There have been few more staunch patrons of the Australian Turf than Agar Wynne. Born in London in 1850, the son of a builder, his family migrated to Victoria during his early years. Educated at Melbourne’s Church of England Grammar School, Wynne completed the articled clerk’s course at Melbourne University and went to the bar in 1874. One of his early legal practices was based at Ballarat, and it was there that he first followed the hounds, riding with the Ballarat Hunt Club and acting in the capacity as the club’s secretary at the time Norman Wilson was the Master, and James Scobie the Huntsman. Wynne’s love of the hunt exceeded his skill in the saddle, but his involvement with the club forged a lifetime friendship with Scobie, who managed Wynne’s team of hunters. It wasn’t long before the young man was racing some horses on the flat too, although his early ventures were rather conspicuous failures and he cloaked them under the nom de course of ‘A. W. Raby’. As with his involvement with the Ballarat Hunt Club, Wynne for a long time served as the honorary secretary of the Ballarat Turf Club as well. The seminal event that changed Wynne’s fortunes on the Turf came while in England with his attendance at the sale of the late Baron Hirsch’s stud in 1896, and his impulsive acquisition of the stallion, Grafton. As we have already seen, no sooner had Wynne returned to Australia but he was anxious to pass Grafton off to commercial breeders, and with Tom Payten’s good offices, Grafton was eventually domiciled at Widden with spectacular success.
Agar Wynne’s connection with Grafton, however, did not end with the stallion’s sale. Anxious to acquire one of the horse’s first-season progeny, Wynne commissioned Tom Payten for the job. As it transpired, Payten himself had bred a colt by Grafton from his own mare, Pie Crust, one of the Kirkham horses that he’d bought at the end of her racing career, and it was this yearling that he recommended. This was the background to Wynne’s acquisition of Grasspan. Although an ugly duckling, Grasspan was one of the best juveniles of his season and matured into a very good three-year-old the following year. He was desperately unlucky not to give Wynne a Victoria Derby when Kuhn’s protest was dismissed in controversial circumstances, although later that season the horse provided some consolation by annexing the V.R.C. St. Leger. Wynne was rather taken with Grasspan and subsequently bought Pie Crust’s following three foals by Grafton, which included Brakpan who won both the Champagne Stakes and Ascot Vale Stakes in 1902; and Koopan who emulated his brother by winning the Ascot Vale Stakes in 1904. As we have seen, both Grasspan and Koopan were placed in the A.J.C. Derby.
The only failure on the Turf among Pie Crust’s progeny that Wynne bought had been the filly foaled between Brakpan and Koopan. Wynne had parted with a thousand guineas to gain possession of Praleen, and she was quite young when Wynne decided to retire her to stud, choosing Ayr Laddie as her first lover. What Praleen lacked at the post, she made up for in the paddock as the resultant foal was Apple Pie. This was the first foal Agar Wynne ever raised. Given to Payten to train, she was good enough to win the December Stakes at Randwick in her first season; and as a four-year-old, she ran second in the Caulfield Cup and the Australian Cup, and an outstanding third behind Comedy King and Trafalgar in the 1910 Melbourne Cup. It was hardly surprising that Wynne elected to send Praleen back to Ayr Laddie to try for another like her. The result of this second matching was to be a little bay colt. Like his distinguished older sister, he passed into Payten’s renowned Newmarket establishment, and, registered as Cider, he would become the hero of the 1912 A.J.C. Derby.
Payten didn’t have many youngsters that season and remarkably, not one high-priced yearling, although it is fair to say that had Cider been sent to the sales, he would have commanded a stiff price. Payten was never a man to mollycoddle his juveniles: if the horse in question was going to come early, Payten argued, then it would do so, and there was nothing to be gained by deferring its racecourse career. Cider affords a good example of the theory in practice, and he ran in twelve races as a two-year-old, including seven by early November. Campaigned in both Sydney and Melbourne during spring and autumn, Cider lacked the early brilliance of some of his near relations and failed in the Breeders’ Plate and the Gimcrack Stakes, as well as the Maribyrnong Plate. Nonetheless, Cider did manage to win ordinary handicaps at Moonee Valley and Flemington before failing as a heavily-backed favourite in the Gibson Carmichael Stakes at the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting. There were mitigating circumstances, however, as he was interfered with badly as the field passed the abattoirs. Payten then returned Cider to Sydney by steamer and prepared him for a clash with Victoria’s best at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting.
The best juvenile seen out that year was Wolawa, a homebred from the Melton Stud owned by Ernest Clarke, and trained by James Scobie at Pytchley Lodge. A beautiful, big square-quartered brown horse by the all-conquering stallion Wallace, he was the first foal of the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes winner, The Infanta, that classy filly bred by old Sam Cook. Curiously enough, Wolawa was the first good horse to emerge from Scobie’s stables after the trainer’s move from Ballarat into the late Sam Cook’s Pytchley Lodge establishment at Flemington. Wolawa was included among the first draft of yearlings ever sent from Melton to the sales, and although he only had a modest reserve placed on him, it wasn’t reached. Subsequently, he had been sent to Scobie to train. This son of Maltster came to hand quickly and created a big impression when he won the Federal Stakes at Caulfield pulling up by five lengths and carrying 8 st. 13lb. Those Sydney trainers who were present passed the word along that here, was a youngster that would give his rivals windburn. Imagine their surprise when another son of Wallace in Sheriff Muir ran the 4/7 favourite Wolawa down just a week later in the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes.
At Caulfield, Wolawa had given that horse a stone and 13lb and yet won in a common canter. Clearly, something went amiss in the Sires’ and on the following Tuesday Wolawa confirmed as much by winning the Ascot Vale Stakes with Sheriff Muir relegated to third. Such was the confidence of Ernest Clarke in Wolawa, that when R. M Hawker challenged him to a match race with his own brilliant filly, Tadanga, winner of the Dequetteville Stakes and Morphetville Plate in Adelaide, Clarke agreed to Wolawa giving away 3lb with a side bet of £500. Match races had been a common occurrence in the days of Admiral Rous, but were a rare sight in the years before the Great War, and even rarer during a major meeting. The match occurred on the last day of the V.R.C. autumn fixture and attracted more attention than any of the main races, with Wolawa untroubled to win by three lengths.
Reports of the colt’s brilliance reached Sydney and created quite a deal of interest in Wolawa’s appearance for the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick. Seen alongside the other colts in the paddock, Wolawa might have been taken for a three-year-old, so well was he developed. The swaggering presence was replicated on the course proper, too, with Bob Lewis easing Wolawa up a hundred yards from the winning post yet still having three lengths to spare from Cider, who streeted the other runners. Cider, it was to become evident, was a horse that stood up to hard racing much better than Wolawa, a fact that was first demonstrated in the Champagne Stakes two days later when Payten’s colt caused a boilover by upsetting the odds of 3/1 laid on Wolawa. Admittedly Wolawa had been handicapped with a 10lb penalty, but Cider’s margin of three lengths was emphatic. As the two colts retired to their winter quarters, it was conceded by bookmakers and the racing public alike that this pair who had divided the autumn spoils would do so again in the spring.
Derby Day dawned and the most notable change to Randwick since the previous year was the greatly extended betting ring and the fact that each of the one hundred bookmakers operating in the paddock had a new bench upon which to stand.
At the June meeting, the club had experimented with two different designs for the bookmaker’s stand. One was basically a large stool with a back to it while the other resembled a low-sized auctioneer’s box. The consensus had been that the rostrum worked best and each bookmaker was now conducting their business by standing upon one, replete with his name and number. Such was the enthusiasm of the record Paddock crowd on Derby Day that even one hundred men with satchels couldn’t accommodate the demand. It was this unprecedented boom in attendance and betting turnover that was allowing the A.J.C. to increase stakes and develop the Randwick course dramatically. A measure of the growth was the fact that this was the third year in succession the added money for the Derby had been increased by a thousand sovereigns, taking the value to £5,000. Even the parochial racing journalist writing for the Victorian newspaper The Australasian had to acknowledge that the Sydney club had outstripped its Melbourne counterpart, attributing much of the advantage to the fact that the A.J.C. was able to charge admission to the Flat while the V.R.C. could not. The boom in prize money was, in turn, fuelling a boom in bloodstock prices. During the A.J.C. autumn fixture earlier in the year, The Australasian reported that the 493 yearlings had been sold for no less than 68,899 guineas! Even with the new St. Leger stand, the accommodation on Derby Day 1912 was inadequate.
The 1912 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
A storm on Friday afternoon before the Derby was responsible for half an inch of rain on the course, but it had the effect of settling the dust rather than rendering the ground soft. A large Government House party was in attendance with Lord Denman, Lord Chelmsford and Sir John Fuller present. From the original three hundred and twenty nominations for the classic, thirteen now faced the starter. Cider’s Derby preparation had consisted of just two races. The colt escaped the colds that were doing the rounds of the Payten stable during winter and resumed in mid-September, burdened with a 7lb penalty in the Chelmsford Stakes. Although he failed to run a place, finishing fourth in the race won by the classy Duke Foote, he beat all the other three-year-olds save Perdita, to whom he was giving 12lb. A week later Cider was given his final Derby trial in the Rosehill Guineas but ridden rather injudiciously by young Foley finished an unlucky third. While Cider opened as Derby favourite on the course, the flood of telegrams from Melbourne and weight of money quickly saw Wolawa displace him at the head of quotations. All this was despite the fact that the horse’s Derby preparation had been disrupted by a throat ailment contracted soon after he arrived in Sydney.
Sharing the third line of Derby betting were Elystan and Perdita, the latter a homebred filly trained by Dick O’Connor for William Brown. Perdita had earned her high rating when she unexpectedly ran second to Duke Foote in the Chelmsford Stakes. Next in the market came Symetris, a daughter of the 1898 V.R.C. Oaks winner, Symmetry, and she came in for strong, stable support. Sent down with the Oakleigh draft of yearlings with a reserve of 1000 guineas, which failed to be met, she was retained by her breeder James Thompson and had gone into Frank McGrath’s yard. When Thompson died suddenly in October 1911, the filly reverted to his son. Winner of the A.J.C. Easter Stakes in the autumn, Symetris had disappointed in the Rosehill Guineas, but then had come right away to take the Hawkesbury Guineas at her latest start. Burri, a 70 guineas’ yearling and the lucky winner of the Rosehill Guineas, shared the next line of betting with Aurifer, a future Caulfield Cup winner trained by James Seily for Fred Merton.
Yet another interesting runner was the Simmer colt, Simla, which Walter Blacklock had brought down from Brisbane, having won the Q.T.C. Hopeful Stakes with him the previous season. It is fascinating in retrospect to observe that the horse that would emerge as the finest stayer in the field, Cagou, a future dual winner of The A.J.C. Metropolitan as well as a Brisbane Cup, was sent to the post a despised outsider, along with Rathkeale, a good-looking son of Multiform out of a sister to Poseidon, who had been runner-up in the Breeders’ Plate, and sported the colours of the relative newcomer to ownership, Samuel Hordern.
Mr Mackellar supervised a fine start and Tartania, Joe Burton’s homebred filly and one of the least fancied runners, set a good gallop down the straight and along the back of the course. Wolawa, on the rails, got into trouble rounding the turn out of the straight and dropped back to nearly last in the first few furlongs before Lewis pulled the colt to the outside of the field. Meanwhile, Foley had made full use of Cider’s speed, and the colt was running second – a couple of lengths behind the filly at the six and was followed closely in turn by Symetris, Elystan, Perdita and Wolawa while Harpist was tailed off. It was at the half-mile that Lewis moved Wolawa up to the leaders, coming into the straight on the extreme outside and hanging badly. Wolawa was briefly hailed the winner at the Leger before he weakened, leaving Tartania maintaining her advantage until the distance. It was there that the race resolved itself into a three-way struggle between Cider, and Harpist and Perdita, who were finishing wideout under the judge’s box. Although Cider shifted out under pressure, he managed to win by less than a length under Foley’s strong riding from the rank outsider Harpist, which trainer John Allsop had presented in splendid condition on behalf of his owner, Hunter White, the A.J.C. committeeman and proprietor of Havilah Stud.
The vicissitudes of a stallion’s life are well demonstrated by Ayr Laddie, the sire of Cider, and his only A.J.C. Derby winner. The horse originally came over from England as a yearling together with FitzDonovan, Dalmeny and some other mares chosen in that country on behalf of Kirkham Stud by Harry Mackellar, who at the time was managing the stud on behalf of Mrs James White. Ayr Laddie raced in the Kirkham colours and from all accounts showed considerable galloping ability but had troubles with his feet and was retired to stud very early in life. Alas, Kirkham had a policy of not accepting public mares to their stallions and, given that Abercorn, Martini-Henry and Gossoon all stood there and took precedence over Ayr Laddie, opportunities were few. After the death of Mrs White, most of the stud’s bloodstock was sold, except for Abercorn and a few broodmares that were sent to Ireland. Ayr Laddie finished up at the Irvingdale station of Mr G. Neville-Griffith of Ilfracombe, a Thompson River station in Western Queensland. But in leaving Kirkham, the horse also left behind four foals that eventually found their way to the racecourse. Three of them were winners, among them that good mare, Air Motor. It was after she had won the Villiers Stakes and was unlucky to lose the Carrington Stakes when burdened with 10 st. 5lb that inquiries began to be made as to the whereabouts of her sire, which by then was leading a somewhat rustic life among station mares.
James Thompson, at Tom Payten’s urging, rescued the horse on behalf of N.S.W. for 1000 guineas in late January 1904 and in his first season at Oakleigh Ayr Laddie got a string of winners. He never looked back. That first day of the A.J.C. Spring Meeting in 1912 was a particularly good one for him, as apart from Cider’s blue riband, Hartfell, a horse bred by Tom Payten, gave him the Epsom as well. In fact, but for precipitately selling Hartfell for 800 guineas to Fred Merton after a series of disappointments the previous spring, Agar Wynne would have won both major races of the day. Largely thanks to these two prizes, Ayr Laddie managed to finish the season as the leading sire in Australia for the first and only time, although it was a posthumous honour. The stallion had died early in 1913 from a rupture of the intestines, aged twenty-one, at the Thompsons’ Wingarra Stud in the Bylong Valley. Others among his successful progeny included Cagou, who had finished unplaced in Cider’s Derby, the good Queensland horse, Bright Laddie, and that fine West Australian galloper, Jolly Beggar.
Before sending Cider to Melbourne, Wynne requested that he be matched against the older horses in the Craven Plate. The result was none too pleasing for the owner, if not altogether surprising when Duke Foote and Trafalgar had the race to themselves while Cisco, the previous year’s Derby winner just denied Cider a place. When Tom Payten did finally journey to Melbourne for Cup week, Cider was the only horse he bothered taking down. It was a far cry from those golden days of yore when Payten regularly plundered the south with a string of high-class gallopers. A great friend of the Flemington trainer, Mark Whitty, Payten usually stayed in his Ascotvale establishment, but with the Whitty stable full, this time he stopped with R. H. Frew in the house where the late William Filgate, and later F. F. Dakin had trained so successfully. That year Derby Day at Flemington was marred by persistent rain and conducted under such leaden skies, recourse to lighted candles was necessary for those working in the press and telegraph rooms.
Whether it was the soft ground or because Cider went to the front too soon, the fact was that Wolawa exacted a measure of revenge for his Randwick failure. Cider and Wolawa raced together over the last three furlongs and Wolawa on the outside, crowded Cider, affording Foley little chance of using his whip.
When Bob Lewis dismounted from the winner, he told Agar Wynne, for whom he often rode horses in the Scobie stable, that the two horses had touched. Wynne was dismissive of the incident, saying: “Don’t bother about that. I saw it, and it made no difference.” Now if only all owners could be so imperturbable in defeat. Payten, for all his reputation for dry humour and practical jokes, wasn’t quite so sanguine, particularly with Lewis’s spur stab at the point of Cider’s right shoulder. While Payten enjoyed a firm friendship with Scobie based both on mutual respect and some shared clients over the years, there was also a measure of professional jealousy, and neither man liked losing a race to the other.
As in Sydney, Ernest Clarke and Agar Wynne had saved a hundred on the result of the Victoria Derby together, and Clarke – beaming after his first Derby triumph – happily paid Wynne with the very same cheque he had received at Randwick. Thus, these two sporting owners, who bred and raced so many horses over the years, had each enjoyed their first Derby success that spring, and with homebreds. On the following day, Ernest Clarke graciously entertained both Wynne and Payten to luncheon at his Melton Stud. Payten backed up Cider in the Melbourne Cup, a race for which Wolowa wasn’t even entered, but after being prominent for much of the trip, the horse failed to stay and was one of the last to finish. Nonetheless at the Cup settling later that night, Payten was in fine form, even breaking into a speech. It seemed that Cider came out of the Cup in the same high spirits as his trainer, for on the last day of the meeting and his last race that spring, the horse finished brilliantly to narrowly land the Fisher Plate in which Wolawa finishing down the course.
In the autumn Cider’s only victory came in the St George Stakes, while his staying pretensions were fully exposed in the V.R.C. St. Leger won by Wolawa when he ran unplaced in a four-horse field, although he was reported to have suffered a mild colic attack just a few days before the race. His supporters reportedly suffered one shortly after the race. Payten, preferring the Doncaster, didn’t bother with the A.J.C. St. Leger – conceding the race to Wolawa who was untroubled in victory, although it was to be his last. Wolawa broke down immediately afterwards and never raced again. The winner of eight of his eighteen starts and £10,238 in prize money, Wolawa was sold for 400 guineas at auction to E. J. Watt. Wolawa did duty at Watt’s studs, firstly in New Zealand and then in N.S.W., before Ernest Clarke repurchased the horse to stand alongside The Welkin at Melton. Clarke had many mares by The Welkin and was seeking an outcross to another stallion. As such, the experiment with his former classic winner was a failure, and Wolawa failed to get the winner of any principal race in either N.S.W. or Victoria.
As a four-year-old, Cider demonstrated his versatility over shorter distances when runner-up in both the Futurity Stakes and the Newmarket Handicap. I think it was the disappointment of missing out on those two races that prompted Agar Wynne to cut his losses and sell the horse to Tom Scott for two thousand guineas. Scott was a successful owner-trainer at the time, and had campaigned for some years successfully in Calcutta; during the off-season, he made a habit of returning to Australia to look for likely prospects to race on the subcontinent. Two years earlier he had been fortunate enough to buy Saxonite with the same purpose in mind and managed to win the Sydney Cup with him almost immediately before shipping to India. Much to Wynne’s chagrin, Scott experienced similar good fortune with Cider, for no sooner had the transaction been finalised than the horse took out both the All-Aged Stakes and City Tattersall’s Cup at Randwick in the space of ten days, easily recouping his purchase price. Cider had remained in Payten’s stables for both those wins, and old Tom experienced mixed emotions as he had tried his best to dissuade his old friend from selling out but to no avail.
Cider represented 57-year-old Tom Payten’s fifth and final winner of the A.J.C. Derby, his previous success had been twenty years before with Camoola for the J. B. Clark confederacy. Payten would remain the most successful trainer of winners of the race for almost sixty years until Tommy Smith finally eclipsed his tally with Silver Sharpe in 1970. Although Payten’s early years of training, first for James White and then afterwards with John Bowden and associates, were the most lucrative in his career, he never lacked for distinguished clientele, and some of his later owners included the likes of Ewan Fraser, Adrian Knox and Colin Stephen. Payten never managed to win a Melbourne Cup despite numerous placings, but the failure was more than compensated by victories in most of Australia’s other rich staying handicaps. Payten won three Sydney Cups (Stromboli, San Fran, Vavasor), three Metropolitans (Abercorn, Projectile, San Fran), and a Caulfield Cup with Dewey. Apart from his training skills, it is now too easily forgotten just what a successful small-scale breeder old Tom was. Initially, he enjoyed an understanding with James Thompson and kept a few mares at Widden although later on, he bought a property, Alfalfa, near Canowindra. Among the high-class thoroughbreds for which he was responsible, apart from the progeny of Piecrust, were Great Scot, Britain, Iolaire, Bright Laddie, Peru and Melodrama – the last a horse he trained to win two Epsoms.
Significant race victories apart, Payten’s name during the early years of the twentieth century became inextricably linked with that of William Inglis and Sons and the Sydney yearling sales. As we have seen, when James White died in July 1890, Payten continued to use the famous Newmarket stables, eventually buying them the following year. Although he stabled yearlings there during the early 1900’s, it wasn’t until 1906 that he went into active partnership with John Inglis. Tom Payten provided the sale property, Newmarket, and supervised the stabling of the yearlings, their presentation in the ring, and their subsequent dispersal upon the fall of the hammer, while John conducted the sales and provided the city office side of the business. Although the stabling at Newmarket was considerable at the time, in 1907 Payten and Inglis erected a covered ring capable of seating a thousand people with places set aside for the press, while over the years the burgeoning success of the Easter sales forced Payten to construct even more boxes. It was a most successful partnership that only ended in 1918 when Payten, in poor health, sold Newmarket, which included about five hundred yearling boxes at the time, together with the racing stables and residence.
Although Payten briefly established himself in new stables that he had built in Botany-street, a long illness finally claimed his life in November 1920; and so, the tall, slightly stooped figure with the neatly clipped beard so familiar on Sydney and Melbourne racecourses for more than forty years, passed from the scene. In a sense, he had never recovered from the death of his wife, Jean, in June 1915. Payten was sorely missed in the Randwick community for he had always been a devout Catholic layman and a generous subscriber to Church charities. He left an estate to the value of £23,284 and apart from some bequests going to churches and benevolent institutions, the real estate was left to his surviving sons with the residence going to the three daughters. The association of the Turf and the name of Payten, however, did not end with Tom’s death. Two of his sons, Tom and Leo, bred horses for a time on the Alfalfa property and even stood Salmagundi there before Alan Cooper purchased the horse for Segenhoe. But it was another son, Bayly, who kept the Payten name before the public. Bayly, who had been assisting his father for some years, took over the Botany-street stables and became Sydney’s leading trainer, winning seven premierships before his own premature death in September 1948, at the age of just fifty-two.
A tolerant Anglican, Agar Wynne was for some years a member of the Victorian parliament, serving as both postmaster-general and solicitor-general; later he moved to Federal parliament and became Federal Postmaster-General in the ministry of Joseph Cook in 1913-14. Wynne was also the founder of the Argus and the National building societies and the chairman of various companies. Joining the V.R.C. in 1880, he was elected to the committee in August 1905 continuing to serve until February 1931 when ill-health finally forced him to resign as their longest-serving member. Wynne’s legal background and political contacts made him an invaluable racing administrator. When the principal race clubs of the Commonwealth got together in 1912 to codify new rules of racing that would bring uniformity to the various States, it was Wynne who did much of the drafting; and although he originally intended that geldings be excluded from all Derbies, opposition eventually saw that decision left to each club. A popular figure, he raced purely for the sport and throughout his racing life shared his horses between the stables of Jim Scobie in Melbourne and Tom Payten in Sydney, although it was with Payten, and the progeny of Grafton, that he enjoyed his greatest success. Apart from the three full brothers Brakpan, Koopan and Grasspan, there was also Melodrama, which twice won him the Epsom Handicap. Peru was another son of Grafton that raced in Wynne’s colours and with him, he won his second Australian Cup following the success of Great Scot a few years earlier. His last good horse was The Doctor’s Orders, with which he won the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes in 1930.
But there was plenty of dross among the gold of Wynne’s bloodstock ventures. He wasn’t afraid to pay a big price when he fancied a horse. Calaverite, a brother to Sylvanite, cost him 2100 guineas as a yearling and yet failed to win a race. After Tom Payten’s death in 1920, Wynne always kept a horse or two with his son, Bayly, and often did not know he had a horse in work until he received a training account. He wasn’t a sentimental man with his horses and, as we have seen, was often prepared to sell if the price was right. Coil, Great Scot, and Cider were just three of his best horses that all found their way to India under different ownership. At one-time Wynne owned Terrinallum, a station property in the Western district of Victoria, in partnership with his old Ballarat friend, William Bailey, and for a time they stood Coil there before his banishment. It was after the death of Bailey that Wynne parted with his interest and put his energies into establishing nearby Nerrin Nerrin Stud instead. This was a property of over seven thousand acres near Streatham. Among the stallions that he stood there, was the Flying Fox horse, Blankney II, the winner of a Gimcrack Stakes and Newmarket Derby in England, as well as King Ingoda and Thrice. Wynne died at his station home at Nerrin Nerrin in May 1934 leaving an estate valued at more than £100,000.
Before closing this chapter, I might mention that Cider was the eighth and last A.J.C. Derby winner to be sent forth from the famous Newmarket Stables. For most of the years since 1918, the year Thomas Payten sold it to William Inglis and Son, it has remained in the auctioneering family’s ownership, but not exclusively so. It was sold to the hapless Alan Cooper during his free-spending heyday in the 1930’s and for a time sheltered his racing stable, but when he fell on hard times, the property was on-sold to W. J. (Knockout) Smith, who renamed it ‘St Aubins Stable’ after his stud property at Scone. During World War II it was used as a detention centre for services personnel who went AWOL. After the War, Smith briefly used the building as a laminex factory although its operations were short-lived. In 1959 Newmarket was repurchased by the Inglis family, and it remained in their ownership until the whole site was purchased by developers. By 1985, time had exacted its inevitable toll on the famous ‘Big Stable’, and its rotting timbers were in desperate need of repair. Belatedly, the Heritage Council identified it as a significant building in the State’s heritage and contributed $50,000 towards the cost of its restoration. Apart from the integral role it played in housing bloodstock sold by William Inglis and Son during the course of a year in general and the Arrowfield Stud yearling draft in particular at Easter up until 2017, it was also used as a period location in numerous film sets, most notably in Simon Wincer’s 1983 film ‘Phar Lap’.
Of course, the entire Newmarket complex changed forever when it was sold by William Inglis and Son to developers, Cbus Property, in August 2015 for a reputed $250 million. More than eight hundred apartments are intended for the site and at the time of the transaction, it occupied some 4.5 hectares. William Inglis and Son rescued much of the hardwood timber that was used in the stabling boxes for re-use. The company transferred its operations to a $140 million purpose-built, state-of-the-art complex at Warwick Farm, adjacent to the racecourse and christened Riverside Stables. William Inglis and Son conducted their first Easter Yearling sales there in 2018. It might be more modern, comfortable, and high-tech, but I for one regret the passing of Newmarket and its hallowed grounds upon which trod so many Kings of the Turf.