Horse Racing – Adelaide and Melbourne (1929-1930)
Dad had trained and driven trotters in Canada when his family lived in Ontario, the home of harness racing in Canada. Two of his horses there, College Gent and Wilbur Lou, raced on track and ice. One of them, College Gent, held a Canadian record.
(In late 1929/early 1930) Dad’s firm closed the Adelaide office (Maytag) when stocks ran out. Outstanding monies had to be collected but this was difficult. One farmer settled by giving Dad two trotting horses, Heatherborn (Borneo-Scotch Heather) and Maori Star (Sandy Hook-Vanora).
(1930 – now in Fitzroy, Melbourne) The old Fitzroy pony racing track was in our new street and not far from the house but our racing needs had to be met at Richmond trotting track which was a couple of suburbs away. Horse-floats, as we know them now, were not in use then so the horses were driven over to the track.
We raced Heatherborn and Maori Star with some success over at Richmond. Maori Star was a versatile horse that raced in the sulky as a hoppled pacer, he was ridden as a hoppled pacer, as race conditions then allowed you to do either, and he could trot fast enough to warrant running him in races for trotters. On the other hand the mare, Heatherborn, was pretty fast and earned her keep. The form of these two horses was good enough for Dad to think about taking them to Western Australia where trotting was doing as well as anywhere.
Horse Racing – Perth (1930-1940)
(Now in Fremantle/Perth) Dad had secured stabling for the horses near the corner of Douro Road and Thomas Street, South Fremantle, which were just about three blocks up from South Beach. I seem to remember that they were racing stables, possibly belonging to a man named Coad. Whatever his name I think he had a couple of good horses there.
If he did not have them then they were at the Marks’ (Bill?) place across the road. Taisho and Second Wind perhaps. Many horses in those days were trained on the beach and kept away from the public eye until race day. Many a coup originated from the beach trainers. Mollett (C?), the blacksmith, had his place in Douro Road. I imagine that they were the Molletts who continued on as the well-known farriers who gave such great service to the racing industry by plating so many horses to be foot fit for race day.
(Now living in Cannington) Our stable team started with Heatherborn and Maori Star, the two horses we had brought over from Melbourne, and soon built as the boxes and yards were made ready. A horse named George Roy owned by Bill Hutchings, a local contractor living nearby in Station Street, came to us from pulling a heavy cart along back lanes.
We came to know the Hutchings family well and were good friends. Over fifty years later I was to meet one of Bill’s sons at a Rotary meeting held in Perth and after realising that our name badges meant something special to each other we had a good chat about horses. Bert was Inspector-in-Charge at the Mounted Police Academy located out at Maylands and later Superintendent in charge of Transport. He was awarded the Australian Police Medal in the 1987 Honours List. He retired in 1988 and his horse retired with him to the paddock.
George Roy was placed in State Handicaps and other races but found it hard to win a race because of his habit of pulling very hard. In his first race he pulled himself to the front by sheer strength. My Dad was strong and had powerful arms and wrists, but when George Roy decided to go you just hung on and let him go. In this race at Perth’s Brennan Park (now Gloucester Park) the horse was a long way in front when he came around towards the horse entrance to the track and he decided it was far enough. “Big George” tried to run off at this point but Dad got him back into the race and he caught the field up again. He then ran wide on the turn and broke his gait but again he was settled down to finish on and run a good third, beating his handicap mark (2.40) by ten seconds.
One night at the Fremantle track when doing a fast preliminary, as often was his own inclination, he crashed into the fence trying to avoid a horse which had slipped and fallen. Both Dad and the horse were pretty tough and the horse took his place in the field to lead for most of the race only to tire in the last little bit to run third. Fifty pounds the stake for the winner and ten for third. George Roy was seven years old and by Globe Roy out of Illillawa.
During the school holidays we were kept busy helping Dad with the horses. We had built up our team during 1931 and Dad was setting the best horses for the important races ahead. The horses we owned then included Dainty Princess (Sandy Hook-Van Lassie), Rex Lad (Rex Boy-Dam by Sir Harold), Ascot Derby (Prince Derby-Lady Chimes), Peggy Borneo (Borneo-Sparkling Wilkes mare), Gertie Hawk (Goshawk-Unknown), Princess Borneo (Borneo-Pygmalion), Van Lassie (Van Tromp-Patchen Bells mare), and Ascot Derby who was by Prince Derby out of Lady Chimes. Several of these horses including our champion, Dainty Princess, were South Australian bred. The Borneos were bred by John Young of Warnertown, South Australia. Rex Lad (formerly named Rexona) came to us from John Andrewartha of Moonta in South Australia. In one of those odd coincidences that crop up in life stories, my future father-in-law was to tell me when I first met him in Perth in the 1940s that he was born in Moonta where his father had a soap factory.
Cecil was fifteen and I was twelve. Our help with the horses was a mixture of fun and work. The stables had to be kept clean and the horses had to be fed and watered. We had to give a hand with these jobs and also with the track work. Our half-mile track, on the other side of William Street, would be occupied for two hours or so on most days as we jogged our team, which was now without Heatherborn and Maori Star. Their good form had attracted buyers and they had been sold to help us keep our finances going okay.
We would use jog carts, driving one horse and leading another. Now and then we would work the horses in track spiders, and this gave us the opportunity to let our favourite horses stretch out a bit. Dad usually fast-worked the horses on our track or at the trotting track in Perth. Saturday night was usually race night. When the meeting was held at Brennan Park (Gloucester Park from 6 November 1935) we would leave home during the afternoon on the ten-mile trip to Perth. We would keep the horses going at a steady pace, so that we would be at the course before sundown. Sometimes we would have to hustle them up a little, if we had a runner in the first race. We would all drive one horse into the track and lead one as well if we had four or five horses racing.
When the horses had been through the gate and put into the stalls I would leave Dad and Cec and make my way around the river side of the trotting ground and watch the races high up on Scotchman’s Hill. The Hill bordered on Waterloo Crescent and Nile Street. It was an area on the gasometer end of the course. It directly overlooked the bends running out of the back straight and into the home stretch. There were bookmakers there and if you had a fancy you could put as little as sixpence on. I remember one night when I backed a winner called Golden Gaby at 10/1. The mare was trained and driven by a friend of Dad’s, Arthur Winton.
When the races were about finished for the night I would have to rush back to the horse gates and get let in by the kindly man on the gate. We had to light our hurricane lamps and hook them onto our spider or cart, and then make our way over the Causeway in the midst of the trotting and theatre traffic. There were cars, buses and trams. Dad always told us that horses had the right of way and we were not to shift if someone tooted us. The traffic was never at a fast pace over the Causeway so we had no need to shift over unless really necessary or it was the police, fire brigade, or ambulance. The road edges were a bit ragged and we did not want a horse to stumble or fall and do a leg, or for us to be tipped out. We had an occasional scare but came to no harm.
The trip to and from Fremantle worked the same way, except that we had to leave early Saturday morning. Usually we had a runner in the last race at Fremantle so we were always late away from the course. I can remember a later year when we won the first and last race with a horse called Black Deceiver at good odds. From Fremantle to our stables at East Cannington was 18 miles so it would be well into Sunday morning before we got home, tired and sleepy, and sometimes cold and wet. It was all part of my life and I still like to remember it as a reminder of the past.
We won our fair share of our races during 1931 with Heatherborn being the most successful. I remember her winning one night and paying 6/- for a win and 6/- for a place on the 5/- tote. Two nights later she won again and paid 7/- and 7/-. Not much profit there. The stakes were nothing to write about either but you made ends meet one way or another and therefore a good offer for a good horse always had to be looked at despite the sentimental feelings you had for the horse. We all missed Heatherborn when she went.
Our best horse was Dainty Princess (Sandy Hook-Stella Huon) who was bred by Mr J Hill of Port Pirie. Racing as Dainty in South Australia she won 18 races in moving up through the slow classes. The mare was nearly seven years old when she arrived in Perth early in March 1931. In her first seven starts for Dad she won three times. Fred Kersley drove her in her first win here which was in a 2.25 class race. Dad gave her a short spell and then she came back for the 1931/32 season. She hurt her knee in September but recovered after Xmas. In her next eleven starts she had three wins and four placings.
Dad drove Dainty Princess to a good win early in the 1932 year when the mare won the Moora Handicap over a mile and a half on 23 January. She started off 36 yards behind and took the lead after the first lap going on to win by two yards. She paced at a 2.19 rate and started at 4/1. The 5/- tote paid 35/- and 10/-. Dad had nominated Dainty Princess for the 1932 Easter Cup which was to be run on 26 March, and the mare’s continuing good form made him pretty happy. Early in March he had the bad luck to injure his hand in a stable accident, and it was necessary for him to engage a replacement driver for the warm-up races and the Cup. Dainty never put a foot wrong with her new driver, Charlie Priddeth, and won her next two races.
The Easter Cup carried a stake of 400 pounds from which the second horse was to receive 60 pounds, the third horse 21 pounds and the fourth horse 9 pounds. The two heat winners were allotted fifty pounds each. The winner of the Cup final would therefore get 260 pounds if it won a heat, and 210 pounds if it did not. The race was for horses handicapped 2.19 and better, and it was down to be run over one mile and three furlongs. The heats were to be run early in the night and the final was made the last race.
Dainty Princess won her heat well, starting at 4 to 1 after heavy backing for another horse. She went 2.17 to win the final at the short price of 5 to 4 on, after 5 to 2 had been bet early. My Dad missed out on the winning drive but had the pleasure of receiving the Cup trophy. It was a silver coffee service donated by the WA Trotting Association (WATA), and presented to Dad by the Lord Mayor, Sir William Lathlain.
It was Dad’s most memorable occasion in his association with the trotting world. His mind would probably have had to go back about twenty years to recall another similar moment. It was way back in 1914 that he drove College Gent in a record-breaking performance in Ontario, Canada, when that horse ran a 2.6 mile rate which was the fastest time recorded for Canada and for North America.
The popular sporting paper the Call summed it up in these words, “Most of the credit for the condition which enabled Dainty Princess to successfully contest the heats and final of the Easter Cup undoubtedly goes to her owner and trainer Wally Cash who has gradually improved this mare from the slower class of pacer”. “A measure of praise must also go to Charlie Priddeth who had the mare in his charge for three weeks before the event.” Well said!
Back at the stables things were going O.K. but Dad was not set on spending another winter at East Cannington. Water tended to lay on the ground after heavy rains because of the clay soil. Mum and Dad decided that we should move to Perth and have a house and stables close to the trotting ground. It should be remembered that there were no flash horse floats in those days. Dad told us once about Fred Godecke from North Beach who mounted a two-horse detachable “float” onto an ordinary truck each race day and then took it off after the trots. I like to give my Dad the credit for building, in the mid-thirties, one of the best of the earlier floats to be towed behind a vehicle. It surely was the first float ever towed behind a La Salle V8. I remember him drawing up his plans for it. He did most of the work himself but had some help from the local blacksmith and his anvil and forge.
In May 1932 Dad rented stables in Bay Street (Note: now called Erskine Link) which ran south off Hay Street East, right opposite Queens Gardens and Hale Street. It was decided to reduce our team as it was costly to keep a big team going, and there were the limitations of the smaller stable area we now had. The stake money we had won in the good times of 1931/32 would help us through the off-season winter months but it would not last forever. New plans had to be made.
A real highlight when we were living at 300 Hay Street was the preparation of “Lady Peggy” for the 1932 Royal Show in October. She measured about ten hands and was a midget when standing alongside any one of the other horses in our stables. The three years old filly was trotting-bred but the details of her sire and dam have been lost with the passage of time. She is not listed on WATA records and therefore there is an element of doubt about her antecedents. However, the lack of registration could have been a registration oversight by her breeder. In the 1920s and 1930s the breeding details were often less informative than they are now. A sire was always named but the dam might be shown as a “Patchen Bells mare”, as in the case of Van Lassie’s registration, or “Dam by Sir Harold” for Rex Lad. Gertie Hawk was listed as sired by “Goshawk” from a dam “unknown”. From much later times I can remember a galloper being registered, and raced, with the name “The Fluke”. The horse was by an “unidentified sire” out of an “unidentified mare”.
Bred on the wrong side of the blanket or not, “Lady Peggy” showed Dad enough form to warrant a set of harnesses being made for her. It included a set of hopples which she settled into after a short breaking-in period. Once she showed a bit of form in the exercise yard we put her into the mini-spider Dad had ordered for her. She soon got used to that and we were ready to put her on show. We had young Roly, now nearly nine years old, ready to do the driving. He looked good with our race colours up when we took Brownie camera photos before we set out for the Showgrounds. Dad had hired space in the Sideshow Alley area and we erected a tent with ample space to walk and jog “the smallest trotting horse in the world” around and around for the many spectators who paid one shilling to come in and see the little filly. Children’s Day, Thursday 6 October was a big day. I think the young kids only had to pay half-price. One feature of Lady Peggy’s performance was a lap or two of the track at the Showgrounds before the trotting races. The photos of her from the Show and those taken at home, one alongside George Roy and the other in front of the advertising banner for the tent, are in the EDC collection.
The stable team around Show time included Dainty Princess, George Roy, Princess Borneo, and Van Lassie. About two weeks after the Show, Dad started to give Princess Borneo her first lessons as a hoppled pacer. She took to the straps alright, but a week later she tangled herself up and fell down on the Brennan Park track. Dad was tossed out and finished up with an injured wrist and slight concussion. I remember him home in bed feeling badly about the fall, because he would not be up and about for a couple of weeks. When he did get up he had to go easy. He could not drive for another fortnight. Other drivers helped work the horses on the track. Charlie Fraser and Andy Sheahan were two.
Cec and I kept things going at the stables while Dad was laid up. Dad gave plenty of advice at the bedside for the horses had to be exercised around the streets, if they did not go to the track. The riverside (Langley Park) was one spot I favoured for a workout area. There was only one or maybe two intersecting roads.
I was quietly riding Dainty Princess along this stretch one day, when the mare “spooked” as a dog barked at her. We were up at the western end and she took off at a breakneck gallop heading for the Causeway. It was a case of sit there and hang on. I remember her galloping across one road, perhaps the end of Victoria Avenue. I let Dainty have her head till she started to calm down and then pulled her up near the back of the Ozone Hotel (now replaced by the Woodside Oil complex). When we both had settled down again I rode her home and told Dad the whole story. He checked her out and gave her the O.K. Later in the week he had her back on the track. We used to swim horses in the Swan River two or three times a week. The trotter, Van Lassie, was given one hour of knee-deep walking exercises every day for several weeks. The swimming did her good as she improved her mile rate by some seconds when given a hard track trial. Small river sharks had given trouble to some trainers when swimming horses but we never had any real problems, except for scares when a horse shied at something in the water.
Holding horses out to grass on street verges and in back lanes was another job we had to do. The horse would slowly crop its way along the grass having a good feed while we relaxed against its shoulder. You could get careless as the horse moved about, and it was a painful awakening when the horse stood on your foot. It was an experience that soon taught you not to madly pull your foot out from under. You had to “bite the bullet” as you reached down and lifted the offending hoof out of the way before you moved your own foot. Helping out around the stables did not take up all of our spare time. We would often go down to the Swan River to put our canoe into the water. It was homemade from old sheets of roofing iron and some pieces of board. A few nails and a pot of tar kept it all together for a while.
We had gone fairly quiet with the horses during the year but added some new ones. Five of them were Syd Mauritius, Coonardo, Alby Borneo, and Peter Marvin (Marvin Chimes-Bonny Rose) which was leased from a friend of Dad’s, Jack Baseden, who bred the horse at York. It was about this time that Bill Gibaud who came over with us in 1930 was in the news again. His mare, Little Edna, was disqualified for twelve months for inconsistent running. The Call newspaper pulled no punches, “Little Edna’s form has been consistent. The decision is amazing. If Little Edna deserves 12 months some other performers in recent works deserve life and fifty years after”. On appeal the disqualification decision was overturned, and rightly so.
There were other trotting families living nearby (on Herdsman’s Parade, Leederville/Wembley). Arthur Hough, a leading trainer and driver, was at No.3. He had that great horse, Adonaldson. His son, Fred, went on to become both a good driver and trainer. The Liddelows were our neighbours at No.5 and on the other side at No.9 we had the Reg Fleming family. We came to know them well. Reg was a trotting man and had some good horses, Silver Emblem was one, to carry his colours, red with a black band. Mrs Fleminq was a nice lady and we liked visiting them. Thea was the daughter and she later married Bill Higgs. I came to know him well when he joined the Yokine bowling club sometime in the 1960s. The son was Ron, a solidly-built lad, who used to work their horses with us. We were close to Monger’s Lake so we rode the bush tracks till we were on the slopes overlooking the lake. We then cut back to the Harbourne Street dead-end at Scaddan Street, close to Grantham Street. We would kick our horses and gallop flat out down the hill on a wide sand track yelling at the horses and each other. Good fun! Happy Days!
Champions of the turf were idols. I was fortunate to have lived in the days of that great horse of the 1929/1931 years, the one and only Phar Lap. I was only 11 when he won the Melbourne Cup in 1930 but, young or old, everybody had heard of “Big Red” and jockey Jim Pike. In his two-and-three-years old seasons Phar Lap raced nine times for one win and one second. He never missed the money in his next forty starts till his eighth placing in the 1931 Cup as a five-year old. In the forty starts, all in the best fields, he won thirty-five top-class races. Fourteen of his wins were in succession and this great run of wins included the 1930 Cup when he lumped nearly 10 stone yet won by three lengths. It was really a great effort with 9st 12.9lbs (63kg) to carry over the two miles.
The champion dominated the betting starting at 11/8 on. The bookmakers offered fancy prices about most of the other starters. One 1930 Cup story that has stood the test of time after being handed down from one Cup to another I pass on to you, author unknown. A woman punter asked a bookie, “What price First Acre?”. The horse was already quoted at 100/1. The bookie smiled and replied to her “Lady, what’s the smallest coin you have in your purse?”. She searched her purse and came up with a thrippeny bit (3 cents). The money changed hands and the bookie handed her a ticket. “Here you are lady, 500 pounds to 3d, and good luck”. A 40,000 to 1 wager and First Acre, ridden by T Webster, did his best but ran sixth.
Phar Lap’s last race here was the 1931 Cup in which he finished eighth with 10st 9.9bs (68kg), including Jim Pike, on his back. It was a big weight and someone should have rung the RSPCA. The race was won by a horse carrying 4st (25kg) less than Phar Lap. I have had to wonder about some turf club handicappers over the years. They have often weighted good horses out of big races to the advantage of horses kept under wraps till the Cup weights were declared. Some people call them “a rod in pickle” and I like to call them “smokies”. It made it difficult for a champion horse to win one Melbourne Cup let alone two. Since 1861 there have only been four horses win the race twice. They were Archer, Peter Pan, Rain Lover, and Think Big. Worth knowing for the net quiz.
When you become involved with the racing of horses it is easy to get to know and remember the names of horses and their jockeys and trainers. Your brain seems to soak up this information like a sponge. I can easily remember that a prominent trotting reinsman named Harris used to wear glasses under his goggles when he raced My Pal and Seattle and other horses. Unusual and worth recalling. The racing journalists kept us informed on the lives of sporting personalities and the deeds of the horses they raced, trained, or rode. Even the bookies and the demon punters made the front page.
Recently a racing magazine ran an article on Lou Robertson, a top Victorian trainer noted for successful coups, under the heading, “The Wizard of Mordialloc”. My instant mental reflex was, “They are wrong”. That title belonged to Jack Holt who lived at Mordialloc where he trained the 1933 Melbourne Cup winner, Hall Mark, and other good horses including the very good sprinter and weight-for-age horse Manrico, which won the Linlithgow Stakes.
Lou Robertson lived and trained at Aspendale, about 25km south of Melbourne, where he produced many good winners, and successfully brought off betting plunges with such horses as the filly Zonda, High Road, and the 1935 Melbourne Cup winner Marabou. His No.1 jockey, Keith Voitre, was later killed in a race fall.
The ABC has always provided listeners with top-class commentators since Mick Ferry became the ABC’s regular caller in 1933. Earlier the ABC may have had an “occasional” caller for Cups and other important races. I have heard all the top race broadcasters after Mick Ferry but I just do not remember him. During the war he was succeeded by Lachie Melville.
The best of all was Jim Carroll who called the races from all the Melbourne courses. A big man with a deep, well-modulated voice he gave a new lift to the sporting programmes. He called his first Melbourne Cup in 1934 when Peter Pan won his second Cup, and his last when Rainbird won in 1945. I do remember his 1936 call when in the run of the race listeners were unsure about the winner as the horses neared the winning post. In an excited voice he called, “It’s Wotan. Wotan wins the Cup”. It was Wotan at odds of 100/1.
In his day you had an early cross to the course to hear his call of the field and the jockeys, and then he would talk about having had a few words with a trainer or owner earlier on or draw your attention to particular racing people passing by his box. It was all part of a good presentation that has not been equalled since. Next to Jim Carroll I would rate Eric Welch, Lachie Melville who started in Sydney in 1943/44, “London to a brick” Ken Howard, and then Keith Gollan, Bert Bryant, Joe Brown, Geoff Mahoney, Johnny Tapp and Jimmy Chadwick. My favourite trot callers have been Reg Russell, George Grljusich, and Jimmy Chadwick again.
Today’s ABC turf racing service is changing. It acts more like a TAB betting service. You miss the first call as the horses sort themselves out as the studio voice cuts in with “favourite numbers” horses for the race. As the horses pass the post you get the probable 1,2,3 placings but that’s all till you get “divvies” from the course. In a tight finish between two or three horses you often do not know the winner till dividends are advised, and sometimes you even miss out there if they are given hurriedly. As a non-punter these days it does not worry me but to punters it must.
The ABC’s seeming extension as a TAB information agency grows on me now as it crowds in information and dividends for races at Geraldton or Kalgoorlie or Albany, and there has been some talk of now adding Darwin to the list. In the old days there was no betting prices information allowed to be given before or after a race and you had to rely on your starting price (SP) bookmaker for the details. It must be said that the SP bookies, illegal for a long time, had a very well-organised system for race information and betting prices and the punters were serviced pretty well by this. Today we have TAB agencies, which were never to be permitted near the hotels, right alongside hotels, with the latest proposal being for the installation of TAB computer terminals in hotels and licensed clubs. It may not be long before the ABC goes all the way and pensions off its current commentators like Geoff Mahoney, Greg Miles, and Max Simmons, and takes the race calls from one of the commercial stations. If they do that an historic era in racing will end, and Lachie Melville, Jim Carroll, and Keith Gollan, will turn over where they lie.
In 1936 Cyril Angles, the race broadcaster for Sydney’s 2UW, was in the news when a racing club tried, by court action (Victoria Park Racing & Recreation Grounds Co Ltd v Taylor), to stop Angles and his station from broadcasting descriptions of the races conducted by the club. The plaintiff club submitted that the conduct of the defendant, 2UW, was unfair to them because 2UW made profits for itself and caused the club loss.
In dismissing the application the judge said that from his view of the evidence he concluded that there were persons who did not go to the races because of the broadcasts, but these appeared to be persons with little interest in racing spectacles. They were persons addicted to betting who found excitement and suspense in following the broadcasts… The loss to the plaintiffs was caused by the choice of listeners who decided against going to the races. Costs were awarded against the plaintiffs, the Victoria Park Racing and Recreation Company.
The excitement of the Widgie (Widgiemooltha to Norseman cycle race on 22 August 1937) was followed a few days later by the glamour of the race meeting celebrating the revival of the Coolgardie Race Club. I had been down to the racecourse which was on the western side of the town close to the main road to Perth, when they were preparing the course for the big day. The local baker, Jimmy Nicholls, had Crystalene and other horses in training and worked them on the course. His regular jockey was Bill Dennis and he had an apprentice, Alan (?) Lynes. Jimmy raced his horses at Kalgoorlie and now and then took Crystalene to Perth to run. He took part in the revival meeting and raced at the regular Coolgardie meetings that followed. The day was a big success, said everyone who went, but for the Post Office staff it was business as usual. Special trains brought the horses from Kalgoorlie and the meeting was broadcast. Over 1,000 people went to the meeting where a dozen or so bookmakers fielded. A big day for Coolgardie.
The first Tuesday in November had arrived and Cup sweeps had been run and drawn and hopefuls were waiting to collect. My few coins were on The Trump (Manfred-Koanie). He had been skillfully placed by his trainer, S W Reid, and after the weights were declared the horse showed form. First up he won a six-furlong (1,200m) sprint and then the Malakoff Stakes (9f) in which he finished on well to win easily. The Toorak Handicap run over one mile had always been seen as a good guide to the Caulfield Cup and the Trump pleased his connections when the Toorak became his third win in a row.
The Caulfield Cup was his next target and it was set down for the third Saturday in October. The Trump had been well-backed by his owner, a chap named Eccles, for his three wins and in the pre-post betting for the Cups. The big day came for the running of the Cup at Caulfield but no horse ran anywhere. Rain had soaked the track overnight and looked likely to continue so the Committee decided to postpone the race till the Wednesday. It was the first time a Cup had ever been postponed. There were problems for everybody. The decision gave the trainers and the jockeys some real worry. Horses had been prepared right to the minute for a Saturday run. Also the riders had been sweating and fasting to get their weight spot-on for the Saturday. The Trump was not affected, he may have benefitted, for when the horses came around the turn and raced to the post he threaded his way through the field and passed the leaders fifty yards from the finish. He went on to win by half a length. The handicapper did not miss him after that win and he was given a penalty of 10 lbs (4.5kg) for the Melbourne Cup. The connections planned to run him in the L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes weight-for-age race on the Saturday before the Melbourne Cup in preference to that good Cup guide, the Hotham Handicap, which was the last race on the Stakes Day card.
The Trump was a small horse in height but had good length. He had strength and was bred to stay being by Manfred out of Koanie. The brilliant but erratic Manfred was by Valais who sired Heroic, and Koanie traced back through Spearmint to the great Carbine. It sometimes happened that trainers had their Cup horses buried in the field when running in the Mackinnon Stakes in the hope that a better shade of odds for their horse in the Cup might be secured. That was not the way for owner Eccles and trainer Reid. The Trump did not let them down. The tough five-year-old again defeated all comers and was now ready for the big one, the 1937 Melbourne Cup.
The rest is history. The Trump (11/2 Fav), ridden by Ashley Reed, stormed home to win by half a length from two outsiders, Willie Win (NZ) and Sarcherie, then came the other 25 runners. My humble two shillings (20c) each way returned me a profit of 15/- ($1.50) at the SP shop. The race program planned for The Trump, for the horse’s six successive wins to the Cup victory, has always had my admiration. The placing of the horse was perfect. It has been my guide when looking for Cup prospects. Winners are always hard to find but many a good playing placegetter has turned up.
I have given a lot of lines to this one horse because he was one of my idols. He raced in a time in my life when I had developed a keen interest in Melbourne and Sydney racing and in the breeding and naming of horses. One of my other champions had begun his racing career in 1937 and had run well in the spring carnival, being placed in the AJC and Victorian Derbies. He was the outstanding colt, Ajax, by Heroic out of Medmenham, but more of him later.
Winning or losing the workload is the same in the harness racing game. Dad was having some success with the horses but mainly in the country. There the stakes were low but you could still get a few pounds out of backing them. Ron Fleming and I used to work our horses together around the western side of Monger’s Lake and then down the northern sand slopes at the Harbourne Street deadend. For track work we would go into Gloucester Park.
We had acquired a new horse in Kola’s Son and he was as big as an earlier giant, George Roy. He stood close to 17 hands (about 1.7m) and was a beautiful chestnut stallion. I was always wary of stallions for they were moody and sometimes got real cranky and were liable to bite the hand that fed them. Some are no trouble and Kola’s Son was one such horse. I used to ride him into Gloucester Park from Herdsman’s Lake when I was on holidays. Track work done we would then travel back along Wellington Street in all the early morning traffic. People would have a second look at “Big Red” for he really looked great. On one occasion as we passed Forrest Place I had to take a hard hold of him when a car backfired and he reared right up on his hindlegs, and startled nearby pedestrians. I soon found out that he could always put on a show like that if he had some help. Over the next couple of trips I was guilty of making him do a repeat performance in the same spot near Forrest Place. It is done with the Spanish white horses, so why not chestnuts?
The local baker (in Coolgardie) was a chap named Jimmy Nicols who had a few race horses. He was a man about my size and may have been a jockey in other days. We sometimes had a bit of a yarn about pacers and gallopers so he knew that I could ride. His race jockey was Bill Dennis who worked at the bakery and his apprentice was a young fellow named Alan Lynes. I cannot recall if Alan Lynes went to Kalgoorlie or what, but Jimmy asked me if I would help work his horses at the local track. He had a good horse in Crystalene and maybe had Viastra but I do not remember the others. Jimmy used to take Crystalene to the Kalgoorlie races and occasionally down to Perth where he did well. The Coolgardie races were to be held in the middle of April and he must have been a rider short for early morning gallops. Well, I was pleased to be asked and I thought about it for a while and how I could work it in with my 9am work start. I decided that I would give it a try but before the day was out my whole situation changed.
My horse racing hobby was leading me to a winner or two (in Norseman in 1938) when I decided to have a bet. Two horses that I can recall following for some success were Rex Felt (Spearfelt-Millieme Miss) and Giant Killer (David-Lady Kingsburgh). Rex Felt was well trained by Vin O’Neill and was usually ridden by the stable jockey, H Olsen. He won six straight but as two of these were on country tracks one could not always bet on him. He won good races in the city where the prices were better so my few shillings increased from time to time. Giant Killer was a hurdler ridden by “Bluey” Armsden and he was trained by W Burke. He won some good races and my loyalty to him encouraged Stan Quinlivan, owner of the SP shop, to give me the nickname, “Giant Killer”, which among racing followers stuck to me in Norseman. Losers often turned up as well. It was all part of life’s experiences along the way.
Brother Roly was glad to see me back (in Perth in early 1940) for a while as it gave him a chance to have a break from the stables routine and feeding and watering the horses. It was always a busy task for no sooner had one good feed been given to each horse than it seemed time for the next round. Bran, oats, and chaff had to be mixed in specific amounts and sometimes you added a handful of this or that as well. After their training run they liked to have a roll and then they would be hosed down and scraped, and sometimes brushed down.
The horses used to take it all quietly, unless the flies were bothering them, and they would stand there while you worked and talked to them without giving you any of the Mr Ed answers. When you arrived to feed them they would greet you with a friendly, or hungry, whinny and then try to get their rations before you could put it in their bin, even giving you a little nudge to hurry you.
Horse Racing – Kalgoorlie and Perth (1941-1948)
(While at RAAF Geraldton Base in 1941) Back home at 7 Herdsman’s Parade there had been movement at the station for the family had decided to try their luck at the next trotting carnival in Kalgoorlie. It was to be run in conjunction with the annual goldfields racing round in September when the two big races, the Hannans Handicap and the Kalgoorlie Cup, would be run. I had always wrapped up Kalgoorlie as the place to live and where we might win some races, so Mum and Dad packed their gear and headed for Kal with Roly. The horses were loaded onto the train, and the family crammed into the old Bean ute and were off.
There were a few minor problems along the way but bad trouble struck them about 90 miles (145km) from Kalgoorlie (roughly halfway between Yellowdine and Bullabulling). The steering failed and the ute ran off the road and into the bush. Nobody was hurt but there they were stranded in a remote spot and needing help. Dad knew cars but still needed a mechanic. Luckily, a truck came along but there was nothing its driver could do for the Bean. He took Mum on to Kalgoorlie stopping on the way to organise help for Dad. Mum had the job, in a town she had never seen before, of getting the four horses off the train in Kalgoorlie and then to the stables rented for the round. No easy task but she was able to get help from the local trotting community almost immediately. Other people were unloading horses at the same time.
Dad and Roly were mobile the next day and arrived in Kalgoorlie late that afternoon. They were to find that once something goes wrong, everything goes wrong. The hard tracks caused a couple of horses to go “leggy” but those that stayed sound had gear trouble in races. The success rate was poor and once the luck had run out the money ran out. There were no easy loans then, “So you want to buy a boat”. It was cash on the knocker and everybody was better off for that system. No. 6,000 bankruptcies in one year like 1988 and mainly younger credit card addicts. Anybody who pays 20% plus interest rates for anything is headed for disaster. You can bargain with cash and buy for a better price and pay no interest.
The family returned to Perth poorer but wiser and returned in 1942 to set up in the tearoom and pastry cook business in Hannan Street (245). Dad and Roly set up a racing program for the horses that would turn out to be successful many times over the next six or seven years before they moved into trotting at Bunbury. Dad had a wide knowledge of the sport and was able to make a really good contribution to trotting in both Kalgoorlie and Bunbury.
In September (1942) I took Norm McCarthy up to Kalgoorlie on leave (from RAAF Pearce). Mum had no spare room behind the shop where I would have normally bedded down so she arranged with Mrs Cruickshank, Kathy’s mother, for us to stay at her Egan Street home. Kathy was now away in the WAAAF. Norm met the younger sister, Norma, for the first time, and they became good friends. We went out to the Kalgoorlie Cup on the Wednesday (9th) and saw the roughie Moorianty, ridden by “Tiger” Moore, win at 50/1. The trainer, “Bunny” Hyde, was said to have declined a 100/1 odds offer from a generous bookmaker.
Norm and I did not go out to the “swy” (two-up). We saved our money for the races and trots, as we did not have too much anyway. At the Saturday night trots we went to see my Dad and his horses in action at the Goldfields Trotting Club meeting. He ran places with Broad Harmony and Speedy Logan. A week later, on the 16th, he won with Broad Harmony at 6/1, paying 16/1 on the tote. There were funny totes in those days, but we didn’t mind.
In the last race, when we gave Speedy Logan the big chance, the front runner, Wirra Roseitta, fell down and wrecked the race. The horses went everywhere with several down, including Speedy Logan. When you see a family driver tossed out of the spider you get a cold feeling in your stomach as they hit the track.
Dad was the only driver detained in the casualty room. He broke a rib and injured his fingers. He was back driving in a couple of weeks. We had a good holiday but it was now back to Pearce. Norm and Norma always remember that trip well for they became good friends, so much so that after the War they were married. Both of them are still going strong and we see them from time to time at their home in Inglewood.
The 1942 Melbourne Cup saw Norm make Colonus at 100/1 his target. Jim Carroll said it should be 1000/1 but took a few bob at 100/1. The track was heavy and Colonus, from the outside, led throughout, winning by seven lengths from Phocion with Heart’s Desire third. The other surprise of the Cup was that Colonus, which cost only 50 ($300), was heavily backed at 100/1 on course and started at 33/1. He was ridden by the apprentice, Harry McCloud, who later made his home in Perth where he rode with much success. My choice was Velocity but it broke down, and I was out a day’s pay. This Melbourne Cup has a place here because I know that Norm McCarthy will enjoy reliving that day when he reads this page.
Racing and trotting meetings were helping people forget the cares of war and the war effort for the moment and I joined the many servicemen who went to the races to have a day out. I think it was trots one Saturday and gallops the next as all meetings were held in the daylight. Occasionally the Federal Government’s regs under the National Security Act proclaimed raceless Saturdays. Some country trot meetings, and maybe race meetings, were banned during the War. On New Year’s Day 1943 I went out to the Perth Cup meeting at Headquarters (now called Ascot) with the express purpose of putting a fair amount of money on a horse named Temple Chief (Pantheon – Pistyll). He was owned by Billy Mack and was to be ridden by Fred Wright. Some of the money was mine but most of it was for Jim Carroll. We had both seen Temple Chief as the horse to beat. He was bred to stay being by Pantheon which ran third, carrying 9.3 (60kg), in the 1926 Melbourne Cup won by the stayer Spearfelt. He had a nice weight and a good strong jockey in Fred Wright.
Jim was not on leave that day so I was on my own. It was better, for the betting boards had to be watched for the best prices and I could quietly place our money on several bets without having any effect on the odds. The best I got was some 20/1 earlier in the day but closer to race time the odds about Temple Chief began to shorten slightly so I took 16/1 for the rest of our money. One bookie, “Paddy” Fox, I recall, said to me, “Back again, you must know something”. He put his odds to 12/1 and the horse was 10/1 at start time. The rest is history for Temple Chief won by two lengths or so, beating Tropics and the good 3-year old, Pantheist. The stake to the winner that year was no million dollars but just $1,400 and it included ten $16 War Savings Certificates.
Well, the race was run and won and I quietly collected on our tickets (a few hundred pounds) without any fuss or show, and not all at once. With a few hundred pounds (Melbourne Cup winnings) in my uniform pockets I caught a bus back to town and headed straight for the Grand Central Hostel in Wellington Street near Barrack Street. I always stayed there when on leave in Perth and was always well looked after by the redhead at the desk and the staff generally. The first thing I did in my room was to make a check of the money for I had never had so much in my possession before. All OK and nobody had picked my pockets. After tea I was back to the Grand Central where I read for a while and then went to sleep early as I would be catching the first bus back to the base the next morning. I tossed a bit in the night and slept in.
When I did wake I hurried off to the bathrooms for a quick shave and a freshen up. By the time I got back my room had been done and the bed made up. Almost instantly the lady who was sweeping the passageway called me and told me that she had been watching the door of my room till I returned to make sure that no one else went into it. She told me that she had found the money under my mattress (they used to turn them in those days). She was making sure that nothing happened to it. I had completely forgotten it in the rush of getting up and shaving before breakfast, and then getting a bus. I had no hesitation in giving her a pound for her watching out for me and our money. She was happy and I was happy.
The races and trots were still a relaxation with me when I had a bit of leave (from 14 Squadron) so space here for a story or two. The excitement of a trip to the races centred around the horses and the bookies and the racegoers. There were good crowds which included men and women from the services and the variety of their uniforms and those of the allied servicemen were an attraction in themselves. British and American servicemen were there in good numbers and they added colour to the meeting. The Yanks liked to bet and their wagering of many dollars were big alongside our few pounds and shillings. We had no feelings about that and enjoyed their company and conversation wherever we met them here or in the Islands. One or two of them owned racehorses that won a race. One could have been a Jim? Quackenbush. You have to believe it.
(In 1943) Jim Carroll used to invite me home to his house in Bunbury from time to time and I would have a nice couple of days there. Over the years I came to know his wife, Eva, and their family well. Knowing everybody in Bunbury, Jim was able to tell me that the local horse trainer “Sonny” Veale knew what he was about. He was part of the same family as the Veales that I knew at Coolgardie in 1937/38. One of them was a well-known racing cyclist in Perth.
One good horse that Sonny had was Skyro (Olympian-Aplomb). I was at Goodwood Racecourse around August 1943 when Skyro won the fifth and seventh races on the same day. WATC regulation 82 stops that happening on most courses today. In his first win, Skyro carried 9.7st (60kg) and was ridden by the top hoop Eric Treffone, known as “E.T.” long before space movies. An hour later he was saddled up for a second 7 furlongs (1,400 metres) race. He was up a class and carried 9.7st again, this time ridden by young Len Fry, and just won. I backed him both times and had a good day. A year earlier I had been at Belmont Park (opposite Goodwood) when Chanteclair won two races. They were the first and the sixth races, both over ten furlongs. Horses were tough in those days. I remember later days when I backed a roughie called Gay Love (not much chance of registering that name now) at 20/1, and on the tote. She broke through the barrier and did a lap of the course and was then caught and put back in the race, a long race at that. I gave up any hope for my money but the mare came good and won easily. She was trained by Bill Purvis. Remarkable!
They say “horses for courses” but in those days it was “courses for horses”. We had Belmont and Goodwood opposite each other and Headquarters (now Ascot), Helena Vale, and maybe still existing then, Canning Park. The last two clubs often raced on city tracks.
2 November was the first Tuesday in that month in 1943, and it was Melbourne Cup day again. Should I write about death and life in next-door paragraphs? The War was like that and people today, even more so the young, do not grasp that many of the men losing their lives for their country were lads, 18, 19, and 20, who were never able to celebrate that milestone in life, their 21st birthday. They fought and died that we might keep enjoying life as the lads themselves would like it to be. The Melbourne Cup is part of that life. Even on base everything had to go on just the same, with the sorrow and regrets more on the inside than openly.
The 1943 Cup is worth a short mention because the winner was ridden by a jockey in the Army. Pre-race discussions centred on Dark Felt, Skipton (1941 winner), Precept, and Counsel. The first or second night before the Cup the Jockey, Vic Hartney, went on radio in an interview on Radio Australia that would be heard by our forces almost everywhere. The ABC’s “Sporting Round-Up” was the favourite radio programme with all its services listeners.
Vic told the troops that his mount, Dark Felt, could not be beaten and he urged them to get their money on. There were 24 starters, including Temple Chief, the Perth Cup winner earlier in the year, and Dark Felt won by three lengths from Counsel (ridden by WA’s tiny apprentice, young Tommy Unkovich), and my choice, Claudette. I had savers on Temple Chief and Dark Felt but went in on Claudette (by the stayer David), and it paid 3/1 for a place, so no harm done to my bank on the race. Dark Felt was owned by a brother of Charlie Cain, a Perth tailor.
In January 1944 Dad brought three of our horses to Perth with the idea of picking up a race or two. The meeting of 22 January at Gloucester Park was his target. I took midweek leave to give him a hand. My brother Cec, also at Pearce, took the weekend off. On the Thursday we took the horses, Phyllis Pronto, Eventide, and Speedy Logan to Gloucester Park to work them. Thursday was the morning for fast workouts. Dad worked Eventide first. She was a free-legged pacer, that is she paced without hopples. This made her more liable, however, to break under pressure. Dad gave her a good workout and then we took the other two onto the track. Dad drove Speedy Logan, by Globe Derby from Belle Logan, and thereby a full brother to the Australian champion pacer, Logan Derby. For me it was Phyllis Pronto (Nelson Pronto-Red Phyllis).
We decided to race over 2 laps at a pace close to a race time but not as fast. Away we went. I had the rails with the mare and Dad took the one out possy. Horses love to go and so do drivers. It was great to be behind a horse again. It was now a rarity limited to my occasional holiday in Kalgoorlie. The two horses raced head and head for the two laps and that was it. Phyllis Pronto just in front but Dad would have held Speedy back a little. It was a good run by the mare and I suggested to Dad that she was about right for the Saturday night “Breeders Handicap”. We left the track in a confident mood but we hoped it never showed. There were always clockers and watchers there early. I recall we came fairly late.
Saturday came and we were all set. Cec was in Perth with our cash to put on in the ring. I was at the base taking a few doubles with our other two runners that day, and putting a bit more on at the starting price with the station bookie. Cec got set for most of our money at 20/1 but took some 15/1. Phyllis Pronto did not let us down for she led nearly all the way, in a field of 20, and won by nine yards. She started at 10/1 and paid 16/1 on the tote. It was not the same with the other two. Eventide came home hard on the turn but as she went wide on the turn into the straight she broke up and finished out of a place. Speedy Logan did no better for he was slow away off the back mark. He could get left lengths and then take the lead but then no finish. If we had had mobile barriers in the old days he would have won many more races. Some of my pals at the base heeded my advice and won a few bob on the mare. My doubles bets were useless but I had a good win overall. Happy with that good win Dad returned to Kalgoorlie soon after.
On the Saturday (16 March 1946) I was in Melbourne and out at the Moonee Valley races on Alister Clark Stakes day backing a winner or two. Ever the optimist I had backed a real longshot in the opening race, a hurdle, and my horse, Misogynist, had jumped his way to easy victory at 20/1. The clever naming of horses has always interested me so I backed Misogynist (a man who hates women). He was an aged gelding by Regular Bachelor from Maid of Kentdale. One or the best horse namings was for “Bobby Pearce”. He was by Midstream out of Wonder Worker and was named after the Australian Olympic sculling champion. Also “The Dip” by Le Filou. I was quietly minding my own business just before the main race trying for another winner when an airman from Pearce, Bryce Carter, clapped me on the shoulder. We exchanged stories on where we had been over the last couple of years and then talked about the race. He told me he had inside knowledge about a good thing for the race, a horse called Don Pedro. Most of my early winnings went on it but fourth was the best it could do. I am not sure if I would have backed the winner but my favourite jockey rode it. It was Reperio who dashed past Don Pedro and others to win well. He was ridden by Harold Badger, who rode that great horse Ajax to most of his 18 successive wins in earlier years. The motto of this racing story is, “Never listen to urgers”.
I had arrived home (from the War) at the right time for Dad had planned to take three horses down to the trots at Kellerberrin and Trayning. Well I was happy to be in that and away we went on 24 March, in the horse float as I remember rather than the train. We took Gladys D’Or, Vera’s Maid, and Kolect’s Daughter. We stayed with the Hon Secretary of the Kellerberrin Trotting Club, George Cornell, and his family. George, a big man, was the local accountant, and was involved with many local community groups in that capacity. He had a nice property on the main road, just west of the town.
His father, Jim Cornell MLC, was the President of the Legislative Council when he died later in 1946. George went into politics in 1947 when he was elected as the MLA (Country Party) for Avon (later Mt Marshall). He was later a Minister and served twenty years in the Assembly, till he was tragically killed in July 1967. He did not drive but he was cleaning the big car the Cornells had when it rolled down the steep drive of their Scarborough home and crushed him. Quite ironically a replacement new car was delivered to the house while the police were still making the enquiries at the accident scene.
On our first day in Kellerberrin I was standing in the street as I waited for Dad to come out of a shop when I saw our Kalgoorlie car, the Ford V8 coupe, go past heading towards Perth. I hurried into Dad and asked him if he had lent the car to anybody. He had not, so we went straight to the police station and reported the theft. Within two hours the police further down the road arrested the two men in the car, somewhere between Meckering and Northam.
At the Kellerberrin Club’s meeting on 27 March we ran a place with Vera’s Maid after having a few pounds on her. We then backed our main hope for the day, Gladys D’Or, from 2/1 down to odds on. She won well and gave us a better bank for the Trayning meeting on the Saturday (30 March). There were ten bookmakers there and we were hoping that they all would go over to Trayning.
Trayning turned out to be a good meeting for us. We won the first race with Gladys D’Or after backing her in to odds on. The race was over a mile and she was off 40 yards behind. She led around the final turn and headed for home in front and pacing nicely. I was stunned to hear a bookie call out, “I’ll take 30/10 on Gladys D’Or”. The mare would have had to fall over to lose, so I gave the bookie thirty pounds to win another easy ten. She won well.
Later I heard the bookies talking and I realised that the losing bookie had thought that there was another lap to go. This race was the short race on the program and it was only over one mile. We ran the mare again in the third race and she had now been put further back for winning and had to start 120 yards behind. In this race the bookmakers bet good odds against her winning from the back mark and we obliged by having some good bets on her. She started at 3/1 and won well again, so we had another good win. In the fourth race Vera’s Maid was placed but no big bets on her, as we had a better one running in the fifth race. Dad drove a third winner for the day when he won with Kolect’s Daughter which we backed in to even money. Four wins and full pockets. Happy days.
Next day we bid our farewells to the Cornells and thanked them for their hospitality. It was back to Kalgoorlie with the horses. Mum was pleased at the success of our trip and the winnings.
Dad had been hurt in stable and track accidents a couple of times but we had been at Dugan Street three weeks when he hit the dirt again. On 15 June (1946), he was driving our mare Pronedo in the first race when his luck ran out. The press report said it all (NOTE: article referred to not found but other news reports located):
Wally Cash, well-known Hannan St businessman and sportsman, had his left ear almost severed while driving Pronedo at last Saturday night’s Golden Mile Trotting Club meeting.
As he flashed alongside Soltrix (driven by Billy Green) Soltrix tripped and rolled on to the track. Next instant, amid flying hooves and spinning wheels, Cash was catapulted into the path of the following horses, and before he could scramble clear Carlindi (Fred Ellis) trampled over his head. Cash, his ear dangling by a thread, was taken immediately to a doctor’s surgery. Apart from his severely injured ear, he received extensive bruises and abrasions to his hip and was X-rayed.
Racing and trotting families accept accidents as part of the sport but most never lose that anxious feeling in the pit of the stomach when a relative goes down in a race mix-up. Roly also drove in races when he returned from his RAAF service over Europe so we had two to worry about. Elder brother Cec and I had driven the horses in track trials but not in races so we had no trouble. Accidents could happen around the stables from time to time if you did not keep your mind on what you were doing and which of the horses you were handling at the time. Stallions were often unpredictable and one caught Dad out one afternoon in Kalgoorlie.
It was a big chestnut stallion named Palmerston who was known as a so and so. Dad was shoeing him one day when the horse was tied up to the wall. He was working on the near side front foot with his back to the horse when around came the horse’s head and Palmerston sunk his teeth into Dad’s back and tossed him across the yard. A quick tie of the hitching knot had not been good enough. The awful bruises showed up black and blue and yellow for many months after. Other horses we owned were Nemarluk, Tom Tom, Speedy Logan, and Queens Parade which raced in my own registered colours of blue with red and white bands and red cap. Dad’s set of colours was brown jacket with grey spots, not too conspicuous.
We used to go out to the trots for most meetings where it was a case of you win some, you lose some. It takes just as much work to train and to feed losers as it does winners. Overall you stay ahead if you can win at a decent price but in Kal when your horse was ready to win the news seemed to get around. Although Roly and I helped at the stables when we could, someone else had to be employed as well, and thereby hangs a tale. I remember one night when we had a horse set he never seemed to get into gear in the race and no wonder. Someone had tightened up the horse’s hopples.
August saw the racing and trotting clubs winding up for the 1946 goldfields round when visitors came from everywhere including the eastern states. Hugh Littler who lived in Hare Street was the trots secretary and ran a tight ship to ensure that his side of the “round” was a success. Before the war I had been out to the Cups once or twice with friends to see the races and chat with people from Coolgardie and Norseman who I had known in 1937/38.
The racing programme had three main days when the Boulder Cup, the Hannans Handicap, and the Kalgoorlie Cup were run. The order of running these events changed from time to time. Kalgoorlie Cup day was the highlight of the carnival. Apart from the excitement of the racing and having a bet or two, it was a day out for the whole family if need be. It was a public holiday as I remember so everybody who was anybody was there. For the ladies it was the day to put on their best dress, maybe to be photographed and make the social columns. For everybody it was a day to enjoy for a few hours as they moved around meeting friends and having a refresher or two.
Most people had a bet and the most likely winner was the former WA Derby winner, Pantheist, by that good sire of stayers, Pantheon. He was now six years old but still in form. His trainer H W Campbell was one of the best, and that was in his favour. His other advantage was that he was to be ridden by the champion hoop from Melbourne, “Scobie” Breasley. The exciting race was won by Pantheist in a half-head decision. Backed before race-day at 10/1 the horse firmed on course to start at 5/2. Breasley later went to England and became recognized as one of the world’s leading jockeys and later trainer. He retired as Sir Arthur Breasley.
My small winnings on Pantheist went into my pocket straightaway but Joan lost her spare cash when a pickpocket flicked open her handbag in the crowd and lifted her purse. We were square on the day. That episode reminds me that a Sydney Cup winner was named The Dip. It was sired by Le Filou, translation “the pickpocket”. Space for another? Misogynist (Regular Bachelor-Maid of Athens).
Another big attraction at the “round” was the “two-up”. As Abe Lincoln said, “You ain’t seen nothing yet” (Note: unverified, seems Al Jolson was the originator) if in your life you missed looking in on the big game at Brown Hill just out from Kalgoorlie. Crowded during the round with the regulars and the visitors many of them from the racing world. Some jockeys won big money but others had to ride for their life on race day to try and get square. There are plenty of good stories about “two-up”. I relate one, hearsay though it may be. A taxi driver drove a full load out to the game, collected his fares and did that, did all his money, still kept going, and walked home. Today the “game” is much smaller but is on the tourist tours running from Kalgoorlie. Without ever going to the “two-up” you could get the whole story of the ringkeepers (captains), Tom, and later Arthur, Bougher, and laughter unlimited if you sought out a copy of “Heads and Tails”. Written (1985) by Danny Sheehan (ringkeeper) with Wayne Lamotte.
In the sporting world the public hero was the horse, Bernborough. With 15 consecutive wins he lined up for the 1946 Caulfield Cup on 19 October as the popular choice. Burdened with 10st 10lbs (67kg), the crushing burden given to him back in the issue of the handicapper’s weights in July, he ran a gallant race. Interfered with twice during the race he ran fifth. At his next start in a race Bernborough broke down and did not race again. As I wrote in my first volume some handicappers have crucified champion horses over the years because they are too good. The worst example of this was the 10.10 given to Phar Lap for the 1931 Melbourne Cup, run over two miles (3.25km). The owners thought of scratching him from the race close to Cup Day because they had doubts about his fitness to run the two miles with the staggering weight after he had run in an earlier race. It has been said that club officials “encouraged” his owners not to scratch him. He ran eighth, the first time he was unplaced in forty one starts. He was never the same again. His owners took him to America where the champion won one race and then died of an internal complaint.
November started off quietly for us. The main excitement of the first week was the win of Russia in the Melbourne Cup. Service personnel had heard the Cup broadcasts over the war years through Radio Australia which kept us in touch with Australia and home in those difficult times. But now we were home again it was good to hear it on friendly territory once more. A big cheer for the ABC. We were winning a race or two with our pacers and winning a few pounds. One of the horses Dad and I had taken to Kellerberrin in March when I stopped at Kalgoorlie on my way back from New Guinea was Kolect’s Daughter, and in my colours of blue with red and white bands, she won a race by 40 yards. We had backed her in to even money. She had won well at 2/1 on the Kellerberrin trip when we went over to the Trayning meeting. She was to win another race in December when from 60 yards behind she won by six yards at 6/4.
Trotting and racing were two of my favourite sports and from time to time some of the players and their horses hit the headlines. I can easily recall the “Rockdale/Filipino” affair of 1948 when a big coup hit the front pages in WA. Over the years I had given due credit to the success of men like the Melbourne trainers Jack Holt, and Lou Robertson, and the well-known punter of earlier days, Eric Connolly. Good judges and astute operators. We had some in WA as we soon will see.
Eric O’Mallley, one of our leading trainers entered two horses for a race meeting at Ascot, (then known to many as “Headquarters”). The horses were Rockdale and Filipino, the race date 13 March. Rockdale a brown colt 3yrs was by Felcrag from Glen Daisey and was weighted at 8.12 for the 6F race. Filipino was a four year old by Double Remove from True Mettle. He was an early fancy for the Easter Mile but the Welter Handicap this day was his first start for a year. He was set to carry 10st 21lbs. 1948 was in the days of the SP bookies who were spread across the State and the city. Agents taking bets were to be found in some barber shops and similar premises. Many of them would relay their bets to the biggest SP man of them all, and would receive a 20% commission. Other bigger operators would hold the bets themselves and lay-off back to the big man or with a fellow SP man somewhere around the State, when their holdings on a particular horse were more than they cared to carry. A balanced “book” for race bets was good business if you could manage it, but anything could happen to upset that. Bookies could ring around the state quickly to see if they could lay-off a few pounds and try to keep out of trouble but many were too late on this occasion.
On the Thursday (11 March) the doubles betting charts came out as usual and one was given to me by an ex-RAAF friend who worked at a betting shop. The prices on it for the two horses were 5-1 for Rockdale, having his first start, and 8-1 for Filipino. Some other charts had 6-1 and 7-1. Generally the double price was 40-1. The organisers of the coup put what proved to be a fool-proof plan into action. Trusted men were ready near city and country shops around the State. Watches had been synchronised and at an exact time it was on.
The commissioners walked in, on the Friday?, and took the odds on offer for as much as the local bookies would accept. Soon the lines were running hot as bookies rang the big city men or their local contacts to lay off part, or all, of the wagers. Some were getting cold feet. “It’s only 6-1 the double. Wait, it’s 4-1 now and we want no more”. Or, “Sorry, mate, I’m in trouble myself, we’ll have to hope one falls down a well or we will”. Rockdale, ridden by top jockey Eric Treffone, bolted in by six lengths. There was pandemonium after he won as some tried to get out of trouble on the course by backing Filipino to win the last but the short odds were no help. Big stakes needed to be risked to win any real money, as 5-4 was the best price bet against that champion to be Filipino. It was now a case of “sink or swim”. Filipino, also ridden by E T, had a big weight but fell over the line to just win. A fortune, maybe 200,000 pounds, for the coup men, but the story was that the connections missed out on the good odds and had to back the two horses straight out on course. It was a disaster for most of the SP bookies who were praying for a miracle and every other horse bar Filipino. Some men were paying off their debts for years, some were ruined, and some never could pay up before they went to that big racecourse in the sky.
Football and the Royal Show over for the year (1948) the next main event was the Spring racing double, the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. I had picked out a possibility earlier and it was Red Fury. He was sired by Enfield as I remember, and that was a mark in his favour as he would stay the distance of the Caulfield Cup, the first leg of the double. Bustling Billy Briscoe from Queensland was riding the horse and he caught the leader, Howe, in the straight and went on for a good win at 16-1 which suited me fine. I also took Red Fury in doubles on the Melbourne Cup with Dark Marne, Carbon Copy, and Anthelion. Long adds from 500-1 to 1000-1. Big money. The horse that I missed was Rimfire, also by Enfield, at 80-1.
He had a light weight and fought it out with Dark Marne and got the verdict in a photo finish. It was the first time a photo finish camera had been used for a Melbourne Cup. I forget the details but it was a “baptism under fire” for not only the rider of Dark Marne thought that his horse had won. The visual eye of many near the line gave it to Dark Marne but once the numbers go up “that is that”. My other picks finished 7th and 8th in the field of 30. Both were by the staying sire Helios, but weakened. The 1948 Melbourne Cup was called by the now retired commentator Joe Brown. It was his first call of the big race and in the tight finish he called Rimfire as the winner and won instant acclaim.
Horse Racing – Perth (1954)
A new experience for me once I was back in Perth came through my ex-RAAF friend Jim Carroll. With a very good background in Bunbury betting circles he had applied to the WA Turf Club for a Bookmakers Licence for the racecourses. I knew earlier that he had this in mind because he had asked me to be his “penciller” or betting clerk. Another ex-RAAF friend of both of us was to be the bag clerk – put the money in the big satchel and pay out on the presentation of winning wager tickets. He was Alec Roberts. Our three applications were all approved after Jim was checked out and interviewed by the Turf Club people. As I remember our names were published in the press as licensed from March 1st 1954 for the Leger. On August 1st we were promoted to the Enclosure.
Before we had our first day on the job, Jim had me over to his house at Nedlands for practice runs. There was a bit to learn and little room for error on race-day. Every wager had to be entered. A club official quietly observed the betting ring activities. As the bookie called the wager details out, horse, amount, and ticket number you wrote on the sheet. The favourite horses had columns to themselves, and the less fancied shared columns. As the betting livened up approaching start time you had to be able to tell your bookie what the payout might be for any horse in the race and your total holdings. On big days speed writing required. All entries in pencil and you made sure you had a dozen or more.
For the record the enclosure bookmakers in the early fifties, who called the odds alongside us, included Ken Gray, J. C. Healy, Bill Halligan, Horrie Marshall, Norm Nixon, Bill O’Brien, Con O’Malley, Alan Wells, Frank Wilson, Geoff Woodhead, Don Mack, Jack Sears. Horrie Marshall Il knew well from cycling days. He was a champion. Jim and J. C. Healy used to go down to the Bunbury mid-week races to lay the odds there. They usually went down in a private taxi driven by a great chap in Harold Mudge who I knew well. On one trip down a light-coloured Jaguar whizzed past their taxi at high speed and Jim said to J. C. “We have too much money to drive like that, J. C.”. The driver and Jag were well-know on the Terrace.
Jockeys riding in these days included Frank Treen, J. J. Miller, Peter Knuckey, veteran Bobby Marley, Gerry Oliver, Colin Tulloh, Glen Davies, Keith Moxham, Frank (Tiger) Moore, and Jackie Marshall.
Trainers were H.W. Campbell, Bunny Hyde, Fred McAuliffe, Jimmy Zinneker, Bill Purvis, Aub Mitchell, Albert Jordan, F.E. Spencer and among many others Tom Tighe and Fremantle’s Jack Colinson. The Turf Club farrier shoeing the horses was A.F. Mollett from Walker Street, South Fremantle. When we first came from Melbourne in December 1930 we walked our trotting horses off the coastal ship, the M.V. Westralia, down to Douro Road and Walker Street and into our temporary rented stables. A South Beach swim for us.