Kings of the Turf

A History of the AJC Derby From 1861 to 1984

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1986 – Bonecrusher!

Where do I begin the story of Bonecrusher? It seems to me that the Claudelands Yearling Sales at Waikato in 1984 is as good a place as any. Peter Mitchell, an Auckland businessman cum gambler who conducted his own finance company, was in attendance with his trainer, Frank Ritchie. Mitchell had a background in racing and gambling in that his father had once been a capable owner-trainer based in Ellerslie who had enjoyed high-level success with Misere. Now Misere in solo whist is a bid by which a player undertakes to win no tricks. Contrary to the name, Mitchell pere who, like his son was no stranger to a pack of cards, proceeded to win any number of tricks with this nondescript brown gelding of ordinary breeding, including both the 1965 A.R.C. Newmarket and Royal Stakes, as well as the W.R.C. Telegraph Handicap the following year.

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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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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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1876 – The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe!

In the 1869 chapter, I related the early story of the foundation of the Maribyrnong Stud. Its dispersal in April 1866 saw the property, and much of the stock, transfer from the hands of the Stud’s founder, Hurtle Fisher, into those of his brother, Charles Brown Fisher or ‘CB’ as he has become known to generations of the Australian sporting public.  Curiously enough, the brothers, for all of their closeness in pastoral intrigues, never seemed to have been long-term partners in their Turf pursuits, although they could always manage to come to some arrangement with each other when it suited.  Charles Fisher, like his brother, was one of a small group of Australia’s privileged and exclusive squattocracy, who though in a land quite different to England, persisted in adopting English styles of dress and custom common to the squirearchy of the old country. 

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1869 – Hurtle Fisher and the Maribyrnong Stud !

No two brothers have made a more significant contribution to the Australian Turf than Hurtle and Charles (C.B.) Fisher.  One of the pioneering families of South Australia, their father, was the first Resident Commissioner of South Australia and controlled the sale of land in that fledgeling colony during the first two years of its existence. In this role, Fisher senior was responsible to the Board of Commissioners in London and in many respects exercised more power than Governor Hindmarsh, with whom he worked in tandem.

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1866 – The Story of the Black Demon!

When the A.J.C. began to transfer its attention to Randwick in 1858, the old trysting ground at Homebush was forsaken and fell into desuetude for some years.  Despite the newfound splendour of Randwick in those early years, however, the holidaymaking public failed to engage with the new course as a place to combine the enjoyment of racing with that of a picnic.  It was to satisfy this yearning for the atmosphere of a fete champetre that Homebush enjoyed a brief resurgence in the mid-1860s.

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1864 – The Story of Yattendon !

In September 1861 the grand broodmare Cassandra, dropped a stylish colt foal to the champion stallion, Sir Hercules, in the paddocks of the Ramornie Stud.  A few evenings after the foaling, a Ramornie employee noticed Cassandra in a state of agitation and walked over to investigate, only to discover her foal at the bottom of a deep hole into which he had fallen and been trapped for some time.  It was a close brush with the wings of the angel of death. Surely if Cassandra’s excitement hadn’t attracted the man’s attention, the foal would have been dead by morning, and the chronicle of the Australian Turf denied one of its most illustrious chapters.

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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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1862 – The Towns of Richmond

The 1862 chapter of our chronicle introduces us to a family that came to have a dominant influence on bloodstock in the colony of New South Wales in particular, and throughout Australia in general.  The founding father of the Australian branch of the Town family came to the first colony in less than auspicious circumstances.  John Town (1773-1846) was apprenticed to a Lincolnshire tailor when he was sentenced to life imprisonment at Warwick, England, in 1796; he arrived in Sydney on board the Royal Admiral in the year 1800.

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