Undoubtedly the leading racehorse breeder in Victoria during the first decade of the twentieth century was Jack Smith of Bundoora Park, thanks mainly to his sensational stallion, Wallace. When Mountain King, a son of Wallace, won the A.J.C. Derby in 1907, he gave his sire the only success he would enjoy in the race. However, there is little doubt that in 1908 with a bit of luck the great stallion would have made it a double and Jack Smith, like John McDonald the year before, would have basked in the reflected glory of both owning and breeding the classic winner. John Mathew Vincent Smith, better known as Jack or J.V. Smith to a generation of racegoers, was born in 1857, the son of one of the co-founders of the well-known legal firm, Smith and Emmerton. Educated at the Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, he was a natural sportsman in his school days winning glory in both the football and athletic teams. After leaving school and gaining experience on stations in the Hillston and Hay districts of New South Wales, his first real foray into bloodstock came when he established a stud at Linwood Grange – a beautiful estate of some 5000 acres on the Loddon River in central Victoria.
To the extent that there was a foundation mare to Jack Smith’s stud ventures then Frou Frou was that mare. Bought at the Glenormiston sale in 1886 for 465 guineas, she was already 16-years-old when Smith got her, but she continued to foal regularly until 1895. Indeed, very few mares in the nineteenth century were as prolific as this English-bred mare by the 1863 English Derby and 2000 Guineas’ winner, Macaroni. From the moment that her first foal, Wellington, won the 1878 Victoria Derby and a host of weight-for-age races, Frou Frou’s stud reputation was secure. In the years after she came into Smith’s possession, she produced some fillies that both won on the racecourse, and threw winners in the paddock, including Switch, Balm, Meeki, Shimmer, Flash and Spitfire. Following his successful acquisition of Frou Frou, Smith gradually built up his band of stately broodmares at the dispersal of such high-class breeding establishments as Kirkham, Hobartville, Fulham Park, St Albans and Neotsfield.
It was in the year 1899 that Jack Smith made his move to historic Bundoora Park, purchasing six hundred acres of the prime land, on the Whittlesea-road, which connected the Victorian capital with the Plenty Ranges. The property enjoyed an extensive frontage on the Darebin Creek. Long before it came into Smith’s possession, the place had achieved fame in its association with blood-horses. A previous owner, Samuel Gardiner, the well-known breeder and sportsman, had given the Turf world such luminaries as Darebin and his half-brother Prometheus, as well as the likes of Progress, Loyal Stone, Precious Stone, Turquoise and Coriolanus – all bred in those famous paddocks. Angler stood there as a stallion too, and it was on that ground that Messrs William C. Yuille and Co conducted their first sale on 31 December 1878 when William Branch bought progress for 225 guineas. The paddocks still contained the ruins of the pagoda purchased by Gardiner from the trustees of the Melbourne International Exhibition held in 1880-81. After Gardiner’s clearing-out sale in the early nineties, the property was lost as a stud farm for some years until Smith’s intervention.
Smith lost no time in enclosing the property with a beautiful fence of hardwood pickets six feet high, sowing English grasses extensively, and, while retaining the old house almost on the summit of Sugarloaf Hill, set about constructing a new mansion in the Queen Anne style nearby. Smith organised a public architectural competition to choose the winning design, which was submitted by Sydney Wilson, a leading Melbourne architect. Wilson’s plan involved a double-storey asymmetrical house with dominant hipped roofs, protruding strapped gables and tall brick and stucco chimneys. Built in 1899-1900, the fourteen-room mansion became known as Bundoora House and was to remain the home of the Smith family for the next twenty years. From the upper verandas, the city of Melbourne could be seen in the distance together with sweeping vistas from the Dandenong Ranges to the south-east across to Mt Macedon in the north-west. The grounds were developed to create a vast, colourful garden filled with azaleas and rhododendrons which surrounded the house, with a conservatory nearby, while an orchard and vegetable garden were planted further afield. The house still stands today.
As canny as some of Jack Smith’s broodmare acquisitions may have been, it was the piece of business that he transacted at Scott’s Hotel on 7 November 1900, that brought everlasting glory to his reputation and that of Bundoora Park Stud. It was on that day that he attended the St Albans dispersal sale and bought the stallion Wallace for just 750 guineas, although he had gone there with the intention of getting the celebrated Bill of Portland. Smith bid up to as much as 4250 guineas, but the English commission was unlimited that day, and the wonder stallion left Australian shores. Wallace had served his first book of mares at St Albans in 1896 and his progeny was just beginning to hit the racecourses when Smith gained possession. Like his sire Carbine, Wallace wasn’t an imposing horse in appearance, while his light chestnut colouring was apt to prejudice some people against him. Smith’s vision extended further than mere appearances, however, and just what a grand a bargain he got in Wallace soon became apparent. In the next few weeks and months increasing numbers of the stallion’s progeny came to race; his first crop included the Caulfield Guineas winner, Kinglike, and the Futurity Stakes winner, Aurous, to name just two, while the second crop numbered amongst it the VRC Oaks winner, Beanba.
Jack Smith had no shortage of good matrons with which to mate Wallace immediately, although in the first few seasons at Bundoora it seemed that all of Wallace’s best winners came from outside mares. Smith continued to add selectively to his broodmare band, however, and one such addition was Morisca, a daughter of Splendor, bred by Henry Dangar in 1893 at Neotsfield, which Smith picked up with that stud’s dispersal in April 1904. At the time the mare had a filly foal at foot by Positano, and the Bundoora Park studmaster bought both for 360 guineas. She was the second most expensive of the eighteen broodmares sold that day and the only one to beat her was Jacinth with the future Poseidon, a foal at milk. The following spring Jack Smith mated Morisca with Wallace and in 1905 the mare dropped a dapper chestnut filly that the studmaster registered as Mother Goose, named after the collection of nursery rhymes and fairytales so beloved by his two daughters. As a rule, the Bundoora Park studmaster retained most of his well-bred Wallace fillies for racing and later breeding. Mother Goose was no exception and when a rising two-year-old she was placed in the stables of James Scobie, with whom Smith was to remain loyal throughout his life.
For some time, Jack Smith had been racing in a small way, but the advent of Mother Goose marked a new beginning in more ways than one. Coinciding with the coming of Mother Goose the Bundoora studmaster decided that a change in his registered colours from ‘yellow, light blue sleeves and cap’ to ‘blue and white check, red cap’ – thereby incorporating the colours of the Union Jack – might bring him more luck. The filly made her racecourse debut at Caulfield when finishing runner-up in the Mona Nursery after starting a warm favourite. Perhaps it wasn’t quite the fairytale start that the filly’s name suggested, but the money Jack Smith left behind in the betting ring on the heath was more than recouped seventeen days later. In a field of fourteen for the rich Maribyrnong Plate, the daughter of Wallace triumphed in the hands of James Scobie’s son, George, at the lucrative price of 15/1.
Rested, she was then brought back for the Sires’ Produce Stakes at both Flemington and Randwick. At Flemington, Mother Goose just managed to see out the race in beating the Ascot Vale Stakes winner and son of Wallace, The Brewer, by a head; while at Randwick she was relegated into second placing by Malt Queen, the unbeaten daughter of Maltster then acclaimed the finest two-year-old of the season. While the Sires’ was the last appearance of Mother Goose before she retired to winter quarters and set for the Derby, Malt Queen was brought out again on the Monday for the Champagne Stakes. It was an unusually wet Easter in Sydney that year, and yet the refreshing consistency of Malt Queen was a feature of the meeting. This little daughter of Maltster was purchased as a yearling for just 135 guineas by James Brennan, the prominent horse-owner, bookmaker and theatrical manager of the period, and given to his young son, a lad not long out of school, who decided to train the filly himself. Bought initially to race among the Galloways, she soon proved that her lack of size was no real drawback and when she won the Champagne Stakes carrying the extreme penalty she completed her sixth successive victory in the season without once ever tasting defeat.
How far Malt Queen might have extended her brilliant speed was a question that was never answered. Just before winning those two big engagements at the 1908 Easter gathering, the flying filly’s hoof had been pricked in shoeing and after satisfying her commitments she went to Mr Stewart’s veterinary hospital for treatment. In early winter she was dramatically scratched from all her spring races and turned out in the Upper Hunter, where a short time later she was found dead in her paddock. It was surmised that there had been a recrudescence of the foot trouble, which eventually developed tetanus. Such then were the hazards of bloodstock racing and breeding in the early 1900s, but Malt Queen’s demise left Mother Goose as the most discussed filly in the Federation.
However, by the early winter of 1908, Jack Smith wasn’t the only owner of a rising three-year-old by Wallace harbouring dreams of classic glory at Randwick. At Bringenbrong, on the Upper Murray and almost within sight of the source of the river, the brothers Peter and Walter Mitchell placed great faith in a lumbering big son of the now famous stallion which they had bred themselves and entered for the A.J.C. Derby. His name was Trafalgar. How the brothers came to breed this champion son of Wallace is an intriguing tale in itself. His dam, Grand Canary, was foaled at Tocal and sold as a yearling to James Mitchell of Tabletop, the uncle of the future owners of Trafalgar. John Allsop tried to win a race with Grand Canary but she proved a failure on the track and he returned her to Tabletop a maiden. Subsequently, James Mitchell offered the mare for sale and by chance, it was his nephews who bought her for about 35 guineas. Belying her indifferent record on the course, she proved an outstanding matron in the paddock from the very beginning. Trafalgar was her eighth foal but she had already produced two good ones before him, in Corroboree, a Futurity Stakes winner, and Munderah, a VRC St Leger hero, each to different stallions. One day when the Mitchell brothers were contemplating where next to send the mare, they received a postcard from Archie Yuille, which among other things proffered the following advice: ‘How to breed a Derby winner: You buy Wallace, or sell Jack Smith Searchlight or Grand Canary.’
The brothers didn’t buy Wallace but did the next best thing and mated the mare accordingly. The postcard itself was retained as a relic for years at Bringenbrong, and, as we shall see, if the prediction of a Derby winner from the match proved somewhat askew, neither Peter nor Walter Mitchell was ever heard to complain. Trafalgar was actually foaled at Bundoora Park while his dam Grand Canary was on a second visit there to Wallace. The brothers reared the foal at Bringenbrong and kept the big chestnut back until about May of his second year, making no secret of their belief in him. Sent to Walter Hickenbotham in Melbourne to be prepared, the trainer quickly confirmed the brothers’ convictions. But the gangly fellow proved as lazy as a telegraph messenger, and Hickenbotham was unwilling to push him while he was still maturing. Accordingly, Trafalgar’s racecourse debut didn’t come until the back end of his juvenile season when he finished unplaced in a five-furlong scamper at Caulfield. Hickenbotham pushed on with a Derby preparation, relishing the prospect of longer ground for his putative champion. However, it wasn’t to be. Trafalgar was judged to be too backwards when the time came for the overland trip to Sydney, the A.J.C. Derby coming too soon and Hickenbotham opted reluctantly to stay at Flemington for the V.R.C. spring meeting instead.
As good as Mother Goose was, there were other promising three-year-olds being prepared in the rustic splendour of Dowling Forest by Jim Scobie during that spring of 1908. A certain son of Maltster out of a sister to the Melbourne Cup winner, Arsenal, named Alawa – a big, gross horse – was showing distinct promise, although seemingly not as robust as the filly, and there were already suggestions of leg problems. Mother Goose came to hand more quickly than Alawa and was tried at Ballarat just as Malster and Hautvilliers were before they were taken across to Sydney to win, and the gallop compared so favourably that Scobie believed the filly was almost sure of the Derby at Randwick. Certainly, Jack Smith thought so as he and his friends proceeded to back her into favouritism even before the little party had left Melbourne. In the end, Alawa was left at home and Mother Goose was the only horse Scobie sent to Sydney that spring, placing him in the charge of jockey Bob Lewis.
The vagaries of Sydney weather in the weeks leading up to the 1908 Derby were a source of much discomfort to owners and trainers alike, and even on Derby morn itself, the Randwick course was covered with a thick mantle of frost. The A.J.C. had affected many important improvements for the convenience of the public since the previous year’s classic, chief among which was the subdivision of the betting ring into sections; places being allotted to bookmakers, intended to save strangers a deal of worry and search when they happened to back a winner. A new semaphore had also been erected on the flat. Few Derbies had created as much pre-race interest as this one. The Governor-General, William Ward, 2nd Earl of Dudley, who had only been sworn in a few weeks earlier to succeed Baron Northcote, together with the Governor of NSW, Sir Harry Rawson, were among the large crowd in attendance.
The 1908 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:
Nine colts and one filly opposed Mother Goose for the classic and she was the first filly to start race favourite in twenty years. Best backed to beat her was Perkeo, a Maltster colt trained by John Allsop. Raised at the Widden Stud and sold as a yearling for 420 guineas to a popular western squatter, Perkeo owed his position in the market to a stylish first-up victory in the Rawson Stakes at the Tattersall’s meeting. Next fancied in the betting was Parsee, a nicely-made colt prepared by Ike Earnshaw at Bruntwood House. A slow-maturing juvenile, Parsee broke through for his first win at his fourth appearance when at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting he easily won the nursery handicap as the favourite on the final day in a race of eighteen starters. Rested until the spring, he had resumed smashing a good field in a flying handicap at Warwick Farm before finishing runner-up in the Rosehill Spring Stakes at his final Derby trial. Lord Nolan was an interesting classic runner and the winner of the Jockey Club Handicap at the recent Wallsend meeting. Jack Mayo, the Maitland identity, had bred the colt himself and reared him in a half-acre paddock at the rear of his Maitland stables.
Five years earlier, Jack Mayo had won the Melbourne Cup with another three-year-old, Lord Cardigan, and Lord Nolan was a three-quarter brother in blood to him; each being by Positano but Lord Nolan being out of Lady Lybia, a daughter of Lady Trenton, the mother of Lord Cardigan.
Monobel, a homebred raced by his breeder Joseph Brown, whose maternal granddam was the A.J.C. Doncaster and Oaks winning filly, Crossfire, was fancied because of his impressive winning debut in the American President’s Stakes in heavy going at Rosehill in August. The future Sydney Cup winner, Vavasor, was Tom Payten’s sole representative in the race. Golden Slipper, the only filly in the Derby other than Mother Goose, was in many ways the most intriguing runner of them all. A half-sister by Multiform to two grand gallopers in Aurum and Auraria, Golden Slipper came from the best family in the New Zealand Stud Book. She had been purchased less than two months before at the late George Stead’s dispersal sale, which, with the single exception of the disposal of the famous Maribyrnong Stud thirty-one years earlier, was the most prominent affair of its kind in Australasian history up to that time.
Regarded as the gem of the Stead collection, Golden Slipper was knocked down for an extraordinary 4500 guineas to Harry Chisholm, acting on behalf of W. E. (Ernest) White of Belltrees, one of the six sons of Frank White, and thus a nephew of the Hon. James. The price in the sales ring was the third-highest ever paid in Australasia – behind the 5600 guineas given for Nordenfeldt and the 4600 guineas for the ill-fated Titan. Golden Slipper had taken the only two races for which she sported silk for George Stead the previous season: the Champagne Stakes and the Challenge Stakes at Christchurch. A part-owner of Charge that won the Derby in 1896, Ernest White was keen to win the blue riband in his own right, and the filly purchased with that race in mind. Alas, Golden Slipper had arrived in Australia in a soft condition and too late for trainer John Finn to adequately prepare for the classic. She was to prove a profound disappointment both on the racecourse – where she won only two minor races for White as a four-year-old – and in the paddock where she threw nothing of consequence.
Mr Mackellar despatched them to a fine start. That it was a truly-run Derby was largely thanks to the dashing tactics employed by jockey Bob Lewis on Mother Goose, who led her ten opponents before the field had even left the straight. Perkeo was in close attendance followed by Monobel, The Kite, Ariki and Parsee pulling hard against Tom Clayton, with the others trailing off. The order remained much the same going down the back of the course, although by the half-mile Parsee had been given his head to move up on terms with Mother Goose and Perkeo. Jack Smith’s filly proved a little awkward on the turns but held her advantage into the straight. Only then did Clayton go for Parsee and the classy-looking colt finished-off the race with a real dash of speed. Monobel made a late run to claim the second prize as Mother Goose faded into the minor placing as the pace-making effort told in the end. A John Smith had indeed bred the Derby winner, but it wasn’t the same John Smith that the public had been expecting.
Spotting a future Derby winner when a foal and recommending it to a client might be regarded as an accident when done once, but when a man does it twice in three years, it smacks of deliberation and judgement. And yet this is precisely what Ike Earnshaw had achieved with Parsee. As we have already seen, when Neotsfield Stud was broken-up in the autumn of 1904, Earnshaw advised the brothers Will and Fred Moses of Combadello, to purchase Jacinth, with Poseidon a foal at milk, for 400 guineas. Something similar happened two years later when John R. Smith, the founder of the famous Tucka Tucka Stud, at Yetman on the Macintyre River, decided to disperse his horses in April 1906. Smith disposed of his stock in stages, and on offer at one of the sales was the mare Pona, with Parsee, a foal at her side. Pona traced back to Medea, the dam of Blink Bonny, one of those Tasmanian mares that John Crozier got over to St Albans after Malua, Stockwell, Sheet Anchor, Blink Bonny and Coronet had shown their worth. It was while at St Albans that Medea foaled Hippona, the maternal grand-dam of Parsee, to Newminster. It was Phil Glenister who bought Hippona and afterwards gave her to John R. Smith, and it was Smith who had bred Pona in 1897, although she never saw a racecourse.
Earnshaw was in attendance at that sale of Tucka Tucka stock with various commissions to buy anything that took his fancy, and he liked both Pona’s breeding and the cut of her foal. Accordingly, he acquired mother and son for 145 guineas, once again on behalf of the brothers Moses. When the foal had matured into a yearling and was offered by the brothers a year later at the Sydney Sales, Earnshaw liked him even more and bid 165 guineas on behalf of Tamworth sportsman, Mr C. Jeffries Britten. The brothers Moses might have sold out of a future Derby winner, but the broodmare Pona would give them complete satisfaction in the years to come. After all, her very next foal following Parsee turned out to be Poinard, the mother of champion galloper Poitrel, the winner of the 1920 Melbourne Cup among a host of other good races for Will and Fred Moses. A rich, dark bay with black points, and of beautiful length and proportions, Parsee had completed his juvenile season without attracting too much attention, although Earnshaw had always believed in his potential.
Born in Sydney in 1861, Isaac Earnshaw was a first-class trainer who had learned his craft under William Kelso senior at Orville Lodge. Their association came about quite by chance as Bill Kelso junior related at the time of Earnshaw’s death in May 1914: “About 32 years ago my father took Lord Orville and Rosebud up to Moss Vale for a meeting, which, consequent on snow and rain had to be postponed. It was impossible to use the Berrima course for training purposes but we got a gallop on a private track near Moss Vale. Owing to the bitter cold, Gorman, who was riding Rosebud, fell off, and Lord Orville got away from me. A young fellow who was present caught Rosebud, and on bringing her back, my father said to him, ‘Get a rubber and dry her’, and when he displayed such willingness added: ‘Do you want a job, my lad?’ The answer came quickly: ‘That’s just what I want – to get into a racing stable’. Prior to coming to our place, Ike had had comparatively little to do with horses, but he was so thorough and anxious to learn that he quickly knew as much as anyone in the stable. He rode in a few races and though he did not distinguish himself on gallopers, he had few superiors as a rider of trotters.” While the strict regimen and training routines observed from Bill Kelso became the anvil upon which his own approach to training was forged, the methods of Orville Lodge served as a catalyst rather than a template to Earnshaw.
In those bygone days, he was full of that trumpeting resentment with which young men are often apt to regard injustices in their first blush of youth. But it was an energetic resentment that Earnshaw channelled towards a positive achievement. After leaving Orville Lodge, Ike started as a trainer at Kogarah, where he enjoyed marked success with both horses and ponies. Earnshaw continually sought ways to improve his training skills all his life. He became the part owner of St Blaize, and it was with some well-placed betting coups with this horse that Earnshaw first established his formidable reputation in the ring. In December 1893, following upon Fred Day’s return to England, Earnshaw became the private trainer to Samuel Hordern at his Botany-street stables with boxes for twenty horses. He won several first-class races for the colours including in 1896 the AJC Metropolitan with The Skipper and the Villiers Stakes with Vivian.
When Hordern decided to retire, Earnshaw once again became a public trainer, and it was during the last fourteen years of his life that he enjoyed his most rewarding term. A vigorous, active man Earnshaw could be quite gruff and was not one to suffer fools gladly, regardless of their station in life. Here was a man who met all classes on equal terms, whether in the rough atmosphere of stable life or the refined ambience of the stately homes of his patrons, and he made his way with a determination and sincerity that raised him above his fellow trainers of the period. He made it an inflexible rule never to tell one of his owners about another’s horse, and if he had a probable winner in his stable, he told his other owners: “I am afraid there is one in the race that will beat yours” and let it go at that. But it was an attitude that won the respect of some distinguished patrons including the brothers, John and William Brown, and Fred and Will Moses, as well as Lachlan Mackinnon and Theo Marks.
Earnshaw was invariably the first man at Randwick in the mornings, and usually worked two lots, one before and one after breakfast, locating himself in his regular haunt under the practice-starting barrier. Apart from the actual training of horses, Earnshaw was, with the exception of Tom Payten, probably the most active bloodstock dealer in Sydney and it was no accident that so many of his patrons were leading horse-breeders. It was Earnshaw who was responsible for buying Tressady in England on behalf of William Brown, during his visit there in 1911. Earnshaw for one regretted the advent of so much inferior St Simon blood coming into Australia and marginalising those old Australian strains that had done so much for soundness and stamina. Apart from the horses already mentioned in this narrative, other good gallopers with whom the trainer enjoyed success included Sir Foote, Haulette, Posadas, Woorak, Chantress, The Owl, Beanbra, Stand Off and Antonio. Following his death in May 1914, Earnshaw’s estate was valued for probate at £29,840/6/9d, testimony enough to his shrewd tilts at the ring and his canny eye for bloodstock. But, cautious to the last, his three children were denied access to their share of the estate until the age of 25, and during the intervening years were not to receive more than £1 per week.
Charles Jeffries Britten, the Derby-winning owner who raced under the thinly disguised nom de course of ‘Mr C. Jeffries’ was a blunt old Herefordshire man who came out to Australia and became king of the Tamworth locality. Among other civic duties, he was the honorary secretary of the Tamworth Jockey Club for some years as well as president of the North-West Racing Association. A genuine sportsman, his passion extended beyond the Turf to embrace both cricket and boxing, while there were few better farmers in NSW. Parsee and Nothos were the best of a number of good racehorses to carry his colours in a lifetime on the Turf; he conducted the Woodhouse Stud on the Peel River where among others he bred Mungindi who won the Grand National Steeplechase before being sold to the Rajah of Pudakota. Jeffries Britten reposed absolute faith in Ike Earnshaw, and it was on the latter’s recommendation that he purchased Mousqueton, an English-bred son of Carbine out of an Oaks winner, and the hero of a Sussex Stakes at Goodwood, to stand at his stud. After Earnshaw’s death, the Tamworth identity scaled back his involvement with racing, although he still retained the odd horse in Sid Killick’s Newcastle stables.
Parsee was twenty-six-year old jockey Tom Clayton’s second winner of the A.J.C. Derby in three years, and his last ride in the race. Less than six months later he was dead, the result of a horrific race fall at Rosehill when a dozen horses crashed to the Turf in the opening event of the programme in March 1909. Clayton’s mount, the prophetically named All Blue, was the first in the twenty-nine-horse field to fall on the home turn and proceeded to roll on the rider. It was largely as a result of that disaster that the practice of dividing races, thereby reducing numbers, came about in Sydney. Born in St Leonards, on Sydney’s north shore in 1882, Clayton had served his apprenticeship with Earnshaw. Always a daring rider, confident and jealous of his abilities as a horseman, he enjoyed a modicum of success as an apprentice but found the going tough when he entered the senior ranks. He was seriously contemplating a transfer to New Zealand or Western Australia in the spring of 1904 when Humphrey Oxenham entrusted him with the mount on his aged mare Acrasia in the Melbourne Cup. It was that success that proved the turning point in the lad’s career.
Clayton went on to become associated with a string of good horses. Apart from his wonderful partnership with Poseidon and Parsee, he won a number of quality races on Lady Wallace and Tartan, among others. Clayton was always a particular favourite of Charles Jeffries Britten, the owner of Parsee, even when a young apprentice learning his trade. At times, Jeffries Britten’s friends would chide the popular owner for cruelling some of his good things by placing them in the hands of the inexperienced apprentice. But he retained his faith and was rewarded by seeing the jockey rise to the very top of his profession and steer a Derby winner sporting his very own colours to boot. On the Saturday following Clayton’s death, Jeffries Britten scratched Parsee from the Rawson Stakes out of respect for the late jockey and the colt would have started a very warm favourite for the £125 prize. It is touching to recall that when Clayton’s remains were interred at Waverley cemetery before one of the largest sporting funerals seen in Sydney up to that time, Poseidon’s colours were neatly laid on the coffin.
Metal, the sire of Parsee, was bred in England by that master trainer John Porter but was raced by the Duke of Westminster. Foaled in 1882, Metal didn’t see a racecourse until he was three-years-old, and at that age won the Dee Stakes at Chester, and beat his only opponent for the Gatwick Stakes at Goodwood. Later at the same meeting, he finished second in the Goodwood Cup and shortly afterwards was bought by Lord William Beresford – reportedly for 2000 guineas, and sent to India where he won the Viceroy’s Cup as a three-year-old in 1885 for the Maharajah of Durbungah. Bruce Lowe fancied the horse’s breeding and induced Lord Beresford to send him out to Australia in April 1889, after his racing days were over. Lowe believed that his good friend William Dangar would buy Metal but Dangar took a set against the stallion, which left Lowe in something of a bind. Eventually, Charles Baldwin of Durham Court came to the rescue and took the horse off his hands. Metal did well at Durham Court where he sired the dual Summer Cup and Australian Cup winner, Blue Metal, as well as Telegraph, Talavera, Metallic and Tubal Cain, another that went to India and won the Viceroy’s Cup. At times Charles Baldwin could be wholly impecunious, and it was during one such period of depression that John R. Smith made him an offer for Metal, which was accepted. Thus, the stallion went even further north to Yetman on the banks of the Macintyre and stood at the Tucka Tucka Stud for many years where he shared the pleasures with Gozo.
Metal sired a number of useful horses there without fulfilling expectations, and while Parsee was the best of his progeny for John Smith, he also managed to get the Tattersall’s Cup winner, Hoop Iron, the Summer Cup winner, Caledonia, and the Epsom winner, Sleeper. It is interesting to reflect on the Tucka Tucka Stud breeding a Derby winner in 1908. Less than twenty years before, there was not a thoroughbred stud on the rich north-western plains in the district near Moree. John Robert Smith pioneered the way there and was soon followed by John McDonald at Mungie Bundie and Messrs Moses at Combadello – and in the period 1897 to 1908 no less than three A.J.C. Derby winners and five Melbourne Cup winners grazed on these plains.
The failure of Mother Goose to win the A.J.C. Derby was the biggest disappointment in Jack Smith’s racing career; although in finishing third – less than three lengths from Parsee – after having acted as pacemaker for much of the journey, the filly suggested a prosperous life on the Turf was about to unfold. It wasn’t to be. An accident when she escaped from her attendant and smashed into a fence at Coogee had seemed to destroy all her confidence. After that, Mother Goose failed to place again that season while as a four-year-old all she could manage to win was a lowly handicap at Ballarat; she was peremptorily retired to the Bundoora Park Stud as a broodmare at the end of her four-year-old season. Wallace, Bundoora Park’s champion stallion, was to sire five Victoria Derby winners in total eventually, but never again got a son or daughter to do what Mountain King had done in the A.J.C. Derby of 1905.
Jack Smith might have gone through the spring of 1908 without a Derby to his name; but not so his trainer, Jim Scobie. Ironically, it was Alawa; the stablemate always believed to be inferior to Mother Goose that gave the Ballarat stable the laurels in the Victoria Derby. Never a horse that could stand heavy work, Scobie was nonetheless able to give the son of Maltster enough training gallops to enable him to outstay Parsee up the Flemington straight on the last day in October. The two colts had previously fought out the finish of the Caulfield Guineas, although in the Victoria Derby the finishing order had been reversed. In so doing, Alawa became the first winner of that race owned by a woman. However, leaving sexism aside, the real three-year-old triumph at that particular V.R.C. Spring Meeting came three days later when Lord Nolan, Jack Mayo’s pony, (which he believed had been so badly ridden in the A.J.C. Derby) took out the Melbourne Cup. In so doing he gave the Maitland identity his second victory in the rich handicap and each time with a three-year-old bred from the same family! It completed a fine spring for John Smith’s Tucka Tucka Stud, for not only was Parsee bred there, but Lord Nolan was conceived there as well.
It often happens that a colt can win the Derby at Randwick but still not be a genuine stayer. It remains true even today when the classic is run much later in the season, but it was a more frequent occurrence in the days of the springtime blue riband. Parsee is a particular case in point. Moreover, when a Derby winner’s staying pretensions are later exposed not by older horses but by a fellow three-year-old at level weights, the eclipse is complete. This was to be the story in the autumn of 1909. The loss of form and ultimate retirement of Mother Goose led most sportsmen to conclude that there was no first-class racehorse among the Wallace foals of 1905. Walter Hickenbotham and the brothers Peter and Wallace Mitchell begged to differ. On the very same day that Parsee claimed the classic at Randwick, Trafalgar had won a much easier ten-furlong handicap at Flemington. The ensuing weeks of spring and summer had seen Trafalgar furnish into a fine specimen of a racehorse as he grew and matured into his giant frame. After winning that open handicap at Flemington carrying a modest 6 st. 11lb, Trafalgar proceeded to record a series of disappointing performances including runs in the Caulfield Guineas and Victoria Derby, redeemed only by another handicap victory at Flemington on the last day of the V.R.C. spring meeting. Hickenbotham wasn’t bothered; he knew that time was on his side and private trials suggested that the big son of Wallace could sustain speed over longer distances better than any horse he had ever seen, bar one, and that horse was now serving mares at Welbeck Abbey on the other side of the globe.
Trafalgar’s accession to greatness began at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting of 1909. Hickenbotham had laid the big chestnut out to win the Sydney Cup, a race in which he enjoyed a 7 st. 11lb handicap. On the first day of the fixture for Trafalgar’s final hit-out before the Cup, he was preferred for the weight-for-age Autumn Stakes (12f) instead of the easier St Leger Stakes against his own age group. Many were surprised at Hickenbotham’s boycott of the St. Leger, which resulted in a hollow victory to Lord Nolan. Trafalgar would have started in it but for the penalty conditions attached to the race, which, had he been successful, would have seen him carry 5lb more in the Cup, the real target of his Sydney campaign. Parsee, too, had been preferred for the Autumn Stakes as Earnshaw by now was convinced that a mile-and-a-half was the very limit of his horse’s stamina. Not that Trafalgar was expected to bother the Derby winner as he was sent to the post at 12/1, while Parsee was always odds-on in the betting ring. As it turned out, Trafalgar upset the odds laid on Parsee with a barnstorming finish and then two days later, on Easter Monday, the came out as the favourite in a field of seventeen and won the Sydney Cup by a head in another thrilling contest.
On this form, the Cumberland Stakes looked a good thing for Trafalgar. However, Lord Nolan jostled him time and again in the last mile, and he got squeezed out of that race completely, although Lord Nolan later lost it to Neith in the stewards’ room. On the last day of the meeting, however, Trafalgar settled Neith, Lord Nolan and the rest of them when he ran away with the A.J.C. Plate over three miles, confirming himself as the finest stayer in the land. The race conditions of that A.J.C. Plate stipulated that, unless the winner covered the three miles in 5 minutes and 45 seconds or less, the added money of £1,000 would reduce by half. Trafalgar only just got within the time limit by a half-second thanks to the tremendous pace he set over the last mile which he ran – with a flying start of course – in 1 minute 38 seconds. It was a brand of extended speed with which Turf aficionados at Randwick would become increasingly familiar over the next few seasons.
Parsee, a good horse though he was, proved no match for Trafalgar after that clash as autumn three-year-olds. In the years to come the big son of Wallace carved a swathe through the rich weight-for-age contests at Randwick and Flemington at distances of two miles and more, whereas Parsee was restricted mainly to middle distance events, winning among other races the Tramway Handicap, VRC All-Aged Stakes and AJC Craven Plate. Parsee was one of those stallions that soured towards racing with age. He proved particularly tiresome at the barrier during the A.J.C. autumn meeting in 1910 when a well-backed failure in both the Doncaster and Coogee Handicaps, only then to spring an upset in the Final Handicap when left out of calculations by most of the public. Parsee’s last race came in the Futurity Stakes at the Caulfield Autumn Meeting of 1911. By then, even his owner Charles Jeffries Britten had given up on him, and as Britten was set to embark on a trip to the continent with Ike Earnshaw in search of a stallion and additional broodmares for his Woodhouse Stud, Parsee went on the market. A month or two later the stallion was sold at Chisholm’s for just 450 guineas to William Pearse of Plashett, on the Upper Hunter River at Jerry’s Plains, who used him to replace Fucile, a son of Carbine. He turned out to be a good buy for Pearse, not so much because of any brilliant stud career – although he managed to get some useful gallopers such as Nindi and Pochee from his only two books of mares in Australia – but rather because his early stud success encouraged the German Imperial Stud to pay around 2500 guineas to acquire him. The German Government, given the likelihood of war, were desperately building up their ranks of horses at the time, and some Australian horses found their way to German shores including the 1909 Epsom and Doncaster Handicap winner, Hyman.
Trafalgar’s racing career was to last a good season and a half longer than Parsee, his last start coming when he won the two-mile Randwick Plate at the 1912 A.J.C. spring meeting. Leg problems developed after that race, and while another attempt was made by Hickenbotham to train him some eighteen months later, Trafalgar’s trackwork suggested he would never return to his best, and he was finally retired to stud. His complete race record was 59 starts, for 24 wins, 11 seconds and 6 thirds for prizemoney of £22,111, which placed him second on the all-time money list of racing winners in Australia behind Carbine. History hasn’t been particularly kind to Trafalgar, and his posthumous reputation has suffered largely because his dominance came about in marathon races that are either no longer conducted on the Australian Turf, or, if they are, their conditions have so changed to be but a pale imitation of the original.
But just consider this. Trafalgar contested 15 races over two-miles and won nine of them while runner-up three times. Seven of those wins were at Randwick and included the 1909 Sydney Cup as well as four consecutive runnings of the Randwick Plate in the years 1909-1912. Trafalgar’s record at three-miles was even more impressive: five wins and two thirds from seven attempts including two V.R.C. Champion Stakes and three A.J.C. Plates. Doubtless, the name of Trafalgar would resonate more gloriously had he won that famous 1910 Melbourne Cup in which he finished second to the high-class imported horse Comedy King, to whom he conceded 19lb in weight. Sustaining a brilliant finishing run in the straight after coming from near the rear of the field, he went under by a mere half-head.
Trafalgar initially retired to Peter and Walter Mitchell’s property at Bringenbrong. The Mitchell brothers were sons of Thomas Mitchell and grandsons of the well-known Captain Mitchell of the British Army who sold his commission in Sydney in the early nineteenth century and took up extensive tracts of country in the Albury, Beechworth, Corowa and Culcairn districts. Most of the family were interested in racing, and James Mitchell of Tabletop station, who won the 1896 Caulfield Cup with Cremorne was a brother of Peter and Walter. Despite the family wealth, the relationship between Peter and Walter Mitchell was never really harmonious although Trafalgar’s racecourse triumphs served to paper over the fracture during his racing days. It was another story when the stallion was retired to stud, and the partnership between the brothers was dissolved amidst much rancour and bitterness even before the first of Trafalgar’s progeny hit the racecourse. The three stallions in which they had a joint interest – Trafalgar, Perambulator and Pomander – were put up for sale by William C. Yuille and Co in Melbourne in March 1916. Sometime before, the brothers had divided the mares which they held in partnership, with Walter Mitchell taking his share to Towong on the southern bank of the Murray, and Peter Mitchell remaining at Bringenbrong. In that division, Walter Mitchell got a prize in Sizzle, with the future Melbourne Cup winner, Patrobas, at her side. At the time of the dramatic sale, the first of Trafalgar’s progeny were two-year-olds though none had raced; and there was a rumour abroad that Trafalgar was not a prolific foal-getter, although this was strongly contradicted in the Melbourne press.
The truth was that he didn’t serve that many mares in the spring of 1912 because at that time Hickenbotham was hoping to bring him back to the racecourse. What gave the lie to the rumour of his fertility, however, was the manner in which both brothers that were in a position to know the truth went at each other’s throat to acquire sole possession. Whatever the headlines Trafalgar had excited during his racing days, they were nothing compared to the manner in which that auction was conducted! From an opening bid of 300 guineas, in a matter of minutes, the price had rocketed to 7500 guineas with the buyer acting on behalf of brother Walter. In another of those curious symmetries that occur so often on the Turf, Trafalgar came back to stand briefly at historic Bundoora Park, the place of his birth, at 50 guineas per service with the intention of replacing his own sire. The end came for the great Wallace when he was finally put down with a dose of chloroform in December 1917 after some weeks of suffering at the age of twenty-five by a merciful Jack Smith. In the 22 years that he served at stud, he begot some wonderful sons and daughters who between them won 949 races worth £246,145 in stakes. Included among them were six individual winners of each of the Victoria Derby, V.R.C. St Leger and V.R.C. Oaks; two Melbourne Cup winners; and four A.J.C. St Leger winners.
Jack Smith enjoyed his most prosperous period on the Turf during the reign of Wallace. If he hadn’t won the colts’ classic, he at least had the satisfaction of winning the fillies’ classic twice, when daughters of Wallace, in Moe and Rosanna, carried his colours to victory in the V.R.C. Oaks in 1912 and 1915 respectively. Orvieto was yet another daughter of Wallace that did Smith’s red, white and blue silks proud on the racecourse. The influence of Wallace was to live on through the stallion’s daughters, many of whom as stout-producing matrons roamed the Bundoora paddocks. The champion sire had become something of a family pet to Jack and Ellen Smith and their four children, and he was buried with much love close to the Bundoora Park stables. His grave was marked by a flat stone cairn inscribed with his name. Jack Smith was a wealthy man before Wallace came into his life, but he was immeasurably richer thereafter. At various times he owned Ludstone Chambers in Collin St, and Damman’s on the corner of Collins and Swanston St, Melbourne; as well as the Terminus Hotel in Brighton.
In securing Trafalgar to stand at Bundoora Park, the hope was that, as Wallace’s best son, he might carry on the dynastic endeavours where his sire had left off. Great expectations though Jack Smith and the general public might have entertained for his progeny; the fairytale didn’t have a happy ending. Trafalgar hardly proved a success as a stallion, which was true of almost all of Wallace’s sons, and his progeny only managed to win two principal races on the Australian Turf viz. Heart of Oak, winner of the 1919 W.A.T.C. Plate; and Annexit, winner of the 1921 A.R.C. Birthday Cup. Trafalgar had hardly started his stud career when Jack Smith, suffering the first symptoms of the fatal illness that would claim his life less than three years later, decided to put Bundoora Park on the market. Trafalgar was shuffled off to the Mitchell’s Towong estate on the Upper Murray where a decade later the great racehorse was humanely destroyed in February 1929 after breaking his leg while galloping in his paddock.
The Bundoora Park Estate was put up for public auction at Scott’s Hotel, Melbourne, on 3rd November 1919. By then Bundoora Park was one of the outstanding breeding establishments of the southern hemisphere. Its 606 acres had been subdivided into 27 paddocks with the Yan Yean reticulated throughout, and there were 16 loose boxes, several stallion yards, besides a handsome brick villa that served as the Stud Groom’s residence. Alas, it wasn’t destined to continue as a stud, for the Commonwealth Government stepped in and bought the whole estate for £28,000. The house and land were initially used to accommodate veterans of the Great War who were suffering from shell shock and related psychiatric disorders and chosen because of its isolation and tranquillity. Having sold out of Bundoora, Jack Smith bought Kuarangi Stud at Toolamba in the Goulburn Valley as a replacement but didn’t have long to enjoy it. After suffering a long illness, Smith died in March 1922 at his impressive residence, Scarborough, in Lansell Road, Toorak, at the age of sixty-five leaving behind two sons and two daughters from his marriage to Ellen, a sister of Archie Yuille. Just five months later, the Australian Turf lost another of its famous studmasters when his namesake, John Robert Smith, the breeder of our 1908 Derby hero, Parsee, and the proprietor of the once great Tucka Tucka Stud, died at his Sydney home in Darling Point. Smith, a much-travelled sportsman, had sold his famous stud to J. C. White of Edinglassie on the eve of a long departure for Europe.
While nothing of Tucka Tucka Stud as John Smith knew it now survives, Bundoora House continues to thrive, although it has undergone various guises down the years. In 1930 while the convalescent and repatriation role of the house and surrounds continued, almost five hundred acres of the property together with the original thoroughbred stables and the stud master’s brick cottage became the headquarters for the Victoria Mounted Police. The repatriation hospital that Bundoora had grown into by 1993 was decommissioned that year and ownership of the estate transferred from the Commonwealth back to various State instrumentalities. While the Preston Historical Society now administers the former stables and stud master’s cottage together with the blacksmith shop and sheds, Bundoora House itself, with the assistance of La Trobe University and the Federation Fund, is now open to the community as a cultural and arts centre. Legend has it that if any visitor with a lively imagination wanders too close to the grave of Wallace late at night, a distinct clip-clop of hooves might be heard echoing nearby.