room, Mick Mallyon proferred the theory that Double Century might first have been spooked by the scenic water spouts on the inside of the track. No doubt, Mallyon, aware of his erring pilgrimage in the straight, suspected that he might lose the race; it is doubtful that the owners ever did. When John Mahoney announced the collective decision of the stewards’ panel to award the race to Dulcify, it had taken less than twenty minutes for the connections of Double Century to plummet from the very heights of exhilaration to the very depths of despair.
So, Colin Hayes had won the A.J.C. Derby on his first attempt. And Dulcify had become the thirteenth New Zealand-bred to win the classic in the past eighteen years and the first horse to win both the A.J.C. and Victoria Derbies since that other horse with a troublesome mouth, Classic Mission in 1971. Nonetheless, despite his satisfaction, the diplomatic and softly-spoken proprietor of Lindsay Park understood the hurt and devastation on the other side. He had seen McDonell’s face crumple when the stewards uphold the protest. And he had seen McDonell almost in a state of collapse as he tried to console his tearful 16-year-old daughter, Rhonda, who was Double Century’s attendant.
Hayes recalled to the waiting pressmen his own experience of winning the 1975 W.A.T.C. Australian Derby with Ace Queen only to lose it in the stewards’ room to Denise’s Joy. Ignoring the trophy and the glory, the stewards’ decision at Randwick cost the owners of Double Century a cool $100,000 – the difference between first and second prize money. Mallyon, like the McDonells’, was disconsolate at the reversal of fortune in the stewards’ room but accepted the decision philosophically. He walked across to the distressed Mrs Shield and declared: “It broke my heart, too, Monica. It’s bad luck, but never mind, we will pick it up in the Cup on Saturday.”
And pick it up they did! I don’t think there has been a Sydney Cup in my lifetime charged with as much sentimentality and human interest as that of 1979. The crowd in attendance might have been a disappointing 18,666 people but most of them had witnessed the harrowing scenes of a pregnant and upset Monica Shield on the previous Monday. Many were willing her husband’s horse on, not just for her sake but for the popular McDonell family as well. In a twenty-two horse field, Double Century went to the post as an easing 7/1 equal second favourite behind the previous year’s Melbourne Cup winner, Arwon. Mick Mallyon had to diet to ride Double Century 1 kg over his allotted weight of 49 kgs, and the horse was drawn on the outside of the field. It was to be a daring ride by Mallyon who brought off one of the most popular victories in the historic race.
The moment the starting gates banged open, Mallyon dashed the three-year-old to the front and was nestled on the inside running rail after less than 200 metres. The Melbourne hoop then eased the colt back into about fifth position, although in so doing stacked them up and caused considerable interference to some of his rivals caught behind. In truth, Double Century had the race won a long way from home. Given the colt’s relatively light weight, Mallyon didn’t hesitate to sprint to the front coming towards the home turn with a ‘catch me if you can’ bravado. They couldn’t. Double Century had the race in his keeping long before he topped the rise. Racegoers (me included!) roared encouragement as the little son of Century put a seven-length gap in them before breezing past the winning post ahead of the gallant Lady Dignitas, with a further length to Arwon in the minor placing.
On the line, Mallyon chanced a quick look over his shoulder and in a breach of decorum exuberantly flourished his whip in the air. A similar display of theatrics atop Gay Icarus in the 1971 Caulfield Cup had once incurred the wrath of Melbourne stewards but on this occasion, many in the crowd were only too happy to celebrate with him. One of the first to congratulate trainer Ron McDonell as he stood waiting for Double Century to return to the enclosure was the gracious Val Cummings, the wife of Bart. The Governor of N.S.W., Sir Roden Cutler presented the Sydney Cup to Clarke Shield and the other owners. Jockey Mick Mallyon brought a roar of approval from the crowd when he began his victory speech: “Ah, it’s a lovely old feeling. That little pony is the loveliest horse I have ever thrown a leg across.” Mallyon wasn’t feeling quite so lovely later in the afternoon when the A.J.C. stewards suspended him until May 12 for causing interference in the first 800 metres of the Cup. Before passing the sentence, the chief steward John Mahoney asked Mallyon whether he had anything to say in his defence. The irrepressible Mallyon replied: “Not really. It will only take up your time. It was a spur of the moment thing.” Nonetheless, it had been a very satisfying ride. The race was worth $156,500 in total, with the first prize of $102,000 and a gold cup. The amount was virtually the equivalent of the sum lost in the stewards’ room the previous Monday.
Dulcify and Double Century might have been crackerjack three-year-olds but the real star of the 1979 S.T.C. and A.J.C. autumn meetings was the Victorian stallion Century. In the space of a few weeks, his progeny had won the S.T.C. Golden Slipper Stakes (Century Miss), A.J.C. Sydney Cup (Double Century) and A.J.C. Oaks (Valley of Georgia) and he only had two crops racing. A brown horse bred by Arundel Farm at Keilor in Victoria, Century had been sold for $6,750 at the 1971 Victorian Yearling Sales. Bart Cummings trained the colt throughout his career on behalf of Tom Trevaskis, Frank Curtin and Jim Armstrong. Curtin and Armstrong as we have seen, were minor part-owners in Double Century.
A brilliant racehorse with a penchant for Flemington, Century started in 29 races for 11 wins, 9 seconds, 3 thirds and $172,030 in prize money. Included among his wins were the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap, V.R.C. Craven ‘A’ Stakes and the V.R.C. Lightning Stakes although I should mention that his seconds included such races as the V.A.T.C. Blue Diamond Stakes, Caulfield Guineas and Oakleigh Plate as well as the A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap. Following his last race, when he ran the unplaced favourite in the 1974 V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap burdened with 61 kg, Century was syndicated as a stallion into 42 shares of $5,200 each.
Despite his outstanding racing record, he went to stud against a background of successive failures by sons of Better Boy in the stallion barn. Horses such as Craftsman, Tolerance and Pterylaw had all been disappointing at stud. Standing at David and Lilian Leighton’s Mornmoot Stud at Whittlesea, Victoria, Century’s initial service fee was just $2,000 and he covered his initial book of 52 mares in the spring of the same year. Thirty-two live foals resulted and amongst them were Double Century and Valley of Georgia. Supplemented by other top-class gallopers in his first two crops such as Consenting and Stage Hit, Century created history when he became both Australian champion sire and champion sire of two-year-olds in that 1978-79 racing season. After that sensational autumn of 1979, Century’s service fee rocketed to $5,000 and the Leightons at Mornmoot Stud were knocking back broodmare owners by the dozen. Century never did win the Australian sires’ championship again after the arrival of Bletchingly, but he did go on to sire 44 individual stakes winners of 83 stakes races. Century proved a wonderful successor to his own sire Better Boy, and his stud career began just as the latter’s career was drawing to a close.
Interviewed at Randwick on Sydney Cup Day, Colin Hayes would not concede that Double Century was a better three-year-old than Dulcify. “Apart from the A.J.C. Derby, Dulcify met Double Century twice and beat him both times,” Hayes said – referring to the Victoria Derby and Australian Cup. Hayes was prepared to concede that at that stage, Double Century might be the better two-miler. Brent Thomson, the regular rider of Dulcify and a recent track jockey for Double Century also preferred the Hayes-trained stayer. “If I had my pick of the two I would stick with Dulcify.” However, whereas Dulcify’s three-year-old season was over having adjourned to South Australia until August, Double Century enjoyed a brief spell in the warmer climes of Grafton before moving on to Brisbane and the winter carnival. Partnered by Mick Mallyon throughout, Double Century in quick succession won the B.A.T.C. Aramis Cup, Q.T.C. Grand Prix Stakes and Q.T.C. Queensland Derby before a disappointing third in the $75,000 Brisbane Cup behind Grey Affair when the 1/2 favourite. While Q.T.C. stewards queried Mallyon’s lack of judgement in the Cup, trainer Ron McDonell attributed the failure to the fact that Double Century had been in work a long time and might have been training off.
When the S.T.C. handicapper Lisle Clark issued the Free Handicap weights for three-year-olds over 2000 metres for the 1978-79 season, Dulcify earned the top rating of 60 kg, with Double Century on 59.5 kg and Manikato on 59 kg. Karaman’s failures in the autumn saw him rated at 53.5 kg while Scomeld only earned a rating of 51.5 kg. In July when the V.R.C. handicapper Kevin Ryan issued his Melbourne Cup weights, Dulcify and Double Century were both given 56 kg or 1 kg under weight-for-age in a very compressed weight range. Indeed, it was a Melbourne Cup in which Ming Dynasty on 58 kg was the lowest topweight in 119 years! Alan Wicks the V.A.T.C. handicapper weighted Dulcify at 57.5 kg for the Caulfield Cup, a half-kilogram more than Double Century. While Double Century remained spelling in the Brisbane sunshine throughout winter after his exertions in the Brisbane Cup, Dulcify was sent to the Hayes’ property at Murbko on the Murray River in the Murray Mallee region of South Australia. Murbko supplied most of the feed to Lindsay Park and was a deliberate choice of geography for Dulcify because of its renowned warmer climate during winter.
Dulcify emerged from his winter sojourn a different racehorse. Two stablehands had journeyed to Murbko to give Dulcify some pre-training exercise after his fortnight of rest and recreation in the sunshine before sending him back to Angaston. There was a discernible buzz about Lindsay Park in those first weeks of August when Dulcify began to gallop seriously. The horse had developed wonderfully since his appearance at Randwick on Easter Monday. Peter Hayes, the stable foreman for his father at the time, remarked: “He was a will of the wisp then, being lightly-framed, but now he has got muscles on his muscles and he is incredibly strong.” Big things were expected. Lindsay Park had another four-year-old in work also being aimed at the Melbourne Cup in Moon Hawk, a useful handicapper who had finished second in the 1979 Adelaide Cup behind Panamint. The pair were like chalk and cheese.
Dulcify resumed racing over 1000 metres in a sprint handicap at Victoria Park on the last Saturday in August. Burdened with 62.5 kg, he was ridden quietly by Des Coleman and finished tenth in a field of seventeen. It was all the preparation he needed for a return to Flemington and the weight-for-age Craiglee Stakes a fortnight later. Dulcify blew his fourteen rivals away to keep his unbeaten Flemington record intact. The son of Decies was then surprisingly beaten into third place by Valley of Georgia and Double Century in a three-way head-bobbing finish to the V.A.T.C. Underwood Stakes. Whatever the disappointment of Caulfield, he was right back to his best at Flemington twelve days later when he easily accounted for his old rivals Karaman and Kankama in the Turnbull Stakes.
And thus we come to the race that more than any other defined Dulcify’s greatness: the $175,000 W. S. Cox Plate of 1979. On a Moonee Valley track that was rated as good, twelve horses faced the starter, with Dulcify the firm 7/4 favourite. The next best in the betting was the top New Zealand galloper, Shivaree, trained by Dave O’Sullivan and Dulcify’s conqueror in the Tancred Stakes at Rosehill in the autumn. On the third line of betting came the recent A.J.C. Epsom Handicap winner, Imposing, while others in the race included Gypsy Kingdom, Karaman, Lawman, Salamander and Ming Dynasty. Brent Thomson, who was yet to lose a W. S. Cox Plate after three winning rides, naturally had the mount on Dulcify. In the paddock, the son of Decies looked magnificent. The horse’s derrière was ridged with muscle and gleamed like the patina on a priceless Cremona violin. Yes indeed, and with Brent Thomson wielding the bow, it was soon playing a merry tune around the tight Moonee Valley course in what proved to be a one-horse race. For Dulcify that day turned into one of the truly remarkable victories of the post-war years.
Drawn in eleven, Thomson settled the son of Decies down in mid-field inside Ming Dynasty amidst a crawling pace down the back of the course. It was with 800 metres to go as the field moved towards the school that Dulcify himself decided to adopt an attritional approach to the business at hand. Taking the opportunity of a momentary hiatus and catching Thomson by surprise, Dulcify ignited, dashing three-wide around the runners ahead of him to hit the lead coming towards the turn. As the horse swung for home full of running, Bill Collins, the course broadcaster exclaimed: “Brent Thomson going for his fourth Cox Plate… and he’s got it! He’s home, Dulcify! He’s won by a minute and that’s the way he might win the Melbourne Cup!”
The official margins were seven lengths to Shivaree in second place with a further four lengths to Lawman in third. The winning time of 2 minutes 4.9 seconds was none too flash but that was because of the early muddling pace. Nonetheless, Dulcify was timed to run the last 800 metres in a scorching 46.6 seconds. In fact, he ran a faster last 300 metres than Australia’s top sprinters managed in the A.J. Moir Stakes eighty minutes later, and they were finishing off a race of less than half the distance! Years later and long after his retirement from the saddle, Thomson reflected on Dulcify’s spontaneous combustion that day at Moonee Valley: “An extraordinary thing happened and never before had I ever witnessed it nor did I ever after. All of a sudden Dulcify just absolutely took off. It was like being a passenger. I always say there were lots of things racing through my mind…I hope he’s as good as I think he is because I’ll be looking for a job on Monday morning if he gets beat in this.”
As a proud, elated Colin Hayes waited for his champion’s return to scale amidst a cauldron of journalists and a racecourse crowd that roared, throbbed and thundered, above the din, he asked: “Isn’t he something else? Can anyone now doubt he is Australia’s best racehorse? I don’t know whether he will stay 3200 metres but he has won up to 2500 metres, and he is so relaxed. His improvement has been dramatic. I can honestly say I just don’t know how far he will go.” However, before the Melbourne Cup, came the Mackinnon Stakes seven days later. During that week Dulcify’s trackwork was all about extending his stamina. As a result, there was little dash on offer at the end of a Mackinnon Stakes in which his stablemate Minuetto (66/1) had set a testing gallop. Indeed, a major upset appeared likely when Shivaree clearly headed Dulcify (4/9) two hundred metres out. Still, the son of Decies wouldn’t be beaten and he forged to the front some fifty metres from the line to win by a neck. Damned with faint praise, Dulcify’s price in the Cup blew out to 3/1.
The son of Decies was now aiming to become the first horse to win the W. S. Cox Plate-Melbourne Cup double since the great Rising Fast in 1954. Critics and form analysts alike began to pore over his pedigree for clues as to the likelihood of his running a strong 3200 metres. And there were clues aplenty. Pardal, Dulcify’s paternal grandsire, had produced two successive winners of the Ascot Gold Cup run over two-and-a-half miles, in Pardallo and Parbury, as well as an English Derby winner in Psidium. No, the flaw in Dulcify’s stamina if there was one, derived from the fact that he was out of a Todman mare. Yet if one delved deeper than the first few removes of Dulcify’s maternal pedigree, one came upon some of the world’s stoutest blood. Sweet Candy descended directly from Quiver, herself a three-quarter sister-in-blood to the champion staying sire Musket. While Cinna’s grand dam was the marvellous La Fleche, the triumphant heroine of the One Thousand Guineas, English Oaks, English St. Leger and Ascot Gold Cup. Colin Hayes himself had few doubts. After all, My Good Man was out of a Todman mare, and look what he’d done to the fields in the Sydney and Wellington Cups the year before.
And so, the Hayes caravan moved inexorably and confidently on to that first Tuesday in November, or as Ernest Hemingway might have put it, towards death in the afternoon. Dulcify was unbeaten in his only five races at Flemington and there was nothing to suggest that day would be any different. Certainly, neither Colin Hayes nor Brent Thomson entertained any premonitions of disaster as they approached the fateful hour of 2.40 pm and race five on the card. Given the scratching of both Panamint and Pierrees Order, twenty-two horses faced the starter for the Cup with Dulcify carrying the No.1 saddlecloth and 56 kg, sharing the honour of topweight with the year-older Hyperno. Drawn ideally in barrier eight, Dulcify had maintained his favouritism at 3/1, ahead of Warri Symbol, Cubacade, Hyperno and Salamander. A crowd of 96,100 people saw the Cup field despatched to a good start with Dulcify nicely placed early.
The first half of the journey was conducted with the most scrupulous circumspection as jockeys husbanded their mounts’ energies to stay the trip. It wasn’t until approaching the 1600 metres mark that tragedy struck. Hyperno, who was racing between Cubacade and Warri Symbol but behind Dulcify, was pulling Harry White out of the saddle. In one careless moment of crowding, Hyperno struck Dulcify, ripping off the skin of the favourite’s nearside hind leg. It was ironic that the villain of the piece was Hyperno, the one-time ‘psycho’ horse who still wore blinkers, that ubiquitous badge of the racecourse outlaw. Jockey Brian Andrews once described him as “having no steering gear”. Brent Thomson’s initial reaction was to pull up Dulcify, but the gelding seemed to recover and was able to gallop along in eighth place on the inside fence as the field thundered towards the home turn. It was only when the leaders really sprinted at the 400 metres mark and Dulcify couldn’t respond that Thomson realised something was drastically wrong. The gelding quickly dropped back through the field and Thomson dismounted shortly after entering the Flemington straight. I have the sad spectacle even now as it were before my eyes.
At first, the jockey believed Dulcify’s injuries were confined to his legs. In truth, his pelvis was shattered in two places. In the excitement of the close finish between Hyperno and Salamander, the Flemington multitude didn’t immediately notice Dulcify’s plight. Juxtaposed with the frenetic gaiety in the grandstands and the frenzied hedonism on the lawn, a real-life tragedy was playing itself out on the track directly in front of them. Thomson told Hayes: “His back seemed to fold up, and to think he was so well-placed and in a winning position so close to the finish.” Dulcify was clearly suffering great pain as the team struggled to load the horse onto the float to be taken to Hayes’ Flemington stables nearby.
There was to be no recuperative passage of time; although medical science tried, the lacerating wounds and critical fractures were too great for that. Veterinary surgeons gave up the battle to save the horse’s life and humanely put him down with a concentrated injection of barbiturates at 5.40 pm, three hours after the fatal Cup. Some ill-informed cynics later suggested that because Dulcify was only a gelding who would never race again, little effort was made to save him. Had he been an entire with a valuable stud career before him, so the argument went, more consideration would have been given to preserving his life. Such an argument ignored the facts.
A fractured pelvis is relatively uncommon in horses racing on the flat; it is more likely to occur in steeplechasers and hurdlers who often fall on hard ground. The pelvis itself is structured similar to two wings joined together in the middle. The middle join is the weakest part of the structure and sitting in this join are vital organs such as the bladder and kidneys. Dulcify was suffering from a stress fracture and suffering badly, evidenced by his reluctance to enter the horse float. His injury was too high in his body to be treated with an external cast. Any effort to repair Dulcify would have only brought on more pain and ultimately proved futile. A compassionate Colin Hayes and his veterinary team had resigned themselves to the inevitable and by the inevitable I mean not just the humane destruction of Dulcify, but a flow of crank telephone calls thereafter from angry animal liberationists to Hayes’ Flemington stables.
And so this great horse disappeared into the mists of immortality. In a sense, it was only in death that Dulcify began to receive the tributes that he so rarely enjoyed in life. It was only with his sublime performance at Moonee Valley ten days before his demise that many were prepared to concede his greatness. In the years since, turf historians and mythmakers, who are often one and the same, readily admit him into the equine Hall of Valhalla, not merely as a champion but a martyr to the cause. Colin Hayes, of course, was heartbroken. “It is the worst day of my life,” he conceded on that famous first Tuesday. Dulcify’s complete racing record was 21 starts; 10 wins; 3 seconds; 2 thirds; and $568,775 in stakes.
So much then for Dulcify. What happened to the other great staying three-year-old from that season’s crop i.e. the horse that finished in front of Dulcify in the A.J.C. Derby? It is interesting to compare and contrast Double Century’s four-year-old season with that of Dulcify, for the colt’s rhythm of development was quite different from the gelding’s. Whereas Dulcify was still strengthening into his frame in the months before his four-year-old season commenced, the little Century colt had already peaked. In twelve starts Double Century failed to win a single race although he did finish runner-up on five occasions. It kicked off in the Aurie’s Star Handicap (1000 metres) at a Flemington mid-week meeting at the back end of August, four days later than Dulcify. Burdened with 57 kg, he finished just behind the placegetters, Mellow Tint, Bit of A Skite and King of the Stars. It was the only time during that spring that Ron McDonell believed he or anybody else saw the real Double Century. Thereafter, despite finishing runner-up to Valley of Georgia in the V.A.T.C. Underwood Stakes, Double Century failed, including an inglorious second-last in Mighty Kingdom’s Caulfield Cup.
McDonell suspected something was amiss when the horse uncharacteristically began to lay his ears back in training and sweated up badly. It was only after his Caulfield Cup failure that the problem was correctly diagnosed as a sacroiliac injury resulting in a pinching of the nerves in the lower back. McDonell blamed the wet tracks of Melbourne during the weeks after their return from Queensland. Horses can often incur such problems when galloping on slippery ground. After consultations with the veterinary surgeons, John Bryden and Percy Sykes, the horse that had been the Melbourne Cup favourite almost from the time weights were issued, was thrown out of work. Double Century, however, did come back in the autumn to reveal something of his true ability. He just went under in a bob of the heads to Ming Dynasty in the V.R.C. Australian Cup and then brought across to Sydney, he was second successively in each of the S.T.C. Tancred Stakes, A.J.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Sydney Cup. In the first and third of those races, his conqueror was the champion three-year-old Kingston Town, while the Doncaster Handicap winner, Iko, beat him a short-half head in the other.
It proved a tortuous campaign for trainer Ron McDonell. Not only did the horse lose form but the trainer lost his licence when he was suspended for six months by the committee of the Ballarat Racing District Association after his horse Kilkenny returned a positive urine swab in winning the Great Western Cup in late January. Double Century was then transferred into the Randwick stables of Jim Greenwood. It was on the eve of the $161,900 Sydney Cup that a three-quarter share in the horse was sold to Mark Foyster of the Balfour Stud at Jerrys Plains in the Hunter Valley, with Messrs Shield, Curtin and Armstrong retaining the remaining quarter. Foyster had just lost his promising young stallion, Paris Review, a son of Noholme, and was seeking a replacement. While Foyster briefly toyed with the idea of another Brisbane winter campaign with the stallion, he soon saw reason and announced his retirement to stud. Double Century’s complete racing record was 37 starts; 7 wins; 8 seconds; 6 thirds and $321,695 in stakes. Like some other sons of Century – Centaine, Rubiton and Euclase come to mind – Double Century proved to be a successful stallion. At stud, he got five individual stakes winners of thirteen stakes races. Easily his best performer was the exciting front-running Stylish Century, who won the 1989 Victoria Derby.
But back to Colin Hayes. There was a quiet stoicism and distaste for display in Hayes’s character that at times might have encouraged the perception that he was aloof or imbued with a sense of his own superiority. Nothing could have been further from the truth. But Dulcify’s death hit him hard and brought him to the very brink of despair in his professional life. In the one calendar year, Hayes had lost his two W. S. Cox Plate winners – So Called having broken down at Sandown the previous February. Yet as good as So Called had been, Hayes knew full well that in the gelded son of Decies he had lost the greatest racehorse ever likely to pass through his hands. There wouldn’t be another. An element of fatalism now began to creep into Hayes’ concept of the business and despite the flow of winners and premierships that 1979 had yielded, a dispiriting gloom enshrouded Lindsay Park during those first weeks of summer. Such was the slough of despondency that Hayes closed his Flemington stables, which remained padlocked for almost two months. Meanwhile, the stable jockey, Brent Thomson went on a brief holiday in an attempt to rekindle his spirits.
However, the world of racing is a ceaseless stream. One meeting ends and another begins; one season closes and another opens. As Colin Hayes celebrated a somewhat subdued Christmas at Lindsay Park, he wistfully looked over his lush paddocks and wondered whether yet another Derby or Cup winner might lay undiscovered out there. Much of his focus lingered on an untried two-year-old bay colt for whom he had paid $NZ 18,600 at the New Zealand National Yearling Sales in January of that year. Foaled in 1977, he was the younger brother of Dulcify and he had been registered as Intentionally. A beautiful mover, Hayes had brought the colt along slowly, just like Dulcify, and was planning to put him into work early in the New Year.
Perhaps during those days, as the Master of Lindsay Park ruefully reflected on the events of the spring, he entertained visions of another A.J.C. Derby triumph at Randwick come the autumn of 1981. Racing is a funny game. As events transpired, Hayes would indeed win the 1981 A.J.C. Derby, but he wouldn’t do it with Dulcify’s kid brother. Despite costing five times more than Dulcify, Intentionally failed to withstand a preparation and was soon retired to stand duty as a stallion without ever making his mark on a racecourse. No, the bay colt with whom Colin Hayes would win his second A.J.C. Derby and also his first Sydney Cup was, at that moment, nowhere near Lindsay Park. He was more than 3,000 kilometres away from Angaston, in the stables of another man in the town of Hawera, in the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island. Originally bought as a weanling for some $1300, it would require no less than $300,000 and the intervention of Colin Hayes’s richest client to effect a stable transfer. However, dear reader, the telling of that story must await its proper turn in the pages of this chronicle.
Excellent story, again the level of detail is amazing.
Colin Hayes was a wonderful fellow & So Called was one of my favourite horses.
I don’t think I ever saw horses zip around the field like So Called & Dulcify did in consecutive Cox Plates … maybe Winx.
I remember the Dulcify/Double Century protest like it was yesterday. Definitely the correct outcome – despite what Katelyn Mallyon said on TV last Saturday.
I also remember the 1979 Melbourne Cup clearly.
Hi Stephen, Thanks for taking the time to provide some feedback. I enjoyed reliving the period, and I agree with you, it seems like it was yesterday.
I have read all the posts written under the title Kings of the Turf.
All have been well written and researched.
I thoroughly recommend reading all posts as they are a great history of racing over the period.
Hi John, Thanks for taking the time to provide some feedback on my website ‘Kings of the Turf’. I appreciate the comment, particularly coming from such an experienced and knowledgable racegoer!
I have only read a couple, about Bogan Road & Dulcify, & they have both been extremely detailed & most interesting
Excellent detail, however Out Of Danger was by Atilla not Without Fear, but was owned by Bob Robertson as well.
Hi Wayne, Thanks for taking the time to leave that comment and drawing my attention to my error. I didn’t check it and was working from memory.
Another great story. I remember the 1979 Melbourne Cup vividly. As a 14yo kid, my Dad said he would put a $2 bet on for me and I chose Hyperno. I remember coming home from school and Dad gave me the money and then watching a replay of the race on the sports news. From being pleased about winning a few dollars I became very sad after realising a horse (Dulcify) had died afterwards. Later on seeing footage of Dulcify’s great wins I remembered back to that day knowing that we had lost a champion on Melbourne Cup Day in 1979.
Hi, wonderful memories of the shooting star Dulcify.
Did you know he nearly died on the Nullabor when his float broke down & his strapped had to wade him in water to keep him cool?
Next start he wins an Australian Cup beating that amazing field.
Hi Jay, Thanks for your feedback. I wasn’t aware of the Nullabor story.
Yes I believe it was Terry Ryan who was bringing him home from WA.
Couldn’t fly as he went berserk when they tried to load him on way over.
C S had said the horse would have been lucky to survive if Terry hadn’t got him to Ceduna & washed him down for a couple of days.
What a loss that would have been
Wonderful memories revived with this story. It was a shame about the Hayes/Cummings situation , however, Adelaide was and still is a very quirky town.
Can’t get enough of Manikato in stories like this, my all time favourite horse, although beaten in that Australian Cup , I rate it one of the greatest performances at Flemington I have seen, Willetts said he was gone at the 100.
Hi Simon, Thanks for the feedback and I’m glad the storyline triggered the memories. Manikato was magnificent and how lucky we were to have him and Kingston Town racing around the same time!
You are the very essence of a Turf enthusiast. I have only skimmed your Dulcify piece and am in awe of you. What a treasure awaits me. My only sadness is that it has taken so long for me to stumble upon you. Yours in racing passion
Thanks, Marc. I think that you’ll enjoy more chapters than just the one on Dulcify!