Chance plays an extraordinary part in any man’s life but particularly one who essays onto the Turf to make his fortune. In the autumn of 1929, Cecil Battye was just another struggling trainer preparing a small team at Warwick Farm; he had spent most of his forty-six years making twopence do the work of a shilling. He hailed from an old N.S.W. family that had spent much of their time around horses. His grandfather was the Captain Battye who was Superintendent of Police in the Albury and Orange district in the days of the bushrangers when a fast horse was a matter of life and death. Finding a fast horse remained something a life struggle for Cec Battye all these years later.
Born in April 1884 at Balmain, Battye was only a boy when his family moved back to the Orange district and much against his parents’ wishes he sought to be a jockey. Indeed, he rode from the age of fifteen without his parents’ knowledge and was only found out when injured in a race fall. When the family shifted back to Sydney again Battye for a time rode work at Randwick, although he became too heavy for a riding career and switched his attention to the stopwatch – starting out as a public trainer at Newcastle at the age of 22. After enjoying some moderate successes, he moved to Moorefield. By early 1926 some successful forays in the betting ring had given him enough money to buy a block of land at Warwick Farm and construct stables. He named them ‘Athol Lodge’ after Atholdorous, a horse that had landed a particularly good winning wager.
When the 1929 Sydney Yearling Sales catalogue was published, Battye picked out a chestnut colt that he fancied buying, by Treclare from the former good race mare, Maltgilla. Battye was familiar with the dam, a Malt King mare that had raced in the colours of John Lobston, a small-time Queensland breeder who hailed from Leila Vale, at Gilmore’s Siding, out beyond Prairie on the Queensland Northern Railway. Lobston had found Maltgilla a profitable proposition on the racecourse. She won a Trial and a Ladies’ Bracelet at Townsville before finding her way to Warwick where she proved successful. Lobston adjudged her up to Sydney class and transferred Maltgilla to be trained by the Rajah of Rosehill, William Booth, in whose care among other races she won the 1921 Challenge Stakes beating the likes of Biplane and Glenacre. John Lobston had raced Maltgilla, and when she retired from the Turf, expectations had been high for her at stud. Apart from her own racecourse performances, her grand dam, Maximise, had won an Epsom Handicap.
Alas, Maltgilla had proved somewhat disappointing as a broodmare, and although some of her progeny such as Lady Asbestos had shown speed on the pony courses, it was precisely their lack of inches that conspired against them. Battye had fond memories of Maltgilla from here racecourse days but when he went to Chisholm’s yards to inspect this, her latest yearling, he was disappointed at his lack of size. An early November foal, he had been reared at Oakleigh Stud but measured no more than about 14.2 hands. Still, Battye took a liking to the conspicuously marked little fellow with his baldy-face and matching white nearside stockings. The trainer had already made up his mind to bid for the colt and to race him in his own colours when he ran into the big-betting owner, Bill Tindall. Battye had done Tindall a few good turns in the past when they were badly needed. So, Tindall told Cecil that, as he was travelling comfortably at the time, he would buy the colt and give Battye a lease with the option of purchase. Tindall procured a number of yearlings at those 1929 sales including this colt, which he got for 175 guineas and an option to purchase was drawn up for Battye to exercise at a price of £500. Cecil called the youngster Tregilla and, in the spirit of chivalry, had the lease made out in his wife’s name, a move that was to backfire the following year spectacularly.
Tregilla’s juvenile season afforded no favourable presage to classic glory the following spring. In four appearances during late spring and early summer, the closest he could manage was a fourth in a stakes race at Randwick over five furlongs. Nonetheless, it was after these runs that Battye elected to exercise the option to buy and what forced his hand was the fact that in January 1930 Bill Tindall suffered yet another regular disqualification, this time for twelve months over the running of his own horse, Shankara, in a race at Warwick Farm. Following the disqualification, Tindall decided to dispose of all his horses, and Tregilla officially changed hands. Battye then turned him out for a six months’ spell after an unplaced effort at Randwick on Boxing Day, and when the colt returned to the racecourse in mid-July, he had strengthened and grown to 15.1 hands but ended the season as he had begun – unplaced yet again.
Sydney’s best two-year-old that year was Veilmond, a strapping son of Limond for whom Randwick trainer George Price had given 575 guineas on behalf of Ned Moss at the 1929 New Zealand Yearling Sales. The colt first emerged as a potential classics horse at the A.J.C. Summer Meeting in 1929 when he won his two engagements, the December Nursery and the prestigious December Stakes. In both races, he was slow to leave the tapes, and he had to make up a lot of ground in the last furlong. Certainly, the vast spaces at Randwick suited his galloping action. In the December Stakes when the smart gelding, Caravel Boy, was dashing up the straight, Veilmond must have been giving him about 40 yards when a clear passage presented itself, and he managed to get to the post in time to win by a long head. Many came away from headquarters that day convinced that they had seen the Derby winner.
Ned “Skinny” Moss, the owner of Veilmond, was one of the biggest bettors of the period, renowned for his fearless dashes at the ring. Damon Runyon once observed that the race may not always be to the swift or the battle to the strong, but that sure was the way to bet. It was a theory to which Moss subscribed, and Moss enjoyed a rather merrier Christmas than usual in 1929. Hope springs eternal in the racing owner’s breast, often to the detriment of his bank balance. Ned Moss had parted with considerable sums during the previous ten years in his quest for a classic horse, yet both Vaals and Sion, to name but two, had failed to fulfil his cherished ambition for the coveted blue riband. In Veilmond he finally believed he’d found that elusive Derby colt. The horse boasted an impressive pedigree. His dam Veil was a sister to those two good horses The Monk and Rational, and his maternal grand dam was a half-sister to Beau Soult, the sire of that wonderful gelding from the coalfields, Beauford. Limond, of course, was already an established sire of top-class stayers including Limerick, Commendation, Agrion and Honour, and his stock was much in demand. Although George Price went to 575 guineas to secure Veilmond at the yearling sales, he was regarded as something of a bargain at the time by Moss; at the same sales, another yearling by the same stallion had sold for 2,400 guineas. Mr G. M. Currie of Koatanui in New Zealand had bred Veilmond, the second foal of the dam.
Veilmond’s form during the autumn was consistent if not a little disappointing. The big colt had gone to the post a warm favourite for the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes but had gone under to The Doctor’s Orders, after a bold exhibition of front-running by the gelding. On the second day of the meeting, Veilmond was asked to carry a penalty in the Champagne Stakes taking his weight to 9 st. 1lb but again he had to settle for second best behind Chemosh. It was an inconclusive end to a juvenile season that had promised so much. Nonetheless, Veilmond wintered the Derby favourite, and the V.R.C. handicapper was shown to share the opinion of bookmakers when the weights for the Melbourne Cup were issued in July. The colt headed the poundage for 3-y-o’s, although it was significant that the handicapper hadn’t seen fit to burden him with any more than weight-for-age at 7 st. 6lb, while Tregilla was handicapped at a lowly 6 st. 13lb.
Tregilla made his first cash contribution to the Battye household when he earned £20 for running third in a maiden at Warwick Farm at his first start as a three-year-old. He then won his next start, coming from a long way back in a Rosehill event restricted to his own age in which, ridden by F. ‘Bill’ Hickey, he only carried 6 st. 12lb. The first suggestion that he might make up into a classic contender came – ironically enough – when he ran an unplaced favourite in a ten furlongs Novice Handicap at Randwick in mid-September. In a field of twenty-four, Tregilla was drawn on the extreme outside of the field, and whipped around at barrier rise losing considerable ground; nonetheless, he ran on well to finish a close fourth. Battye then decided to step him out in the Rosehill Guineas (9f) a week later. Veilmond was tipped as something of a racecourse certainty for the Guineas that year, after easily winning the Hobartville Stakes on his seasonal debut. Yet the Guineas proved nothing more than a bumping contest from start to finish with Veilmond meeting severe interference, which cost him any chance. One jockey, Jimmy Simpson, the rider of Weotara, was suspended after the Guineas for causing interference to Veilmond, and there were strong insinuations that Simpson’s sole role in the race had been to ruin Veilmond’s chances.
The race was won by the outsider Balloon King, a decidedly common-looking bay bred by the late John Brown, out of a daughter of Prince Foote. But to win, Balloon King had to survive a duel over the last one hundred and fifty yards of the race with Tregilla, and a protest in the stewards’ room afterwards. Despite their disappointment, both Battye and Bartle, at last, knew they had a genuine Derby colt. So too did the A.J.C. stewards, and it was after this race that the issue was raised as to whether Tregilla was even eligible for the classic. When Tindall had been disqualified, his nominations for the 1930 Derby automatically became void, and it was this fact that raised some doubts, even though Mrs Battye was the lessor at the time of the nomination. There were no doubts about the bona fides of the sale of the horse following Tindall’s disqualification, however, and the A.J.C. committee eventually cleared the horse to run.
Before I retail the story of Derby Day 1930, permit me to observe that there are some years when the best thoroughbred foaled in a given season isn’t in the Derby field. Trafalgar and the 1908 renewal of the A.J.C. classic is a case in point. The foals of 1927 and the Derby field of 1930 presents a similar set of circumstances. During the cold winter days of 1930 a rather nondescript chestnut gelding by the imported English stallion, Roger de Busli, was making his first tentative appearances on a racecourse. Bred by Hunter White of the Havilah Stud, the gelding was out of a mare whose maternal line traced back to Georgic, a horse which carried H.C. White’s colours with distinction in England. Hunter White had originally made a present of this fractious chestnut gelding to his son to race on the picnic meeting circuit. However, the scythe-like effect of the Great Depression saw picnic races all but eliminated. Accordingly, the White family leased the son of Roger de Busli to the Newcastle trainer, Les Haigh, to be tried on racecourses proper. Leasing was something that Hunter White did on a grand scale, and often those leases proved profitable. Cathmar that won an A.J.C. Epsom Handicap for Jack King was on a lease from Hunter White.
However, during that 1930 winter of discontent, as the Great Depression tightened its grip, glory on the broad greensward of Randwick with his leased gelding would have been the furthest thing from Haigh’s mind. Unraced at two, the horse in question would have just three starts at three, for a struggling win in a maiden welter at Menangle and a minor placing in a mile race at Moorefield in the last week of the season. While Tregilla and Veilmond were strutting their stuff in the Guineas and the Derby, Haigh’s leased gelding was spelling in a Newcastle paddock. However, everything comes to him who can afford to wait, and Randwick glory in the shape of a Sydney Cup, Autumn Plate, Chelmsford Stakes (twice), Spring Stakes (twice), Randwick Plate, and King’s Cup would indeed beckon Les Haigh in the years ahead. And this list of victories excludes those good races won on other courses such as the Caulfield Cup and W.S. Cox Plate. As you have already guessed, the name of the lean and fractious gelding was Rogilla.
The cold winds of economic change that first whistled down Wall Street in October 1929 were soon swirling and eddying about the whole world. Within a matter of months in Australia, the prices of all commodities had fallen as dramatically as unemployment queues had lengthened. The emergent effects of the Depression had been evident during the four days of the 1930 A.J.C. Autumn Meeting, where, despite glorious weather throughout and the presence of Phar Lap on three of the days, there was a marked decline in attendance, while many of those who did patronise the fixture, abandoned the grandstand enclosure for the cheaper St. Leger reserve. This merely confirmed the debilitating trends elsewhere in Australia. Even before that meeting had opened, the time-honoured institution of the ‘Call of the Card’, where sporting men foregathered on the eve of the A.J.C. fixture and bookmakers accommodated them for large amounts on their fancies in the major races, had been abandoned for the first time.
The general mood of despondency had been even more palpable at the Easter yearling sales. The highest price in 1930 was 2000 guineas paid by Joe Brien for a slashing bay colt by his former stallion Rossendale, offered by Harry Taylor of Macquarie Stud. It was a far cry from the record 6750 guineas given for Dominant at the same sales just two years before. In fact, only six horses sold for four figures at the 1930 Easter sales and the prices were the lowest since 1919: the average of 174 guineas compared to 215 guineas in 1929 and 269 guineas in 1928. The Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club responded to the economic crisis in different ways. The A.J.C. reduced the added amounts for the spring program by £3,700. In both the Breeders’ Plate and the Gimcrack Stakes for two-year-olds, the added money was reduced to £1,500 for each event, and all of the weight-for-age races were cut by £500. The Derby itself couldn’t be touched because the stakes and conditions of the race had been stipulated at the time entries were accepted well over a year before, pre-dating the onset of the Depression. The V.R.C. reacted differently. At the Melbourne Cup Meeting, there was to be a reduction of added money of only £1,200, but the sweepstakes attached to the minor races were abandoned, and the club was to retain the entry and acceptance fees that had previously been added to the stakes – an effective reduction of around twenty per cent.
At Randwick on Derby Day the effects of the Depression were noticeable. The splendour of wealth juxtaposed with the abjectness of poverty was so much sharper that spring. The mood was quite different to the excitement and colour that had so animated Phar Lap’s triumph only twelve months before. Although the A.J.C. refused to release gate figures, the crowd was significantly down despite beautiful weather, and the Totalisator turnover was £35,602/5/- less than on the first day of the 1929 Spring Meeting, a decline of more than a third. Pressmen estimated the crowd to be the poorest since Derby Day in 1917. The relative paucity in attendance wasn’t helped by radio station 2FC’s racing broadcast, an arrangement having been made with the station in December 1927 to allow radio transmission of live race calls for an annual fee of £136/10/-. What had seemed like a sensible stimulus in making the sport available to a broader audience during the years of economic boom, now seemed a serious blunder as attendances plummeted with former racegoers content to bet S.P. and listen to the race either at home or their local tobacconist, hotel or club.
Although the A.J.C. agreement with 2FC precluded the broadcast of betting information until after the last race, this restriction failed to restrain the tide. In July 1930 The Referee thundered in an editorial: “any argument about the effect of broadcasting upon racing is clinched by an analysis of Totalisator returns and government taxation. This reveals that the commencement of falling off in returns synchronised with the advent of wireless broadcasting of racing. It is an effect that Government authorities throughout Australia cannot afford to ignore and provides an unanswerable demand for restrictive action by the States and the Commonwealth.” The A.J.C. maintained their agreement with 2FC but excluded the commercial stations, which mostly overcame their ban by reverting to piracy and establishing their broadcasting machines either on high stands, the backs of trucks or in nearby high rise private properties just outside the racecourse but allowing an uninterrupted view of the track.
One face missing from the Derby Day programme was that of the popular A.J.C. starter, Harry Mackellar. One of Sydney’s most widely known and popular sporting identities, and the club’s official starter for more than 25 years, he had died in September at the age of 62 after a long illness.
A charming man and a wonderful raconteur of tales of the Turf, his had been a lifetime involvement with thoroughbreds. A fine horseman and noted polo player, he had been successful at Randwick on many occasions in the days of the old Sydney Hunt and Turf Club meetings. Upon the death of the Hon. James White, he had assisted in the management of the Kirkham Stud Farm when that establishment was the finest equine nursery in the land. When that stud was broken-up, he succeeded Tom Watson to the position of starter at Randwick. Mackellar’s death and the subsequent illness of the deputy starter, Mr F. H. McLeod placed the A.J.C. in a predicament for their 1930 spring meeting. Overtures were made to the V.R.C. for the loan of their official starter, Rupert Greene, who was agreeable but found that business reasons precluded his attendance. The A.J.C. then approached Jack Gaxieu, the popular amateur rider who had served as the official starter in the Newcastle district for about two years. Gaxieu, of course, was destined to really make the headlines one Derby Day in his capacity as the starter, but it wasn’t to be until a few years later.
The 1930 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
A field of fourteen confronted Gaxieu for his first blue riband, and Veilmond remained a warm favourite with betting men prepared to overlook his Rosehill failure, and despite rumours of an interrupted preparation caused by a split hoof. In the paddock, he looked every inch a Derby colt, well developed behind the saddle and commanding a real presence. The Rosehill Guineas winner, Balloon King, shared the second line of betting with The Doctor’s Orders and Sargon.
Dick Donnell, the former New Zealander who quit his homeland to pursue his vocation at Randwick, trained Balloon King, who had run third in both the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes the previous season in John Brown’s livery. Upon Brown’s death, the executors of the Brown estate, of whom Sir Adrian Knox was the principal, raced the colt during his three-year-old season. James Scobie presented The Doctor’s Orders in fine fettle in the paddock despite not having appeared in public since his fourth in the Champagne Stakes in the autumn. As we have seen, this habit of first-up tilts at the Derby had become something of an idiosyncrasy with the great man. Sargon represented the New Zealand challenge for the race and owed his prominence in Derby betting to a surprise win in the mile welter at the Tattersall’s Meeting. Tregilla meanwhile was quoted at tens in course betting, as rumours of his being beaten in track gallops by another of his Derby rivals, Salvador, a Rivoli colt who was a half-brother to Eurythmic trained by Ike Andrews, sapped confidence. Other starters in the Derby included Calmond, a full brother to Mollison to be ridden by Rae Johnstone; and Axinus, yet another Victorian challenger raced by ‘S. A. Rawdon’. Lady Cannes was the only filly in the fourteen-strong field although she looked outclassed and was adjudged so in the betting market.
In the race itself Veilmond again let his supporters down, albeit only narrowly, for even on his home ground, Veilmond had the unhappy knack of finding trouble. He met with his first check just after leaving the straight and was third last at the milepost. He again struck bother at the five furlongs, where Tregilla ran past him. At the home turn, Tregilla ran to a winning position on the rails while Maurice McCarten on the favourite went around at least four horses to guarantee the big striding Veilmond three furlongs of fresh air. He got it, but at the price of conceding Tregilla a winning start. Halfway up the straight, Bartle released the reins on Tregilla, and the chestnut dashed a good two lengths clear. Veilmond ran on strongly in the last furlong but at the post was a head shy of the judge; the supporting cast was four lengths in arrears. The Doctor’s Orders gave his jockey Harold Jones a hard ride, fighting for his head for most of the journey and he was a beaten horse well before the home turn.
And so, for the second year in succession, a horse purchased cheaply by a struggling owner-trainer had won Australia’s greatest classic. For all of the hard luck associated with the favourite, on the day Tregilla was a worthy winner. He was one of the last horses to get going, and came from behind Veilmond and near last at the six furlongs, to claim victory. Some were critical of McCarten’s lack of vigour with the shillelagh on Veilmond, particularly in comparison with Bartle on Tregilla in the final furlong, but the favourite had his chance. The time for the race was 2 minutes 33 ¼ seconds, which, by the standards of the day, represented a truly run contest. After the race, George Price the trainer of the beaten favourite quipped: “From the first day I put Veilmond into work I thought I had a champion, but he seems to be only a champion at finding trouble.”
Tregilla’s triumph in the Derby was the first of what would prove to be three wins in the race for the jockey, Ted Bartle. Born in December 1900, he was the son of a former Newcastle jockey and trainer. Bartle began riding in 1915 when all six stone of him travelled down from Islington to be apprenticed to the established Randwick trainer, Tom Scully, who we first met in our 1911 chapter as the trainer of Cisco. Bartle rode his first winner, Thistleseed, at Woodstock, near Cowra, in September 1916. Granted permission to ride in races on metropolitan tracks by the A.J.C. committee in December 1916, Bartle’s first significant victory came aboard his master’s horse, Braille, in the 1920 A.J.C. Summer Cup. While trained by Scully, Braille was owned by the brothers J.H. and R. Fagan, squatters in the Lachlan River country and were good supporters of Bartle during his apprenticeship. Twelve months later Bartle won the Summer Cup again, this time on Bob Bailie’s Comedy King gelding, King of the Forest, carrying 7 st. 7lb.
Now one would think that two A.J.C. Summer Cups in succession would set a young jockey on course for a promising career but it never quite worked out that way for Ted Bartle. Those years immediately after that second Summer Cup were to be a hard grind for Bartle as he plied his trade at obscure country meetings to make ends meet. Had old Tom Scully not kept his faith in the lad from Islington, Bartle would never have hit the big time and may well have given the game away in the early 1920s. The turning point came when Bartle secured the ride on the imported Murillo for the 1927 A.J.C. Metropolitan Handicap. Murillo was owned and trained by the big betting Melbourne identity, Eric Connolly. Earlier in the year at the Grand National Meeting, Connolly had backed Murillo £25,000 to £1,000 with leading N.S.W. bookmaker Jim Hackett. He continued backing the horse right up to the day of the race.
Reflecting later on Bartle’s ride to land the money on Murillo, beating Limerick in the rain by some three lengths, Connolly observed: “This lad will ride to instructions, and there’s no cooler or collected boy riding either.” It was estimated that the Connolly-inspired plunge took more than £50,000 out of the ring and it was to be the start of Bartle’s legendary reputation of being a big money rider. It was soon after that 1927 A.J.C. Spring Meeting that Bartle linked up with the successful Eiver Walker stable and after that, the jockey’s grafting days were over. While the Depression year of 1930 was a bad one for most, it was a memorable year for Bartle. In March at a meeting at Moorefield, the jockey hit the headlines by riding six winners and a second from eight rides. At the end of July, Bartle headed the Winning Jockeys’ List for the third successive season and eclipsing all previous figures by registering 72 wins and 4 dead-heats. During those three seasons, Bartle scored 181 wins and 10 dead-heats for first on metropolitan and provincial racecourses.
Tregilla’s Derby success brought renewed curiosity as to his pedigree. Treclare, his sire, was rather unfashionable and had not been highly regarded by Australian breeders. Raced in England by Lord Glanely, Treclare had been a high-class racehorse winning races at two and three and having finished third in the English Derby won by Gainsborough. It was much easier to fill the list of a classic winner in England at a 400 guineas stud fee than a placed horse at one-quarter of that figure, and for that reason, Lord Glanely parted with his services after using him at stud for a couple of seasons. Sir Hugh Denison purchased Treclare privately in conjunction with Guy Raymond, his partner in Sledmere Stud, where the stallion began stud duty in 1924.
When that stud was dispersed a couple of years later, Sir Hugh Denison retained him for 2,000 guineas and did a deal with Herbert Thompson that saw the horse stand at the Bylong Stud. His service fee at stud was fifty guineas at the time Tregilla won the Derby. Apart from two of his daughters, Trenette and Eulclare, fighting out the previous year’s Gimcrack Stakes, Tregilla was the stallion’s first big race winner. He eventually got two Sydney Cup winners in Johnnie Jason and Broad Arrow as well as a Caulfield Cup with Journal, not to mention a few smart early-season juveniles. The faith that Cecil Battye had placed in Maltgilla as a broodmare when he first fixed on bidding for Tregilla as a yearling was subsequently borne out by some of the mare’s later foals. Her very next foal after Tregilla, Burwood by Backwood, won an A.J.C. Easter Stakes and Champagne Stakes while her daughter by Heroic, Leila Vale, won both the Gimcrack Stakes and Adrian Knox Stakes at Randwick. Other of her progeny, although not markedly successful on the racecourse, proved useful at stud. I think much of her later days were spent at William Booth’s Tatyoon Stud.
Tregilla was destined never to win another race after his A.J.C. Derby. He wasn’t even eligible for the Victoria Derby as a result of Battye registering the horse in his wife’s name. In those days trainers’ wives were not allowed to own or race horses in Victoria, although the wives of other men could do so, and thus the entry was declared null and void. The ruling denied the Battye family from landing some of the £4,500 in prize money. Naturally, Battye found the V.R.C. ruling oppressive and unnecessary. From a modern perspective, it appears quaint. It was, of course, framed to prevent trainers from being shielded in the event of a disqualification or other trouble under his wife’s name. There was much to be said against a regulation that allowed one woman to race horses but barred another.
As Battye declared at the time: “My wife is as good as any other woman associated with racing, and perhaps a bit prettier, too, and to me as good as the Governor’s lady or any other might be…” This ban, of course, no longer applies with the V.R.C. having rescinded it around 1950 but it left a sour taste in Cec Battye’s mouth after the gallant manner in which his colt had taken the Derby at Randwick. The nominations for both the Victorian two and three-year-old classics closed at the same time – the first Tuesday in June 1929 – and Tregilla had been nominated only a matter of weeks after his sale as a yearling and months before he had ever raced. Tregilla was taken to Melbourne nonetheless because his nominations for other races, including the Melbourne Cup, had been made in Cec Battye’s own name, much more recently and since the outright purchase of the colt.
Tregilla earned £150 for chasing home Phar Lap in the W.S. Cox Plate – admittedly four lengths astern of the champion – although Mollison and Veilmond were among the beaten brigade that finished well behind him at the Valley that afternoon. In fact, he was giving Veilmond three lengths start at one stage of the race and managed to beat him by five. It was widely agreed that had the colt been permitted to start in the Victoria Derby he would surely have won the race considering the form that he was in at the time. Accordingly, on the afternoon that saw Balloon King enjoy a comfortable win in the Victorian classic from an odds-on Veilmond, to give Jim Pike a hat-trick of wins in the race, Tregilla went around in the Melbourne Stakes and was again runner-up to Phar Lap. Now, most keen racing men can readily tell you that Phar Lap in 1930 at 11/8 on was the shortest priced favourite ever to go to the post in a Melbourne Cup, but few can recall the name of the horse best backed to beat him. The answer, of course, is Tregilla. Perhaps nothing underlines just how ordinary that crop of three-year-olds was in the 1930-31 racing season than their failure to obtain even a minor placing in that Melbourne Cup. Tregilla simply failed to stay the trip, while Veilmond, ridden by a youthful Bill Cook, was considered somewhat unlucky in running fifth.
In the autumn of 1931, Tregilla developed ligament trouble and lost all form, running poorly in both the St. Leger and Sydney Cup at Randwick. The Sydney Cup that year illustrated the integrity of both Bartle and Battye. Bartle had been contracted to ride Tregilla in the Sydney Cup and was quite prepared to keep his word even after being offered the ride on the Cup favourite, The Dimmer. Billy Duncan, the ace Melbourne jockey, had been engaged for The Dimmer but was suspended on the Saturday for causing interference in the Autumn Stakes. Realising the opportunity that the mount offered Bartle, Cecil Battye generously released Bartle from his Tregilla commitment and The Dimmer won the Cup. Tregilla was never sound again although various attempts were made to train him. As an early-season four-year-old, Tregilla came back but in four races failed to run a place.
A long spell then ensued, and the chunky chestnut wasn’t brought back into stables until January 1933 after an absence from the racecourse of some sixteen months. He resumed to win a flying handicap at Rosebery and although heavily bandaged on both forelegs seemed to pull up sound enough. But at his very next run at the City Tattersall’s March Meeting in the weight-for-age Randwick Stakes over the mile, he finished unplaced behind Peter Pan and upon cooling down suffered a recurrence of the old leg problem. Tregilla was sold later that spring to James Foster and the Cullengoral Stud in the Gulgong district of NSW to take the place of the stallion Rossendale, who had died suddenly. The success of Heroic, Windbag, and company, together with the effects of the Depression had encouraged some breeders to at last take a chance and patronise colonial stallions. Tregilla completed Rossendale’s book for that season and the next year had a full book when tragically, he fell in his yard and broke his shoulder. Although the A.J.C. veterinarian, Roy Stewart, travelled to Mudgee to inspect the horse, he advised connections to have him put down. None of the progeny Tregilla left behind ever won a principal race on the Australian Turf.
Veilmond, on the other hand, enjoyed much greater fortune in his post-Derby career both on and off the racecourse. In the autumn he managed to redeem some of his earlier promise by capturing the red ribands in both the A.J.C. and V.R.C. St Legers for his popular owner Ned Moss. I think everybody was pleased when old Ned finally managed to win his first classic, even if the colour of the ribbon wasn’t exactly of his own choosing. Indeed, the performances of Veilmond that season, together with those of his other good galloper, Killarney, were enough to elevate Ned Moss to second on the season’s list of winning owners behind Harry Telford.
The son of Limond eventually put together an impressive curriculum vitae on the Turf and was arguably the best horse to carry the familiar black and green halves of his big-betting owner. He could both sprint and stay, winning from five furlongs to two-and-a-quarter miles and in four seasons won nineteen races and £21,587. Nonetheless, there lingered in many minds the suspicion that there was still rather less to him than met the eye. Veilmond was sent to the post at short prices for some of Australia’s richest distance handicaps, yet never managed to win one. McCarten finally had to acknowledge that the horse would not go generously for him, as he was very awkward in a field, and, at his suggestion, the riding of him was shared with Pike. Pike’s more relaxed style allowed Veilmond to drop out in the early stage of a race. One of his best performances was when he won the Waverley Handicap at Randwick run over 1 ¾ miles burdened with 9 st. 12lb and defeated a good field.
There was one famous incident associated with Veilmond when McCarten rode him. In the autumn of 1933, Ned Moss fancied the horse to win a flying at Rosehill first up and proceeded to back him to win about £1,000. Veilmond duly defeated Loch Garry by a neck, but the bet came unstuck when McCarten was discovered to be 7lb short in weight. It came about with the jockey’s decision to use a lead vest, which is like a waistcoat full of shot lead. As a rule, riders don’t like employing the vest, which is heavy and tiring, but although it is a hindrance to the jockey, it is helpful to the horse, which as a consequence has less dead weight on its back. On this celebrated occasion, Maurice weighed out with the saddle complete with the vest but then removed it – not wanting to carry the lead weight around his shoulders any longer than necessary. After the race when he came to weigh-in, it didn’t occur to him that he was minus the vest until he was actually on the scales and failed to pull the weight. The stewards were compelled to alter the judge’s placings, and McCarten himself was suspended for two months. The incident only served to heighten the disappointment that the horse had caused his big-betting owner.
Shortly afterwards Veilmond began to make noises in his track gallops. Although he managed to win the Essendon Stakes and King’s Plate at Flemington that autumn, by the time that he returned to Sydney his wind infirmity had worsened and Ned Moss reluctantly retired him from the Turf. Although old Ned won a few good bets on Veilmond, some of his most substantial wagers came on occasions when he met defeat. If Moss had been content to race him for just the prize money alone, Veilmond would have proved a much more profitable commodity. Still, Moss loved that horse, and just weeks before Veilmond’s retirement he had paid 500 guineas at the New Zealand Sales to acquire the horse’s yearling half-brother by Posterity. It was good money in the depths of the Depression. Registered as Saecula, George Price trained this fellow as well, and he looked to have a promising future when Jack Pratt won first-up on him at Canterbury Park in January 1935. Alas, like Veilmond, he was top heavy and failed to train on as an older horse. As for Veilmond, once his roaring was confirmed, he was put up for auction at William Inglis and Son’s annual sale of older thoroughbreds in the autumn of 1933. However, when the auctioneer declared that the bidding would open at 1000 guineas, nobody was prepared to offer that price, and the horse was passed-in. Eventually, Herbert Thompson and his cousin, Alf, agreed to enter into a partnership to buy him.
That partnership was probably the undoing of Veilmond’s chance of making it as a top draw stallion. The Thompson cousins owned neighbouring properties, Widden and Tarwyn Park, and were keen rivals jealous of each other’s success. Each preferred to allocate their best broodmares to stallions owned outright in their own name rather than to the joint venture that was Veilmond. Accordingly, the son of Limond largely got the refuse among the mares of each stud. Nonetheless, he proved a good stallion. He started his stud career in the same season as Tregilla at Cullengoral, but unlike his Derby conqueror, Veilmond enjoyed remarkable first season success when his son Rodborough won the Breeders’ Plate and his Victorian daughter, Lochlee, won the Debutant Stakes. His best son was unquestionably Veiled Threat, the dual Sydney Cup winner, who came from an outside mare, Spear Belle by Spearhead, owned by the well-known veterinary surgeon, Norman Larkin. Other progeny of note by Veilmond included All Veil (V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap), Velocity (Caulfield Cup), and Rimveil (A.J.C. Epsom and Villiers Handicaps etc.). Veilmond died in 1946.
I started this chapter with Cecil Battye, and it seems fitting to end it in the same way. Battye lived on to become one of Sydney’s genuine veteran trainers in a vocation often renowned for longevity. He remained at Warwick Farm for the rest of his life, and while he never again had a horse as good as Tregilla, he did enjoy some satisfying moments. A couple of years after Tregilla, Battye was to enjoy further success with another son of Treclare in Tremayne, a colt that cost him 150 guineas as a yearling but won good races at the proprietary courses of Rosebery, Victoria Park and Canterbury. However, Battye was to relish most of all those victories of horses he bred himself. Apart from Tregilla, Sedenum was probably the horse that gave him most pleasure – an honest old galloper that Battye had bred during Tregilla’s last season of racing. Like the trainer himself, Sedenum kept on keeping on, putting food on the table for the Battye family during the hard struggle of the war years winning fifteen races including the Moorefield Gold Cup. After the horse’s retirement, Battye used Sedenum as a hack. Even after relinquishing his trainer’s licence decades later, old Cec continued to breed the odd horse to race, including Yagoona Boy whom you might recall fellow Warwick Farm identity, John Page, trained to win both an A.J.C. Autumn Cup and an S.T.C. McKell Cup. Cec Battye finally slipped the bridle at the ripe old age of 92 in 1975, and while never a household name, unlike many of Australia’s better-known trainers, he at least had enjoyed his hour in the sun once upon a time on Derby Day.