Few subjects on the Turf are more engrossing than that of the performance of younger brothers or sisters of champion racehorses, relative to their cost of acquisition. This matter of famous siblings is a recurring theme, although it is fair to say that many a hopeful buyer in parting with a hefty sum for a blood relation has often had cause to rue their impetuosity. But then every once in a while, there comes along a brother or sister than proves the rule. Until the 1886 racing season perhaps the best pair of siblings to grace the Australian Turf had been Petrea and First King bred at St Albans by James Wilson senior, although the brothers Richmond and Bosworth, produced at the Hobartville Stud of William Town, weren’t much inferior. The question of just how much a younger brother to a champion racehorse was worth, arose again on the very day before the running of the 1884 Victoria Derby when W. C. Yuille and Co. of Melbourne conducted their second annual auction of Etienne de Mestre’s yearling stock. In all, there were nineteen lots on offer at the firm’s Newmarket saleyards that adjoined the famous Pastoral Hotel, and many of the rich and powerful sportsmen gathered in the Victorian capital for the Flemington Spring Meeting went in quest of a bargain.
Racing can be a cruel sport. The Darwinian ethos of survival of the fittest plays itself out both on and off the racecourse. The agonising death throes of Etienne de Mestre’s Terrara Stud had become a matter for public consumption as 1884 unfolded and the economic depression lengthened, but the crumbling of one bloodstock empire afforded opportunities in the building of another. The Hon. James White had never been a stranger in paying extravagant sums for the siblings of champion thoroughbreds as his purchases of Segenhoe and Martini-Henry demonstrated. Nor was he to become one now. The prospect of acquiring the yearling brother to our 1882 Derby hero, Navigator, being offered by de Mestre on that glorious day was too good to resist. A remarkably handsome, dark chestnut, standing 15.2 ½ hands, the colt was somewhat more substantial than his famous brother at the same age, and though not so compact and well-ribbed as Navigator, he had splendid shoulders and strong quarters. Seemingly he was made for speed. It might have been early in the season for buying yearlings, but James White was forced to bid as much as 800 guineas to secure possession – a stiff price considering the hard times, and it was significant that none of the other eighteen lots on offer came within even half of that amount. Michael Fennelly gratefully welcomed the colt, registered as Trident, into his Newmarket stables.
James White had single-mindedly pursued the purchase of Trident despite the promise being shown by his homebred Chester stock, the first colts of which were only now appearing in public. As we have seen, Chester’s first crop included the crack juveniles, Monte Christo and Uralla, and when Michael Fennelly began breaking-in the stallion’s second book of youngsters during the winter of 1885, the prospects seemed even brighter; and five of them viz. Acme, Philip Augustus, Tamarisk, Volcano and Neophyte, together with Trident, were entered for the rich A.J.C. Champagne Stakes. Acme, a diminutive brown filly out of the imported English mare Princess Maud, was the first to break cover when she impressively won the initial running of the Richmond Stakes (4f) on the third day of the 1885 A.J.C. Spring Meeting. Taken to Melbourne, she appropriated the Great Foal Stakes at Caulfield and the Maribyrnong Plate at Flemington as well, before being sent for her summer spell.
James White had a well-known aversion to the early racing of two-year-olds and from his position of A.J.C. chairman had argued strongly against the club’s institution of the Richmond Stakes at their spring meeting; his preferred position being that juvenile races be prohibited before November 1st. Indeed, he indirectly supported Henry Austin when he tabled a motion to that effect at the 1886 general meeting although it wasn’t to be successful. Juvenile racing early in the season had taken hold by the mid-eighties and clubs such as Tattersall’s, Rosehill, Hawkesbury and Canterbury Park had all, in their several ways, done much to encourage it. However, many influential A.J.C. members including William Long were happy to see such an event introduced at Randwick with good prizemoney – five hundred sovereigns with an additional twenty added for each subscriber. It at least challenged the hitherto unrivalled position of the Victorian race clubs as regards offering generous prizes for the likes of the Great Foal Stakes and the Maribyrnong Plate. White might not have supported the concept of early two-year-old racing, but when the Richmond Stakes became a fact of life at the Randwick Spring Meeting, he eagerly chased the prize, and as club chairman reasoned to himself that he had a responsibility to support the event.
Acme was a notably precocious filly in the spring although she lost form badly in the autumn, perhaps as a result of being pushed preternaturally early. Generally, the racecourse debut for the Newmarket colts and fillies with which White entertained classic ambitions at three was invariably a less-hurried business. Trident was a case in point.
The Boxing Day fixture at Randwick was chosen as the occasion for the brother of Navigator to make his initial bow to the public, and the race was the A.J.C. Christmas Gift, a ten-furlong event at weight-for-age. Handicapped at 6 st. 1lb but carrying 4lb overweight, the colt scrambled in to win the race by a head. The depth of the Newmarket juveniles that season was emphasised that day given that earlier on the card Philip Augustus had won the rich December Stakes in very fast time and many regarded this son of Chester as the better of the pair. It was a meeting also marked by the presence of the new Governor of New South Wales, Charles Robert – Lord Carrington, who had succeeded Sir Augustus Loftus to become the sixteenth man to hold office, and he served early notice that he would be taking a very active role in matters of the Turf. Carrington had brought out his own trainer from England, Mr Day, and had quickly established stables at Randwick to fly his blue and buff colours
Even as a young two-year-old, Trident was a striking chestnut of quality, more prepossessing than his older brother and a horse that would improve with maturity. Taken to Melbourne for the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting, a minor injury prevented Trident from showing his best in either the Sires’ Produce Stakes or All-Aged Stakes in which he ran minor placings. But back on his home course for the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, he afforded definitive proof of his staying pretensions when he upset his more fancied stablemates by making a deal of the running and still having enough left to deprive Tamarisk in a very quick 1 minute and 29 seconds. Fennelly had sixteen horses owned by James White in work at Randwick that autumn and he was beginning to think that Navigator’s younger brother might be the most promising of the lot.
But Trident’s juvenile season was to end on a rather ignominious note when he ran unplaced in the Champagne Stakes, and only managed the minor placing in the All-Aged Stakes when sent out as the favourite. Those two failures left both Fennelly and White with a queasy aftertaste, despite finishing leading trainer and owner respectively at the Randwick meeting. Perhaps the chestnut colt wasn’t in the same class as his illustrious brother after all. Like the year before when the two men for a time considered Uralla superior to Nordenfeldt, a similar mistaken notion began to take hold that perhaps Volcano, a son of Chester and that good race mare Etna, might be the better Derby prospect. After all, he at least had run a nice second in the Champagne Stakes and then won the First Foal Stakes on the third day of the autumn fixture when beating Blairgowrie, despite being hampered by a penalty. Indeed, in the aftermath of the meeting, White quietly arranged for some money to be placed on Volcano in Derby and Cup betting.
As the drowsy days of autumn shortened into winter, it seemed that only one man stood between the Hon. James White and a third successive blue riband at Randwick. And that man was Daniel Cooper, the eldest son of Sir Daniel Cooper, first Baronet Cooper, of Woollahra.
Both Daniel and his younger brother William, who were to become the second and third baronets respectively, were to play significant, if short-lived, roles on the Australian Turf in the late nineteenth century. Their family fortune derived from the extensive mercantile house of Cooper Brothers that had been built up by their father and uncles in the years before the Australian gold rush. It was then greatly augmented during those roaring days after the business had passed entirely into the first Sir Daniel’s hands in 1852. Besides owning large tracts of land around Woollahra and Double Bay, much of which he inherited from his uncle, the first Sir Daniel also invested in extensive stations in the western districts. He was one of the colony’s leading citizens who served as the first Speaker of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly from May 1856 until January 1860, about the same time that he completed a six-year stint as president of the Bank of New South Wales.
As befitted one of the colony’s captains of commerce, the first baronet proposed the building of a family mansion, Woollahra House at Point Piper, on the site of Captain John Piper’s former Henrietta Villa. Despite the foundation stone being laid by the Governor Sir William Denison in 1856, the mansion remained unbuilt at the time Cooper returned to live permanently in England in 1881. Once back in England, he was for a time to act as Agent-General for N.S.W. Construction of the impressive family pile eventually fell to his youngest son, William. While the first baronet hadn’t embraced the Sport of Kings during his years in Australia, his two sons did so with gusto. The brothers were close, and while each usually raced their own horses with only a few held in partnership, both brothers retained Tom Lamond as their trainer, at least until William had a falling out with Lamond after the 1886 Melbourne Cup over Trenton, which William had bought for a hefty sum.
The elder brother, Daniel, was twenty years younger than James White, and in 1886 enjoying his best year on the Turf with two of the best colts of the season in Chesham and Blairgowrie. Both horses had been bred at Fernhill and were sold on April Fool’s Day 1885 as part of the E. K. Cox dispersal sale as a consequence of Cox’s death almost two years’ earlier on 25th July 1883. It might have been April Fool’s Day when Daniel Cooper did his bidding but neither colt was to prove a foolish purchase, and each carried the ‘orange and white hoops, white cap’ with distinction. Chesham was a half-brother to the Hon. James White’s mighty champion Chester, being by Grand Flaneur from the imported English mare, Lady Chester, and had cost Cooper 650 guineas. Blairgowrie was a different style of racehorse altogether being a big, raking chestnut by the imported English stallion Vespasian and possessed of formidable power behind the saddle. Blairgowrie boasted an aristocratic lineage not much inferior to Chesham, and it was not a little surprising that the horse cost Cooper just 200 guineas. After all, he was out of that wonderful English broodmare Atholine, a daughter of the 1855 English One Thousand Guineas’ winner. Atholine had proven her worth at stud long before Blairgowrie arrived, having thrown that smart trio of sisters, Narina, Habena and Geraldine to the leading stallion, Yattendon. Narina and Habena had each won a Maribyrnong Plate, while Geraldine, in the colours of William Long, shared the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick with Kamalaroi in 1880.
The prices that Daniel Cooper paid were not particularly extravagant; after all, at the same sales, Arthur Smart parted with 1550 guineas for the ill-fated Montem, while James White gave 1060 guineas for the half-sister to Bargo by Chester, the future A.J.C. Oaks winner, Tamarisk. Chesham had proven his value when he won three of his ten appearances as a juvenile including the Ascot Vale Stakes at the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting. Blairgowrie, too, had proven in his first season that he would uphold the family reputation for speed when he won three of his eight starts including the V.R.C. Flying Stakes at Flemington in the spring and the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes, albeit with a weight advantage, in the autumn. Besides those performances, Blairgowrie ran the minor placing in the Maribyrnong Plate, and, together with Chesham, granted Daniel Cooper the quinella in the Ascot Vale Stakes. Both on the score of breeding and conformation, Chesham looked the more likely staying prospect of the pair, and it was therefore with considerable disappointment that an injury during his Derby preparation prevented the colt from taking his place in the A.J.C. blue riband.
A crowd of between 15,000 and 20,000 people patronised Derby Day under blue skies, filling the lately enlarged saddling and carriage paddocks and the recently completed St. Leger stand. His Excellency the Governor and Lady Carrington were among the visitors to the new official stand. Randwick racecourse as it then stood can be seen today in a very rare photograph in possession of the A.J.C. In 1885-86 the club engaged Sydney’s leading photographer, Charles Kerry, to visit Randwick and capture the panorama of the racecourse. He did so by taking four negatives on glass plates from the centre of the racecourse looking south-west toward where the suburb of Kensington now stands. The four photographs were cleverly sewn together to create a continuous panorama of the racecourse and its surrounding environs and then mounted inside a timber frame. It is a vibrant scene from a past age when horses were the basic means of transport, and smart carriages, water troughs and hitching posts litter the landscape. This wonderful work of art now hangs in the Alison Road offices of the Australian Jockey Club, having been discovered only a couple of years ago in a distressed state under some timber and masonry in a racecourse workshop, but now carefully and lovingly restored.
The progress made by the club in the previous two decades was readily apparent when one compared the sums devoted to prizemoney in the years 1866, 1876 and 1886. For the first it was £3,305; for the second £4,985 and the third £13,000. There were some people, such as William Long, who didn’t believe this prosperity was adequately reflected in the condition and layout of the course itself and required alteration, given a spate of recent fatalities. Changes were occurring in the surrounding environs as well. The old Half-Way House (Cutts’s) between Humphrey Oxenham’s house and the Randwick Racecourse had quietly disappeared, and in its place, was emerging a first-class hostelry called the Racecourse Hotel, with a Mr Taylor as host. The house afforded excellent accommodation for sixty borders and together with its thirty loose boxes, offered a powerful attraction to visitors during the major Randwick meetings.
On Derby Day the course surface was in splendid condition for making time, something that would become readily apparent with the running of the classic. Five horses stripped for the Derby and with Acme, the only filly in the field deputed to act as Trident’s pacemaker, the Newmarket flagbearer was at prohibitive odds to emulate what his brother, Navigator, had achieved over the same course just four years before. Blairgowrie, like Trident, making his seasonal reappearance, remained a firm second favourite while the only other horse in the betting was Kingfish. The latter represented a fascinating example of trans-Tasman breeding. The dam of Kingfish was the remarkable Yatterina – a Yattendon mare bred in New South Wales but brought over to New Zealand by Auckland butcher, William Walters, the owner of the Glenora Park Stud at Papakura. Yatterina was extensively raced by Walters, winning more than fifty races before being retired as a ten-year-old mare. A favourite debating subject on the Turf is the extent to which excessive racing happens to cruel the procreative potential of a mare. If a long-lived and demanding regimen on the Turf is meant to inhibit a matron, Yatterina is the exception that proves the rule. Yatterina’s first mating, to Traducer, had given Walters a Great Northern Derby winner in Libeller, while her foal the season before Kingfish came along had been Matchlock, by Musket, who, as we have seen, carried James White’s colours with such distinction. James Monaghan trained Kingfish, who had struggled home to win the Hawkesbury Guineas in his latest outing. The only other Derby starter was Kingsgrove, but on appearances, he was a horse that wouldn’t have been owned by any self-respecting costermonger.
The 1886 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
Acme quickly took up the running after going a few strides and, in the interests of her stablemate, made it a good gallop. Even by the time she passed the stands, the filly was a good seven lengths clear of Trident, who was three lengths in front of Blairgowrie, in turn closely attended by Kingfish and Kingsgrove. The first two furlongs were put by in 27 seconds. The field ran in Indian file to Cutts’, where Acme remained five lengths clear of Trident and it wasn’t until passing the seven that Hales began to move on the latter. Acme swept around the bend still clear of her stablemate, but giving out signs of distress, while Blairgowrie was within three lengths of the leader with Kingfish at his girths. When Acme was done shortly after entering the straight, Ellis pulled out, allowing Trident to dash up on the inside. Hales made a slight call on the favourite, who answered in slashing fashion to run home the easiest of winners, with Blairgowrie retaining enough vestigial strength to deny Kingfish second money in a tight contest. Just how well Acme had done her job and how good Trident seemed to be, was borne out by the clock. The time at 2 minutes 38 seconds was easily a race record, clipping four and a quarter seconds off Bargo’s time and faster than any colt had ever gone at Flemington over the same distance.
The Derby result again served to focus attention on the stallion Robinson Crusoe, which had now sired two full brothers in Navigator and Trident that had emulated his own achievement in winning the A.J.C. Derby. When Navigator had come along with Solitude and Sylvanus in Robinson Crusoe’s first crop at Terrara, it seemed that anything might have been possible for the son of Angler at stud. Alas, in the intervening years before the arrival of Trident, Robinson Crusoe had failed to sire either a colt or filly to win a principal race. Neither the climate at Terrara nor the parlous state of Etienne de Mestre’s finances had helped promote the stallion. On the day that Trident won the Derby, both his sire and his dam, Cocoanut, had already returned to their old trysting place at Maribyrnong, where they had been matched again and where Robinson Crusoe was also serving a limited number of public mares at just 25 guineas a service.
In April 1887 when W. C. Yuille and Co sold the balance of the Terrara Stud, the stallion was the principal attraction. After a sharp competition, the then rising 14-year-old horse was knocked down to John Crozier for 875 guineas. Although Crozier was determined to give the old fellow every chance at St Albans – and he did sire a series of good horses there – he never again sired one approaching the class of either Navigator or Trident. It seemed that the truth was that Cocoanut, deserved as much, if not more, of the credit for this remarkable pair of siblings; for we mustn’t forget that she threw that wonderful matron, Copra, to Robinson Crusoe as well. Certainly, William Pearson thought so, and he was willing to pay 350 guineas at the Terrara Stud dispersal for Cocoanut, which by then was 21-years-old, on the off-chance that she was in foal yet again. She wasn’t, and it proved to be an expensive purchase, for the old English mare ended her days at beautiful Kilmany-Park without further issue.
The Derby was to be the harbinger of a nigh impeccable three-year-old season for Trident with the stylish chestnut tasting defeat but once in twelve starts. On the third and fourth days of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, Trident respectively won the Craven Plate and Randwick Plate on the bridle, and one could have guessed as much a mile from home. Starting at tens on in each race and posting smart times into the bargain, no one could doubt that an elemental force had stolen upon the Turf. Indeed, the 1886 A.J.C. Spring Meeting proved particularly rewarding for the Hon. James White. Of the twenty-four races conducted over the four days the Newmarket stable won six, and for the record, Trident apart, the other winners were Neophyte (Trial Stakes), Tamarisk (The Oaks) and Volcano (Second Foal Stakes).
In the wake of the A.J.C. spring gathering, it was reported that James White had been offered 10,000 guineas for Trident. As the sceptical E. S. Chapman observed when detailing the offer, the colt was not worth it except for one purpose, to effectually dispose of his chance for the V.R.C. Derby and Melbourne Cup. When Newminster was similarly situated in 1876, some thousands of pounds were offered by interests allied with the bookmaking fraternity to the Messrs Chirnside for the colt, but they refused, and so now did White. Michael Fennelly, together with his right-hand man, Thomas Payten, travelled ten horses to Melbourne by rail for their spring meeting and, as usual, stabled them at the Springfield property of Frank Mortison in Ascotvale Road. While Trident blossomed, Fennelly began to betray the first symptoms of the disease that would so soon claim his life. Payten started to do more of the hands-on work with Trident who suffered a minor accident in training that cost him a few working gallops. The horse was in the habit of brushing himself behind in his galloping action, and, to prevent any ill-effects, both Fennelly and Payten always exercised the colt with an indiarubber ring round his off-hind pastern. Fortunately, the workload that Trident had carried at Randwick stood him in good stead, and he stripped for the Victoria Derby no worse for the lack of a gallop or two.
The withdrawal of Acme saw seven go to the post for the Victoria Derby with Trident quoted at 2/5. Volcano, his stablemate, only beaten in the last few strides of the Caulfield Guineas, was now deputed to cut out the running for the classic. Chesham, Daniel Cooper’s high-profile defector from the A.J.C. Derby was expected to be one of the hardest to beat and Tom Lamond was particularly ebullient about his chances. Despite being at unbeatable odds, the race wasn’t without incident for Trident. Volcano almost overdid the pace-making duties when, under the Flemington hill and hugging the rails too tightly, he struck them and nearly catapulted his jockey, Ellis, out of the saddle. It was only with consummate horsemanship that Ellis remained seated although he severely cut his leg. In falling back Volcano unwittingly interfered with Trident, causing the favourite to lose considerable ground. Alec Robertson on Chesham wasn’t slow to take advantage of the incident and skipped into the straight a dozen lengths clear. Hales set off in pursuit riding Trident vigorously with the spurs for the best part of five furlongs, and although on the line he had two lengths to spare over Chesham, with the rest of the field trailing badly in their wake, it was a more fraught contest than the margins suggested. The clock confirmed that in the frantic chase the son of Robinson Crusoe had equalled Martini Henry’s race record. 1886 was the first year that the Victoria Racing Club followed the custom, so long in vogue at Randwick, and adorned the winner with a blue riband. It was a scene that was captured gloriously for posterity by the brush of Carl Kahler in his famous oil painting, ‘Derby Day’, which now hangs in the committee rooms of the Victoria Racing Club.
The result of the Derby invested the disappointed Daniel Cooper with the dubious honour of owning the Derby runner-up to Trident at both Randwick and Flemington, albeit with different horses, although each was ridden by the crack Alec Robertson. Curiously enough, as we shall see, it was a feat that the Coopers and Robertson were to repeat at both courses again in 1887 when Niagara, Trenton’s half-brother, was to be runner-up in both classics. That was the last chance poor Robertson ever had of winning a Derby. At the Tattersall’s Club meeting at Randwick on 2nd January 1888, when riding William Cooper’s Silvermine, the 27-year-old jockey was involved in a fall, which fractured his skull. Silvermine was killed, and Robertson died in St. Vincent’s Hospital the following day. Robertson had won among other races the 1884 Melbourne Cup on Malua and was a great plunger on his own mounts, which saw his finances constantly in a topsy-turvy state. At the time of his death, he was largely broke although according to Milroy, he had Silvermine running that day for £4,000, the newspaperman having laid the commission. Daniel and William Cooper settled out of their own pockets many of the claims upon the dead jockey and financed a graceful tribute to their loyal retainer in the form of a handsome monument over his grave in Waverley cemetery.
Three days after the Victoria Derby Trident was despatched the 5/1 favourite in a Melbourne Cup field of twenty-eight. Trident had been the bookmakers’ bugbear for some weeks coming into the Cup, and his Derby win hadn’t helped matters. If he had caught Mr Wakely’s eye first on that eventful Tuesday, the ring would have been shaken to its very foundation. As it turned out, it was to be the only defeat Trident suffered that season. Well-positioned throughout the race, Trident turned into the straight on terms with Arsenal but nature was unequal to the strain, and he wilted to run a most respectable fourth. Whatever the disappointment in the Cup, Trident’s splendid performance to win the weight-for-age Canterbury Plate on the last day of the meeting saw the stylish son of Robinson Crusoe widely adjudged the best horse to appear at the meeting. Never mind the presence of the odds-on Trenton, owned by William Cooper, in the select field of four. With the ever-faithful Tamarisk setting the pace for her stablemate, Trident finished too strongly and had a length to spare over Trenton at the post after the fastest three miles ever run in Australia. How the Cooper brothers and Tom Lamond must have been utterly sick of the sight of Trident that spring!
Absent from the racecourse during the summer, Trident resumed in late February to continue where he had left off. With the able Tom Payten deputing for the incapacitated Michael Fennelly who remained in Sydney, Trident snaffled the St. Leger, Australian Cup and Champion Stakes in the space of eight days at the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting. The Australian Cup was the best race of the meeting, and the closest Trident came to tasting defeat. Nelson, the champion six-year-old stallion from New Zealand, and the recent winner of his second Auckland Cup with 9 st. 8lb was perhaps a touch unlucky in going under by a half-head to Australia’s three-year-old star. Nelson dashed to the front with a half-mile to run, and Trident just managed to catch him on the line, after Nelson’s jockey dropped his whip in the tight challenge. The Champion Stakes proved a hollow affair with the weight scales ensuring that it had become little better than a handicap made in favour of the three-year-olds, and as such had come to be regarded as an annual presentation to the best representative of that year. Only three horses contested the race – all three-year-olds – and with Volcano acting as the pacemaker, Trident won in a canter from Blairgowrie. Brought back to Sydney, Trident rounded off his remarkable season by adding the Cumberland Stakes and A.J.C. Plate to his list of honours. It was hardly surprising that the Hon. James White again finished at the top of the winning owners’ list with nine individual winners of twenty-five races and £15,027 in stakes. By contrast, Daniel Cooper came in at sixth place on the list. How Etienne de Mestre must have bitterly repented the circumstances that had forced him to sell such a colt as Trident when just a yearling! His string of victories as a three-year-old alone would have done much to restore the tarnished image of the Terrara Stud.
Trident’s brilliant three-year-old season has few parallels on the Australian Turf, and it was hardly surprising that the sporting pressmen were penning rapturous encomiums and speculating on just what this unlikely son of Robinson Crusoe might achieve in the years ahead. The sad answer, in short, was not much. The chestnut resumed in the new season at the 1887 A.J.C. Spring Meeting and easily won both the Spring Stakes and Craven Plate but was then surprisingly beaten in the Randwick Plate by an emerging three-year-old in The Australian Peer, despite odds of 1/8 and the presence of Aberdeen to make the running for him. Trident’s last race came in the Melbourne Stakes just over a month later when, in a field of six and a shade of odds-on, he failed to run a place. A weakness in one of his forelegs prevented him from being trained properly thereafter. Both Fennelly and Payten had been conscious of the weakness, and throughout his racing career, each deemed it advisable to protect his forelegs with bar shoes. Now, the sudden departure of a champion racehorse from a stable is to be much regretted at any time, but for the Hon. James White in the spring of 1887 it was more a case of “The King is dead. Long live the King!” For that spring the blue and white Newmarket banner had been carried to a fourth successive victory in the A.J.C. Derby by a washy chestnut named Abercorn and the Squire of Cranbrook already suspected that greatness lay within. But we shall get to that story in due course.
As we have already seen as regards Nordenfeldt in the previous chapter, the presence of the sensational Chester and to a lesser extent Martini-Henry, meant the Kirkham Stud had no requirement for Trident in the stallion barn. Accordingly, the champion racehorse was sold to John Lee to stand at the Bylong Stud. Both John and his brother James, of Larras Lake, patronised Trident in his first seasons with some good Yattendon mares and, as we have already seen, George Lee sent over the wonderful Nellie in the four successive seasons after she had foaled Etra Weenie to Trenton, only to be poorly repaid for his exertions. The Lee brothers weren’t the only good judges of racing stock to overrate Trident’s potential as a stallion. Among the buyers of the first progeny of our 1886 Derby hero were Donald Wallace and John Bowden, the latter paying as much as 400 guineas for a yearling colt offered by Thomas Clibborn in April 1891. Alas, the poor performances on the racecourse of Trident’s first couple of crops, was to be all too typical. Like his distinguished brother, Navigator, he was to prove a rank failure at stud. He managed to get a Sydney Cup winner in Tricolor and successive winners of the Queensland Derby in Tridentate and Triton, as well as The Trier, which won both the Anniversary and Hotham Handicaps, but considering the quality of the mares sent to him, his achievements were not much better than Navigator’s.
The 1886 A.J.C. Derby was by no means the last Randwick classic to fall to the lot of the Hon. James White, although it did represent the nearest that Daniel Cooper came to claiming the prize. In 1888 both he and his brother William removed themselves to England for a lifetime of organised self-indulgence and to be reunited once again with their father upon whose death in June 1902, Daniel succeeded to the baronetcy. While William had been a member of the A.J.C. committee, Daniel never served in such capacity although he remained loyal to the club. When Tom Clibborn visited England in 1888, Daniel Cooper presented him with three equine portraits from the brush of John Alfred Wheeler as a gift to the A.J.C. Cooper had purchased them at the sale of the late Fred Archer’s estate, and they represented three of Archer’s great mounts viz. St Simon, Wheel-of-Fortune and Barcaldine. The paintings decorated the Randwick weighing room for a number of years. I might also mention that his brother, William, was quite generous in this respect too, for in 1896 when he returned from a lengthy sojourn in Europe, he presented the A.J.C. with nineteen pictures of celebrated English racehorses mounted in oak and gold frames. The collection included the likes of Isinglass, La Fleche, Common, Ormonde, Cloister, St Serf and Ayrshire.
Although Blairgowrie was the best horse Daniel Cooper raced in Australia, there were others with ability including Sorata, Argyle, Hunting Tower, Bowmont and Oceana, the dam of the Melbourne Cup winner, Newhaven, which his brother William raced for a time. Soon after his arrival in the Old Country, Daniel Cooper resumed his sporting pursuits thereby establishing the Warren Stud at Cheveley and, curiously enough, among his first purchases were some horses that his old protagonist the Hon. James White had bred in Australia to English time and sent across the seas to tilt for glory on the English Turf. One of them, Mons Meg, costing 2600 guineas, won Sir Daniel Cooper the Gold Vase at Royal Ascot in June 1891.
It was just one of many successes that Cooper enjoyed in England. From 1891 until his death in June 1909, his name figured on the winning owners’ list in all but the years 1896 to 1899 and his winnings totalled upwards of £57,000. Cooper was elected a member of the Jockey Club in 1894 and became a friend of the future King Edward VII and a staunch supporter of the English classic races.
Twice Daniel Cooper started horses for the English Derby: running the unplaced second favourite, Dorcas, in 1891, and then seeing his good colt, Flotsam, take the minor placing behind Rock Sand in the 1903 renewal. In 1906 he captured The One Thousand Guineas with Flair, a filly of his own breeding, while he also bred Perola, a filly by Persimmon, who won The Oaks for his brother William in 1909 just a matter of days before his own death. Buried at historic Newmarket with the King in attendance, the disposal of Daniel Cooper’s broodmares and foals at the July Newmarket sales caused quite a stir when the thirteen lots realised 48,140 guineas including a record price for a broodmare when Flair went for 15,000 guineas while her sister, Lesbia, sold for 9000 guineas.