The full consequences of the Great War were now being felt on the racecourse. An active debate was occurring as to whether the sport itself should be curtailed to some extent. In England, all racing, other than at Newmarket, had been suspended and there were people in Australia who took their lead from the mother country demanding a similar sacrifice here. The Victorian Premier, Sir Alexander Peacock, spoke for many, in July, when, while disclaiming any desire to be a spoilsport, he expressed the opinion that “it wasn’t entirely becoming that there should be so much sport at the present juncture.” Of course, the circumstances in Australia were quite different from those in England. One of the major problems there related to the carriage of troops by train, and the fact that carrying race crowds and racehorses exacerbated the transport difficulties. Moreover, racing here was not affecting recruiting. The focus and immediacy of a war being conducted ten miles away across the English Channel was quite a different proposition to one ten thousand miles away by sea. It seemed unwise to take heavy-handed action that would affect the livelihood of so many Australians.
Nonetheless, it was generally agreed that there was too much racing, largely because of the proliferation of proprietary clubs. In August 1915 the colonial secretary met with the A.J.C. to discuss the possibility of restrictions. Meanwhile, the A.J.C. had responded to the crisis by conducting special race meetings to raise funds for the war effort. On Monday, 24th May, Empire Day, which was officially gazetted as a public holiday, the A.J.C. held a special meeting in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund at which more than 25,000 people attended and over £11,000 was raised. In July Randwick racecourse again hosted a race meeting for patriotic purposes, this time promoted by the four registered proprietary clubs to raise money for the Red Cross Fund. Adrian Knox, the chairman of the club, had relinquished his active role in racing to serve as a Red Cross commissioner in Cairo. At the annual general meeting of the A.J.C. in August, the acting chairman, Colin Stephen stated that the club had already donated £22,860 to the war effort and successfully moved a motion that a further £10,000 be given. Despite such largesse, the value of the Derby prize itself remained unchanged with £5,000 added by the club to the sweepstakes and subscriptions, although the stakes for other races during the A.J.C. Spring Meeting had been reduced by £2,800.
Derby Day saw a field of ten horses in the parade for the big race from an original total of 386 entries, in front of a crowd estimated at around 43,000 in rather foul weather. A gusty westerly of unseasonable heat swept the racecourse with city dust. Those racegoers attending Randwick for the first time since Beragoon triumphed in the classic the year before would have noticed a number of improvements to the racecourse made earlier in the year before the dark, louring clouds of war had descended upon the scene. The most noticeable was the new scratching tower, erected at the eastern end at the rear of the official stand where the Ring-men were located. The two-storey structure of roughcast brick with a projecting slate roof listed the usual information as to race scratchings, starters, jockeys, post positions and placed horses. Communication with the central office and the official stand was by telephone.
The 1915 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:
The field for the classic was distinguished by the presence of the leading two-year-old stakes earner of the previous season, Cetigne. The winner of three races from eight appearances as a youngster and £5,356 in prize money, his star had shone brightly from its very first rising. He led the field into the straight and was beaten only a half neck in the Breeders’ Plate when unmentioned in betting; and was unfortunate to draw thirty at the post in the Gimcrack Stakes or he might have won that event instead of running fourth. In the summer Cetigne appropriated the rich December Stakes and in the autumn the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick. His final appearance that season had been something of an anti-climax when, carrying the full penalty, at even-money, he finished out of a place in the Champagne Stakes, marred that year by heavy going.
The race was won by Ernest Clarke’s colt, Two, a slashing chestnut by The Welkin, who had proved himself one of the best of Victoria’s youngsters by winning both the Federal Stakes and Ascot Vale Stakes earlier in the season. I might just mention here how that colt got his rather unusual name. It came about as a result of Ernest Clarke’s frustration at his inability to get his first-choice names approved for three youngsters all by his champion stallion, from the mares Light, Seville and Teppo respectively. Exasperated, he blurted out: “Well just call them One, Two and Three.” And that is precisely how the trio raced. I’m sure this problem of securing appropriate names is one with which many modern owners can identify. While brilliant in his first season on the Turf, this son of The Welkin was never regarded as Derby material, and he broke down after running in the Caulfield Guineas. Never sound again; he later got a number of smart sprinters at stud.
Apart from Cetigne, the best of the Sydney juveniles in the autumn had been Wallace Isinglass and Westcourt, and each was present to fulfil their Derby engagement. Wallace Isinglass, a handsome chestnut colt by Wallace from Glass Queen, was aiming to give the Newcastle coal magnate, John Brown, his second A.J.C. Derby, after his success with the homebred Prince Foote in 1909. Unlike that horse, the breeding of Wallace Isinglass had been something of an accident. Brown had originally sent ten of his mares to Victoria to be mated with Challenger and Traquair, and included among them was Glass Queen. But before the season opened, Traquair met with an accident and all the mares booked to him were ordered to Bundoora Park and Challenger, a son of Isinglass. As Glass Queen was a daughter of Isinglass, she could hardly be mated with him, and John Brown consented to her being covered by Wallace instead.
Wallace Isinglass showed to advantage towards the end of his first season of racing. He chased home Two in the mud of the Champagne Stakes at Randwick to gain second money, albeit eight lengths in arrears, and then, later on at that same meeting, with the advantage of the seven-pound maiden allowance, he came late on the scene to run over them in the Easter Stakes. A medium-sized, compactly built colt, it was this performance that marked him out as arguably the most promising stayer among the juvenile ranks. Westcourt, trained by the veteran Joe Burton, and sporting the colours of the master-butcher, Dan Seaton, was the other Derby runner to have distinguished himself in his two-year-old campaign. Bred by Sir Hugh Denison at Eumaralla and sold for 190 guineas as a yearling, he was the best horse that Bright Steel ever got. At two he won the Phillip Stakes rather easily in the summer and announced himself as a likely stayer of the future when he came from last on the turn in a field of ten to finish second to Cetigne in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick.
During the winter months, Wallace Isinglass headed the Derby markets, although the Melbourne handicapper rated Cetigne superior to him when he released his weights for the big Cups. Both colts resumed from their winter sojourn at the Tattersall’s Meeting in the Chelmsford Stakes. Whereas Cetigne – which was far from wound-up – did not display any particular dash, Wallace Isinglass confirmed his high Derby rating when he settled Mountain Knight in a sharp tussle over the final furlong and beat all but the winner, Garlin. The two Derby colts clashed again in the Rosehill Guineas a week later, and although on this occasion the margin in favour of Wallace Isinglass was only a neck, it was the manner of his powerful finish after Cetigne had skipped clear that had the cognoscenti acclaiming him a champion. On the same programme, Westcourt ran a stylish second behind Woorak in the richer company of the Spring Stakes in his only Derby trial that season. Whereas neither Wallace Isinglass nor Westcourt appeared again in public before the Derby, Ernie Green elected to give Cetigne a run in the Hawkesbury Guineas over the Clarendon mile. It might have been against an undistinguished company at an unfashionable venue, but it is doubtful if the race had ever been won with more panache. Still, the doubts remained about his stamina.
The sun-baked course at Randwick on Derby Day was very much to the liking of Cetigne, although Wallace Isinglass remained the shortest-priced Derby favourite at 2/5 since Camoola started at the same quotation in 1892. Cetigne was second elect with Westcourt the best backed to beat them. An interesting runner in the race was Gringo, purchased on Derby eve by William Longworth from Tom Payten, for £5,000. The transfer was only finalised on the racecourse an hour or so before the race, and he raced in the new owner’s nom de course of ‘T. W. Nolan’ and carried his colours. The transaction represented a rather profitable one for Tom Payten. At the William Inglis Yearling Sales in 1914, the colt had been sold for seventy guineas, but the purchaser subsequently failed to materialise. Tom Payten then stepped into the breach and agreed to take the colt for fifty guineas instead. In August he had won a Maiden Plate at Rosehill and at his last start prior to the Derby the colt won the Hawkesbury Spring Handicap (11f) on the same day Cetigne had won the Hawkesbury Guineas. Gringo was one of the two Varco foals sired in New Zealand and purchased by the Rouse brothers on that famous 1912 trip to the Dominion that also yielded Carlita. Other runners in the Derby included Common Law, from New Zealand and raced in the colours of G. M. Currie, who was in attendance, and the late maturing Kandos, by the 1902 Derby winner, Abundance, and owned by the popular Hunter White. Fastolf represented Victoria, in the familiar silks of ‘S. A. Rawdon’.
It proved to be one of the most exciting and controversial Derbies of the early years of the century. The theory about the race beforehand was that provided a genuine pace ensued, Wallace Isinglass was a good thing, for although devoid of the requisite brilliance to match Cetigne, the chestnut was a stayer pure and simple. Cetigne, on the other hand, was regarded more as a brilliant miler whose stamina would be suspect in a truly run contest. Evidently, Bob Lewis, the rider of Wallace Isinglass, was instructed to cut the pace out for himself and the contract could not have been placed in more reliable hands. After allowing the favourite to get balanced, Lewis gradually upped the tempo to his liking, and when the handsome colt swung into the straight clear of Cetigne, Westcourt and Gringo, those intrepid souls who had laid the odds on were preening themselves for their foresight. But inside the distance, Cetigne produced a brilliant sprint to get within a neck of the favourite, when the latter proceeded to veer out under pressure giving the Grafton colt an almighty bump. Cetigne, in turn, impeded Westcourt, who was putting in his claim on the outside. Cetigne recovered but Wallace Isinglass by now was rolling about like a drunken sailor and twice more the horses made contact. McLachlan on Westcourt thought discretion the better part of valour and pulled his mount inside the other two, thereby losing some ground. He probably finished fastest over the final fifty yards but was beaten a neck into second place behind Cetigne.
As controversial as the finish was, the reception accorded Cetigne was even more intriguing. When a heavily fancied horse in the red goes under in a big race finish the crowd is generally muted. On this occasion, the public ovation for Cetigne was one of the loudest in the history of Randwick. And this, for a winner owned by, of all people, a bookmaker! Part of the explanation, of course, was that Cetigne was a well-supported second favourite, but much of it was derived from the satisfaction that John Brown’s so-called good thing had been beaten on merit. The arrogance and imperious behaviour of the Newcastle coal millionaire were infamous. The Duke Foote incident of a few years before still rankled with many racegoers and in a sense the Derby result had given the tyrant his comeuppance. The diplomatic Tom Willis of the Sydney Mail was left to ponder: “Why the public should cheer and counter-cheer, and keep on cheering until sometime after the horses had weighed-in is a puzzle to humanity; but the fact remains.”
The consensus on the course was that had Dan Seaton, the owner of Westcourt, protested, his horse would have been promoted to second placing at least. As it transpired, the stipendiary stewards incurred the wrath of many by merely asking Lewis the reason for the misbehaviour of Wallace Isinglass, and, together with Albert Wood’s exoneration of Lewis from any fault, were satisfied that the horse was to blame and left the placings unaltered. Stipendiary stewards were a relatively recent innovation in Australian racing and had been appointed to relieve honorary stewards because the latter often failed in their duty when it brought them into conflict with their friends or powerful interests. Accordingly, it seemed strange that this new body of men didn’t intervene directly on behalf of Westcourt and the many racegoers who had supported him.
Mrs James Moran of Victoria bred Cetigne, but much of the credit belonged to Tom Payten. Mrs Moran sent the mare, Pretty Nell, a flashy but somewhat worthless proposition on the racecourse, to Tom Payten to manage, and it was he who recommended the stallion Grafton as her prospective lover. Cetigne thus became Grafton’s second A.J.C. Derby winner following Sylvanite in 1904, although the grand old sire had died in April 1915 before this, his second triumph had been realised. Cetigne was the first member of the undistinguished Bruce Lowe No 29 family to win the Derby. A mid-September foal, he came down to Newmarket with the other Widden youngsters to be sold by William Inglis and Sons and was purchased by bookmaker George Barnett for 200 guineas. The Inglis and Chisholm sales catalogues that Easter demonstrated the strength of bloodstock in the country. While Grafton had twenty-two yearlings listed, there were no less ninety-two different stallions represented in those sales. Nearly £94,000 was paid for the 550 yearlings sold at Randwick during that Easter week. The dubious honour of securing the highest priced yearling fell to Bunny Nagel of Queensland, who gave 1900 guineas for the colt by Ayr Laddie from Bright Alice.
Cetigne represented the first of jockey Albert Wood’s two winners of the A.J.C. Derby. He learned to ride on a Hunter River farm and served his apprenticeship with J. Hardcastle in Newcastle, where he rode many winners before beginning his successful career in Sydney. Wood was something of a grafter in the saddle early on and only gradually edged up the ladder. His first real season of success came aboard Flaxen in Brisbane in 1908 when he won a string of races including the Queensland Derby. It was as a partner of young horses that Wood made his name; he was Woorak’s pilot throughout that colt’s brilliant first season on the Turf and Cetigne’s win in the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes in 1915, following on Radnor and Imshi, gave him a hat-trick of wins in successive years in that, the richest of Australia’s two-year-old events. By the time he won the Derby on Cetigne, Albert Wood had won all of Australia’s principal juvenile races. But it was as a fine rider over distances – particularly at Randwick – that he became renowned, and Cetigne’s Derby was the first of many such successes.
Wood won the Sydney Cup three times (The Fortune Hunter 1917; Kennaquhair 1920; David 1923). At riding a waiting race from the front, Albert Wood had few peers, and perhaps the most notable handicap win of his career came in Kennaquhair’s Sydney Cup when he rushed the grand stayer to the front almost a mile from home and just lasted to beat Poitrel a neck. Wood received £2,000 from a grateful O. R. Falkiner for winning the Sydney Cup on David and shortly after decided to retire from the saddle and established himself as a trainer. Granted a No 1 licence in January 1924 by the A.J.C., Wood initially took over the stables of the late William Duggan, and then, later on, moved into extensive new premises at Warwick Farm. His principal patron – ironically enough given the 1915 Derby result – was none other than John Brown. One of his major training triumphs came when he prepared Wallace Mortlake, a son of Wallace Isinglass, to win the first Chipping Norton Stakes for Brown in 1925 when the horse beat Windbag by a head. Renowned for his gentlemanly demeanour, Albert Wood died in August 1940.
Cetigne was certainly the best horse to pass through the hands of his trainer, Ernie Green. It was largely thanks to the bay’s juvenile record that Green obtained his No. 1 trainer’s ticket in August 1915, at the same time that Fred Williams also became licensed to train at Randwick. During his two-year-old campaign, the horse had been prepared on the Kensington course from Green’s High-street premises, ‘The Glen’. With his promotion, Green set about erecting new stables, and for a brief time in his Derby preparation, Cetigne was located at William Duggan’s establishment. Green also enjoyed success with College Green, a younger brother of Cetigne, whom he trained for Mrs Moran who bred the pair. It was a major disappointment to the trainer when Cetigne was sold out of his stable as an autumn four-year-old. I might mention that the future Randwick trainer, Peter Lawson, spent a part of his apprenticeship with Green, although this came after Cetigne had been sold. Of course, Lawson himself would emulate his one-time master and also train a Derby winner in the years to come.
Cetigne’s post-Derby career was interesting and he proved himself a racehorse of the highest class. The bay colt was backed up on the Monday following his Derby success and, despite a fourteen pounds penalty, had no difficulty winning the Clibborn Stakes from Westcourt. In many respects, the nine furlongs of that race was more to his liking than the Derby trip. A-mile-and-a-half was about as far as Cetigne wanted to go in top class company and if he ran into a genuine stayer over that journey he generally had his colours lowered. Moreover, he was never really comfortable in heavy going, the very conditions he struck when Patrobas outstayed him in the Victoria Derby, with Westcourt again finishing third. Some backers of Cetigne in that race were of the opinion that handled differently he would have won but time proved that a horse of superior stamina outstayed him. Patrobas certainly franked the form a few days later in the Melbourne Cup when he outstayed Westcourt in an all-three-year-old finish.
In the autumn of his three-year-old season, Cetigne wasn’t taken to Melbourne but instead was set the task of winning the A.J.C. St Leger and Sydney Cup. Mr Hunter White’s maiden galloper Kandos worried him out of the red riband; and in the Sydney Cup, won by the outsider Prince Bardolph, Cetigne wasn’t sighted with his 8 st. 7lb. But the curious thing about his engagements at that autumn meeting was that only two days after the Sydney Cup, Ernie Green elected to start him for the A.J.C. All Aged Plate, half the distance of the Cup, and he ran the great Woorak to less than a length in finishing second. When he emerged again on the following Saturday – his fourth start in a week – and humped 9 st. 13lb to victory in the Rous Handicap (11f) at his last appearance for the season, he was widely acclaimed as the best middle-distance horse in training. Alas, he disappointed during his four-year-old season, managing to win only one race, the weight-for-age Spring Stakes at Rosehill, in fifteen starts and it was believed that the horse had become unsound in his wind.
It was at the close of the 1915 A.J.C. Autumn Meeting that Cetigne was entered for the William Inglis miscellaneous sale only to be withdrawn after various offers were refused. Later the prominent pastoralist, Tom Stirton, successfully negotiated to buy him for 1500 guineas, plus a contingency of £500 out of his first win, and the bay horse was transferred into the Randwick stables of Tom Scully. It was quite a gamble by Stirton, who in his early life had been an employee of the Bank of New South Wales but later became a prominent pastoralist, owning many stations including one in Queensland. Cetigne certainly repaid his faith. Although Stirton had raced a few horses over the years for amusement, Cetigne was the first top-class galloper to carry his yellow jacket, black sleeves and yellow cap, colours which the son of Grafton made famous over the next few seasons. I think that Cetigne is yet another example of a champion racehorse materially assisting his owner in being elected to the committee of the Australian Jockey Club, for Tom Stirton became a committeeman in 1919 when Cetigne was keeping his owner’s name before the public, and the wealthy pastoralist served until his death in December 1926.
At the time of his purchase, Cetigne was regarded as something of a bargain at the price provided his wind was unaffected; he proved it the following season winning among other races, the Villiers Stakes with 9 st. 4lb after being among the last of the field of twenty-four entering the straight, as well as the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington with nine stone. At six Cetigne only won one race, the Craven Plate, but it was arguably his most famous victory. The finishing order was Cetigne, Wolaroi, Estland and Desert Gold and the winning margin was a half-head, by a head, with a similar margin separating third and fourth. The quartet established a new Australian record that day of 2 minutes 4 ½ seconds for the ten furlongs. The win saw Cetigne become the second highest stakes winner in Australasia behind Carbine. In one of his most inspired moments (see below), Martin Stainforth committed the famous finish in oils on canvas, ensuring that those hoofs of thunder would reverberate down the years. Many older racegoers can remember the image, reproduced on countless calendars and prints, hanging on the walls of barbers’ shops and tobacconists throughout Sydney.
Cetigne was finally retired from racing after the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting in 1921, his final appearance being an unplaced effort behind Speciality in the All-Aged Stakes. The inducement that had kept Cetigne in training beyond the age of most stallions – that of eclipsing Carbine’s record stakes – had proved beyond him after all. For thirty years Carbine’s record of £29,476 had stood supreme. Cetigne made a gallant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt at it. Perhaps with a little more luck in his last two seasons on the Turf he might have done it. When he did finally retire, he had won £27,216 from eighty-one starts. Though fast he could not stay beyond a mile and a half, and he was probably at his best in a fast-run mile. At one time he held two Australian time records; over ten furlongs in that famous Craven Plate, and over the mile established at Flemington in the 1919 running of the Linlithgow Stakes at 1 minute 37 seconds.
A curious feature of his racecourse career was that from the time he began racing as a two-year-old in the spring of 1914, he ran at Flemington on Derby Day for seven successive years variously finishing unplaced in the Maribyrnong Plate, second in the Derby and twice winning the Melbourne Stakes. It was risky to run him as a seven-year-old stallion twice in the one day at the V.R.C. Autumn Meeting in 1920 and many suspected it affected him afterwards. That day he went within a length of winning his second Newmarket with 9 st. 6lb and two races later came out to win the valuable weight-for-age Essendon Stakes. Although that second venture was successful, it was at the expense of his chance of reaching Carbine’s stakes total. Still, even as an eight-year-old, he remained capable of a bravura performance, as he showed in the Villiers Stakes at Randwick, when with 9 st. 8lb he was unlucky to be beaten a neck into second place.
Cetigne was retired to Tom Stirton’s Dunlop Stud at Merriwa, NSW at a fee of fifty guineas. Apart from Sylvanite, Cetigne was the only first-class son of Grafton to get into a stud of thoroughbred mares. Stockbreeders from the Gulf to Adelaide were very much taken with the power and strength of Grafton’s sons, and they were quickly snapped up as general station sires, while a few of his good sons were rushed by Indian buyers, notably FitzGrafton and Tangaroa and Cadonia, of course, which finished in Germany. So, there was much interest in Cetigne’s career at stud. He did let down into a magnificent specimen and in 1922 was crowned the premier blood horse at the Sydney Easter Show. Alas, his exploits in the breeding barn did not match his appearances in the show ring. Cetigne’s only principal winner proved to be the Western Australian galloper, Cetotis, who twice won the W.A.T.C. All-Aged Stakes.
Perhaps before I finish, I should say a few words about some of the horses that finished behind Cetigne in the Derby at Randwick. After being sent out the favourite in both Derbies and found wanting, as well as being unplaced in the Melbourne Cup, Wallace Isinglass finished the spring discredited and seemingly overrated. But although disappointing the next season, in time he matured into a high-class weight-for-age horse and was in particularly good form as a five-year-old; among other races his wins that season included the Spring Stakes at Randwick and the C.B. Fisher Plate, Essendon Stakes, and King’s Plate at Flemington. When he retired from the racecourse, he stood as a stallion at his owner’s Wills Gully property. He sired quite a number of good class winners for John Brown including Leslie Wallace (1924 A.J.C. Sires Produce Stakes) and Wallace Mortlake (1925 A.J.C. Chipping Norton Stakes).
Westcourt after the Derby proved just what a good stayer he was. Undoubtedly, he was the unlucky colt of his year for, apart from his minor placings in both of the Derbies, he was only narrowly beaten in the Melbourne Cup. The horse endured a rather hard time of it as a three-year-old. Early in the season when being prepared for the Derbies, he made occasional noises on the training track that suggested he was well on the way to being a genuine ‘roarer’. Joe Burton had his doubts, but his spring campaign put the lie to that notion. All seemed well and good, but then after the V.R.C. St Leger during the autumn, in which he ran second to Patrobas, Dan Seaton’s brown colt developed a leg, and at the end of his three-year-old season, Westcourt was practically broken down. It looked long odds against him being seen on a racecourse again.
Indeed, he was off the scene for twelve months before Burton managed to prepare him for four races in the autumn and early winter of his four-year-old season. Those few unplaced performances saw Westcourt get into the Melbourne Cup with a reasonable 8 st. 5lb. Despite some bad interference, in the spring the horse was only beaten a bit more than a length in The Metropolitan into second place. He then went south and made amends for his narrow defeat of two years before by being placed first in the Melbourne Cup after a desperately close and controversial decision by the Flemington judge. Apart from the Rawson Stakes at Rosehill later on, he won nothing more on the Turf. Retired to stand at his owner’s Eurunderie Stud near Mudgee, he failed to sire anything of note. I might add here before I close, that Gringo, the eleventh-hour purchase of William Longworth in that 1915 Derby, proved particularly expensive. He was a rather unsound horse and in a handful of racecourse appearances after the Derby failed to return a penny on his purchase price only to be eventually retired as a five-year-old.