Ernest Clarke first established the Melton Stud in Victoria in 1907 to stand his great racehorse Emir there as a stallion. Money was expended lavishly on the 318-acre property set on high, undulating limestone country on a stretch of the Werribee River looking down into the vast depths of Exford Weir, over which the Ballarat train engines steamed; the homestead itself was about three miles from the old Melton railway station. Emir was the first racehorse owned by Ernest Clarke, and he idolised him. Jim Scobie had purchased the colt at the Sydney Yearling Sales in 1902 for 1000 guineas on Clarke’s behalf, and Clarke proceeded to race him in partnership with his brother Sir Rupert. The horse won twelve races and about £7,000 in stakes for the brothers. Actually, Emir was much better than this record indicates. Throughout his racing career, he was handicapped by a contumacious element in his character that manifested itself quite often at the start, the probable cause of which, a physical disability, was not discovered until after he had retired from racing.
Scobie always regarded him as one of the best horses he had anything to do with, and in his book ‘My Life on the Australian Turf’ makes the bold claim that ‘except for a physical disability, Emir would have been as great a performer as Carbine’. Be that as it may, the disability in question also caused Emir’s impotence as a stallion, and he finished his days as a hack on the Casterton property of J. B. Gill. Ernest Clarke was a disappointed man having spent a fortune to set up a stud, and he now had to make up his mind whether or not to continue with the breeding venture without his intended foundation stallion. Ever since the disbandment of the famous St Albans Stud, the thoroughbred breeding industry in Victoria had languished and as a corollary, the annual sales at Randwick had rendered that venue the central depot of buyers in their annual quest for yearlings. It was therefore refreshing for many sportsmen in Victoria to learn that even minus Emir, Ernest Clarke intended to continue with his Melton Stud. But, of course, he needed a well-credentialled stallion as a replacement.
It just happened that at the time, Jack Brewer, the former Victorian steeple chase jockey and renowned horseman, who had established a successful stable in Newmarket, England, was then holidaying in Victoria. Brewer was a good friend of both Sir Rupert and Ernest Clarke dating from his riding days and in January 1910 during his Australian sojourn, Clarke gave Brewer a £5,000 commission to both find him a stallion and buy him some well-bred mares into the bargain, upon his return to England. Clarke couldn’t have chosen a better man. Brewer’s name has already appeared in this narrative a few times and given that he was one of the Australian Turf’s outstanding personalities for almost fifty years, it seems appropriate at this juncture to sketch his background and character in more detail.
J. E. (Jack) Brewer was born on July 13, 1868, at Lillimur, a small rural village on the Victorian side of the South Australian border near the little railway town of Serviceton. He was one of a large family of boys, all of whom were capable horsemen, although Jack was outstanding. He was still a boy when his father moved from Lillimur to the Riverina in 1874 after he bought Merri Merrigal station. John Brewer senior raced a number of horses – notably After Dark on whom Tom Hales had one of his first mounts – at Hamilton, Penola and neighbouring centres. Jack was only twelve when he rode his first race at a meeting held at Hay. After completing his education in Melbourne, he returned to his father’s station. Brewer was to be a conspicuous success in each of the several branches of the sport that first claimed his attention. What a remarkable all-rounder he was! It was as a hurdle rider that Jack Brewer initially excelled. Yes, he won races over fences, but he never had a liking for timber topping after he copped two bad falls in steeplechases in Sydney. On the day that Paris won the Metropolitan at Randwick, Brewer rode Frantic for Billy Yeomans in the First Steeplechase. Frantic fell with him and Brewer suffered both concussion and severe internal injuries. He also had another bad fall with Reckless at Randwick, and after that, he was never keen on accepting mounts in races over fences.
It was during the 1889-90 racing season that three of the Brewer brothers, Jack, Frank and George, went to Melbourne with Jack bringing a useful team of jumpers. At the time, Frank was regarded as the best rider of the trio but it wasn’t long before Jack’s reputation was in the ascendant. It was in August 1891 that Brewer won the four-mile Caulfield Grand National Steeplechase on Busaco rather easily for owner George Russell. Trained by Alex Taylor at Ballarat, Busaco went off the 4/1 favourite. Early the following year Brewer quit the ranks of amateur riders and became a professional jockey. He very quickly made his mark, winning the V.A.T.C. Grand National Hurdle Race on Tim Swiveller in 1892 and he partnered ‘Tim’ again when he won the V.R.C. Grand National Hurdle the following year.
‘Tim’ was owned by George Davis, father of the future V.R.C. handicapper, J. H. Davis. Then Brewer took a hand in winning Nationals for himself on his own horses, as he captured the V.R.C. Grand National Hurdle in 1895 with Emmalea and again with Pat (1898), a gift from Billy Yeomans. He also won the V.A.T.C. Grand National Hurdle with Rosestem in 1895. No lesser judge than James Scobie regarded Brewer as the best rider over battens that he had ever seen. It was hardly a surprise when Brewer later proved himself a master of apprentice jockeys. Frank Bullock and Bob Lewis, who were to become brothers-in-law, were two of the best and each learned their saddle craft under Brewer.
As a trainer, Jack soon proved that his ability wasn’t confined to jumpers. Numbered among his patrons were Humphrey Oxenham and J. G. Clarke, and he prepared many winners for both. With his own colt, Forward, a handsome and beautifully-bred son of the 1873 English Two Thousand Guineas winner, Gang Forward, he won the 1894 V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. That day at Flemington, the Caulfield division generally and Jack Brewer’s stable, in particular, were on Forward to a man, considering it the best thing of the day and they made no mistake as the ringmen found to their cost. Previously, Forward hadn’t been a pronounced public success but in winning the Sires’ he fully illustrated the truth of the old adage that “all things come to the man who waits.” Not that Jack Brewer was waiting about. In the next few years, he trained a string of winners including Battalion, owned by Clarke, a former Queensland galloper, who won numerous weight-for-age races including the V.R.C. Melbourne Stakes twice as well as the Williamstown Cup in 1897 with 9 st. 4lb on his back. Lochaber, a son of Lochiel, was another of Brewer’s good performers. Among other races, he won the Sandhurst Cup at Bendigo, the Adel R.C. City Handicap and the V.R.C. Bagot Handicap.
Jack Brewer really only enters our Derby chronicle, and indirectly at that, with his relocation to England. It was on January 10, 1899, that Brewer left Melbourne by the express for Adelaide whence he proceeded to England, via Marseilles, in the Orient mail steamer Orotava. Racing in Australia was at a relatively low ebb at the time and England seemed to promise so much more. In leaving, Brewer enjoyed the distinction of being the first Australian-born to undertake the supervision, training, and riding of Australian racehorses in the old country. Accompanying him was the young jockey, Bob Lewis, who had come out of his time with Brewer at Caulfield and was intended for the stable’s riding on the flat. Alas, Lewis quickly got homesick and soon returned. The two gentlemen largely funding the trip and providing the horsepower were J. G. (Gay) Clarke, a wealthy cotton man, and Humphrey Oxenham, the prominent bookmaker. Brewer proceeded in advance of the horses he was to train, to visit the various training grounds and settle on the locality best likely to suit his purposes. Initially based at Lewes, Brewer moved into Priam Lodge, Epsom, in April 1899.
The horses with which he intended to challenge the English in their own backyard comprised the previous Melbourne Cup winner, The Grafter, bought by Gay Clarke for 2000 guineas just a week after his Cup victory, along with His Grace, Manazona, Battalion, in all of which Brewer shared ownership with Clarke; and for Oxenham he took over the 1898 A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap winner Syerla and the 1898 V.R.C. Coburg Stakes winner Sailor Boy. In England, Brewer’s first mount was Tornado II, which was bought as a hack over there for 25 guineas by Gay Clarke. Brewer’s team of horses didn’t do well in England at the outset. The first winner he turned out was Pedant, who won the Hermitage Plate at Sandown Park in October, starting at a juicy 20/1. Brewer then grabbed the attention of the English sporting press by winning a series of hurdle races on his own horses including Manazona, Battalion II and Tornado II. Not everything went according to plan. In England, Battalion failed to find any form on the Flat and in 1900 Brewer began to partner the old fellow over hurdles. After winning races at Manchester and Gatwick, Brewer went to the well once too often and his old favourite fell in the Jubilee Hurdle at Manchester in April 1900, broke his shoulder and died of internal injuries. In early 1900 the London Sporting World afforded its readers a profile of Brewer, which concluded: “Always popular with the public, in perfect accord with the gentlemen for whom he trains, and respected by all who have the pleasure of his personal acquaintance, it will be strange indeed if he does not prove to be an acquisition to the British Turf.”
The bit about being “in perfect accord with the gentlemen for whom he trains” very soon had an ironic ring to it as the happy band of brothers who had crossed the seas fell out rather quickly. The occasion was the rich City and Suburban Handicap won by The Grafter in May 1900. A big-betting handicap, conducted at Epsom Downs, both The Grafter and Syerla ran for the race. The former being the property of Gay Clarke; the latter being the property of Humphrey Oxenham. Humphrey, although he wasn’t in England at the time, together with his friends, backed Syerla for the race and when that horse was beaten and The Grafter won, recriminations set in. Mr Oxenham’s representative in England expressed dissatisfaction and called upon Brewer to immediately transfer Syerla and Sailor Boy. This Brewer initially declined to do pending the arrival of Oxenham in England. Upon ‘Oxy’ reaching the Old Dart, he endorsed the action of his representative by ordering the removal of his horses to the stable of F. W. Day at Newmarket, until they could be placed elsewhere.
Much happier in his judgement on that City and Suburban and The Grafter was Bob Sievier, who, under the name of Bob Sutton years earlier, had been the pioneer of cash bookmaking in Australia. Sievier won over £20,000 when The Grafter captured the race. Then, with a portion of his winnings, he purchased Sceptre as a yearling for 10,000 guineas – a record price. Sceptre went on to win the One Thousand Guineas, the English Oaks and St Leger and should have added the Derby to her record. During the two seasons, she was racing for Sievier, Sceptre won stake money to the value of £25,650. Sievier then sold Sceptre to Sir William Bass for £25,000. In retrospect, it can be seen just what a boon, The Grafter’s win in the City and Suburban proved to be for Sievier and how it changed the course of English racing history!
But back to the betting intrigues on that 1900 City and Suburban Handicap. There were stories that even Gay Clarke was left in the dark as to the prospects of The Grafter in that race and did not win much more than the bare stake. Brewer, however, maintained that not only did he urge Oxenham’s representative to put £100 on The Grafter, which that gentleman refused to do, but he also asserted that Clarke was put on half of the whole commission. The Grafter was a notoriously shy feeder and it took him a while to settle in England. Despite winning the City and Suburban, Brewer always claimed that he never quite got the horse right although he always regarded the boof-headed galloper with the pronounced Roman nose, the best horse that he ever trained. Sadly, Gay Clarke who did so much to assist Brewer’s move to England and owned Battalion, The Grafter and Mark Time among other gallopers, was later killed in France during World War I when serving as a captain in the Sussex Regiment.
I might add that The Grafter’s success in the City and Suburban Handicap was one of three in succession by Australian-bred gallopers. The year before Newhaven had won the race and the year after Australian Star would win the race. It was in the month after The Grafter’s City and Suburban win that Jack Brewer married Edith Nightingall, a member of a famous English racing family and the sister of William and Arthur. After this initial taste of success in England and the bliss of marriage, Brewer embarked on his honeymoon, returning to Australian shores with his wife in August 1900 aboard the RMS Omrah. Upon disembarking, Brewer gave an interview to the racing correspondent of The Argus and observed:
“I am quite satisfied that, as far as racing and training are concerned, we have nothing to learn from Englishmen, but, on the other hand, they have a lot to learn from us. Nor have we anything to learn from their cracks in the matter of horsemanship. I don’t consider their cross-country and flat riders an ounce better than ours. At the present time, the old country is chock full of American owners, punters and jockeys. They boom American riders whom we would never think of putting on a horse. Of course, Sloan is a fine rider, and so is the elder of the Reiffs. During my stay, I rode in thirty-five races and was on eleven occasions successful.”
As much as the brouhaha over the betting on the City and Suburban had left a sour taste in Brewer’s mouth (as well as a sizeable increase in his bank account), he wasn’t finished with England. But he promised himself that when he went back it would be to train largely for one client only and not with his defacto representatives. Back in Melbourne, Brewer settled once again into his house and stables in Stanley-street, Caulfield, and among other good winners, prepared Gunga Din to win the 1901 Adelaide Cup for John Crozier. It was in June 1903 that Brewer returned to England, this time to train for R. H. (Rudolph) Henning, an Australian who had made his fortune in the goldfields around Kalgoorlie, specifically when he pegged the Black Flag lease in 1893. And as an indication that Brewer intended his absence to be extensive, he sold off his Caulfield house and stables to a member of the Melbourne ring. Moving first into Balaton Lodge and later into Heath House, Newmarket, Brewer quickly found success again in England, winning the London Cup in July 1904 at Alexandra-Park with Foundling, a three-year-old by Trenton. While most of Brewer’s horses at this time were owned by Henning, he also trained the odd horse for both Richard Croker and Lord Clonmel after his move to Heath House.
Jack Brewer served virtually as Henning’s private trainer for two seasons that saw the pair win more than £21,000 in prize money and a number of nice races with the best of them being the 1904 Dewhurst Plate with Rouge Croix, a son of Bend Or, although other good wins came in 1905 with Airship in the Manchester Cup and Xeny in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood. The Australian jockey, Frank Bullock, Brewer’s former apprentice, did most of the stable riding. It was only after the completion of the 1905 Flat season in October that Brewer severed his connection with Rudolph Henning and left Heath House, Newmarket, moving into Balaton Lodge where he was to train exclusively for the Australian expatriates, Lionel Robinson and William Clark, who just a few years before had won the Melbourne Cup with The Victory. Brewer left Henning on good terms and the one-time gold miner and member of the London Stock Exchange made a gift of the racehorse Briar Patch, valued at 500 guineas, as well as a stylish horse and buggy to Brewer for driving about Newmarket. Andy Ferguson, the former Western Districts identity, was then brought over from Australia by Henning to replace Brewer as his private trainer at Heath House.
Robinson and Clark, despite being domiciled in England for much of their lives, were to exercise a remarkable influence on Australian racing over the next decade or more and it seems appropriate at this juncture in our narrative to sketch in their respective backgrounds. Lionel George Robinson was born in Colombo in August 1866 and came into the world belonging to a well-connected family. For many years, his father was the commercial editor of the Melbourne Age newspaper. Lionel’s grandfather, William Barton, was one of Australia’s first stockbrokers while his uncle was Edmund Barton, who became Australia’s first Prime Minister. Educated at Scotch College, Melbourne, upon leaving school Robinson initially worked for Victoria’s Defence Department but soon realised that government bureaucracy was never going to be his metier. Accepting a clerk’s job with the Melbourne stockbroking company of Donaldson and Co. saw him in the right place at the right time when the economic boom of the 1880s happened along. A smooth operator, at the age of just twenty-two, Robinson purchased a seat on the Melbourne Stock Exchange.
It was in 1888 that Robinson first went into partnership with William Clark to establish the broking firm of Clark and Robinson, which developed a large and lucrative business dealing in mining shares during the Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie mining booms. In 1895 Clark and Robinson moved their office to Adelaide to be nearer the mining action. It was while domiciled in Adelaide that the two men first extended their business partnership into a racing partnership. Clark and Robinson initially came to the attention of the sporting press in 1897 when their horse Hainault, a colt by Pilgrim’s Progress and trained by the Plympton trainer, Charlie Quinn, won both the Adel. R.C. Fulham Park Plate and the S.A.J.C. Morphettville Plate and the following year, the South Australian Derby. Hainault had been a 100-guineas yearling purchase and was named after the gold mining venture from which Robinson made a fortune. It wasn’t long before the two men were paying much more than 100 guineas for yearlings.
Just three years later, on the recommendation of their Flemington trainer Richard Bradfield, the pair paid a stiff price for The Victory as a two-year-old after he had won the V.R.C. Criterion Handicap on New Year’s Day in 1901. The following year this son of The Admiral would win a string of races culminating with the Melbourne Cup. Meanwhile, James Scobie had trained for them the winner of the 1901 V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate in Niphetos and another S.A.J.C. Derby winner in Rienzi. During the decade of the 1890s, the firm of Clark and Robinson built up such a large and lucrative business in London that towards the end of that decade Robinson moved over there permanently to handle the business in person. Such were the rules of the London Stock Exchange at the time, that before he could join there, he had to relinquish his membership of all Australian Exchanges and renounce his partnership with Clark. After the dissolution in May 1899, Robinson and Clark each ran their respective offices independently, before deciding to reconnect in London.
Clark himself eventually went to England in 1902 and was finally admitted as a member of the London Stock Exchange in January 1905. On that same day, Clark joined Robinson as a partner of the firm of Lionel Robinson, Clark and Company with offices in Throgmorton Street. Within two years, it was the biggest finance house trading in Australian mining shares in London. Business boomed and the company prospered such that the two men became staggeringly wealthy. Accordingly, it was in 1906 that Lionel Robinson purchased historic Old Buckenham Hall in Norfolk, and such was its comforts that thereafter he seldom left London unless of urgent business. It was only much later in 1921 and with Robinson’s death imminent, that William Clark purchased his own English pile in the shape of Windlesham Moor, a picturesque Surrey mansion set amidst fifty acres of landscaped grounds on the fringes of Windsor Forrest. Like Robinson, thereafter Clark never returned to Australia. Windlesham Moor perhaps became most famous during the twentieth century when within months of Clark’s death, it was rented by H.R.H. Princess Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, after their marriage in November 1947. But I digress.
Lionel Robinson had begun racing horses in England soon after his arrival there, initially through the Beckhampton stables of Sam Darling in Wiltshire. Challenger and Niphetos were two good gallopers that he raced through that stable and Niphetos, the 1901 V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate winner, even went off as the favourite for the 1904 City and Suburban Handicap. However, once Clark was firmly ensconced in England and the new firm properly established, Clark and Robinson consummated their passion for the Sport of Kings in the old country even more so than they had done in the colonies. The two men established a small-scale Irish stud at Straffan, very near Dublin in County Kildare. Their 1902 Melbourne Cup winner The Victory was installed there as the resident stallion and it is too often overlooked these days just what a useful stallion he proved to be. Despite a stud career that ended very prematurely when he was destroyed after breaking his leg, The Victory was responsible for a number of early English winners in the famous Clark and Robinson colours including Last Call, Delilah II and Victrix.
Around the same time as starting their stud, the two men decided to withdraw their horses from the Darling family at Beckhampton, a public stable and established a private stable of their own. The two men took out a lease on Balaton Lodge, Newmarket, with its thirty-odd horse stalls. And who was their choice of trainer in this daring venture? Yes, none other than Jack Brewer who had already trained one or two horses for them before, and who had done so well for Rudolph Henning during the 1904 and 1905 flat seasons. The terms of Brewer’s contract were £1,000 p.a. and ten per cent of all prize money won. It was to prove a profitable arrangement for all concerned.
Balaton Lodge remained their centre of operations until December 1907 when the trio took over historic Park Lodge at Newmarket. The opportunity to move into the bigger stables came when Reginald Day left Park Lodge on his short-lived venture to go and train for the Kaiser at the Royal Graditz Stud in Germany. Brewer was regularly in the top ten in the English winning trainers’ list and he landed some good prizes. Perhaps Robinson’s and Clark’s best payday came when Brewer trained their four-year-old filly Demure, with a young Frank Wootton in the saddle, to win The Cesarewitch in 1907. A big, back-end long-distance handicap of the English racing season run at the Newmarket Second October Meeting, The Cesarewitch was traditionally a good-betting race and Brewer and company didn’t let Demure run without market support that day. It wasn’t quite the same happy ending in the same race a year later when Jack Brewer started All Black.
Few episodes caused more excitement in English racing circles in 1908 than the gallop between Yentoi and All Black, two highly-fancied Cesarewitch candidates, which took place on Saturday morning preceding the race. All Black, trained by Brewer, won the gallop in a walk, the result being that Yentoi went out in the betting, and All Black came into favour and was subsequently supported by the Brewer stable. In the actual race, All Black finished down the course, while Yentoi won easily. The latter was trained by Fred Darling for none other than Lily Langtry and it became evident after the race that the trial had caught the normally astute Jack Brewer napping. But for the trial receiving due publicity in the papers, the public would have kept on backing Yentoi instead of leaving him severely alone. Some of the newspapers were disposed to blame Brewer, but as his horse won the gallop but lost the stable its money, there seemed no justice in making him the scapegoat. The controversy was such that the owner of Yentoi, Lady de Bathe (Mrs Langtry) broke cover and supplied the press with a statement, which read as follows:
“The trainers of the respective horses were at cross purposes. F. Darling was under the impression that the horses were simply to work together, while Brewer arrived on the scene prepared for a trial, of which my trainer was unaware until after the gallop; indeed, Yentoi was not even given a preliminary canter, so it is little wonder that he choked, and was eased after going a mile and a quarter, at the unexpected pace. What weight All Black carried I don’t know. I feel strongly that horses of different owners engaged in a big handicap should not be tried together, and I should not for a moment allow it. For myself, I have always held the opinion that the public trial with Glacis at Doncaster was good enough for those who believe their eyes rather than their ears. It is surprising that any student of racing could so confuse form as to believe, after that performance, that All Black – cracked heels and all – could have beaten him on his merits fifteen lengths. The hundreds of letters and wires I have received from all sections of the public prove that they at least are better judges.” All Black was an unlucky racehorse running seconds in such races as the National Produce Stakes and the Chester and Manchester Cups. He was later purchased by E. J. Watt of Hawke’s Bay as a stallion to replace the defunct Merriwee at his Longlands Stud in New Zealand. Later, Ben Chaffey leased him from Watt to stand at Sherwood Park in Victoria. All Black proved a successful sire too, getting fourteen individual stakes winners including the great Desert Gold in his second crop and much later, Nigger Minstrel, so unlucky not to win the A.J.C. Derby.
It is easy to forget just how much Australia and Australians were punching above their weight in Old Blighty in those years prior to the Great War. As far as owners went it wasn’t just Lionel Robinson and William Clark, but the brothers William and Daniel Cooper as well. As far as horses went it wasn’t just The Grafter, but also the likes of Georgic, Maluma, Merman, Australian Star and ever so briefly, Newhaven. And as far as jockeys went it wasn’t just Frank Bullock. Indeed, of all the Australians to make an impact on the English Turf during the Edwardian era, none achieved it more spectacularly than Dick Wootton and his brood. And it was none other than Jack Brewer who did much to convince his good friend to come to England with his young sons, Frank and Stanley. Such was the impact of the Wootton family on the world of thoroughbred racing, directly for the first two-thirds of the twentieth century and indirectly for the balance, that perhaps I should also sketch their background here and now. So get ready for a digression.
Richard Rawson (Dick) Wootton was born on 31 March 1867, at Taree in N.S.W., the second of ten children. His father William was the son of convicts and began his life as a bootmaker, later opening a wine shop in conjunction with his trade, before ultimately deserting his cobbler’s last and becoming a hotelkeeper at the Steam Packet Hotel, Taree, on the corner of Victoria and Commerce-streets. Indeed, it was within the confines of the hotel that Dick Wootton was born. Alas, the pub no longer stands as it was lost to fire in October 1913, the very same year that Dick Wootton topped the Winning Trainers’ List in faraway England. But I get ahead of myself. Like many a hotelkeeper in his day, William Wootton trained a few horses on the side and he was assisted by his son Dick in doing so. Dick nursed ambitions from an early age of becoming a top jockey but while he won a few amateur races around the Manning River district, he quickly got too heavy for the game. Thenceforth, his heart was set on becoming a successful racehorse trainer.
First, of course, he needed some cash and one of his early moneymaking schemes, revealing all the bold initiative that was to set him apart later in life, was to take a mob of horses to Queensland, which he sold there at a great profit to himself. It was in May 1887 at the annual meeting of the Manning River Jockey Club on the Queen’s Birthday that the 20-year-old Dick Wootton won his first feature race when his bay Fly landed the Birthday Cup. The trophy was to remain a treasured possession for the rest of his long life. After making the occasional visit to Newcastle and Sydney with ponies, it was only in 1892 that Wootton permanently established stables near the Lillie Bridge Grounds, Forest Lodge, where pony and galloway races were regularly conducted. Lillie Bridge itself was a little soup plate of a track and meetings were conducted there on Monday nights under electric light. A later generation would come to know it as Harold Park. Race-fixing was commonplace and pickpockets and urgers roamed the precincts. The prizes were very small and most of the patrons were very desperate. The man who succeeded at ‘The Bridge’ needed to be a bit out of the ordinary.
Dick Wootton was no ordinary man. He was to become a legend on such unregistered and loosely supervised pony tracks as well as the proprietary courses of Sydney, in those closing years of the century. Sharp practice was the order of the day at these venues and while the prizemoney was rarely more than £10, the betting ring offered additional succour. Wootton first arrived with four ponies viz. Fern, Monk, Dingo and Fly and was soon winning races, although it was the speed with which he supplemented his numbers with a series of successful little mares that really made his name and bank account viz. Ivy, Lady Lovel, Tinonee, Fraulein, Florrie, Home and a little later one of his all-time favourites, Zulander, a diminutive daughter of the 1881 Melbourne Cup winner, Zulu. In October 1893 we find Wootton winning every pony race on the card at a meeting at Lillie Bridge. Wootton was always a clever trainer and he trained his horses by the watch at a time when it wasn’t the most fashionable approach to the game. In those days, when Dick put his money down, he usually picked it up again. The latter half of 1893 was to be a tumultuous few months for Wootton. Frank, his eldest son was born just a couple of months later on 14 December 1893 at Glebe, not far from the stables, and just five days after giving birth, Catherine (Kate) Johnson married Dick in an Anglican ceremony at Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral.
Kate, a blacksmith’s daughter, originally hailed from Gunnedah and later Morpeth, and the stables were very much a family affair as Kate’s brother Tom, successfully rode many of the Wootton ponies and was later to act as Wootton’s stable foreman both here and overseas. The stable continued to prosper, particularly after Wootton got hold of a couple of ponies by Gozo, and thereafter he was a regular purchaser of Gozo’s stock from J. R. Smith of Tucka Tucka. Humphrey Oxenham, never slow to spot talent, was soon giving Wootton horses like Laura to train. On 26 June 1895, Dick and Kate’s second son Stanley was born at Surry Hills. Now very much in the family way, pony races were never going to contain the wilful, bumptious and domineering spirit of Dick Wootton for very long and by the 1897-98 season, we find him running with fully-fledged gallopers in a year which saw him win four races at registered meetings. By the turn of the century, Wootton was firing on all cylinders with no less than eighteen horses in work at his Dine-street house and stables at Randwick, whence he had transferred. By then he had also purchased a fine farm near Maitland, where he began to breed both cattle and horses.
Appropriately enough, Wootton’s first major race victory came at the dawn of a new century when on New Year’s Day in 1900 he won the Tattersall’s Cup with the four-year-old Gozo gelding, Vocalist, having run second in the A.J.C. Summer Cup with the same horse just a couple of days before. The Tattersall’s Cup was a rich prize in those days, a sweepstakes handicap of 10 sovereigns each with 500 sovereigns added. Such was the money taken from the ring in that Tattersall’s Cup that Wootton subsequently christened his Dine-street stables ‘Vocalist House’. At the time Wootton had a regular little army of Gozos in work and they were to serve him well over the next couple of years. For a long time, Vocalist was the ruling favourite for the Sydney Cup in 1900 although when the big day arrived, it was another of Wootton’s charges in Ace of Diamonds that carried the stable money. However, the best he could do was finish third. The Sydney Cup was to be an unlucky race for Wootton, who on more than one occasion backed one of his stable lightweights to triumph.
Ace of Diamonds apart, his worst betting result in the Sydney Cup came two years later. Wootton had tried the grey five-year-old gelding Acetine, a half-brother to Amberite and already a winner of a City Tattersall’s Cup, a certainty for the race with just 7 st. 2lb and he laid the best part of £2,000 on him. Alas, as Wootton learned to his cost, never underestimate a champion. Acetine was beaten into second place by the wonderful Wakeful carrying 9 st. 7lb, having pushed the mare to set a new Australian record for the distance by clipping the fraction off Carbine’s previous record time of 2 minutes 28¼ seconds. Acetine beat the remainder of the big field that day by eight lengths! For all of the disappointment of that Sydney Cup, 1902 still had some good things in store for Wootton at Randwick. At the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, his mare Queen of Sheba won The Metropolitan with 6 st. 7lb and Norman Godby in the saddle. This daughter of Niagara had failed to get closer than eighth in the Epsom behind Air Motor and Sequence, but over more ground, she turned the tables two days later. In December another of his own horses, Aurantia, a four-year-old Grand Flaneur mare, led all the way in the hands of Johnny O’Connor to land the A.J.C. Summer Cup.
But by now Wootton was sighing for new worlds to conquer and South Africa attracted his attention. The end of the Second Boer War in May 1902 and the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging, soon saw horseracing flourish in the Cape Colony with its regime of properly licenced bookmakers. It was in July 1903 that Dick Wootton embarked on his famous South African odyssey aboard the Sussex, together with twenty-five horses and three jockeys. The cargo of horses with which he had chosen to challenge the Veldt included Vocalist, Queen of Sheba, Aurantia and Zue; while the horsemen set to ride them were Norman Courtney, Johnny O’Connor and a squirt of a lad apprenticed to Wootton at the time who went by the name of Midget McLachlan. Also being readied for life in a jockey’s saddle were Wootton’s two oldest sons, Frank and Stanley. Wootton’s stay in Turffontein, Johannesburg, lasted two years and three months and proved every bit as successful as his earlier career at Randwick.
A major motivation in Dick Wootton relocating to South Africa in the first place was to enable his oldest son, Frank, to ride in races. The boy – and he was only a boy – already rode his father’s racehorses in trackwork and training gallops at Randwick but the A.J.C.’s minimum age requirement for a registered jockey then was fourteen. In South Africa, this age limit did not apply. Establishing himself at Turffontein Racecourse, Dick Wootton lost no time in preparing his horses and registering for licences. Frank Wootton’s first ride in South Africa was on The Duster, who ran third, and the lad was only 9 years and 8 months old at the time. Promptly taken out of school, Frank’s life thenceforth was to be wholly dedicated to the saddle until the outbreak of World War I.
In June 1904, Frank Wootton rode his father’s horse, Centurion, to victory in the rich Goldfields Handicap at the winter meeting of the Johannesburg Turf Club. It was a feat that both father and son repeated the following year with Aurantia. Dick Wootton thought she was a certainty with only 6 st. 5lb on her back in that 1905 Goldfields Handicap and he plonked £1500 on her! Quite a sum of money when one reflects that a ten-year-old lad was doing the steering. Wootton won races with most of the horses that he took to South Africa and quite a few others besides, with horses that he purchased there. So much so that he was among the leading trainers in terms both of the races won, and prizemoney earned, during the two full seasons that he trained in Turffontein. In terms of money taken from bookmakers’ satchels, he was a mile in front of anybody.
One of his biggest wins came with Chere Amie in a Johannesburg Handicap. A former winner of the A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap, Chere Amie cost Wootton just £800 but was backed for a fortune and Bill McLachlan got the gelding home by a head. If the evidence given by Wootton in the Sievier libel case a few years later in London is to be relied upon, we know that when Wootton first arrived in South Africa he had only £2,600 with him, although he already owned twenty-nine houses in Sydney and a farm at Maitland at the time. When Wootton left South Africa and arrived in England a little over three years later, he took a cool £19,000 with him. During Wootton’s stay in Johannesburg, there was a lot of doping going on in racing but Wootton had seen it all before. Any man that could thrive at Lillie Bridge and on the unregistered country courses of N.S.W. in the 1890s knew what he was about. When Dick decided it was time to return to Australia and regroup for an English crusade, some of the horses were sold and others were leased to his brother-in-law, Tom Johnson who remained behind in the Cape Colony.
Wootton and his caravan quit South Africa and arrived back in Melbourne just in time to attend the 1905 V.R.C. Spring Meeting where he managed to see both Lady Wallace win the Victoria Derby, and Blue Spec partnered by Frank Bullock, Jack Brewer’s former apprentice, win the Melbourne Cup. In December, following his return to his home in Sydney, Wootton applied for and was granted, another trainer’s licence by the A.J.C. Again he quickly put together a team of horses and won some good races over the next few months including the 1906 A.J.C. Challenge Stakes with The Pet and the Tattersall’s Cup with Fabric, the latter a 1000 guineas’ purchase only a matter of weeks before.
Dick Wootton and his family left for South Africa and England on board the R.M. Suevic in April 1906 taking Fabric and Hollander with them, together with the Newcastle jockey Archie Gilmore. Wootton had hoped to take his former apprentice, Billy McLachlan as well but the lad had got himself hitched during the first week of March to his beloved Mary, and pulled out of the English adventure at the last moment. Apart from the few horses that he was taking with him to England, Wootton also sent a team to his brother-in-law in South Africa. It was almost as if he was hedging his bets just in case the English experiment failed. Initially installing himself in a temporary home at Dove Cottage, Epsom, Wootton soon moved into nearby Treadwell House, which he had purchased, after constructing new stables there in 1907-08 with more than thirty horseboxes. The stables were a curiosity to the native English racing folk, as in all the other stables at the time there was no covered central enclosure and the boxes opening out directly, without any protection from the weather, into a yard. Treadwell House itself was a splendid residence standing in extensive grounds of some twenty-two acres, all freehold, and adjoining the Epsom racecourse. Treadwell House came with the adjoining Rifle Butts gallops and Wootton’s land shared a common boundary with the beautiful country house and stables, The Durdans, owned by Lord Rosebery.
In England, Wootton found himself a stranger in paradise. It was optional whether a horse raced in shoes, plates, or barefooted. Wootton’s unorthodox training methods and the availability of superior lightweight jockeys (especially his eldest son, Frank), together with his clever purchase and placement of horses, saw him quickly climb the winning trainers’ lists in England. Wootton’s cerise jacket and gold sleeves became as familiar on English racetracks as they had been on Australian ones. He won his first race in England on August 23rd with Retrieve at Folkestone, having just bought the horse a few weeks earlier for 100 guineas. Master Frank Wootton having his first public ride in England was the postilion on that occasion, and taking full advantage of the ring’s scepticism of the boy wonder, Retrieve was backed into 6/1. Dick took a packet out of the Folkestone ring that day!
Starting out late in that 1906 season, Wootton finished with fourteen winners, just seven years later he became Champion English Trainer in 1913 for the first and only time with 66 winners and £27,989 in stakes. In both the years 1912 and 1914, Wootton finished only third on the Winning Trainers’ Lists, which were based on prize money won, although in each he turned out more individual winners and won more races than any other trainer in England. Given the outbreak of World War I, 1914 came to be his last proper training season in the Old Country with a full stable. The English owner that gave Wootton most assistance in his march towards championship honours was Sir Edward Hulton, the Manchester newspaper proprietor. He was far and away Wootton’s biggest client, with most of the other horses in the stable being owned by himself. Hulton was prepared to buy more expensive bloodstock than Wootton, a trait which saw him head the Winning Owners’ List in 1916, although by then his horses, including the English Derby and Oaks winner Fifinella, were being trained by Richard Dawson at Newmarket, given that Wootton had run down his training operations at Treadwell House during the war.
In those nine seasons that Dick Wootton trained in England, he prepared the winners of 372 races on the Flat worth £111,600. He always maintained that the best three horses he trained there were Shogun, Lomond and Stornaway, all owned by Edward Hulton. Lomond and Stornoway each won the prestigious Gimcrack Stakes for two-year-olds before going amiss as older horses, while both Dick and Frank Wootton maintained that Shogun, who went off as the 6/1 second-favourite, would have won the roughhouse 1913 English Derby had he not met with interference. That was the famous Derby in which a protesting suffragette brought down King George V’s horse Anmer; the stewards objected to and disqualified, the winning favourite Craganour amid accusations of prejudice; the promoted winner started at 100/1; and the horse who finished third, Day Comet, was not placed by the judge. So much for the sophistication of British racing on the cusp of World War I.
As successful as Dick Wootton was as a trainer, Frank, his eldest son, was even more successful as a jockey. Thanks to their father, Frank and his younger brother, Stanley, practically lived in the saddle and they had each began riding at the age of three. Just as the father became the first Australian to head the list of winning trainers in England, the son became the first Australian to head the list of winning jockeys in England, doing so for the first time in 1909 when he rode 165 winners. Happy indeed is the trainer anywhere who can leg his own flesh and blood into the saddle when the money is on, the opposition likely to prove troublesome, and a fluctuating betting market may otherwise lead to a variety of doubts. At the time, Vigilant of ‘The London Sportsman’ wrote:
“All previous records have been put in the shade by the remarkable achievements of this gifted lad, who stands out by himself at the head of the list of winning jockeys with the extraordinary figures of 165 winners, 143 seconds, and 90 thirds in 774 mounts, showing an average of 21.3. Yet he is still an apprentice and acquired his first experience and knowledge of the art of race riding in South Africa. But for an unfortunate interruption to his race riding last year he would have deprived Maher of chief honours; in fact, his records are quite unique in turf history, as far as I know it. All sorts and conditions of horses come alike to him. He has beautiful hands, marvellous power for his size, the head of an old man on his shoulders, and knows nothing of fear, but even with all these splendid attributes in not perfection, being, for one thing, far too fond of screwing in the saddle to see what is going on behind him, while his penchant for trying to take impossible chances on the inside rails has not only placed him in jeopardy but cost him many a race which he would have won had he been content to make a little sacrifice and come round when the opportunity was available. All the same, he is a phenomenal lad, destined, with continued good health, to be successful for many years to come, and a great compliment was paid to his skill and general ability when he was selected at a heavy retaining fee to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Maher as the first jockey to the Stanley House stable.”
“A great stir was made in the racing world when the late Fred Archer won the Two Thousand Guineas as a little boy for the late Lord Falmouth on Atlantic, but this youth has gone one better by winning the Oaks on Perola, besides a vast number of other important races, and, what is more, he looks like riding at a light weight for a long time to come. During his brief career, he has had no claim beyond his own stable, though no doubt favour has been extended in the direction of several owners, as, for instance, Lord Carnarvon, Lord Derby, Mr S. B. Joel and Messrs Clark and Robinson, and the claim which has been contracted for him in connections with Mr Lambton’s stable for next year must of necessity stand in the way to a material extent of selecting his mounts as hitherto, but his position in his profession is a proud one indeed, and a large fortune is assured to him. In bare riding fees, he has this year earned upwards of £2,650 and what amount has accrued to him in presents and retainers can only be known to himself and his father, to whom he is apprenticed. I do not, however, imagine it is any exaggeration to assess the total in excess of the salary of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which, to say the least of it, is a rum state of affairs, admitting even that he, at any rate, has deserved all he got for his services.”
I might add that Frank Wootton opened that 1909 campaign by winning the first race on the programme at the Lincoln Spring Meeting, and, appropriately, piloted the winner of the last race on the flat for the year, the Pendelton Handicap at Manchester, having ridden Admiral Togo III to victory in the Manchester November Handicap on the same day. And it must be borne in mind that, owing to a bad accident at Ascot and domestic bereavement, Frank was a month out of the saddle. At the close of the season, young Wootton was a month under sixteen years of age. His rise had been phenomenal. Three years before he had ridden just sixteen winners; the following year it was thirty-nine; in 1908 it was one hundred and twenty-nine; and in 1909, one hundred and sixty-five.
Among the races won by Wootton during the period under review were the Oaks, Newbury Spring Cup, Esher Cup, Woodcote Stakes, Ascot Stakes, Liverpool Summer Cup, Great Yorkshire Handicap, Newbury Autumn Cup and the Manchester November Handicap. Frank Wootton’s inaugural jockeys’ premiership was a neat feat that he was to repeat over the next three seasons on the English Flat. During these years of adolescence, Frank won some of the best races on the English Turf during his time there including The Oaks in 1909 on Perola for the expatriate Australian William Cooper as well as the St Leger (1910) and Eclipse Stakes (1911) on the great Swynford for Lord Derby. As for the rich English handicaps, Frank landed the Cesarewitch twice, on Demure (1907) and Verney (1910). However, his biggest payday came when he took out the Grand Prix de Paris in 1912 on Monsieur Fould’s Houli for which he received some £1,600.
The dawn of the twentieth century, with its marked improvements in transportation and the resultant shrinking of distance, brought an unprecedented international flavour to the British Turf with an influx of European, American and Australian owners, trainers and jockeys. For all of the international jockeys plying their trade on English courses in those closing years of its first decade, Frank Wootton’s particular bete noire was the American, Danny Maher. Maher set about to ingratiate himself with the aristocratic swells of the English Turf in a way in which Wootton, a wild colonial boy, did not. Smouldering rancour persisted between the pair of them and Maher’s dislike of Wootton wasn’t a figment of the latter’s imagination. Maher really was his enemy and did everything to get him outed. In 1908 Frank Wootton was suspended for two weeks at Maher’s instigation and it cost him the premiership with Maher going on to win the title. In April 1910 the English Jockey Club again suspended him, this time for a period of two months – again at Maher’s instigation at the Newbury meeting. Danny Maher, for all of his presence in the saddle, would only win the English jockeys’ title twice, in 1908 and 1913. In each of the four seasons in between the title fell into the lap of young Frank. Is it any wonder that there were jealousy and bitterness?
For a few seasons in England, Frank Wootton’s career in the saddle overlapped with that of his eighteen-month younger brother, Stanley. It was at the beginning of the 1908 English flat season that Stanley Wootton, then rising thirteen years of age, first secured his jockey’s licence, weighing in at just 5 st. 4lb. While he had never shown the same precocity in the saddle as his older brother, young Stanley had talent and with his father guaranteeing him mounts, he was always going to get his chance. It is instructive to compare the opportunities that came Stanley’s way with the meagre pickings afforded a young Jim Pike, who made his only brief appearance on the English Turf in that same 1908 season. Pike, widely acknowledged as one of Australia’s all-time shining knights of the pigskin, failed to make an impression in the Old Country, although he did enjoy the pleasure of a winning mount on Vigilance at Newmarket on One Thousand Guineas Day. Pike was on an English tour with his master, Bill Kelso, at the time. However, whereas Dick Wootton had the horsepower to kickstart Stanley’s career, Kelso lacked any such means or influence for Jim’s in that foreign land.
Whereas Stanley Wootton rode only three winners in 1908, the following flat season was his breakthrough year when he partnered with thirty-six winners. In August of that year, Stanley on Foxcote, defeated his brother, Frank, on Persuasion, by a head in the Chichester Plate at Goodwood. When Frank was injured at Ascot a couple of weeks later, Stanley got opportunities he might otherwise have been denied and in September we find him riding a treble at Hurst Park with two of the winners being supplied by his father. In November 1909, Stanley even won the Derby Cup on A. W. ‘Fairie’ Cox’s Highness. Referring to Stanley Wootton at the close of 1909, Vigilant in ‘The London Sportsman’ observed: “The little fellow who has had well over three hundred mounts, shows a very creditable record with thirty-six wins, and there are several experienced jockeys who cannot boast such an average of success. Evidently, good things are in store for the brothers’ Wootton in 1910.”
Stanley Wootton lost his claim to the 5lb allowance when he rode his fortieth winner on Assayer at Lincoln in the Hainton Plate at the opening of the 1910 season, which was to be his best. That year he won both the Chester Cup and the Northumberland Plate on Reid Walker’s Elizabetta, in the former carrying just 6 st. 11lb. On the final day of the Royal Ascot Meeting, Frank Wootton won the Hardwicke Stakes on Swynford, while his brother Stanley ran second on Marajax. During the 1911 season, Stanley rapidly put on weight and with Frank preferred on their father’s horses and riding opportunities in England limited, he rode with greater frequency in Belgium and elsewhere on the Continent.
Increasing weight as the boys matured into adolescence soon put an end to both their riding careers on the Flat at around the same time with Willie Huxley called upon to ride the stable lightweights from 1911 onwards. When Nature gets her way with youthful victims of privation the results bulk large in a very short time. And both Frank and Stanley Wootton had been subjected to food deprivation by their autocratic father in a bid to keep them in the saddle for as long as possible. Frank much more than Stanley was the real ‘golden goose’ whose rides brought in the golden eggs to Treadwell House but there was a limit to even how far deprivation could contain the natural growth of a normal adolescent without impairing health and wellbeing. Dick Wootton tested those limits with Frank in a way that he didn’t dare try with Stanley and the results later in life were to prove tragic. The building of a Turkish bath adjoining Treadwell House in the spring of 1911 merely delayed the inevitable.
Frank Wootton effectively retired from race riding at the end of the 1913 season, his last success being recorded on Fairy King at the Warwick November Meeting. At the age of twenty and possessed of undreamt wealth, he stood thrillingly poised on the threshold of manhood. Yet, sadly, his future was already behind him. To an extent that nobody could have guessed, those early years in the saddle had seriously impaired his health. In a newspaper interview given in 1912, Wootton hinted at the hidden cost of earning big money riding in the harsh English climate: “Jockeys must be railway companies’ best patrons with all the travel. And the riding in the pouring rain is also no particular catch, for a twenty-minute wait at the post in silk, soaked to the skin, and with a bitter wind blowing right through one, is an experience which makes a jockey feel that he is certainly not earning his riding fees for nothing.” Pulmonary problems awaited.
As we shall see, apart from a season or two of success in National Hunt riding, Frank Wootton’s life would be a catalogue of tragedy and he would be dead before his forty-seventh birthday. Stanley’s future, on the other hand, would be entirely different. He lingered in the saddle a little longer than Frank but soon turned away from the unsympathetic weighing scales of the jockeys’ room and opted for the stopwatch instead. In late December 1913, both brothers together with William Huxley holidayed in Australia over that last Edwardian summer before the world changed forever. Upon their return to England and until both brothers signed up for the king’s shilling in the Great War, they largely assisted their father in the training of horses at Treadwell House.
There was a no-nonsense approach with Dick Wootton when it came to training, whether it was with horses or with boys. There was a force and fire about him that acted like a spell together with well-drawn lines of patriarchal authority. All of his apprentices were invaluable to him while they enjoyed their 5lb allowance and many of them remained valuable even after they had lost it. At the time nobody in England could produce their like and who could blame the resourceful Wootton when he threw in for a good win when the opportunity arose. The accretion to the Wootton wealth during his time in the Old Dart had as much to do with his own lads that rode them as the horses themselves. Permit me to quote Dick Wootton on how to make jockeys: “Catch him young. Win his confidence. Give him opportunities, and when his faults have to be pointed out, do the business with tact and a good temper. Then, if he is built for the business, the chances are that he will make good. If he makes a mistake when riding work, do not belittle him by calling out at him before the other boys. I have found it more effective to say ‘Get off and lead the horse home. You’re better on the ground’.”
Just consider the following jockeys both in Australia and England that Dick Wootton helped develop: Tom Johnson, Ernie Crockett, Ted Courtenay, Charlie Godby, Norman Godby and Bill McLachlan to name but a few. Moreover, Richard Wootton didn’t just teach them how to ride. He was a great believer in athletic training for his apprentices. They were all taught to box, especially his own sons, Frank and Stanley, for the old man knew all about the rough and tumble of the great game. Successful jockeys in those hard times had to be something more than merely good horsemen. They had to have the strength and the will to withstand the innumerable temptations that beset them. Everywhere they went they were touted for tips or invited to ‘take one themselves’ as it was commonly known. If they took to betting heavily, like it or not, they risked riding to bookmakers’ orders.
Not all of Dick Wootton’s apprentices graduated to become knights of the pigskin. One day during his stay in England, Wootton was entering the Newmarket train at Liverpool station. He noticed a railway porter passing the carriage several times and looking long and earnestly at him. At last, the porter said: “Do you remember me, Sir?” Dick had a good look, and said: “I cannot say that I do.” The porter rejoined: “But I used to be one of your apprentices at Epsom, Sir.” “Oh yes, now I remember”, said Dick. “You rode So and So at Brighton one day, didn’t you?” “Yes,” said the porter, obviously pleased at being remembered. “And aren’t you surprised to see I am now a railway porter?” Retaining a deadpan expression, Dick Wootton looked at him and muttered: “Not at all. Not at all.”
Dick Wootton’s success in the Old Country didn’t go unnoticed at home. When Wootton returned to Sydney for holidays in the summer of 1912-13, the great and the good were only too happy to bask in his company. Perhaps no better example of this can be given than the harbour excursion and dinner that the members of Tattersall’s Club accorded him on the last day of January. The steamer Kookaburra left Fort Macquarie at 11.30 a.m., and, after a trip to the Heads, both the Lane Cove River as far as Riverview and the town of Parramatta, were visited. The party disembarked at Correy’s Gardens, Cabarita, for dinner. Alfred Hill, the chairman of Tattersall’s presided, and present were the N.S.W. Premier, J. S. McGowen and the Treasurer, J. H. Cann. A roll-call of racing’s finest were in attendance including Ned Moss, Frank McGrath, Humphrey Oxenham, Dr Symes, George Kiss, John Inglis, Phil Glenister, Tom Payten, James Gough, Fred Williams, Bill Kelso, Ted Stanton, Paddy Nolan and Mark Thompson. The party returned to town at about 6 o’clock in the evening.
Such approbation and acclaim were by no means universal. Back in England, Dick Wootton’s successful dashes at the ring and the sheer number of winners he trained, attracted much jealousy and suspicion from some quarters. Jonathan Riste was just one Epsom trainer who went public with his suspicions. Wootton struck many in authority in English racing with their ingrained snobbery as colonial nouveau riche, but as Wootton himself quipped: “Better nouveau than never.” Still, it was an England where old money was fast moving out and new money was fast moving in. The colourful Robert Sievier in his newspaper, ‘Winning Post’, accused Wootton of fixing races by colluding with certain other trainers and directing his sons and other apprentices in his stable to ‘pull’ horses he had not backed. After all, ‘a dry bit to nothing’ went just as far with many owners and trainers in the Old Country as it did here. It was said that in many of the races at the smaller meetings the horses ridden by Frank met with precious little opposition and were backed accordingly to the great discomfiture of the ringmen. Whatever the truth of such machinations, a large measure of the success of Frank and to a lesser extent, Stanley, was due to the able manner in which the boys were handled by their father.
In turn, Wootton issued a pamphlet attacking Sievier, a pugnacious, witty and flamboyant character, and then sued him for libel. Whereas Sievier chose to conduct his own defence, Wootton retained the eminent silk, F. E. Smith, the future Lord Birkenhead. The case came up before the Chief Justice Lord Darling in the King’s Bench Division in 1913. It is arguably one of the most discussed racing libel cases ever heard in a law court. Apart from the series of comic bon mots offered up by the Chief Justice during proceedings, the case afforded a rare glimpse into the financial affairs of Richard Wootton at the time and just how wealthy he had become through his profession. Wootton was in the witness box for almost three days being cross-examined by Sievier. Lord Derby and the Honourable George Lambton were among the witnesses for Wootton, who said his stables contained forty-five horses, of which ten were his own.
In six years in England, Wootton claimed he had made over £17,000 through betting according to the income tax authorities, who levied him with income tax on his winnings. When this particular revelation was made the Chief Justice in mock indignation exclaimed: “The Government took a share of your winnings from betting! How very immoral.” Sievier tried to convince both judge and jury that certain Wootton-trained horses should have won but didn’t. “But Mr Sievier,” protested Justice Darling, “all your questions assume that the horses run with mathematical accuracy. On that basis, the best authority would be the Astronomer Royal. Horses, as well as men, are liable to error, and deductions from form are not infallible.” In giving evidence, Edward Hulton, Wootton’s leading owner, observed: “Trials are sometimes wrong.” “Even in these courts”, chuckled His Lordship.
Trainer Dawson when cross-examined on interference, said: “The style of riding is different now and lends itself to interference. They have pulled their leathers up, and riders have little control over their horses.” In other words, Justice Darling added: “If they don’t ride longer, they won’t ride long.” Sievier, in cross-examining an apprentice of Wootton’s, asked him if he had once been fined £50. The boy admitted he had, but said he was in a hurry to catch a train and had rushed to the dressing room without weighing in. The boy started to leave the witness box as Barrister Smith rose to cross-examine him. Justice Darling intervened: “Wait a minute, son. Mr Smith hasn’t weighed in yet.” Sievier said that in his writings for ‘Winning Post’, he tried to benefit the Turf as a whole from the King to the race-card seller, but the Turf could be summed up in two words, ‘money talks’. Justice Darling congratulated Sievier on one phrase he used, viz: “The sooner Caesar’s wife takes to running horses the better”, an allusion to the good lady’s famous reputation for being above reproach.
During the proceedings, Wootton said that between betting and training, he made £5,000 a year and that he had some forty-eight horses in training and owned about a dozen of them. He charged £2/10/- a week for each horse and made about 15/- profit. He paid a guinea a week to his boys, and his weekly wages came to £30. Dick Wootton also admitted to getting a percentage of the stakes, which amounted to £1,000 a year or more and that he also derived earnings from his apprentices. And as Justice Darling observed to the jury: “Mr Wootton does not guarantee that apprenticeship to him means canonisation.” Perhaps the greatest revelation in the trial came in relation to Frank Wootton’s earnings and the fact that the lad, not yet twenty years of age, had £31,000 invested in Australia! Counsel pointed out that £39,827 had passed into Wootton’s account in just the three years from 1910 to 1912 alone and the Australian trainer admitted that he had sent between £30,000 and £50,000 back to Australia during the past few years. He confessed that large sums came from bookmakers, but he denied winning even £25,000 in bets in six years. One could almost hear the echo of Clive of India: “By God…I stand astonished at my own moderation.”
Justice Darling’s comments in relation to Frank Wootton, who appeared as a witness in the case, are particularly revealing. In a gratuitous insult to both father and son, one of Britain’s finest legal minds observed: “He began to ride at thirteen, and being now only nineteen, he has managed in some way or other to amass a sum of £31,000.” The judge continued: “Gentlemen, of course, the fact that he could make such sums of money would be for a boy like that – a boy without any bringing up at all, with no intelligence, with no manners, and no anything above that of a boy carrying newspapers on a bicycle, and who rides in much the same attitude – a great temptation to ride foul. But there is a possible explanation of it, his father says. It is all due to overeagerness to win.” Given that these were among the main points the judge advised the jury to consider, perhaps they go some way towards explaining the result.
In the end, the jury found that the words complained of by Wootton were not true in substance or in fact, that they were not fair and honest comments, but that they were published without malice, and they assessed the damages at a derisory farthing. Mr Justice Darling granted Wootton costs, holding that the jury had the amount of the costs of the action to the defendant in their minds when returning the verdict. Subsequently, one gentleman of the jury publicly questioned that assumption. In due course, Sievier dropped his appeal in relation to costs and Wootton afterwards withdrew his petition for a winding-up order against the ‘Winning Post’. But to the common man, the whole affair seemed less than a ringing endorsement of the honesty and probity of the English Turf in general and of Dick and Frank Wootton in particular.
When Dick Wootton left England at the close of the 1914 racing season, he genuinely believed that he was finished with British racing for good. His two sons, Frank and Stanley, had reached a modus vivendi and he was able to hand over the keys to Treadwell House to Stanley, knowing in his heart that his younger son was more than capable of continuing his own legacy. Dick had made his fortune. He was leaving a sprawling estate on Epsom Downs that he owned and going home to his Kiacatoo station on the Lachlan. After his years of training horses in the cold of England, he longed for the warmth of Australia. But he was also trying to escape his past.
For all of the magnificent success enjoyed by the Wootton family in England during those golden Edwardian years, it was overshadowed by one dark, tragic event. On 11th of August 1909, in the midst of Dick’s and Frank’s record-breaking season, Kate Wootton had died at the age of thirty-four giving birth to the couple’s fifth child, a healthy boy subsequently named Richard. As much as Wootton would have liked to settle in Australia at the end of 1914 together with his two young daughters and now five-year-old son, the guns of August were to deny him that pleasure. Within a few months of the declaration of hostilities, English racing had been severely curtailed and both Frank and Stanley Wootton had signed up. In 1915 Dick Wootton reluctantly returned to Treadwell House to keep the home fires burning for the duration of the Great War until hopefully, his sons came back from the front.
So much for a colourful digression on the pre-war peregrinations of the Wootton clan. They will reappear in later chapters of this chronicle. However, let us return now to the more immediate business at hand and the background role played by Jack Brewer, Dick Wootton’s good friend and partner, in the breeding of the 1918 A.J.C. Derby winner. In the summer of 1909-10, Jack Brewer and his wife returned to Australia on the RMS Marmora for a holiday and to finalise some family business flowing on from the tragic death of his mother in a house fire in St Kilda some three years before. As we have seen, Ernest Clarke still wished to rejuvenate the Melton Stud and it was during that visit that he gave Brewer a £5,000 commission to purchase a likely stallion and a series of broodmares on his behalf upon the trainer’s return to the Old Dart.
Brewer had already earned a reputation for shrewdness in buying British bloodstock for Australians, long before Clarke’s commission came along. During his first stay in England, Brewer had sent out Ladurlad to the Warwick studmaster, C. E. McDougall, and the son of Ladas proved a great success in Queensland where he got eleven individual stakes winners, including three Queensland Derby winners, before dying prematurely after breaking a leg. Bargains in buying English stallions were constantly proving themselves to Brewer, and among other sires that he sent over to Australia during his first semester in England were Challenger for Jack Smith at Bundoora Park; Rouge Croix for Everard Browne of Cororooke; Andria for Tom Mates of Merriang; and Silent Friend for Peter and Walter Mitchell of Bringenbrong on the Upper Murray. All bar Silent Friend proved successful.
Upon his return to England, Brewer looked around for a likely sire for Ernest Clarke. As it transpired, he didn’t have far to look. Brewer was on very friendly terms with Dick Marsh, who trained for King Edward VII and later published that delightful autobiography, ‘A Trainer to Two Kings’. Marsh trained out of Egerton House at Newmarket and he and Brewer often worked their horses together. Brewer remembered a six-year-old stallion by Flying Fox called The Welkin that Marsh once trained and that used to show great pace on the gallops. For a time Marsh used the horse as a lead for his two-year-olds. Successful negotiations were entered into and for the not princely sum of 800 guineas, The Welkin became the first descendant of the famous Ormonde-Orme-Flying Fox line to be despatched to Australia. Ormonde, of course, was the famous racehorse that gave the Duke of Westminster his first Triple Crown i.e. the English Two Thousand Guineas, English Derby and English St Leger in 1886. Upon winning the St. Leger, the Duke hosted a large celebratory reception at Grosvenor House, his London home. Included among the hundreds of guests were the Prince and Princess of Wales, the Prince and Princess of Prussia, the King of Denmark, the King and Queen of Belgium, the King of Saxony, the Crown Prince of Portugal, the Duchess of Teck and her daughter, and the Queen of Hawaii.
They knew how to celebrate success on the Turf in those days! Moreover, the guest list amply demonstrates just why it was called the Sport of Kings. In her book “Bendor – The Golden Duke of Westminster”, Leslie Field relates that in order for the champion racehorse to attend the reception: “The Lord Mayor gave permission for Ormonde to be walked across London from Waterloo Station through St James’s and Green Park in order to avoid the traffic. As John Porter’s son led the horse along The Mall, a passing cabman enquired with a flourish of his whip, ‘Whot ‘orse ‘ave you there, Guv’nor?’ Ormonde, he was told. ‘Garn!’ he said, thinking he was having his leg pulled, “Oo are yer gettin’ at?’
It was just before the St. Leger that Ormonde had shown the first sign of roaring. John Porter, Ormonde’s trainer, recalled the moment as “the most grievous disappointment in racing he had ever experienced”. After the St. Leger, Ormonde won a further five races, including the Champion Stakes when starting at odds of 1/100. In 1888 Ormonde retired to his owner’s stud at Eaton, where he sired Orme and Goldfinch in his first season. In 1889 he was leased to Lord Gerard at Newmarket where, having caught a bad chill, he was unable to fulfil his stud duties. Upon recovery back at Eaton, Ormonde was sold to an Argentinian breeder for £12,000, the Duke of Westminster publicly stating that as Ormonde, together with both his sire and his dam, were roarers, to keep him in the country would harm the breed.
Nonetheless, in leaving Orme in his first crop, Ormonde did enough to ensure that his blood lived on beyond him. Orme himself won fourteen races including the Eclipse Stakes twice together with the Champion Stakes and at stud sired Flying Fox, the Duke of Westminster’s second winner of the Triple Crown. Flying Fox was the last of the English Derby winners owned by the Duke and trained by John Porter at Kingsclere. Following the death of the Duke of Westminster, Flying Fox was subsequently bought by Edmond Blanc for a record 37,500 guineas at the sale of the Duke’s horses in 1900 and eventually the stallion’s progeny was to be found in all of the important racing countries in the world. Thanks largely to Ernest Clarke and the judicious judgement of Jack Brewer, in buying The Welkin, it was a blood that richly invigorated Australia’s thoroughbred stock.
The Welkin had been a good performer in England. The winner of the Buckenham Stakes at two and the Chatsworth Plate, Royal Stakes and July Handicap at three, The Welkin broke down as a three-year-old and couldn’t be properly trained afterwards. Nonetheless, in his final season on the Turf as a four-year-old, he managed to win both the Finsbury Highweight Handicap at Alexandra-Park and the Portland Handicap at Doncaster. A rich brown in coat colour with two white hind feet, The Welkin stood a trifle over sixteen hands. The horse was despatched to Australia on board the SS Suevic in the company of the first three broodmares that Brewer had purchased for Ernest Clarke from his £5,000 commission. Except for a little rough weather between the Cape and Fremantle, the horses enjoyed a satisfactory trip across the waters. After undergoing a fortnight’s quarantine under William Glasscock’s supervision at Kirk’s Bazaar, all four horses found their way to the Melton Stud.
The three broodmares that accompanied The Welkin, while not raging successes, each made their mark in the Australian Stud Book. The first, Cape Hatteras, a daughter of William The Third and from the stud of the Duke of Portland, produced two winners of principal races in Hathor (1913 W.A.T.C. Karrakatta Plate) and Glaxy (1925 Geelong Cup). The second broodmare, Aristo, a daughter of Cyllene, failed to drop any principal winners but her son Isle of Arran sired Isle of Astur, who was a good horse in Western Australia, while her daughter Marjanah produced the smart South Australian sprinter, Hegemonic. It was the third broodmare of the trio, Wilga, who proved the star of the package when she threw Kanooka (winner of the 1925 A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes and the future dam of Winooka) and the Goodwood Handicap winner, Trillion, and two other principal race winners in Sister Satellite and Welkin Queen. It was a start. In July 1910, Brewer cabled Ernest Clarke that he had purchased six more mares from his commission, for which he had arranged shipping to Australia. This second batch arrived in Australia towards the end of October and as good as Brewer’s first instalment of mares had been, this batch was even better.
Just for the record, let’s go through them. The six mares were as follows: Miracle (1906) by Florizel II from Carim, by Bend Or; Teppo (1908) by Ladas from Dum Dum, by Carbine; Lady Roberts (1907) by Lord Bobs from Wedding Gift, by St Frusquin; Carissima (1908) by Carbine from Jane Seymour, by Royal Hampton; Light (1907) by Eager from No Trumps, by Orvieto; and Sea Anemone, by Florizel II from Sea Air, by Isonomy. Miracle, Carissima and Sea Anemone failed to produce anything of note. Lady Roberts’ claim to fame would lie principally with her daughter, Hyades, who would win both the V.R.C. Oaks and South Australian St. Leger, although another daughter, Asturina, at stud, would produce Hemisphere, winner of the 1925 A.J.C. Villiers Stakes at Randwick.
However, the other two broodmares purchased by Jack Brewer i.e. Teppo and Light would set fire to the Australian Stud Book. I shall leave a discussion of Teppo until the 1927 chapter of this chronicle when the first of her descendants to win the A.J.C. Derby was successful, but Light is the relevant thread here as she represents the other half, to The Welkin, of the breeding match that produced our 1918 A.J.C. Derby hero. I might add that after shipping this second lot of broodmares and covering their insurance and freight to Melbourne, Brewer was able to return Ernest Clarke about £26 of the total commission entrusted to him. As the following pages will confirm, rarely has a better bulk deal been done in the history of Australian bloodstock. Jack Brewer himself, left England and returned to Melbourne for good aboard the SS Mooltan in December 1911. He left behind him in the Old Country a remarkable record. In almost every season that he trained in England, Brewer finished in the top ten of the winning trainers’ list based either on prize money earned or races won. Moreover, Brewer got out on top. Only the previous year had he gained Sir Ernest Cassel as a patron of the stable and among his rising three-year-olds at the time Brewer left England was Cylgad, a colt by Cyllene who would win the prestigious Newmarket Stakes of 1912.
While Brewer’s most significant and rewarding victory for his loyal patrons, William Clark and Lionel Robinson, was The Cesarewitch Stakes in 1907 with the four-year-old mare, Demure, ridden by the young Frank Wootton, there were many other good races as well including the Manchester Cup, Grosvenor Cup, London Cup, Ascot Stakes, St George Stakes, Nottingham Spring Handicap, Ascot Derby Stakes, Newmarket Select Stakes, Acorn Stakes and the Portland Plate. However, despite this impressive list of races won, Brewer was very unlucky with the number of seconds he collected in some of the rich distance handicaps in the Old Dart. For example, in the Newbury Cup alone his horses finished runners-up on four occasions, not to mention other near-misses in the City and Suburban Handicap, Manchester Cup etc. A titled Englishman once asked Brewer how it was that he could win races with cast-offs with which other trainers could not win. “Perhaps I’m a better trainer,” answered Jack with a wry smile.
The closest that Brewer came to winning an English classic was Linacre’s third placing in the 1907 Two Thousand Guineas behind Slieve Gallion. Linacre apart, Brewer’s many winners in England included Rouge Croix, Gingal, Airship, Carita, Roseate Dawn, Best Man, All Black, Challenger, Rushcutter, Joie de Vivre and Laveuse. An important contribution to Brewer’s success on the English Turf was the quality of jockeyship from Down Under that he had available for his stable, thanks largely to Dick Wootton. While Frank Bullock had done most of the stable riding during Brewer’s first stint in England, it was Dick Wootton’s range of apprentices that accomplished it during his second coming i.e. Frank and Stanley Wootton, Willie and Ernie Huxley supplemented on the odd occasion by the visiting New Zealand jockey, Tod Hewitt.
Just to emphasise what a good judge of bloodstock Brewer was, I might mention that despatched ahead of him on the steamer Afric, he had sent out three English-bred colts viz. Eudorus, Blankney II and Syce to be trained by him back in Australia upon renewing his licence. On an earlier ship, he had also sent out Powhatan, a chestnut son of Gallinule and a half-brother to the 1904 English Derby winner, St Amant. All four colts would quickly be sold to interested Australian studmasters who had good cause to respect Brewer’s judgement. Powhatan ultimately did service at Barney Allen’s Dartmouth Stud near Muswellbrook and managed to get both Gambler’s Gold (V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate) and Gossine Hatan (V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes) amongst others. Blankney II, yet another son of Flying Fox, whom he sold to Agar Wynne, got both a Maribyrnong Plate winner in Lady Reynard and an Oakleigh Plate winner in Adrift.
Syce was ultimately sold to C. E. McDougall to replace the defunct Ladurlad and proved a resounding success in Queensland, siring sixteen individual stakes winners include three winners of the Queensland Derby as well as that champion sprinting mare, Molly’s Robe. Eudorus, the fourth of those colts brought across the water by Brewer perhaps offers the most fascinating study of all. Purchased by Robinson and Clark as an early-season four-year-old for 1110 guineas, Eudorus had been a very good racehorse in England and Brewer had almost won the 1910 Royal Hunt Cup with him at Ascot only to find one better in Bachelor’s Double. Robinson and Clark retained ownership of Eudorus when he came out to Australia and Brewer eventually succeeded in winning both the V.A.T.C. Futurity Stakes and the V.R.C. All Aged Stakes with him in the autumn of 1913. Before that Futurity, Brewer remarked to close stable confidantes: “If this fellow does not win, it is no use training horses.”
Sold shortly afterwards to William Thompson of Scone, Eudorus stood his first season on the property bought by William’s sons. Eudorus was also a success at stud and he was most famous for the chestnut colt that he got in his third crop, none other than the champion Eurythmic. Eudorus would go on to sire ten individual stakes winners of 47 stakes races in all, and apart from Eurythmic, his next best was Eusebius, the top Victorian three-year-old of the 1918-19 season. Of course, all that lay in the future when Jack Brewer stepped off the Melbourne docks in mid-December, 1911. Nonetheless, the great man lost no time in paying a visit to the Melton paddocks to inspect the broodmares that he had bought for Ernest Clarke and to see for himself the first of The Welkin’s foals on Australian soil.
In that first season at stud at Melton, The Welkin had been reserved solely for mares belonging to Ernest and Sir Rupert Clarke, including such gems as Sweet Nell and La Carabine. The Welkin’s fame as a stallion was established in a matter of weeks in the spring of 1913 by an astonishing string of wins by the first of his progeny in early juvenile races. Among the winners seen out in that first crop were Spica (V.A.T.C. Debutant Stakes), Achernar (S.A.J.C. Morphettville Plate) and Hathor (W.A.T.C. Karrakatta Plate). The trend continued the following season when the sons and daughters of The Welkin foaled in 1912 included Colugo (The Shorts and the Carrington Stakes), Lesbos (Adelaide Guineas and South Australian Stakes), Starland (Gimcrack Stakes), Three (Fulham Park Plate), Two (Ascot Vale Stakes, Champagne Stakes) and Welkin Queen (Karrakatta Plate, W.A.T.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes).
In the following two seasons, the stream of high-class gallopers continued in the shape of Deneb, Greenstead, Poitrina, Thrice and Wedge. Now, let it not be said that Ernest Clarke was ungrateful to Jack Brewer for the seemingly endless bounty being foaled in his Melton paddocks, many of which carried Clarke’s own colours. As a very sincere “thank you” for his inspired bloodstock selections, Clarke presented Brewer with Wilga’s third foal to The Welkin, dropped in the same 1914 foaling season as the brilliant Thrice. It was a generous gift as Wilga’s two previous foals, Welkin Queen and Sister Satellite, were showing distinct promise. Registered as Trillion and trained by Brewer’s good friend James Scobie and ridden by Bob Lewis, the horse would go on to win the Adel. R.C. City Handicap and the S.A.J.C. Goodwood Handicap in 1919. But I get ahead of myself. For it was one of the colts that were dropped in the paddocks of the Melton Stud in the spring of 1915 that most concerns us here, and a galloper who would prove to be the greatest son that The Welkin ever produced.
Although she had failed in all four starts on the racecourse, Light was a regally-bred mare whose dam was a half-sister to that marvellous imported stallion, Bill of Portland. Light first went to the stud in late 1910, and she was mated every season from that year until 1931 – including fifteen years in succession with The Welkin. Such a pattern of monogamy is highly unusual in life, let alone in bloodstock breeding, but is easily explained in this case by her fourth foal, a bay colt with a white blaze and a haughty carriage that came into the world on 26th September 1915. Some eighteen months later this particular youngster was slated for the annual autumn yearling sales in Melbourne.
It just so happened that in the autumn of 1917, George Greenwood, the wealthy New Zealand pastoralist, cabled Ernest Clarke in Melbourne, requesting that he purchase a yearling on his behalf from his Melton Stud draft that he considered was selling below its value. Clarke consulted with Archie Yuille at the time, and they both agreed that the bay colt by The Welkin from Light seemed a likely candidate. The bay was just then recovering from strangles and had lightened off in condition – not a look that would recommend him to prospective buyers. Accordingly, it was arranged for Harry Chisholm to do the bidding when the youngster entered the ring, and buy him if there wasn’t much interest. Chisholm got him for just 230 guineas. A few days later this son of The Welkin was shipped across the Tasman Sea – the first of what would be fifteen such crossings for the horse. He joined Greenwood’s team of horses in the Yaldhurst stables of Dick Mason.
When it came to naming the colt, Greenwood’s first preference was for Celestial – quite appropriate given that ‘welkin’ is a poetic or literary term for the sky. However, that name was rejected, and Greenwood then opted for Gloaming, meaning twilight and a word forever associated with Scotland because of the song ‘Roamin in the Gloaming’ made famous by Harry Lauder only a few years before. Prepared in New Zealand for early racing as a two-year-old, Gloaming went shin sore before he ever faced the starting tapes. Nonetheless, he showed considerable speed and reports of his ability even managed to reach the Australian press at the time Biplane was cutting his swathe here in the spring of 1917.
But like so many of The Welkin’s stock, Gloaming was inclined to grossness, and Dick Mason arranged to have the youngster gelded before committing him to the spelling paddock. He wasn’t put into training again until shortly before he was sent to Australia in June 1918 in the company of Biplane, and another rising three-year-old maiden galloper in Molyneux. In retrospect, the shin soreness that prompted his lengthy spell at two was the luckiest thing that could have happened, for it allowed the horse to fully mature before excessive demands were made on him physically; as a result, Gloaming was still hale and hearty and racing successfully even as a nine-year-old. Although he gave the appearance of a tall horse, he was pitched low in the front and as a three-year-old was only 15.2 ½ in height, and afterwards 15.3. A long-striding horse and very strong behind, Gloaming possessed a perfect and economical galloping action. Moreover, he had a delightful temperament and loved company, something Dick Mason made sure he had on his travels when he was always accompanied by his favourite pony.
Dick Mason was a past master at confusing the Randwick touts as to the respective merits of his horses, but even he couldn’t suppress the eulogies bestowed on Gloaming before the gelding made his race debut at the September Tattersall’s Meeting. Mason had taken the precaution of entering the horse in both the Novice and the Chelmsford Stakes run on the same card. Reports of Gloaming’s talent had reached the club’s handicapper, for in the Novice he allocated the gelding ten pounds more than his stablemate, Molyneux, and yet both were unraced three-year-olds. The extent to which a handicapper was entitled to take into account the tales of early morning track watchers when framing a handicap excited some comment at the time. However, the issue became academic when Mason chose to scratch Gloaming from the Novice and elected instead for a baptism of fire against the best weight-for-age horses in the land.
Now it is a common enough remark for an owner or trainer to shrug off an impressive performance by one of their horses, with the suggestion that “there is a better one at home”. I think part of this is explained by the natural bravado of the Turf, while part also lies in wishing to downplay already disclosed form. Whatever the motivation, when George Greenwood confided to close friends in the week before the Chelmsford Stakes that he had a better horse than Biplane engaged, most took him at his word. For the cat had already been let out of the bag when the big and robust bay gelding beat his more illustrious stablemate in a track gallop at Randwick some weeks earlier. The touts might not have known the respective saddle weights the two horses carried in the gallop or how lightly each was shod, but it was clear this newcomer knew how to put his feet down.
It is worth recalling the field for that Chelmsford Stakes, and just what it was this unraced youngster did to them. Rebus was the firm favourite, but Mason’s confidence had seen to it that Gloaming was backed into a 7/2 second elect. Considering the company also included Kennaquhair, Estland, Poitrel and Lingle, this was quite a measure of support. The special conditions of the race meant that Gloaming enjoyed a ten-pound allowance and only had to carry 6 st. 11lb. Des O’Connor, a lightweight, apprenticed to Jack Whitworth, was one of the few boys able to ride Gloaming at his handicap weight and got the mount. At the starting post, the big gelding slewed halfway round and as a result, conceded his rivals about eight lengths. But O’Connor soon had him travelling sweetly, and at the half-mile, he was up with the field.
Into the straight, all sorts of runners were being hailed as the likely winner until the white-faced bay horse hove into view on the outside. Gloaming won running away by eight lengths in Australasian record time for the nine furlongs of 1 minute and 52 seconds – clipping a quarter-second off the previous record held jointly by Perkeo and Woorak, both of whom had made their times in the same race. Gloaming might have knocked another second from the time too, had he stretched out over the last half-furlong. The win launched Des O’Connor on a successful career in the saddle as a lightweight, and some readers might remember him in his older years for he remained an occasional visitor to Randwick before his death in December 1961.
It was fortunate for Greenwood and Mason that Gloaming emerged when he did, for Biplane went wrong only a matter of days later and was sent back to New Zealand for a lengthy spell, never to be the same horse again. Everybody now wanted to back Gloaming for the Derby although there remained certain sceptical pressmen who warned that the Chelmsford form might prove misleading. After all, Gloaming was by The Welkin, and his progeny thus far had proven largely to be sprinters and milers. It was argued that with twenty-eight pounds more to carry and three furlongs further to travel, victory couldn’t be taken for granted.
Although Gloaming had won the Chelmsford Stakes easily enough, the race did knock a bit out of him, and for some days afterwards, the horse was off his oats. Consequently, Mason was forced to go easy with him and the furthest the bay gelding went in trackwork at a fast pace leading up to the Derby was over a mile. As noted before in these pages, Dick Mason was a well-known critic of the Totalisator, but on this visit, his opinion of the machine improved. The reason had nothing to do with the efficiency or the size of the dividends that the machine provided, but rather the fact that the roof of the new Tote building on the flat proved to be the perfect vantage point for clocking Gloaming’s final Derby gallops. Some other trainers shared his enthusiasm for the spot, too.
The estimated attendance on Derby Day was 60,000 people, a record crowd and yet another reminder of just how little the War had affected racing in New South Wales. Betting was never heavier, especially in cash, and the abolition of place and concession betting on the Totalisator saw the machine given unprecedented patronage – a new record for Tote revenue was set that day at £73,998/5/-. All this despite a strong Randwick ring that boasted the presence of 145 bookmakers licensed for the Paddock, 139 for the Leger, and 126 for the Flat. Out of the original 416 entries for the race, a dozen horses honoured their commitments for a Derby start, and the failure of the progeny of The Welkin to yet win over the classic distance did not deter the public from backing his only two representatives in the race into favouritism. Gloaming continued to dominate betting discussions, of course, but if his escutcheon were to be blotted, the public considered that Outlook, yet another son of The Welkin and the leading juvenile of the previous season, was the colt most likely to do it.
There was one group of people markedly absent on Derby Day and that was the vice-regal party headed by the Governor of N.S.W., Sir Walter Davidson and his wife, Lady Margaret. They were compelled to follow the example of King George V and Queen Mary, who absented themselves from racing given the unprecedented slaughter taking place on the killing fields of France. However, on Tuesday morning prior to the opening of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, a large crowd had gathered at Randwick course to watch the training gallops and among their number had been Lord and Lady Davidson. A white frost had greeted their attendance and their point of vantage was the top of the Totalisator building on the Flat. And they had to climb a ladder to reach it! It was the first occasion upon which the training operations at Randwick had been witnessed by any Governor since Lord Carrington. Observing that trackwork was their only vice-regal worship at the shrine of horses that spring. Both Sir Walter and Lady Davidson, as well as their two daughters, were keen equestrians and freely indulged in horse riding at “Hillview”, the vice-regal retreat at Sutton Forest. Davidson had arrived in Sydney on 17 February 1918 and was sworn in the following day to succeed Sir Gerald Strickland, who had been recalled by the British Government in October 1917 after a series of public clashes with the Premier, William Holman.
The 1918 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:
Outlook was the winner of five races and £7,481 and was raced by his breeder, James Wilson junior. Although the colt had run second in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington, he only came into his own when he travelled across to Randwick for the autumn meeting. Surprisingly, he was allowed to go to the post in the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes at 20/1 when the public considered the fillies, Palm Leaf and Sweet Lady, had his measure. But when that pair went for each other’s throat, they set the race up for Outlook, and, with a final swoop from the tail of the field, he won brilliantly. Even before this exhibition, Jim Scobie had been after the colt on behalf of the wealthy Victorian pastoralist, S. P. Mackay. He resumed the charge after the Sires’ win, and Wilson put a 5000 guineas price on him, with any delivery after the Champagne Stakes. When Outlook carried the penalty and won that race just as easily, Scobie clinched the deal. Although Outlook had disappointed in the Memsie Stakes upon resumption from his winter spell, his second in the Rosehill Spring Stakes assured the horse had friends on Derby Day.
Apart from Gloaming, New Zealand was well-represented in the Derby. Tom Lowry had sent over Finmark, a homebred and the Dominion’s leading two-year-old of the previous season. This colt had been set a somewhat arduous campaign as a juvenile but had won the Wellington Stakes, Great Northern Champagne Stakes and Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes to stamp his credentials. An attractive red chestnut, he was a brother to Estland, the winner of both the New Zealand Derby and the Great Northern Derby, their dam being a half-sister to the great Bobrikoff, who had carried Lowry’s ‘gold jacket, navy sash and gold cap’ with such distinction. Finmark, like Bobrikoff, was a son of Finland, whom Lowry got hold of after he had finished racing, and he proved a great success at the stud in New Zealand, although he was more noted as a sire for speed than stamina.
Finmark had been installed the winter Derby favourite immediately it became known that Lowry had secured passage across the Tasman for the colt, and he was only dislodged from pre-eminence by Gloaming’s sensational debut at the Tattersall’s Meeting. Gerald Stead fielded two representatives in the Derby in Almoner, the winner of the Breeders’ Plate the previous spring, and Kilmoon, a stylish son of Kilbroney, who had won a ten-furlongs handicap first-up at Rosehill on Guineas Day. Finmark and Almoner had lost some caste for the Derby when they failed to flatter in the Rosehill Guineas, which that year, like so many others, was something of an upset, the race being won rather easily by the 25/1 outsider, Woorawa. Finmark had made the pace at Rosehill, and his failure was excused on the strength that it was his first appearance since April, but Almoner’s disgrace wasn’t so easily explained away. Woorawa, on the strength of his Guineas form, was installed fourth elect for the classic. The only other horse in the betting was Dick Meagher, a last start winner of the Hawkesbury Spring Handicap.
The tactics that Ben Deeley had used so effectively on Biplane in the Derby the year before were given another airing. Some might have harboured doubts about Gloaming’s stamina going into the race, but Deeley wasn’t numbered amongst them. The gelding was a free-going galloper with a natural speed, and it seemed only logical to the jockey to let him use it. It was apparent very early in the contest that Deeley didn’t intend any horse to head his mount, although Outlook momentarily did so near the nine furlongs post, albeit with only a short-lived challenge. Whereas Gloaming ran kindly, Outlook pulled his own chances to bits and was a beaten horse at the end of ten furlongs. Though Finmark put in a fast run in the straight, it was Gloaming that did the better in the final fifty yards.
There were no hard luck stories; there never can be when a horse serves it up from the front in a quick time and then defies all challengers to run him down. The clock told the tale: Gloaming recorded 2 minutes 33 ½ seconds for the Randwick mile and a half, only a second worse than the race record Noctuiform ‘officially’ established in 1905, and never bettered in the years since. However, whereas Noctuiform had a stablemate to assist him in setting his pace, Gloaming had done it all on his own. He did have a strong southerly wind blowing during the running that helped him in the first two and the last six furlongs, but then it helped his rivals as well. Finmark carried Tom Lowry’s famous colours with distinction nonetheless, as he didn’t enjoy a smooth passage and twisted both his front plates. Lowry suffered dual disappointments on that first day of the Spring Meeting, for apart from Finmark’s relegation into second place in the Derby, his champion mare Desert Gold was deprived of the weight-for-age Spring Stakes when Poitrel nosed her out on the winning post.
The Derby was a triumph for the Dominion and for the third year in succession a New Zealand invader had taken the prize. Gloaming might have been bred in Australia, but this was little comfort in a race where the first five place-getters all hailed from across the Tasman Sea. Despite the winner’s expatriate status, the victory was well received by the huge crowd as it usually is when a favourite in the betting. But the crowd also appreciated the sheer class of the performance and the fact that George Greenwood had announced before the event that, if successful, he would donate the equivalent of the first prize of the Spring Stakes to patriotic funds in Sydney. Before the campaign, Greenwood had promised Biplane’s stakes to the war effort.
In announcing that Biplane had gone amiss and wouldn’t be seen out at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, he promised the sum that Biplane would have won in the Spring Stakes to be supplemented by Gloaming instead. Thus, something like £1,000 came out of Gloaming’s purse for that purpose. During the war, Greenwood’s horses raced several times for the benefit of patriotic funds, both in Australia and New Zealand; it was patronage close to his heart given the death of his youngest son at Gallipoli. Greenwood could afford to be generous after the Derby; he considered himself especially fortunate knowing that the race had just been re-opened to geldings, despite some spirited opposition, and Gloaming became only the second of the unsexed brigade to take the race – the first being Bob Ray in 1895.
More than one pressman covering the meeting remarked on the fact that the only owners guilty of such largesse to the war effort at our big meetings were our Kiwi cousins. Tom Lowry, for example, was donating all of Desert Gold’s winnings to New Zealand patriotic funds to be used principally for the upkeep of hospital beds for wounded soldiers. Ernest Clarke must have looked upon the result with some chagrin. The £250 breeder’s bonus that Clarke received from the Derby prize was, in fact, more than he had received for the son of The Welkin at the yearling sales in Melbourne. In having the good fortune to own a stallion as prolific as The Welkin, the crusty Victorian took a somewhat curmudgeonly view towards accepting outside mares to him. In announcing the previous season that outside breeders might patronise the sire with their broodmares, the revised service fee of £500 virtually assured none did. It was a sum that exceeded anything being asked in England – after all, Swynford and The Tetrach had been available the previous year at 300 guineas! Moreover, the highest price paid for any of The Welkin’s yearlings at the previous Melbourne sales had only been 560 guineas. It seemed that Clarke had concluded that he was on to a good thing and, as is often the case on a racecourse, had decided to keep it all to himself.
In winning consecutive Derbies at Randwick, Ben Deeley became the first jockey to do so since Bob Lewis accomplished the feat in 1900 and 1901 during Jim Scobie’s golden reign. While Deeley had failed to pass the medical fitness test of New Zealand military authorities in June, whatever failings the army perceived, went unnoticed in the saddle. Deeley attained prominence as a jockey later in life than most of his calling, but he achieved more and lasted longer. He first became the leading jockey in New Zealand in 1907-08, and together with Hector Gray, he dominated the scales in that country during the second decade of the century, winning another four successive jockeys’ titles from 1912 through to 1915. Deeley was renowned for his economy both in and out of the saddle. He was never known to buy a race card, and in New Zealand, a press clipping of the race-fields was known as a ‘Ben Deeley racebook’.
John Costello and Pat Finnegan in their excellent book ‘Tapestry of Turf’ recall an incident at Trentham in 1921 after Deeley had ridden a great race to snatch victory in the Kelburn Plate on Gloaming after Hector Gray, on Statuette, seemed to have him trapped in a pocket. Deeley was so plied with free drinks afterwards for his exhibition of horsemanship that when it came time for him to take the mount on another Greenwood horse, Egotism, in the last race on the card, he was unfit to mount. Maurice McCarten was substituted and won the race instead. Deeley was as much at home behind the gig of a trotter as he was in the saddle. At the two-day autumn fixture of the Wanganui Jockey Club in 1918, Deeley rode four winners including one dead-heat; while at the Wanganui Trotting Club’s fixture, held on the day in between, he won a double as a driver. After his association with Gloaming ended, Deeley travelled to India and for many years remained a leading jockey in that country.
The connections of Gloaming didn’t bother campaigning the gelding in Melbourne later that spring but opted to return to New Zealand instead. In the champion’s absence, Eusebius emerged as the best Victorian colt of his year. A bay horse by Eudorus, the stallion that Jack Brewer brought back from England, out of that good Maltster mare, Lager, Eusebius was in cracking form that spring, winning the V.A.T.C. Memsie Stakes and Caulfield Guineas before taking out the Victoria Derby in the slowest time for the race since 1900. While Gloaming may have gone back to New Zealand, Finmark who finished a good second to him at Randwick hadn’t and had been widely expected to atone at Flemington. Alas, rather than a testing mile and a half, it was more a six-furlong contest with the field dawdling early. Owned by two Wagga identities in Martin Wenke and Kerry Pierce, the former the licensee of the Pastoral Hotel there and the latter a pastoralist in the district, Eusebius was trained at Caulfield by Charles Wheeler.
Wheeler had grown up in the north-eastern district of Victoria, where he had ridden as a lad. While he might not have had the stellar career of Dick Mason when it came to the classics, Wheeler knew what he was about with a stopwatch and had already trained two Melbourne Cup winners in The Parisian and Patrobas. Wheeler was also a capital judge of a young horse and had selected two Melbourne Cup winners in Kingsburgh and The Parisian for their respective owners. He picked out Eusebius as a yearling too, paying 625 guineas to William Thompson for the privilege of acquiring him from the Yarraman Park studmaster. I might add that when news of the 1918 V.R.C. blue riband was received in Wagga, the bar of the Pastoral Hotel was thrown open free to the public.
Until 1915 it could be said that no winner of the Victoria Derby had ever been wholly prepared at Caulfield, but Wheeler changed all that. He trained Patrobas, the winner in that year at Caulfield, and with Eusebius had now won the race again. Patrobas also won the Caulfield Guineas in his year too, but the historical parallel between Wheeler’s two top three-year-olds didn’t extend as far as the Melbourne Cup when Eusebius finished down the course in the race won by Night Watch. While many considered Eusebius a lucky winner of the Victoria Derby, he did match his blue riband with a red riband the following autumn when he took out the V.R.C. St Leger as well. However, he was never going to be a serious threat to Gloaming and the only significant race he won as an older horse was the 1919 V.A.T.C. Eclipse Stakes.
Gloaming’s triumph on Derby Day at Randwick was merely the prelude to a glittering career on the Turf. Returned to New Zealand without a further appearance in Australia, Gloaming came out a month later to win the New Zealand Derby at Christchurch, and in the summer, he added the Great Northern Derby at Ellerslie. He raced 16 times in his first season, recording 13 wins and 2 seconds. Sasanof beat him in the Stead Memorial (w-f-a 10f) while Desert Gold beat him a neck in the Taranaki Stakes (6f). Whereas Greenwood and Mason dodged Desert Gold with Biplane, no such pusillanimity attended the programming of Gloaming’s races. The gelding and the mare clashed five times in total, and this was the only occasion Desert Gold beat him.
In fairness, by then, Desert Gold was an aged mare and her best days on the racecourse were behind her. Gloaming’s only unplaced run as a three-year-old and the only unplaced run of his entire career, came at his final start that season at Wellington in the North Island Challenge Stakes. Regarded as the best of good things, the occasion demonstrated the inglorious uncertainty of the Turf. As the horses were all lined up at the barrier, the tapes caught Gloaming around the neck and forced him back so that he eventually fell. He took no part in proceedings at all. However, given that Gloaming had lined-up, the rules of racing meant it was recorded as a start – the one blemish on a magnificent record!
At four, Gloaming again competed at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting. He suffered his only loss in seven starts that season when Poitrel beat him by a head in the Spring Stakes (w-f-a 12f) on the first day, but later on at the meeting he won the rich Craven Plate. Before the 1920-21 racing season opened, Gloaming, by then a rising five-year-old, was provisionally sold for 7000 guineas to go to India but the horse failed a veterinary inspection. Consequently, he crossed the Tasman again to compete at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, but one morning after a track gallop at Randwick, the horse bled profusely from both nostrils. Gloaming returned to the Dominion without starting here. It was a shame because his form later that season in New Zealand suggested he was at the very peak of his ability. Contesting a dozen races ranging in distances, from four furlongs to a mile and a half, he won them all.
A similar misadventure occurred at the start of the following season. Installed at Randwick in readiness for the spring, he contracted a severe attack of influenza, and again all his Australian engagements were cancelled. This time he returned home and proceeded to win eleven of his twelve starts that season. His one defeat came about in the Islington Plate at Ellerslie when he had already equalled Desert Gold’s record winning sequence of nineteen and was poised to eclipse it. The upset by Thespian on that occasion was widely attributed to a brilliant tactical ride by Hector Gray. Gloaming certainly had no trouble beating Thespian every time the pair met afterwards. Given that Gloaming won his next nine starts, but for that upset, he might have put together a string of twenty-nine consecutive victories.
The following year of 1922 saw those four celebrated clashes at weight-for-age with Beauford, Australia’s champion gelding hailing from the coalfields of Newcastle, at distances ranging from 9 to 12 furlongs. Beauford was yet another of those champion racehorses who mature late in life. Bred in the ordinary, Beauford was by the 1913 R.R.C. Rosehill Guineas winner, Beau Soult, out of the undistinguished race mare Blueford, a daughter of True Blue. Trained by Sid Killick at Newcastle, Beauford was unraced at two and restricted to tracks on the coalfields at three. The brown gelding really only started to come good at the beginning of his four-year-old season when he won both the Kensington and Chester Handicaps at the 1920 A.J.C. Spring Meeting. However, by the time of his celebrated clashes with Gloaming, Beauford was an established star, having enjoyed a sensational five-year-old season that saw him win eight of his nine starts including both the A.J.C. Epsom Handicap (carrying 9 st. 2lb) and the A.J.C. Craven Plate.
At the time of their clashes, Gloaming was seven and Beauford six, and each carried the same weight. These epic encounters captured the public imagination as never before. There might have been other horses engaged in the races, but nobody took much notice. Their first ‘match’ came in the Chelmsford Stakes when Beauford emerged triumphant by less than a length. A week later Gloaming levelled the score in the Hill Stakes over the Rosehill mile by a bit more than a length. And then the A.J.C. Spring Meeting was upon them. Beauford beat Gloaming by a neck in the Spring Stakes, although the second prize money was enough to see the wonder horse finally eclipse Carbine’s stakes winnings record of £29,626. That finish was captured for posterity in oils by Martin Stainforth, in a painting that now hangs in the committee rooms of the Australian Jockey Club.
Gloaming squared the series on the third day of the meeting with a convincing win in the Craven Plate, their fourth and final race. It was quite noticeable on the day how many of the crowd left the racecourse immediately after that contest. Perhaps those clashes took more out of each horse than imagined: Beauford didn’t start again that season, while Gloaming only turned out once more. The pair never met again, and Beauford only ever won one more race, although he raced on until he was a nine-year-old.
The wonder horse came across to Sydney again for the spring the following year but developed a joint problem that saw him return to the Dominion for a third time without racing here. The problem was enough to keep him off the scene until January 1924. However, when he did come back, he won four of his five races as an eight-year-old and should have won them all. For a horse whose name meant twilight, Gloaming lived up to it by raging against the dying of the light to the very end. Even as a nine-year-old, he won eight of his ten starts, indeed his last eight races in succession and in the other two, coming at the very opening of his 1924 spring campaign in Sydney, he ran second in each. Those victories consisted of the Spring Stakes as well as a third Craven Plate at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting where the old champion was received with rapturous acclaim. Curiously enough, for all his trips across the Tasman, Gloaming only raced once in Melbourne and that came at his very next start in the V.R.C. Melbourne Stakes, which he won rather easily from Whittier and Easingwold. He made history a few days later when he was paraded on Cup Day, thus affording thousands a glimpse of the wonder horse for the first time.
The old fellow carried colours for the last time at the Hawkes Bay Jockey Club Meeting in May 1925 in the Ormond Memorial Gold Cup. Only one horse, The Hawk, a champion in his own right, opposed him at level weights but Gloaming proved superior to his three-year younger rival in race record time. It wasn’t intended to be his last race, but that troublesome joint made him impossible to train thereafter. Gloaming had 67 starts in total for 57 wins and 9 seconds; his stakes earnings of £43,100 established a new Australasian record. When one considers the aborted visits to Australia at the beginning of his five, six and eight-year-old seasons when he was in cracking form and the superiority of the prize money available here compared to New Zealand, with a little bit of luck his stakes total could have been so much more. As we have seen, together with Desert Gold, he shared the Australasian record of nineteen consecutive victories. It was a record that was to last until Saturday, 28 April 2012 when that champion sprinting mare Black Caviar posted her twentieth successive victory in the Robert Sangster Stakes in Adelaide. Testimony to Gloaming’s speed is the fact that for many years he held the world record of 45 seconds for four furlongs!
Throughout the history of racing in Australasia, the wealth and dominance of Australian buyers and breeders have so often seen so many of the best New Zealand racehorses either bought as yearlings or as older, tried horses, which were then transported across the Tasman to be raced exclusively in the land of Oz and effectively becoming part of this country’s sporting and cultural narrative. Gloaming is perhaps the best example of a horse that bucked that trend. Bred in Australia, he was bought by a New Zealand sportsman, and while he raced extensively in both countries, he regularly and successfully raided the A.J.C. Spring Meetings. Greenwood observed: “Gloaming doesn’t belong to me; he belongs to the people.” Dick Mason enjoyed a reputation for being not only a wonderful conditioner of a horse but for his uncanny judgement in placing them.
Never was this talent better demonstrated than with his handling of Gloaming. Neither he nor George Greenwood ever chose to race the horse in handicaps nor test his stamina beyond twelve furlongs. The two men stuck to weight-for-age and special weight events with Gloaming thereby incurring some measure of criticism, but it was undoubtedly a major reason for the gelding’s longevity on the racecourse. At the end of Gloaming’s career, Dick Mason was asked his opinion as to how he would compare with past champions in New Zealand. Mason replied: “Up to a mile and a quarter, I would without hesitation pick Gloaming as the best horse that has raced in New Zealand, and I have had lots of good horses through my hands. Next best to Gloaming, I would select Carbine, who was trained more for long-distance races and had better chances as a stayer than Gloaming, but if the latter had been trained for distances, I think he would have been able to stay quite as well.”
One can only wonder what Gloaming might have achieved at stud had he been kept entire. Quite a few sons of The Welkin, such as Two, Three, Thrice and Greenstead, proved successful in the stallion barn and yet Gloaming was easily the best horse the imported stallion ever sired. The Welkin died at Melton Stud in 1925 after having been the leading sire in Australia on three occasions, his progeny winning over £284,000 in stakes. The old horse retained a special place in Ernest Clarke’s heart, which was borne out by the extraordinary care taken of the stallion’s neatly railed grave, complete with a headstone, located just inside the entrance gate at the Melton Stud. It wasn’t the only memorial to the champion stallion either. Ernest Clarke presented to the township of Melton a windmill, which drew water from a bore for the benefit of the residents and the windmill bore a brass plate acknowledging the memory of the great progenitor.
Mrs Helene Greenwood, the wife of the owner, in her book ‘Gloaming – The Wonder Horse’, calculated that Gloaming’s fifteen crossings of the Tasman, together with his many travels between Christchurch and Auckland, meant that the grand campaigner had travelled over 35,000 miles in all his pilgrimages. And these were the days when the only means of sea transport were slow steamboats. It really was a case of roamin’ in the gloaming! The old fellow spent his closing years at Teviotdale. In a lovely paddock quite close to the homestead, Gloaming delighted in his retirement. The property boasted nine miles of beach at its eastern boundary and enjoyed five miles of river frontage to the Waipara to the south. If only all retirees could have it so good. He died on May 5th, 1932 after contracting a cold and inflammation of the stomach supervened.
Dick Mason only survived his old favourite by a week, dying at the age of eighty, with the reputation as New Zealand’s finest trainer of racehorses, firmly in his keeping. George Greenwood died in August later that same year, but not without a provision in his will for the erection of a bronze headstone over the grave of his wonder horse. Predeceasing Greenwood, Mason and Gloaming by little more than a year, was the man responsible for choosing both the sire and dam of the champion racehorse to come to Australia in the first place. The Australian Turf lost one of its outstanding personalities when Jack Brewer died at his home at Elsternwick in April 1931. Despite a weakened heart, he had continued to go racing until the very end, although not in harness.
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