The year 1922 introduces us to one of the great unsung heroes of the Queensland Turf in the shape of that splendid stayer, Rivoli. How he ever came to be bred at all is a fascinating anecdote in itself. In many ways, Rivoli was the culmination of the bloodstock breeding efforts of four young pioneers from the ‘Old Country’ who did so much to develop the land around the Clarence and Richmond Rivers in northern New South Wales. The four men in question were Henry Barnes, Fred Bundock, Thomas Hawkins Smith, and his younger brother Henry Flesher Smith. Perhaps our story should begin with Henry Barnes, that renowned breeder of stud cattle and the thoroughbred racehorse, for it was his son that bred and raced the great Rivoli. Born into a skilled farming family in February 1818 at Low Braithwaite, Cumbria, in the picturesque Lake District of England, Henry Barnes as a boy learned practical husbandry on the home farm while at the same time acquiring bookkeeping and land surveying skills at elementary school. It was to prove an invaluable education that saw him in great demand upon his migration to the colony of New South Wales in 1840.
Henry Barnes’ first job in the new colony came when he was appointed station superintendent at Tremayne, the property of Robert Rodd, near Broke, in the Hunter Valley. A couple of years later he was hired by his fellow Cumbrian, Clark Irving, to work as overseer at the 30,000-acre Cassino (later Casino) cattle station on the isolated Richmond River. Thus, began Barnes’ long association with the northern rivers. Barnes’ talent for buying and managing cattle soon manifested itself. In 1854, on the recommendation of Clark Irving, he was invited by Alexander Frederick (Fred) Bundock of Dyraaba, Stratheden and Gordon Brook stations to become the working partner in the proposed firm of Bundock, Barnes and Company. It was a firm established to import pure sire lines to improve the standard of station cattle.
There was a third – silent – partner in the enterprise in the form of R. G. Massie, previously the Commissioner of Crown Lands for Port Macquarie and the Macleay district, and it was he that provided much of the necessary funding. Thomas Hawkins Smith, the cousin of Fred Bundock’s wife, and who had previously managed Yulgilbar station, later replaced Massie in the firm. Finally, it was in 1862 after Bundock returned to the Old Country that Henry Flesher Smith joined the enterprise, which by then was known locally as Barnes and Smith Brothers. The operation prospered. Soon after joining, Barnes moved to Dyraaba in charge of the Richmond River herds while Henry Smith founded Lyndhurst, a thousand square miles station on the Einasleigh River, Queensland. Ettrick and Langwell Stations were bought later and in 1872 Kyogle station was acquired from Alexander Mackellar.
Under the shrewd supervision of Henry Barnes, prize-winning herds of Devon, Shorthorn and Hereford cattle were developed for the firm, and in particular, the Herefords bred at Dyraaba were acknowledged as among the finest in the southern hemisphere, garnering for Barnes and Smith Brothers the honour of being among those few pioneer studmasters that established the beef-cattle industry in Australia. Of course, beef cattle wasn’t the only line of farm stock bred by the firm. In those early days, racing flourished around the Northern Rivers and the New England tableland. Consequently, there was a keen rivalry between the various station owners in respect of the quality of bloodhorse representing each station; and few stations bred better racehorses than the firm of Barnes and Smith. This superiority was particularly true after the return of Fred Bundock to England when the expatriate partner was responsible for sending out some good stallions including the likes of Leopold (GB 1849) and Middlesex (GB 1851). Each of these stallions produced the winner of a Brisbane Cup. Nonetheless, such horses were distinctly ordinary in comparison with our 1922 Derby hero, Rivoli.
The Rivoli romance is lent enchantment by the fact that at some stage or another each of the three original partners or their descendants were directly associated either with Rivoli or with his sire or dam. It was in 1906 at the Cobham sale in England that Henry Smith purchased Back Chat for 400 guineas. Foaled in 1901, she was a brown mare by St Serf, a son of the legendary St Simon, and her maternal pedigree traced back to Chanoinesse, a full sister to Hermit. Back Chat at the time of the sale had already been served by Melton, the winner of the 1885 English Derby and St Leger, and a son of Master Kildare. Sent across the seas in the Persic along with ten other thoroughbreds, Back Chat subsequently dropped her foal in the paddocks of the Gordon Brook Stud in early 1907.
Alas, in June 1909 Henry Smith died at Boycott Manor, Buckinghamshire, England, leaving an estate in New South Wales valued at £136,998 but more importantly, bequeathing his stud to Charles Bundock, son of the original partner, Fred. Considering that Back Chat was the name of the dam, the bay or brown foal was registered as Repartee, although because of a severe injury sustained while being branded, he never sported silk. Unable to race and seemingly only useful as a station stallion, Repartee was acquired as a three-year-old by Henry Barnes junior, yet another son of a founder, and the horse stood at Dyraaba until the day that he died. Although the horse sired numerous winners in both Queensland and N.S.W., he wasn’t that well-known because most of his stock raced only around the Northern Rivers meetings. Indeed, Repartee would become famous because of one son only.
So much for the top half or spear side of Rivoli’s pedigree. The bottom half or distaff side derives from the imported mare, Lady Babbie, an English daughter of Neil Gow with which Lord Rosebery won the 1910 Two Thousand Guineas and Eclipse Stakes among other good races. Despite the presence of Neil Gow in her pedigree, Lady Babbie belonged to a very undistinguished line of the No 5 family of the Bruce Lowe figure system. For several generations, the family had produced no winners of any consequence, and hence she wasn’t all that highly regarded when in 1913 she was dropped in the paddocks of Sir Tatton Sykes’ famous Sledmere Stud in Yorkshire.
It was at the Newmarket Second October Sales in October 1914, two months after the start of the Great War that seven yearling fillies from Sledmere, including Lady Babbie, came under the gavel. She was the last of the septet to be sold and was knocked down to Sir Thomas (later Lord) Dewar, the famous Scottish whisky distiller, for 100 guineas. As we have repeatedly seen in this chronicle, the War years were not kind to English racing with few ready buyers of yearlings or mares. Dewar, like many less wealthy owners, was induced to sell Lady Babbie, and in the summer of 1917, in foal to Braxted, she was part of a small contingent of mares that the British Bloodstock Agency shipped to Australia for sale. The following February she was bought at auction in Sydney for 400 guineas by yet another son of the original Henry Barnes – Charles. Charles Barnes owned the Bolivia station, near Tenterfield, and in searching about for a mate for the mare in the 1918 breeding season resolved that Repartee, standing at nearby Dyraaba, seemed as good as any. The resultant foal, of course, was Rivoli.
Soon after Rivoli was foaled, Charles Barnes decided to sell Bolivia station, and he hawked Lady Babbie and her foal all about the district offering the pair for a song, but the seemingly mean extraction of their blood saw him get no takers. Consequently, he passed both mother and son on to his brother John H. S. Barnes, who had only recently acquired the Canning Downs Stud, near Warwick on Queensland’s Darling Downs. Set in the lush and fertile valley of the Condamine River, it was ideal horse-breeding country, and during the twentieth century, this region was to become the true nursery of the Queensland Turf. Within a radius of thirty miles of Warwick, some famous thoroughbred studs were to be established including the older Lyndhurst as well as Kialla, Alma Vale, Wattle Brae and Spring Creek.
A keen student of the thoroughbred and a man well-versed in pedigree charts, John Barnes’ first real slice of luck came when he arranged to buy the imported English horse, Highfield, in June 1917 to serve as the foundation stallion for Canning Downs. Highfield, a son of William The Third, had won the Doncaster Rous Plate and been placed in the Newmarket Dewhurst Plate before being brought over to Australia by those expatriate Melbourne stockbrokers, William Clark and Lionel Robinson. Clark and Robinson won the mile Farewell Handicap at Flemington at the 1917 Autumn Meeting with Highfield, before selling the horse privately to Barnes through the agency of H. P. Evans and Co., Sydney. Highfield would eventually go on to sire 13 individual stakes winners of 38 stakes’ races including that brilliant Queensland galloper, High Syce. Still, all this lay in the future when Rivoli came to Canning Downs just as the first yearlings from Highfield were being prepared. Nonetheless, it seemed a happy confluence of events.
Rivoli wasn’t offered for sale as a yearling but rather was leased until the end of June 1923 to 53-year-old Irvine Henry (‘Herb’) Andrews, who trained out of Canterbury Park in Sydney. Born in the Brisbane Water region on the Central Coast of NSW, Andrews had previously trained a few horses for Barnes in the country before coming to Sydney. Barnes respected his honesty and integrity. Granted a No 2 training licence by the A.J.C. in June 1907, Andrews saddled-up his first Sydney winner, Footstool, a filly by Sir Foote, at the Hawkesbury Autumn Meeting in April 1908. A debonair man of the Turf with his trade-mark drooping moustache and love of fine cigars, Andrews cut a notable figure in the betting ring, a domain where he was to be found quite frequently. In Rivoli, he had acquired a lengthy, well-balanced colt of some quality, although one devoid of any flashiness or grandeur.
Although not tall, Rivoli measured about 15 hands 3 inches, and according to the old Arab theory, the perfect horse should be the same length from the tip of the nose to the centre of the withers as from the centre of the withers to the last joint of the tail. Andrews measured Rivoli, and he was one-eighth of an inch out! An even-tempered horse, he took his name from the town in the Italian region of Piedmont, about nine miles west of the city of Turin. It is famous as the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s victorious battle in January 1797 that effectively routed the Austrians from Italy and helped forge the Napoleonic legend. That battle of Rivoli proved a race against time where everything depended on the speed and arrival of Napoleon’s reinforcements, which, were not found wanting. Nor indeed would this colt now carrying the name. Speed and arrival – just in time – were the qualities that would come to the fore in the 1922 A.J.C. Derby and a host of other races, all of which helped confirm Herb Andrews’ reputation as an excellent conditioner of racehorses as well as an astute player of the odds.
Rivoli’s first season on the Turf paid scant respect to the notion that the best stayers are those that are lightly-raced as juveniles. The colt made his debut as a despised outsider in the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate, and as expected, finished down the course in the race won by the Newcastle colt, Salrak. Herb Andrews sent his charge out to greet the starter on no fewer than thirteen occasions during that first season, winning twice – a Nursery Handicap at Canterbury Park in December; and a similar race over six furlongs at Randwick on Sydney Cup Day. It was the latter race in which the 29-year-old international jockey ‘Bunty’ Brown first made the acquaintance of the colt. In fact, the jockey hadn’t wanted the mount on that occasion and only accepted when no better offers were forthcoming. Spotting the leaders quite a start at the top of the Randwick straight, Rivoli finished strongly and claimed the prize by three-quarters of a length. Brown was never again to look upon the horse with such consummate disdain. Andrews had in fact set the youngster for that race at the Easter meeting, and the colt won a mickle for the stable that day when Andrews enjoyed some nice wagers at the 12/1 offered in the ring. When Brown steered his mount back to the weighing enclosure, he leaned down from the saddle and whispered to Andrews that he wanted the Derby ride, even though the race was still six months away!
The best juvenile seen out in that season was Soorak, a sturdy brown son of Woorak out of a Maltster mare, and he had cost 375 guineas at the Sydney Yearling Sales. Bred by Hunter White at the Havilah Stud, Mudgee, Soorak had been purchased by the trainer, William Laidlaw, who maintained a small stable in St Mark’s-road, Randwick. Laidlaw bought the colt on behalf of a complete newcomer to racing in Frank Spurway. A Sydney engineer possessed of a willingness to gamble, Spurway was well on his way to making his fortune as the city’s first manufacturer of conduit pipes for electrical installations when he acquired Soorak. Thanks largely to the success he enjoyed with this colt – his first real venture as an owner – Spurway’s colours of ‘white, dark blue maltese cross, dark blue cap’ were soon to become familiar on Sydney racecourses. Spurway himself would become distinguished as one of the biggest plungers on the Sydney Turf during an ownership career that was to span more than twenty-five years before it eventually ended in bitter controversy. More of that anon, but for now let it be said that for a man with a yen to gamble, owning Soorak offered the perfect entree to the Sport of Kings.
Curiously enough for a horse that was soon to become the subject of some big wagers, Soorak was 20/1 when he won a Nursery on debut at Rosehill in mid-November 1921 with Spurway having a modest £1 bet on the tote. Both owner and trainer were slow to realise just what they had on their hands. Eased in his work at Victoria Park and kept off the scene for nigh on six weeks, Soorak came back to win another Nursery and the prestigious December Stakes in the space of three days at the A.J.C. Summer Meeting. Indeed, Soorak’s only loss as a two-year-old came at Rosehill when resuming from a three-month break in April and burdened with 10 st. 1lb, but it was merely the precursor to a brilliant victory in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick at his last appearance for the season with Frank Spurway securing 6/1 and more for his money.
In winning the Sires’ Produce, Soorak, ridden by Jim Pike, relegated Theory and the boom Victorian filly, Rosina, winner of the Ascot Vale Stakes, into the minor placings. Incidentally, that race more than any other, confirmed that a new homebred stallion sensation had arrived upon the scene in the shape of Woorak. For the horse had no less than four representatives in the line-up, namely Sir Andrew; the Breeders’ Plate winner, Salrak; and Wolverine; apart from the winner, and all performed creditably. This crop was only the stallion’s second, although his first hadn’t achieved anything of note up to that time. Rosina subsequently franked the form when she stepped out to win the Champagne Stakes on the second day of the fixture, a race in which Soorak was a non-starter.
In clear and tranquil weather 80,000 people packed into Randwick Racecourse on Derby Day. It was the largest crowd ever seen at Randwick on the first day of a Spring Meeting up to that time – and while most looked forward to the Derby with interest, the real drawcard was the third of those epic clashes between Gloaming and Beauford, this time in the Spring Stakes. Something of the atmosphere at Randwick on that September afternoon was captured on canvas by Martin Stainforth in his famous painting of the finish of that race. The picture, showing Beauford narrowly holding Gloaming at bay, now hangs in the A.J.C. committee room.
Included among the assemblage was His Excellency the Governor and Dame Margaret Davidson, accompanied by Lady Jellicoe, who entertained a party at luncheon involving among others the Chief Justice, Sir Adrian Knox, and the State Premier, Sir George Fuller. Doubtless, the main topic of conversation apart from the Spring Stakes was which of the field of eleven paid up for the classic would prove victorious? For the first time, the A.J.C. had increased the added money for the Derby to £7,000, an increase of £1,000 over the previous year and the club had already announced that supplementary stakes for the 1923 renewal would amount to £8,000. The race now clearly outstripped the V.R.C. equivalent in prize money and prestige, and the £5,477 to go to the 1922 winner compared not altogether unfavourably with the £10,625 that Baron Woolavington had pocketed when his horse Captain Cuttle won the English Derby at Epsom just a few months earlier.
The 1922 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
The favourite for the 1922 A.J.C. Derby was the Melbourne colt, Caserta, having displaced Soorak, who had headed the lists throughout the winter. Bred at the Kuarangi Stud, Toolamba, by the late Jack Smith, this son of Comedy King was out of a Wallace mare and had been sold as a yearling to Norman Meyers, a leading Caulfield veterinary-surgeon, for 425 guineas. He was by far the most expensive of the draft of eleven yearlings sold by Smith that year. Caserta was trained at Mordialloc by Bert Foulsham, a son of Ike, but was stabled at Chisholm’s, near the auction ring, during his Sydney visit. Although Caserta failed to win in ten starts as a juvenile, he did finish runner-up in the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes to the outsider Scarlet. Caserta owed his Derby favouritism to the fact that, unlike Soorak, he had sound staying bloodlines and had won his two previous races, firstly beating a big field in the Novice at the Tattersall’s September meeting and then easily winning the Guineas at Rosehill.
Despite the rush of money for Caserta, Soorak remained firmly in the market at 5/2 and had been backed for a fortune, not least by Frank Spurway, whose outlays in the ring ran well into four figures. As soon as the betting lists appeared for the A.J.C. Derby, Spurway had taken £12,500 to £2,500 – a huge bet in those days. As the race approached, he backed Soorak for a further £23,500 and, with the Derby prize of £5,547, his colt now stood to win him £41,500. He had guaranteed jockey Jim Pike £1,500 to nothing. Bloodstock aficionados pored over Soorak’s pedigree, hoping to discover a strain of stamina on the distaff side that might bolster his chances. After all, the narrow loss to Mountain Knight of his sire, Woorak, when an even-money favourite in the same race eight years before, remained fresh in the memory. Not that the other half of Soorak’s pedigree was any more reassuring; his dam, So So, a Maltster mare bred and raced briefly by William Brown, had finished unplaced in her only four races. Still, Frank Spurway wasn’t deterred, particularly after Soorak had easily carried 9 st 8lb to victory over the Rosehill mile just a week before the classic.
The Australian-bred but New Zealand-owned colt, Tressayr, occupied the third line of betting although he owed his prominence more to the respect with which the ring regarded his connections – George Greenwood and Dick Mason – than anything he had shown on the racecourse. Sold through William Inglis & Son in March 1921 to Greenwood for 420 guineas, Tressayr had only started three times before the Derby. Tressayr ran twice at the Canterbury Jockey Club Spring Meeting in November where he made his debut and then won a minor handicap, while at his only other start he claimed the minor placing behind stablemate Farceur in the C.J.C. Champagne Stakes during the autumn. The Hawkesbury Guineas’ winner, Cliffdale, was the only other Derby contender that met with any support in the ring and it came principally from the northern districts. The most expensive horse in the field and one of the least respected was the Victorian-owned colt Kingsfield, carrying the colours of John Wren. Named after the stud where he was bred, Kingsfield had been bought as a yearling by Frank Musgrave for 700 guineas on behalf of Wren and was the most expensive of the Beragoons to go through the ring that year. However, he had done little on the racecourse to justify the price tag. A third Victorian challenger for the Derby was Sir Andrew, yet another descendant of the Etra Weenie line trained by James Wilson junior, and although he had finished runner-up in the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes he wasn’t expected to figure in the finish here.
Meanwhile, Rivoli remained neglected by all and sundry. Ironically, the stable had intended to back the colt for the Derby at 20/1 before his spring campaign had even opened, but the price wasn’t available; by the time it was, Andrews and Barnes were no longer sure that he could win the blue riband. The Repartee colt appeared four times in the new season before that last Saturday in September, and all were lacklustre performances. Admittedly, his first two runs in August were over unsuitably short distances and it came as no surprise when Rivoli failed to make the placings. However, the colt was heavily backed by the stable into the 6/1 second-favourite for the Rosehill Guineas only to run poorly in the race won by Caserta. Rivoli was again well-supported for the Hawkesbury Guineas, run that year over the mile at Rosehill just seven days before the Derby, and although he made a bold showing, he was comfortably held by Cliffdale on the post. And so, it came to pass that on Derby Day, 33/1 was freely available about the son of Repartee while a chastened Andrews kept his powder dry. Now no 33/1 shot had ever won the Derby, but Rivoli hadn’t spent a lot of time poring over the form guide – and wasn’t to know that.
As the field mustered at the start Soorak was inclined to be fractious and despite drawing number four at the tape was allowed to start from the outside. Soorak lost two or three lengths when the barrier was released. It wasn’t the disadvantage it might have been, however, as the pace was tardy for the first half-mile and he took up a prominent position within two furlongs. Meanwhile, Brown on Rivoli had begun smartly from near the rails but was content to let the colt drift back in the field. Passing the stand the first time Caserta was in front of Sir Andrew, Soorak and Tressayr. Cliffdale, along with a few other horses, was pulling very hard given the slow tempo, but going to the milepost was allowed to stride to the front where he was soon joined by Soorak, with Caserta and Sir Andrew at the head of the others as the speed began to quicken.
As the field turned into the straight, Soorak quickly put paid to Cliffdale’s pretensions and easily shook off Caserta’s weak challenge as Pike dashed the son of Woorak clear. He appeared to have the race at his mercy a furlong from home. Nobody was taking much notice of Bunty Brown as he began to stoke up Rivoli, who at that stage was spotting Soorak some six lengths’ advantage. Brown had been forced to delay the moment of truth until the very last after another horse had rolled on him at the turn, and to those few in the grandstand watching him, it appeared he had left the horse with too much to do and not enough time to do it. However, Rivoli produced a paralysing burst, devouring the ground with his remorseless stride while Soorak began to fail in the shadows of the post – just as his sire did under similar circumstances in 1914.
On the line most doubted – and few hoped – that the outsider had got there. An extraordinary silence descended on the assemblage when the judge hoisted Rivoli’s number. He was the longest-priced winner of the race since The Duke in 1868! In truth, it was a race that neither Rivoli nor Soorak deserved to lose although stamina won out at the end of a muddling contest that should have suited the latter better. The son of Repartee might have been dismissed in the betting market but as he staggered, hocks buckling, back into the Randwick enclosure that day, nobody doubted that a first-class staying colt had arrived upon the scene. Sectional times were not widely publicised in 1922, but Rivoli must have run that last half-mile at a remarkable clip, for he was a long way behind the leaders at that stage.
In the saddling paddock after the race, Rivoli soon regained his full foam of energy and excitement, and Lady Davidson had to be patient before adorning him with the prized blue riband. Rivoli’s Derby victory immediately drew attention to his breeding. John Barnes later explained to the racing correspondent of The Australasian why Lady Babbie hadn’t been returned to Repartee after Rivoli had been foaled: ‘Repartee, the sire of Rivoli, is domiciled at my brother’s place, Dyraaba, near Casino, NSW. Unfortunately, this is a most inaccessible place, being 80 miles away from any main railway lines. I would have returned Lady Babbie to him, only that she has had a foal for the past couple of seasons and travelling that distance would spell ruin to the foal.”
Rivoli marked the only victory in the A.J.C. Derby by one of Australia’s great jockeys of the early years of the century in Perry ‘Bunty’ Brown. Born in Wagga Wagga in 1892, he was the stepbrother of leading Sydney trainers Fred and Harry Williams. Brown served his apprenticeship at George Gallimore’s Orange-street stables at Randwick and began his riding career on Sydney’s pony tracks. While only a teenager, he followed his stepbrothers to India where he rode with remarkable success for many seasons with big retainers as the first jockey to some leading owners, including Mathradas Goculdas. It is easy to forget that from the early years of the century up until World War II, the racing scene in India was extremely lucrative for a top jockey or trainer retained by leading owners, as Alex Higgins and Edgar Britt would later demonstrate. But the Williams’ clan and their extended family were among the first to appreciate its riches.
These long absences on the Indian subcontinent over a number of years explain why ‘Bunty’ Brown’s name doesn’t figure extensively on either the honour roll of Australia’s big races or the winning jockeys’ lists. Moreover, he was both tall and heavy for a jockey, which further restricted his riding opportunities, although this height and strength were arguably his most valuable assets in the saddle. Perhaps not the most elegant of horsemen, he was most effective in tight finishes as his later win on Rivoli in the A.J.C. Plate over David demonstrated.
Bunty Brown’s first major winner on the Australian Turf came in the 1910 A.J.C. Doncaster Handicap when he partnered Edwin Oatley’s Storey, trained by the erstwhile jockey, John Gough, to victory. He was just seventeen and already a veteran of the Indian racing scene. Apart from Derby victories at Randwick on Rivoli and at Flemington on Whittier, Brown also won the Melbourne Cup on Backwood in 1924 for trainer Dick Bradfield. Many believed that Brown should have had two Melbourne Cups to his credit, having been denied victory on board his stepbrother’s horse, Lingle, in that most controversial of finishes when the judge awarded the race to Westcourt. That was arguably the most contentious Melbourne Cup finish of the day. As the horses were returning to scale, McLachlan, who rode Westcourt, was most anxious to save £100 with Brown, and ‘Midget’ wasn’t a jockey renowned for his philanthropy. Brown was adamant to the end of his life that he had won the race. And when Westcourt’s number was placed in the hoist, booing broke out from certain sections of the Flemington racecourse.
Brown enjoyed a reputation well beyond Australia’s shores and in 1926 rode successfully in England on a lucrative retainer for the famous owner, Sir Victor Sassoon, whose horses were trained at Newmarket by J. H. Crawford. Sassoon raced thoroughbreds extensively in India and was very much aware of Brown’s reputation. The stable that year sheltered a number of highly promising two-year-olds that Sassoon had purchased at the Doncaster Sales the year before. Brown rode eleven winners during his only season on the British Turf winning some good races including the rich Stud Produce Stakes at Newmarket on Hot Night. The following year, Hot Night was runner-up to Call Boy in the English Derby. Alas, the cold and wet of the Old Country got to Brown, and the threat of pneumonia ultimately forced him to break his contract and return to Australia. Not even the prospect of riding Hot Night in The Derby at Epsom could induce Brown to go back to England. Neither a bettor nor a drinker, Brown retired from the saddle in July 1927 a wealthy man.
Rivoli wasn’t even entered for the Victoria Derby, an oversight that both Andrews and Barnes bitterly regretted. Nonetheless, the colt went to Melbourne and on the same day the brilliant Whittier, also in the hands of Bunty Brown, won the Victorian classic, Rivoli ran a gallant second in the weight-for-age Melbourne Stakes behind Harvest King. Sent to the post at 25/1 for that race, Herb Andrews at least had the satisfaction of seeing his horse relegate the champion galloper, Eurythmic, at 4/7 to the minor placing. That performance saw Rivoli start as the third favourite in a field of thirty-two for the Melbourne Cup, although with his 7 st. 6lb and Sid Cracknell in the saddle, he finished down the course. Still, he at least gave his connections the satisfaction of seeing him finish in front of Whittier.
Sent for a spell immediately after the Cup, Andrews brought Rivoli back for the rich weight-for-age races at Flemington and Randwick in the autumn. The colt hadn’t been nominated for either St Leger. Ridden by jockey Rae Johnstone, Rivoli won the V.R.C. Governor’s Plate (12f) before coming to Sydney where Jim Munro partnered him into second placing behind David in both the A.J.C. Cumberland Stakes and A.J.C. Plate. David was in rare form that campaign and had also taken out the Sydney Cup with 9 st. 7lb in which the two-year-younger Rivoli carried a stone less and ran a tidy fifth. It was that performance that led Andrews and Barnes to believe they had a genuine Melbourne Cup contender in the spring. Despite the eclipse of Rivoli, Herb Andrews derived some consolation from that Randwick gathering when his Linacre gelding, Linaway, won the Champagne Stakes.
Herb Andrews’ lease on Rivoli expired during June 1923, upon which full ownership of the colt reverted to the Hon. John H. Barnes. Under the new arrangement, Barnes paid all expenses but gave Andrews half of all stake money won by Rivoli. Now it often happens that the lessee-trainer enjoys the best years of a horse’s racing career and the owner merely picks up crumbs – if anything at all – when the animal in question comes back to him. Such wasn’t to be the case with Rivoli. While Barnes kept him in the Canterbury stables of his good friend, the bay stallion was to enjoy a productive four-year-old season in which he carried the famous Barnes’ black and pink livery to victory in the A.J.C. Craven Plate and Randwick Plate, as well as the V.R.C. Melbourne Stakes and C.B. Fisher Plate. But for Bitalli and James Scobie’s remarkable first-up training performance in getting that five-year-old gelding to the post for the 1923 Melbourne Cup with just 7 stone on his back, John H. Barnes might have won the biggest prize of all.
As it was, Rivoli, conceding Bitalli a year in age and 29lb in weight, was beaten less than a length in race record time. It’s worth mentioning that the 1923 Cup was worth £10,288 to the winner, the richest ever up to that time and it wasn’t surpassed until Dalray earned £10,350 in 1952. It was a bitter defeat for Andrews who had backed Rivoli heavily, having his last £1,000 on him just before the horse went to the post when he sent another Sydney trainer, Stan Lamond, to instruct his commissioner, Lou Benjamin, accordingly. How much greater would be Rivoli’s measure of fame today but for that unlucky defeat. Brought back into training in the autumn, one of Rivoli’s legs filled before he was able to race and Barnes and Andrews turned the horse out into the paddocks hoping that a long spell would repair the damage. Alas, it wasn’t to be, and although Rivoli returned to run at Randwick in three races during September/October, he broke down again in the 1924 A.J.C. Spring Stakes and was promptly retired to stallion duties at his owner’s Canning Downs Stud having won more than £17,000 in stakes.
Unsung when he first went to stud and almost wholly restricted to Canning Downs’ own broodmares, Rivoli was to prove one of Queensland’s enduring sires and did much to consolidate the reputation of the Canning Downs Stud after the splendid pioneering work done by Highfield. Quite a few of Rivoli’s best progeny such as Great Idea and Maytown carried the colours of Mrs John Barnes. It was just as well, for during these years John Barnes didn’t enjoy much luck with his other imported English stallions, Bonnement and Bonspiel. Bonnement, a stallion by Tracery proved quite disappointing while Bonspiel, a well-performed son of Solario, died of pneumonia only a matter of months after landing at Canning Downs. It was the combination of these disappointments, the depressed bloodstock prices of the Depression years, and the ageing of Rivoli, which prompted Barnes to place the Canning Downs Stud on the market in May 1938. While Rivoli and a handful of well-bred mares such as Land and Sea, Golden Dust and Perfect Morn were held back from the disposal, which saw over a thousand people in attendance, 37 of the 39 thoroughbreds on offer were sold. Although, thankfully, for the future fortunes of the Barnes’ family, the £14,000 offered for the Canning Downs property was refused.
The Canning Downs Stud continued to operate through the years of World War II, albeit on a more limited scale with yearlings occasionally sold on account of the Barnes’ family through William Inglis in Sydney. At the end of the war, Charles Edward Barnes, the 45-year-old son of John, purchased Canning Downs from his father and set about again developing it into a successful thoroughbred stud. Rivoli continued to gambol in the pastures there and even served the odd mare only being retired fully from active stud service as a rising 28-year-old in June 1947. Sadly, the old fellow didn’t live much longer. In 1948 when the floodwaters broke the banks of the Condamine River, Rivoli, to satisfy his curiosity, strayed too close. Our 1922 Derby hero slipped on the black mud and fell into the river and drowned. It was the end of a wonderful contribution to Australian racing. His own racecourse achievements apart, at stud he got winners over all distances from 5f to 2 miles with aggregate stakes earnings of almost £200,000. Rivoli sired 12 individual stakes winners of 16 stakes races. His best progeny included Great Idea (Q.T.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes, Exhibition Handicap, King’s Plate); Rivalli (Q.T.C. Spring Stakes, Brisbane Cup); and Broccoli (N.J.C. Newcastle Cup). Moreover, he proved a very good sire of broodmares and, among other top gallopers, his daughters produced an A.J.C. Derby heroine in Tea Rose as well as the likes of Monash River, Falcon Knight, Noble Hero, Mian Mir, The Diver and Spellman.
When John Barnes died in 1950, he had the satisfaction of knowing that his son Charles was well on his way to becoming a major sporting and political figure in Queensland and a worthy representative of this pioneering Northern Rivers family. Born in Sydney in November 1901, he had grown up on Lyndhurst station before the family moved to Canning Downs in 1917. John H. S. Barnes passed the baton of responsibility for Canning Downs over to Charles at the end of World War II, and Charles set about restocking its thoroughbred paddocks. The son unsuccessfully stood a number of stallions at Canning Downs in the years after the war including the savage Katanga, until in July 1954 he enjoyed the good fortune of securing the champion racehorse Dalray to do stallion duty there.
A wonderful New Zealand-bred stayer, this son of Balloch, won among other races, the 1952 A.J.C. Metropolitan Handicap with 9 st. 1lb, and the Melbourne Cup with 9 st. 8lb. The winner of 14 of just 27 starts, Dalray was retired after breaking down during the running of the Carbine Stakes at Flemington in March 1953. Securing the services of this fine stallion proved a masterstroke for Barnes and over the years on the Darling Downs he produced a string of top gallopers including Tails, Grand Garry, Refulgent, High Society and Ton. Dalray’s blood seemed to nick with broodmares carrying strains of Rivoli and of the five horses just named, all bar High Society, bore Rivoli’s name on the distaff side of their pedigree.
I might add that thanks to two racehorses in particular owned by Charles Barnes, namely Basha Felika and the doughty Tails, the famous black jacket, pink sleeves and black cap, carried so successfully during the latter part of Rivoli’s career, became familiar to a new generation of racegoers post-war. Each carried Rivoli’s blood in their pedigree. Basha Felika, the Queensland Derby and Caulfield Cup winner was out of Perfect Morn, a daughter of Rivoli; while Tails, that grand galloper of the sixties who won no less than 23 races including two A.J.C. Metropolitans and a Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick carried Rivoli through Maytown, his maternal granddam. Charles Edward Barnes, who was the Federal Minister for Territories from 1963-72, also served on the committee of the Queensland Turf Club as his father had done before him, as well as being the president of the Warwick Show and Rodeo Society from 1949-61. He died in his beloved Canning Downs homestead in 1998, at the age of 96.
While the son of Repartee was to be the finest galloper to pass through Herb Andrew’s hands in a long lifetime of training racehorses, his career after Rivoli’s retirement continued to have its share of highlights. In December 1924, Andrews joined that extensive list of exasperated trainers who had accepted John Brown’s shilling to train his string of racehorses. Andrews took over the team that Stan Lamond had been preparing for the coal baron at Zetland Lodge. This increase in numbers coincided with Andrews intended relocation to Warwick Farm where he had purchased a property less than a half-mile from the racecourse, funded largely by Rivoli’s stakes earnings.
While the transfer to Warwick Farm proved successful for Andrews, where for a time he had more than thirty horses regularly in work – more than any other Sydney trainer – his tenure with Brown didn’t; and as so often had been the case, just on five years later Brown spat the dummy yet again. Relations had been strained for some time, and Andrews resented the fact that Brown wouldn’t allow him to run the horses as frequently as he wished. When Brown departed in a huff, one of the horses Andrews had in his care was the 4000 guineas’ yearling brother to Windbag, registered as Magnifico. Not that he amounted to anything though. In 1926 W. S Mackay sent Andrews the old champion Beauford to train, believing that the nine-year-old might still have another win in him. It wasn’t to be, although Andrews almost caused an upset when the aged gelding was narrowly beaten first-up in an open six-furlong handicap at Warwick Farm in May 1926.
Brown’s shenanigans and the disappointment of Beauford notwithstanding, even at stud Rivoli continued to line Andrews’ pockets. Some of Rivoli’s progeny found their way from John Barnes’s Canning Downs property into his Warwick Farm stables, and none was more significant to Andrews’ fortunes than Broccoli. A likely-looking colt out of a Bronzino mare, Andrews trained Broccoli to win his way through the grades before landing a sizeable plunge in the 1934 Newcastle Cup at Broadmeadow. What made that day at Broadmeadow a memorable one for the Andrews’ stable was the fact that Broccoli’s stablemate, Legislator, won the Flying and the pair had been extensively coupled in doubles.
I might mention that Broccoli later sired Swanbro, winner of both a Queensland Cup and B.A.T.C. Summer Cup. There were other famous plunges by Andrews down through the years including the one that his home-bred Polar Star landed in the Tattersall’s Welter at Randwick in May 1948. Andrews always kept a few well-bred broodmares of his own as a hobby breeder, and he tried to send them to the best stallions available. The Heroic mare, Cuvier, was one such example and the result of her mating with Midstream was Polar Star. Despite being a hopeless cripple for much of his racing life after being kicked at the post in a race at Randwick, Andrews persevered with Polar Star and on that May afternoon, backed the gelding in from 100/1 to 16/1. Andrews saw him land the prize by a head in a bristling finish!
Of course, not all of Andrews’ adventures in bloodstock turned out so well. During the 1945-46 racing season, he prepared the expensive colt Tengur, by Ajax, that had cost owner Harry McEvoy 5250 guineas at the Sydney Yearling Sales – a record first-day price, but never managed to win a race with him until after McEvoy had died. It was at the start of the 1950-51 racing season that the A.J.C. committee honoured the venerable Herb Andrews, along with the other veteran trainers Norman Dewsbury and Jack Ryan, by granting a No 1 ticket entitling him to all racecourse privileges. Alas, this 83-year-old man of the Turf was never able to wear the badge as he had already succumbed to his final illness in the months before. Andrews died at his residence, The Grove, Liverpool-street, Cabramatta in October 1950. His very last winner, the Brueghel horse Lucky Fern, which he both owned and trained, had been successful at the Hawkesbury meeting at Rosehill in August. Although his widow, five sons and three daughters survived him, none ventured into the business of training racehorses. Rivoli apart, his best gallopers were Pennybont, who won the A.J.C. May Stakes as well as a Newcastle Cup in 1923; and Linaway, who carried Andrews’ own colours.