Kings of the Turf

A History of the AJC Derby From 1861 to 1984

Author: Ian Ibbett

1984 – A Prolific Rivalry: Tommy & Bart!

It was in the year 1975 that the A.J.C. finally accommodated Bart Cummings with stables on Randwick racecourse. It had taken a while to get there. Only in June the year before, the club had overlooked Cummings in favour of local trainers Pat Murray and Kevin Graham when it came to reallocating the recently deceased Fred Allsop’s Connaught Lodge on Randwick racecourse. Now, however, it was the committee’s fervent hope that the Adelaide horseman would break the stranglehold that Tommy Smith had exerted over Sydney racing for almost a quarter of a century.

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1983 – Doug Bougoure: Strawberry Fields Forever!

Like true love, most romances of the Turf never run smooth and such it was with trainer Doug Bougoure and his champion galloper Strawberry Road, our winner of the 1983 A.J.C. Derby. Born in October 1922 in the rural town of Warwick, set amidst the rich Darling Downs some 81 miles southwest of Brisbane, Bougoure was the eighth child and fifth son in a family of ten children. His father, Daniel, was the manager of Risdon station, a sprawling sheep property just outside Warwick that later became a thoroughbred stud. Young Doug received precious little formal education but he could ride before most other children had left the nursery. From the moment he could walk, this fascination with horses saw him mustering at Risdon with his father early in life and later working with Jack Rademy at Yandilla.

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1982 – The Bloom of an Autumn Rose!

It is almost impossible to exaggerate the exquisite quality of thoroughbreds produced by David Hains’s Kingston Park Stud during the height of its fame from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s. Back then it was widely considered the most cost-efficient stud in Australia. We have already studied the first champion for which the stud was responsible in the shape of the 1980 A.J.C. Derby winner, Kingston Town. Just two years later the stud produced its second champion in Rose Of Kingston, a filly who would emulate the King by winning the 1982 A.J.C. Derby in David Hains’s famous colours, and in so doing become the first of her sex to take the classic in thirty-eight years. So, where did her story begin?

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1981 – The Coming of Robert Sangster!

Few men came to have more influence on racing in Australasia in the last two decades of the twentieth century than Robert Edmund Sangster. Born 23 May 1936, Sangster grew up in a mansion near the Hoylake Golf Club, Liverpool, England, the only child of Vernon Sangster who had founded the Vernons Pools Company ten years earlier. Robert was educated at the exclusive Repton School in Derbyshire, the school featured in the acclaimed 1939 film ‘Goodbye, Mr Chips’ and apart from Sangster, numbered amongst its notable and eclectic alumni were Roald Dahl, Harold Abrahams and Jeremy Clarkson.

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1980 – From A Jack To A King!

Racecourse life has its rituals and traditions, like muddy car parks in winter and cold pies in summer, not to mention overzealous panjandrums in charge of course parking and access gates all year round. However, never underestimate the capacity of the racecourse for throwing up the unexpected. Ever since seeing Tulloch stroll away with the 1957 Rosehill Guineas as a very young boy, I’d impatiently waited for another champion galloper that was Tulloch’s equal to come along. Of course, what I didn’t realise in my adolescence, was that real champions are almost as rare and as fleeting as a transit of Venus.

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1979 – Colin Hayes & Dulcify: How Sweet It Was!

“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.

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1977 – The Cups’ King Stoops To Conquer!

The year 1977 finally admitted to the honour roll of A.J.C. Derby-winning trainers, the man who was commonly regarded as the finest trainer of stayers in Australia in the second half of the twentieth century: James Bartholomew Cummings! We first met the young Bart Cummings in the 1948 chapter of this book as the strapper of the 1950 Melbourne Cup winner, Comic Court, trained by his father, Jim. Intermittent appearances have come in later chapters, notably 1973 and 1975 when he trained the A.J.C. Derby runners-up, Leica Lover and Rafique respectively. However, it was in 1977 that Bart trained his first winner of the Randwick classic. So let’s recapitulate with a little history through the mouldy chronicle of time.

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1868 – The Duke & Bylong Stud: A Classic Debut!

On the morning of January 31st, 1866, the famous stallion, Sir Hercules, died at John Lee’s Bylong Stud near Mudgee at the patriarchal age of twenty-three.  The reported cause of death was an inflammation of the kidneys.  Few stallions in Australia had made a greater reputation at the stud than this son of the imported Cap-a-pie. At the time of his death his greatest son, The Barb, bred by the Lee brothers, was still some two months away from making his first public appearance on a racecourse.  Accordingly, as exceptional as the procreative exploits of Sir Hercules appeared at the very moment he drew his last breath, his posthumous reputation would soar even higher with the remarkable achievements of the black demon.

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1865 – The Life and Times of ‘Honest’ John Tait!

Many and varied are the paths that men have trod towards greatness in their chosen professions.  None more so than John Tait, the man that pressmen hailed in the second half of the nineteenth century as the Father of the Australian Turf.  Tait was born in November 1815 in Melrose on the Scottish Borders, a town renowned for its beautiful abbey ruins in the middle reaches of the Tweed and overshadowed by the peaks of the Eildons.  This was land made famous by Sir Walter Scott and the dashing and romantic tale of Tait’s life would have been rich and worthy material for the pen of the Scottish bard.  Although there has been some suggestion that he may have been illegitimate and a foster child, he was reared the son of Robert Tait, a jeweller and engraver, and his wife, Margaret, the daughter of an Edinburgh shoemaker.

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1863- The Life & Times of Judge Alfred Cheeke!

It was on Tuesday morning, January 13, 1863, that the 56-ton schooner the Grafton landed in Sydney carrying valuable cargo. On board was a remarkably fine brown colt by the 1850 English 2000 Guineas winner Pitsford, out of that grand-producing broodmare Cassandra. Bred by Charles Tindal at his Ramornie estate on the banks of the Clarence River, the colt bore the most aristocratic of lineage and Tindal had already knocked back an offer of £500 on him. Pitsford, his sire, had not only won the English 2000 Guineas but had run as the favourite for the 1850 English Derby, ultimately finishing second – beaten a length by the great Voltigeur. Those two classic performances apart, Pitsford had also won the Racing Stakes at Goodwood and the Great Yorkshire Foal Stakes at York, as well as several other classic races.

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