On Tuesday, 8th September 1891, the steamship Waihora arrived in Sydney port from New Zealand.  It carried valuable cargo, for on board were the cream of racehorses owned by the prominent Napier sportsman, Spencer H. Gollan. Included in the team were Tirailleur, Tiraillerie, Sternchaser, Renata, Leonardo, and the jumpers Darnley, Kimberley, and Medjidie.  The well-known New Zealand trainer, Percy Martin, was in charge of the horses with the crack jockey, William (‘Percy’) White, as the first horseman, and it was common knowledge that Sternchaser and Tirailleur had been coupled extensively in Victoria Derby-Melbourne Cup betting.  The entire company were initially put-up at stables adjacent to the A.J.C. Hotel, Randwick.  The stopover in Sydney was only temporary for the real destination was Caulfield.  It was the first indication that a significant force in New Zealand racing was about to try its luck in Australia and it coincided with a period that saw an exodus of racing men and horses from the Land of the Long White Cloud as some of the less attractive aspects of the totalisator were felt.

The New Zealand economy was suffering from over-borrowing and excessive importations in the midst of the world recession, and, desperate to balance the books, the colonial administration there had embraced the betting machine with gusto, despite the unholy alliance of the wowsers and the bookmaking fraternity combining to oppose it.  Although the totalisator would eventually come to have a beneficial influence on New Zealand racing, in the early 1890’s the race clubs themselves protested that a desperate Colonial Secretary was issuing too many totalisator permits, and racing was being sucked dry. Although the last appearance of a bookmaker on a New Zealand racecourse didn’t come until as late as 1911 at the now abolished Takapuna racecourse in Auckland, already in the early 1890’s the fat was in the fire as clubs gradually began to exclude the book and bag brigade from their bailiwicks.  Sportsmen with extensive strings of racehorses – men to be reckoned with and who liked to bet – began to gaze longingly across the Tasman.

Spencer Herbert Gollan was, by any calculation, a man to be reckoned with.  Born in Mangatarata in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island in 1860, he was the only child of wealthy pioneers of the district.  Donald Gollan, Spencer’s father, was an engineer and surveyor who first hailed from Culloden, near Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, and immigrated to New Zealand in 1841 at the age of thirty as part of the New Zealand Company survey staff.  It was in 1854, after some years of steady surveying work, that Donald Gollan’s keen eye prompted him to buy land in Hawke’s Bay and settle down to sheep farming.  Just how successful he was on those rich and fertile pastures may be judged by the fact that Mangatarata Station which he established, eventually grew to encompass some 33,000 acres.  In 1857 he was returned as a representative of the East Coast in the Wellington Provincial Council.  Pre-occupied with establishing himself as a pastoralist and a figure in New Zealand society, it wasn’t until Donald Gollan was a fortnight shy of his 48th birthday that he married the widow Frederica De Pelichet (nee Horne) in Napier.  Although two stepchildren came with the marriage, Donald Gollan was anxious to produce a male heir of his own.  The happy couple wasted no time; their only child was born on 22nd June 1860 at Mangatarata just fourteen months after the marriage.  Childbirth was a hazardous business for both mother and child anywhere in the nineteenth century, and living in isolated rural communities in British colonies only exacerbated the risk.  Although baby Spencer proved robust, Frederica died just fifteen days after giving birth.

Donald Gollan spared no expense in the education of his only natural son and heir, educating him in the best New Zealand establishments before sending him to finishing school in Switzerland to prepare him for university life at Cambridge, England.  Ah, Cambridge!  Situated on firm ground at the southern fringe of the flat peat-lands of the Fens, Cambridge has always been a city of dreams.  And so, it was for the powerful and self-possessed Spencer Gollan, whose real strengths lay in the sporting field rather than the sequestered groves of academia.  From the days of his callow youth, Gollan had been a noted athlete, winning trophies in sports as diverse as running, rowing, swimming, boxing, shooting, billiards and golf.  In the language of the day, at Cambridge, he was nothing short of ‘a blood’.  The sport that fascinated the young man most of all, however, was the Turf and his years at Cambridge and its propinquity to the famous Newmarket racecourse and the Rowley mile, only served to kindle the fires of his maturing interest in the sport. When he returned to New Zealand, Spencer Gollan, already an accomplished horseman, began to compete regularly in those local races open to amateurs. Racing was already on a sure footing on the North Island by then, as meetings had been held at Hawke’s Bay as early as the 1850’s, although a Hawke’s Bay Jockey Club didn’t come into existence until the mid-1860’s while the course at Hastings itself was only requisitioned in 1878.

When Donald Gollan died in his seventy-sixth year in October 1887, the 27-year-old Spencer came into his fortune.  Apart from its fine merino sheep, Mangatarata had always had a small thoroughbred stud farm attached, but now Spencer Gollan put it on an altogether more exclusive footing.  The next few years saw the young man, with his obsession to transmute breed into speed, invest heavily in quality bloodstock.  Price meant nothing when he wanted a horse.  In January 1891 at the Wellington Park Stud sale of Thomas Morrin, Gollan gave 2025 guineas for Mousquetaire, a half-brother to Trenton by Nordenfeldt.  It was the highest price ever paid in the New Zealand colonies up to that time.  Alas, Mousquetaire proved a failure, only withstanding a couple of starts, and Gollan eventually transported him to England where he later served mares for a fee of just nine guineas. January 1891 was a busy month for Gollan and bloodstock sales in New Zealand.  In the first week of that month, came the dispersal of the famous Sylvia Park Stud. Gollan, who had enjoyed so much success with the progeny of the imported Macaroni mare, Florence Macarthy, in the shape of both Tirailleur and Tiraillerie, bought the very mare herself, with a filly foal by Ingomar at foot, and having been served by Nordenfeldt, all for 400 guineas.  It proved something of a bargain, for the filly foal – later registered as Bessie Macarthy – won both the A.J.C. Oaks and the Biennial Stakes at Randwick in 1893, while Florence Macarthy later threw two more rousing gallopers in Tireuse and Tire.

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Percy Martin, Gollan’s choice as his private trainer for his newfound Caulfield adventure in September 1891, had already enjoyed a distinguished career.  Having learned the rudiments of his profession under Henry Redwood’s supervision along with men such as Dick Mason and Ted Cutts, Martin had for a time in the early 1880’s entered into a training partnership with his brother-in-law, Robert Goosman, working out of stables erected at Hastings on leased land.  After mixed success, when that partnership was dissolved in August 1884, Martin stayed in the premises and struck out on his own in the establishment that became famous as Martindale Lodge training for owners such as Allan McLean, C. C. Murray, Ulick Burke and the Hon. W. Robinson.  At the time, Martindale Lodge, taking its name from its owner, and situated about a mile from Hastings and nearly opposite the railway entrance to the course, was regarded as the premier public training establishment in what was then an important racing centre.

Apart from the good horses that he trained out of those stables for Gollan, there had been quite a few good ones before Gollan had even entered upon the scene. Most notable among these were Mischief with whom Martin won the 1883 Wellington Cup; Silence, a gelding by The Mute that won a Wanganui Cup; and Pearl, an unbeaten two-year-old winner of the Hawke’s Bay Guineas and two Napier Handicaps.  Gollan wasn’t a man to give his esteem easily although when it was given, it was nobly deserved.  In choosing Percy Martin to be his trainer, Gollan chose well, and from the beginning, it was a relationship marked by symbiosis rather than conflict.  Gollan entrusted him with the most aristocratic of bloodstock and Martin responded with all the ardour of his spirit to the faith shown in him by his wealthy patron.

The Bond-street house and stables that Spencer Gollan leased in Caulfield had originally been built in the late 1880’s by George Wybar, an early resident of the south-eastern Melbourne suburb and a property speculator who spared no money in setting-up this ornate establishment – the finest stabling seen in the district up to that time.  Gollan paid a pretty penny for the lease and then spent some on a refurbishment of the premises.  In truth, however, the venture seemed doomed from the start as disaster seemed to spread over the team like a winter’s blight. Tirailleur was the star of the show, a homebred son of Musket who had won the Hawke’s Bay Guineas and Wanganui Derby, New Zealand Cup and Canterbury Cup together with the Great Northern Derby as a three-year-old.  In so doing the horse had catapulted Gollan to the top of the New Zealand Winning Owners’ List for the 1889-90 racing season. Alas, Tirailleur managed to get his tail caught and broken in the train journey from New South Wales to Victoria.

Gollan received £250 from the railway authorities, but it was scant compensation for the irreparable damage done to the best racehorse Gollan would ever own. Tirailleur did manage to race again but never regained his true form and died in December 1892 from the effects of injuries sustained when he fell in the Melbourne Cup four weeks before.  Misfortune attended Sternchaser too, who jarred up on the hard ground and failed to reveal his class for a long time over here although he did run second in the 1893 Australian Cup.  Tiraillerie, a half-sister to Tirailleur by Nordenfeldt, who had won the 1891 Great Northern Champagne Stakes at Auckland as a two-year-old, did give the new Caulfield stable a boost when she landed the 1891 V.R.C. Oaks but she, too, went amiss a short time later and failed to win any more stakes money.  Admittedly, Kimberley soon showed that he could jump fences in the illegitimate game with the best of them, but for a long time, these were the only successes of which the stable could boast.

Nothing daunted, Gollan sent Martin back to New Zealand to buy more bloodstock and to sort out the better prospects being bred at Mangatarata, now being managed by Louis De Pelichet, Gollan’s step-brother.  One of the early fruits of this excursion was Culloden, named after Gollan senior’s native district in Scotland and a place that resonates in Scottish folklore as the last battle of the 1845 rebellion and the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie.  A brother to Steadfast who cost 1050 guineas as a yearling, Culloden proved he was no pretender when he won the stable another Australian classic, the 1893 St. Leger at Flemington, and later at the same meeting finished second and third in the Champion Stakes and Australian Cup respectively.  At the same sales that Martin acquired Culloden, he also paid out 2025 guineas for Mousquetaire, Trenton’s half-brother by Nordenfeldt.

At the 1893 A.J.C. Spring Meeting where the aforementioned Bessie Macarthy easily won both the Biennial Stakes and the Oaks Stakes, Gollan wasn’t present – having a more important commitment in his social calendar.  For it was in October 1893 at Christ Church, Lancaster Gate, London, that Spencer Gollan married Miss Frederica Elizabeth Napier, the eldest daughter of James Farmer.  Nonetheless, racing wasn’t far from the bridegroom’s mind even on this auspicious day, for, after the reception at Porchester Gate, the happy couple left in the afternoon en route to Brindisi where they joined the R.M.S. Australia bound for Down Under.  After arriving in Adelaide, they hopped a train, post haste, to get to Flemington in time for the V.R.C. Spring Meeting to witness Bessie Macarthy’s bid for the V.R.C. Oaks.  Alas, it wasn’t to be a happy occasion, for the filly was beaten in part due to a controversial front-running ride by young White when heavy odds had been laid on her.  Certainly, the recent nuptials hadn’t improved Gollan’s mood, for he had backed Bessie Macarthy and had told all his back-slapping friends to do likewise. Incensed with the ride, he promptly gave White his marching orders.  It was a sour termination to an arrangement that had yielded not inconsiderable success, albeit more particularly on the other side of the Tasman.  White returned to New Zealand and picked up where he had left off, winning two New Zealand Cups in the next few years, although it was to be a short-lived career.  White subsequently died in July 1899 at his residence in Hastings from consumption of the throat at the age of just thirty-one, leaving a wife and young child.

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It was against the backdrop of his recent matrimonial assignment and the controversy over Bessie Macarthy’s V.R.C. Oaks that the first preparation of the colt that was to give Gollan his most satisfying moment on the Australian Turf began. And yet for all the big money Gollan parted with at various yearling sales to own a classic winner, this one turned out to be homebred.  The horse in question was Bonnie Scotland, a big-barrelled colt by St George from Fair Nell.  It was an interesting pedigree.  St George, a full brother to the mighty Chester, had been bred by the Hon. E. K. Cox and foaled at Fernhill in 1876.  Purchased as a yearling at the Randwick sales for 1300 guineas by the Middle Park Stud in Canterbury, New Zealand, St George was unable to sustain a career on the racecourse but proved quite a boon for the stud in siring some very good horses.  When the Middle Park Stud was sold in April 1891, Spencer Gollan took advantage of the opportunity and bought the broodmare Fair Nell, who at the time, was in foal to St George, for 575 guineas.  The price was stiff but Fair Nell hailed from a distinguished family as her dam, the English-bred Idalia, was the mother of those two high-class New Zealand stayers, Sir Modred and Betrayer, as well as a host of lesser ones including the likes of Cheviot (1882 C.J.C. Derby) and Enid (1887 C.J.C. Oaks).  Sir Modred was easily the best of them though, and, trained by Harry Goodman, had been brought to Australia in 1884 to win the Craven Plate and Great Metropolitan at Randwick.  After which Sir Modred was sold to America where he later famously topped the sires’ list in 1894!

As distinguished as Bonnie Scotland’s pedigree seemed on that April day when Gollan bought mother and son, it was to become even more distinguished with the passage of time.  In the two seasons immediately before she got Bonnie Scotland to St George, Fair Nell had visited the same stallion and successively dropped the brothers, Saracen and Loyalty.  Each proved worthy racehorses, and in 1893, while Bonnie Scotland was left in the Mangatarata paddocks to mature, Saracen won the C.J.C. Great Easter Handicap; while Loyalty, trained by that colourful scallywag, Dan O’Brien, cut a swath through the Australian spring, winning the Spring Stakes and Craven Plate at Randwick and the Melbourne Stakes and Flying Stakes at Flemington.  Was it any wonder that Spencer Gollan anticipated with relish the racecourse debut of their little brother?  Compact and muscular, Bonnie Scotland at first blush often seemed less wound-up than he really was.  His racecourse debut came at Caulfield in the second half of January 1894 when he ran last in a five-furlong scamper.  Five weeks later over the same course and distance, he ran fourth in the Alma Stakes when ridden by W. Morrison.  Those two appearances readied the son of St George for his real missions that autumn viz. the Ascot Vale Stakes at Flemington and the Champagne Stakes at Randwick, each over six furlongs.  The V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes was unavailable to him because St George hadn’t been paid up as one of the eligible sires for the race.

There was a good deal of bumping in the Ascot Vale that year in which Bonnie Scotland came very fast from the half-distance to be beaten three-quarters of a length by Destiny.  Brought across to Randwick for the Champagne Stakes, Bonnie Scotland went out the 7/2 favourite, but a severe kick from one of his opponents on the way to the post ruined his chances, and he trailed home behind Pat Osborne’s flying filly, Acmena.  A significant change to the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting in 1894 was the abolition of the Sires’ Produce Stakes and its substitution by a two-year-old Maiden Plate.  The action was largely taken because of the prevailing economic depression – £1,700 of added money had been wiped from the total to be distributed by the A.J.C. during the 1893-94 racing season – but it was a short-sighted measure not redressed until 1905.  Accordingly, the only other race during the week that proffered a guide to the spring Derby was the Fifth Biennial Stakes run on Thursday.  On heavy ground, Bonnie Scotland created an upset at 10/1 when he edged out Nobleman by a half-neck with the favourite, Acmena, weighed down in the mud by her 7lb penalty, in the minor placing.  Bonnie Scotland went to his winter quarters after the race with Percy Martin aiming fairly and squarely at the A.J.C. Derby in the spring.  After all, no outstanding juvenile had emerged during the 1893-94 racing season with each of the major two-year-old events won by a different horse.  Bonnie Scotland seemed as good as any and better than most.  Indeed, after the settling in the Tattersall’s clubrooms on the Monday following the Randwick fixture when doubles wagering on the Victoria Derby and Melbourne Cup was introduced, there was more than a smattering of support for the son of St George.

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1895 – SCENE OUTSIDE RANDWICK RACECOURSE (Sydney Mail)

A measure of the popularity of horse-racing and the extent to which it had entered the Australian soul was afforded just the month before the A.J.C. Derby was run. In August 1894, the famous cross-country jockey, Tommy Corrigan, died as a result of a fall from his mount, Waiter, in the Caulfield Grand National Steeplechase. His funeral was the largest Melbourne had ever known. Before the funeral cortege had left his home, the route from Caulfield to the Melbourne general cemetery was lined with thousands of people and by two o’clock in the afternoon Swanston-street was ‘one mass of humanity’. Road traffic was suspended for two hours, flags in the city flew at half-mast and shops were closed. The funeral procession ran for the same distance as the Melbourne Cup – two miles! The Governor of Victoria and Lady Hopetoun sent a wreath.

Sydney evinced a similar enthusiasm for the sport despite the ongoing economic slowdown and the adverse elements. On Derby Eve the rains came down with enthusiasm, which gave Randwick-road a corrugated coating of mud; and on the day itself, a heavy canopy of ominous clouds continued to darken the heavens. However, surprisingly, the rain held off, although a malicious gale whipping in from the south spoilt the majesty of the occasion. Despite the elements, the Governor and Lady Duffy were in attendance as were the Earl and Countess of Hopetoun.  Unlike previous years, for the first time, Tattersalls’ Club in 1894 allowed a reading of the card for the A.J.C. Derby and the other feature races, something that had been a part of Melbourne racing for some years.  The readings in Tattersalls’ rooms occurred twice each day – at 1.30pm and 8.30pm and began seven days before the Randwick reunion.  It wasn’t the only change to the Randwick scene during the twelve months since the previous Derby renewal.  An appreciable improvement had been affected in the members’ carriage reserve, by the erection of sheds providing accommodation for upwards of eighty horses.  The sheds were fitted with harness brackets and other requisites and enclosed from the front with a handsome picket fence.

PADDOCK SCENE – DERBY DAY 1894 AT RANDWICK (Australian Town and Country Journal)

The 1894 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are shown in the table below:

1894

Seven colts and one filly made their way to the starting-post for the 1894 A.J.C. Derby in which Bonnie Scotland was a firm second favourite, having been well-supported by the stable.  The colt’s only appearance in the new season had come on the first day of September when beaten a half-head in a handicap at Mentone over a mile.  The truancy of the colt on that occasion contributed to his narrow defeat, but it was to prove the sweet prologue to a glorious Derby drama and yet another close finish.  The public elect for the Derby was Nobleman, a colt by The Australian Peer out of a Henchman mare, bred by the Hon. John Eales.  Offered to the public as part of the Duckenfield Park draft of yearlings, Nobleman had sold for 150 guineas to a client of Harry Rayner.  It was a reflection of the absence of quality in the field that such a poorly performed racehorse was at the head of quotations, for in nine starts as a juvenile Nobleman had only won once, and that the Juvenile Stakes at the Tattersall’s Club December meeting.  However, he had run a creditable fourth in the Champagne Stakes and finished a close second behind Bonnie Scotland in the Biennial Stakes and was adjudged to be very fit for his classic engagement, having campaigned as late as June.  While the general public might have preferred Nobleman to Bonnie Scotland, that wasn’t the view of the leading trainers Tom Payten, Ike Earnshaw and Walter Hickenbotham.

Few of the others were given a serious chance.  Glenullin, a son of Lochiel bred by Herbert Thompson and trained by William Duggan, occupied the third line of betting.  The Derby was his seasonal re-appearance after a juvenile year that had yielded nothing more than a lowly nursery handicap at Warwick Farm on heavy ground in late January.  Atlas and First Shot shared the next line of betting and represented an interesting contrast.  The well-named Atlas, a son of the slashing Cranbrook, towered over the field and was considered to be the biggest horse to have ever taken part in a Derby in Australia up to that time, not even excepting Le Grand.  Bred by Henry White at Havilah, from a mare who was a half-sister to the 1896 Doncaster winner, Sir William, Atlas carried White’s familiar red and white jacket, although he had failed to attract the judge’s attention at his only two appearances in maiden company at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting.  First Shot, by contrast with Atlas, seemed small in the Saddling Paddock, which rather matched his modest racecourse achievements despite being blessed with the best of bloodlines.  Bred and raced by Samuel Hordern, First Shot was by Nordenfeldt, who now stood at Hordern’s stud, out of the good New Zealand race mare, Lady Norah. Although raced in the richest company during his juvenile season including a start in the Doncaster Handicap, First Shot’s only return came in winning a paltry nursery at Rosehill.  He did have one advantage over most of the field, however, in that he had already been out in the new season when second in the Clarendon Handicap over ten furlongs, run at Rosehill nine days earlier.

Perhaps of more interest in the Derby field, were the three horses neglected in the betting market in Cobbity, Chesterman and Regina.  Cobbity was the latest Derby contender out of that wonderful mare, Copra, herself a full sister to the great Trident and Navigator, and, as we have seen, already the dam of the dual Derby winner, Camoola.  Cobbity had been bred by Mrs James White at Kirkham and was leased for the duration of his racing career to V.R.C. committeeman, C.M. Lloyd, who brought fellow committeeman, William Leonard, into the partnership and placed the horse in the care of Walter Hickenbotham.  Although Cobbity had failed in both the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce and the Ascot Vale Stakes, he had revealed some of the family talents as a juvenile when winning twice at Flemington, firstly a nursery handicap from a big field on Tarcoola’s Melbourne Cup day, and then the prestigious Normanby Stakes on New Year’s Day.  Chesterman, like Cobbity, had also been bred at Kirkham and was a brother to the former good filly Escapade, but unlike Cobbity he had been sold publicly as a yearling and brought the very high price of 700 guineas on a bid from John Bowden.  Alas, at the time of the A.J.C. Derby, Chesterman after fourteen starts remained a maiden.  Regina was the only filly in the field and was a daughter of Forest King out of a Barbarian mare.  A neatly-proportioned bay she had been bred by James Lee at Larras Lake and had cost J. J. McManus 100 guineas as a yearling.  Regina hadn’t been spared as a two-year-old, having started ten times but returned a winning bracket on three occasions including the prestigious V.R.C. Flemington Stakes and the A.J.C. December Stakes.

RANDWICK GRANDSTAND – DERBY DAY 1894 (Australian Town and Country Journal)

Gray’s starting machine, which had first been trialled at Canterbury Park earlier in April, now made its historic debut at the mile-and-a-half start of both the Derby and the Spring Stakes.  The Sydney Mail described it as follows: “The invention consisted of a couple of poles about 12’ high placed about a similar distance apart at each side of the track, the uprights being connected with a rod of iron on an inclined plane, starting about 5 ft from the track and finishing about 9 ft from the surface at the farther end.  This acts as a guide rod, and on it is fixed a carriage, which carries a barrier of webbing, reaching right across the track.  The forward end of the carriage is attached to a strong piece of indiarubber, the tension from which supplies the motive power.  Similar machinery is at each side of the track, and the barrier having been hauled down to the lowest point of the inclined plane, is held in position by racket fastenings.  The horses are then drawn up in line, and when ready to start, the travelling carriages on both sides are released simultaneously, and the rubber straps immediately coming into play, the barrier swiftly moves away with a forward and upward movement, leaving the track clear.”  At least that was the theory, and in the case of the Derby, it worked perfectly.

STARTING POINT FOR 1895 A.J.C. DERBY (The Australasian)

Glenullin went to the front and cut out the work for about a mile, although the tempo of the race was more andante than allegro.  It was the slowness of the beat that conspired to bring about the undoing of the favourite, Nobleman, who spent much of his energy pulling and reefing for his head, flattering his supporters in the belief that he had the field at his mercy.  This illusion lasted until halfway around the bend when no sooner did Gainsford call upon him to race than he stopped pulling and gave up the ghost entirely.  It was at this point that those with a musical ear and a keen eye could have been forgiven for thinking that a rousing version of ‘Scotland the Brave’ was just around the corner.  Those in the stands that had helped themselves to the 5/2 certainly thought so.  They felt their blood a-leaping and their spirits high because up to that moment Morrison had Bonnie Scotland travelling sweetly; and when Nobleman stopped, the brave son of St George emphatically started.  Sensing that there was safety in flight, Morrison gave Bonnie Scotland his head, and the colt ran to a convincing lead early in the straight that suggested the easiest of victories.  And in truth, Gollan’s representative seemed assured of the laurels until well inside the distance.  It was only then that Chesterman, who had been carefully nursed by Martin Gallagher, belatedly issued his challenge.  The result was in the balance for a few strides, although on the line, Morrison, with the aid of his spurs, lifted Bonnie Scotland to triumph by a head while the unfortunate Gallagher was forced to change his whip hand by the wedging of his colt.  Never had there been a closer finish to the Derby: Chesterman’s bold showing was a revelation as neither his public nor private form had suggested he could so distinguish himself.  The balance of the field, with Cobbity at their head, wallowed in their wake eight lengths further back. The winner was given a rousing reception as he returned to the Saddling Paddock.

1894 A.J.C. DERBY FINISH (Australian Town and Country Journal)

 

BONNIE SCOTLAND SM

BONNIE SCOTLAND (Courtesy of the Sydney Mail)

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Alas, Bonnie Scotland towered in gallant fame ever so briefly, for the Derby was to be the highlight of his racecourse career, although he might be adjudged a little unlucky not to have won the Victoria Derby as well, which that year went to The Harvester, owned and trained by ‘Sam’ Cook.  There were a couple of notable features to that particular Victoria Derby.  Like its Randwick counterpart, it was the first run at Flemington from the new starting apparatus, and the spontaneous exclamation of delight from the crowd as the field jumped off as one was a great compliment to progress.  That was also the Derby that famously involved a dismissed protest from the runner-up Malachite, a stablemate owned in the same interests as Cobbity, and another from Bonnie Scotland who placed third.  Actually, the stewards didn’t even deign to consider the protest entered on behalf of Bonnie Scotland that afternoon, because it wasn’t lodged within the time prescribed by the rule.  This ruling seemed at once ironic and absurd considering that it wasn’t until 8 o’clock on that Saturday night that the honorary stewards belatedly announced the result of their Derby deliberations.  The Countess of Hopetoun, who had waited on the Flemington course in vain to bedeck the Derby hero formally, had long retired to her boudoir by the time these panjandrums of the V.R.C. finally weighed judgement.  Bonnie Scotland never ran another placing after that day, even though he was persevered with into his five-year-old season. The handsome and well-bred son of St George did stand stud duty in the Wairarapa district of New Zealand, although with limited opportunities he failed to sire anything of note with the best of his progeny being Bonnie Prince and St Brandon. Bonnie Scotland dropped dead in his paddock in November 1906, long after his owner Spencer Gollan had relocated to the Old Country.

Indeed, in retrospect, the entire field for that 1894 A.J.C. Derby looked decidedly ordinary, perhaps not unusual in a season when four different racehorses won the Derby and St. Leger each at Randwick and Flemington.  Of the three-year-olds that went around at Randwick on that third Saturday in September, Cobbity did go on to win both the Caulfield Guineas and A.J.C. St. Leger, but subsequently proved a disappointment both on the racecourse and at stud where he served initially at Harry Chisholm’s place at Goulburn.  The only horse to go on and win a major open handicap was Nobleman, who was successful the following year at Randwick in the Metropolitan Stakes with 8 st. 4lb.  Regina, the only filly to start in that 1894 A.J.C. Derby proved her mettle when she won the Victoria Oaks later in the spring and ultimately became a successful matron at stud.  The most successful stallion to emerge from that Derby field was Chesterman.  Although his only feature race victory proved to be the Randwick Plate a week after the fateful Derby, when he was finally retired to the Calstock Stud in Tasmania he proved an absolute boon for the Apple Isle.  The sire of one Hobart Cup winner and four winners of the Launceston Cup, the son of Chester was famous for one other accomplishment.  At the 1901 Spring Meeting of the Tasmanian Racing Club conducted at Elwick, every winner on the flat was either a son or daughter of Chesterman bred at the Calstock Stud, including incidentally, both horses that shared the dead-heat in the opening event.

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Bonnie Scotland’s loss of form in 1895 was a major factor in Gollan’s decision to close his model stable establishment at Caulfield at the end of the Flemington Spring Meeting that year.  Not that the year was all bad as the Bagot Handicap won by The Possible; and the South Australian Stakes won by Freda, Bonnie Scotland’s younger sister demonstrated.  It had been a brave and sporting experiment by Gollan, but the owner’s increasingly extended absences in England and the relative lack of results rendered the closure inevitable.  The burly and genial trainer, Percy Martin, who had become quite popular with the Caulfield racing fraternity during his stay in Victoria, was made a generous presentation on Friday 22nd November by the Caulfield trainers and jockeys collectively at Heywood’s Hotel, just a few days before he returned to Napier, New Zealand, and the Hastings racecourse, with the Gollan horses.  The experiment of the Caulfield stable and Gollan’s lavish expenditure had produced the odd sheaf of wheat so to speak in the classics, but mostly it had been the chaff of disappointment and failure.  Martin was still to make the occasional cross-Tasman excursion with Gollan’s horses, most notably the following year when he brought over Tire to win both the A.J.C. All-Aged Stakes and Randwick Plate.  The impressive Caulfield stabling was later taken over by another New Zealand expatriate trainer, David J. Price, in June 1908 when he first moved there from Mordialloc.  Price was to remain at Caulfield for over thirty years and eventually become one of Victoria’s leading trainers.

Spencer Gollan might have abandoned his Australian bloodstock adventure, but he still had his heart set on conquering foreign climes, although by now his objective was even grander: and that was to make an assault on the English Turf.  Martin was retained for a time to prepare a team of thoroughbreds to be sent across the seas for his patron to race and sometimes ride, in the Old Country.  In June 1896, Gollan shipped a team of stallions on the Orient liner, Warrigal, which included Sternchaser, Culloden, Mousquetaire and Pounamu. Gollan’s removal of most of his best bloodstock to England saw Martin’s engagement as private trainer terminated in 1899. While he did continue to train a few horses for Gollan, he took on some outside clients including Major Frederick George, winning the New Zealand Cup for that owner with Seahorse in 1899 – the year after he had won the same race with Tirant d’Eau for Spencer Gollan.  Seahorse was another of those New Zealand thoroughbreds that Gollan subsequently acquired and campaigned in England, but the horse was past his prime by then and wasn’t successful.  I think the last good race that Martin won for Gollan was the 1900 Hawke’s Bay Cup with the homebred, Tire.   In 1904 Martin served as the judge at the Hawke’s Bay and Napier Park race meetings, and the following year he took over the Hastings Railway Hotel and later became the licensee of the Criterion Hotel at Napier.  It was in July 1914 that Martin, by then in his early sixties and suffering ill-health, retired to a farm in the Wairoa although he returned to Hastings in 1917 where two years later, he died suddenly at the age of 67.  Sadly, Martin’s rightful place in the pantheon of great New Zealand trainers has been usurped by others without a tithe of his talent, and today he is largely forgotten and his record often overlooked.   Martindale Lodge was later taken over by Sid Reid, the well-known jockey, while in the 1920’s, Alex McAuley, who won the 1929 Melbourne Cup with Nightmarch, also trained there for a time.

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Although there were a few stumbles and falls early, success eventually came to Gollan in England.  Two of the first horses he campaigned there were the steeplechasers Norton and Ebor.  Norton, by Ascot, had in fact afforded Gollan his most conspicuous riding triumph in New Zealand when he partnered the horse to win the 1895 Hawke’s Bay Steeplechase.  The previous year, Norton had won the New Zealand Grand National Steeplechase although in that event he had been entrusted to the sure hands of the professional jockey, Bill Clarke. Norton was to win some good races in England including the Southdown Steeplechase at Plumpton, and Gollan was to ride the horse to victory on three occasions over there including the Parkside Steeplechase at Lingfield Park.  Nonetheless, Gollan enjoyed his greatest successes in England when somebody other than himself was in the saddle.  His style was suitable for the hunting field, but he seemed quite unable to drive his horses at fences at genuine racing speed.  Ebor, by Robert the Devil, proved an even better performer for him and his wins included the 1896 Great Staffordshire Steeplechase as well as the Great Midland Handicap Steeplechase at the Nottingham December Meeting when he carried no less than 12 stone.  Waiuku, a good-staying son of St. Leger and the winner of the 1897 New Zealand Cup, was another horse that Gollan later bought and won races with in England, along with the likes of Erl King and Galway.

However, Gollan’s most significant victory on English soil came a few years later when his horse Moifaa won Aintree’s famous Grand National in 1904.  A big raw-boned gelding by Natator, a son of Traducer, Moifaa had won the 1901 Great Northern Steeplechase at Ellerslie and Gollan recognised in him a horse that would do well over timber across the seas.  He engaged James Hickey, a good cross-country rider in New Zealand, to accompany the horse to England and prepare him for his historic victory in which journeyman jockey, Arthur Birch rode him, and started at 25/1.  Curiously enough, Kirkland – the horse that chased Moifaa home on that fateful day at Aintree, was a son of Kirkham, and one of the first colts sent over by the Hon. James White in his quixotic quest to win the English Derby. Some months after winning the Grand National, Gollan was hacking Moifaa along a quiet country road near his English home when he came upon certain lively youths who were skylarking on return from a blank day’s hunting.  One of them, having marked a nice line of country, suggested a point-to-point gallop of from two to three miles to cut off a big angle of the road.  Gollan, who was asked to join in, expressed reservations on account of his age and the common old beast he was riding.  He only agreed to the gallop provided the lads gave him a start of two fields.  Having secured this concession, Gollan and Moifaa astounded them by reaching the endpoint without the lads ever sighting him.  Gollan subsequently sold Moifaa to his friend King Edward VII, whose colours he sported in the Grand National the following year.  Alas, once in the royal stables, Moifaa developed a wind infirmity and never regained his true form although he is remembered for the coronation procession of King George V in 1911 in which Lord Kitchener rode him.

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SPENCER GOLLAN AND MOIFAA (Courtesy of ‘Tapestry of Turf’)

Gollan championed the cause of Australasian-bred horses and enjoyed his greatest English success on the flat with Australian Star, a son of Grandmaster that was bred by the Eales brothers at Duckenfield Park.  Although Australian Star only sold for 30 guineas as a yearling, Gollan gave something like £2,000 for him as a proven horse in October 1899 after he had won the Caulfield Stakes and Eclipse Stakes. Despite the price tag, he still proved a bargain for Gollan. Among other races he won the Sandown Grand Prize (by 8 lengths); the prestigious London Cup twice in the mud at Alexandra Park – the second time when it was run in 1902 as the London Coronation Cup to celebrate the coronation of Gollan’s racing friend, King Edward VII; and the richly endowed City and Suburban Handicap at Epsom.  As an older horse, he was also successful over hurdles for Gollan.  Gollan maintained a small breeding stud in England and brought over a number of his best mares including Freda, Bessie Macarthy and Tiraillerie.  Tirara, a homebred by Bill of Portland out of Tiraillerie, won the prestigious Duke of York Stakes for him in 1907 at Kempton Park when trained by Fred Day.  Incidentally, in winning that race, Tirara beat a horse called All Black into second placing – a galloper that later did sterling service as a stallion in New Zealand.  Gollan employed a range of trainers in England including Day, who had trained Samuel Hordern’s horses in Australia, although it was the former New Zealand jockey, James Hickey, who prepared most of the Gollan horses to race over timber.  Despite the success he enjoyed on the English Turf at this time, he was quite critical of the fact that it seemed to be crowded with people, chiefly of the wrong kind.  In an article entitled “The State of the Turf” in the Badminton Magazine, Gollan advocated the drastic remedy of doing away with the Jockey Club and appointing commissioners from owners and breeders to carry on the business.  Needless to say, this was a novel concept and not one likely to find favour among the high and mighty.

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S.H. GOLLAN ON THE LINKS

Spencer Gollan might have been born in the middle years of Queen Victoria’s reign, but he was at heart an Edwardian, and he really flourished in that spendthrift society during the first, opulent decade of the twentieth century.  This was the world that P. G. Wodehouse captured so brilliantly in his comic novels.  The Edwardian London that Gollan knew and loved was a place of stately piles and great hotels; of bright restaurants and first-class railway carriages; a city populated by characters such as the Earl of Ickenham and Galahad Threepwood, and where everyone read the Sporting Times, more commonly known as the ‘Pink ‘Un’.  In this milieu, Gollan shone both on and off the racecourse.  In August 1900 at the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, of which he was a member, Gollan won the much-celebrated Calcutta Cup, while on temporary visits back to the land of his birth in both 1902 and 1906, at the Christchurch links, he won the New Zealand Amateur Golfing Championship.  In April 1901 Gollan, along with good friends, George Towns of New South Wales and Tom Sullivan of New Zealand, each champion scullers, in a three-pair sculls boat rowed from Folly Bridge, Oxford, to the Thames Rowing Club, Putney, a distance of 104 miles, in a time of 13 hours and 56 minutes to easily eclipse the previous record.  Rowing was an important pastime in that era, and their achievement won international acclaim.  I might add that William Allison, the Special Commissioner, was in the launch that followed the trio.  A brilliant sportsman, nonetheless Gollan deplored the quasi-professionalism that was then beginning to enter into sports, and he remained a stickler for strict amateurism. Still, it was far easier to argue from this vantage when one was backed by an immense inherited fortune.

The Great War, as it was called, changed everything, not least about the English Turf.  It shattered the cement of Victorian standards into useless rubble and opened up gaping fissures in the gilded Edwardian manner of life, particularly in relation to the more aristocratic of sporting pursuits.  Gollan was a staunch conservative, both by temperament and inheritance, and he never really regained his wholehearted enthusiasm for racing after the horrors of 1914-18 and the changes wrought to the sport in its wake.  Rather, during the remaining years of his life, he preferred instead to play golf, and – with his patrician sense of noblesse oblige – coach rowing, having become a vice-president of the Thames Rowing Club in 1914.  He had coached his son, Donald, born deaf and mute in 1896, to become a champion sculler and it was with understandable paternal pride that he watched him represent Great Britain in the men’s eights’ crew at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam that won the silver medal.  Note that the country he represented was Great Britain, not New Zealand.  Despite being born in New Zealand, Spencer Gollan was essentially an Englishman first and last, and from the time of his marriage in 1893 he began to spend increasing periods abroad, eventually settling in England.  It is significant that, for a man whose prowess in the sporting field in the Shaky Isles was so remarkable and who captured the headlines so regularly in his prime, he is not even listed in the New Zealand Dictionary of Biography. The end came for Spencer Gollan in January 1934 when he was knocked down and killed as he stepped from a refuge in front of an omnibus in Oxford-street, London.  A subsequent inquest held at Paddington saw the jury return a verdict of accidental death with the omnibus driver exonerated of any blame.  It seemed that the 73-year-old Gollan, who had become blind in one eye, stepped onto Oxford-street without even looking where he was going.  It was an untimely end for a man whose whole life had been conspicuously marked by a sure sense of direction.