Occasionally we need reminding that the unlikely pageant of history was itself once everyday life. I was reflecting on this truism on a Saturday afternoon in 2009 when I deliberately strolled down Eleanor Street on my way to a race meeting at Rosehill. It is a quiet street on the south-western fringes of the racecourse itself, which terminates in a dead end near to where that busy and modern thoroughfare, James Ruse Drive, verily pulses with noise and speeding traffic. Current high-rise developments and an international hotel or two, catering to interstate and overseas visitors to the racecourse, have transfigured the landscape in recent years, although it is true to say that Rosehill never was a garden suburb in the manner of, say, Caulfield and its environs. Rather, it had an entirely different history, for Rosehill racecourse was once part of the sprawling estate of a thousand acres known as Elizabeth Farm, owned by the notorious John Macarthur and bounded by the main road to Sydney, together with the Parramatta and Duck Rivers.
The estate remained in the Macarthur family for many years, and it wasn’t until 1880 that it was sold to the lawyer, Septimus A. Stephen, father of the future A.J.C. chairman, Sir Colin Stephen. It was Septimus Stephen who subdivided the land and advertised it for sale using the name of Rosehill. Enter the flamboyant theatrical entrepreneur of the late nineteenth century, John Bennett. He bought a significant holding of 140 acres for a racecourse and recreation ground and – hey presto! On 18th April 1885 after an outlay of some £17,000, Rosehill racecourse conducted its first meeting. Bennett even went so far as to provide a private railway track connecting Rosehill to the main line at Clyde. The railway notwithstanding, for some years, racegoers, including incidentally, my grandmother, were able to come to the course by boat, which anchored mid-stream in the Parramatta River, while patrons paid the princely sum of a shilling for the transfer ashore.
The presence of a train line and river frontage ensured that the landholdings to the east of the racecourse became attractive to manufacturers such as Wunderlich and the Shell Oil Refinery, while the land to the west was devoted mainly to residential development. And it was here that the first racing stables began to emerge, primarily around the eastern end of Hassall-street, Virginia-street, Weston-street and Prospect-street, adjoining the racecourse. No man was more responsible for putting Rosehill on the racing map as a centre for training horses than William Booth, who first moved there from Gundaroo, near Queanbeyan, in the early 1900’s. The son of a hotelkeeper who dabbled with racehorses – his father kept the Royal Hotel at Gundaroo – Booth first began training at Canberra in 1890 but was persuaded to journey to the city in July 1903 when that good sprinter, The Palmist, leased by Gerald Massey, came into his hands. Renting premises at Rosehill, Booth trained The Palmist to win two races on the same card at Warwick Farm in August 1903, and as many as four other events in the space of nine weeks.
One didn’t need chiromancy to foretell a prosperous future on the Turf for this young man. Whatever doubts Booth had harboured concerning a permanent re-location were resolved with The Palmist’s run of victories. Rosehill, it was to be then, and within three years William Booth was able to afford to buy stables at the corner of Hassall and Arthur streets, cheek-by-jowl to the racecourse, which he christened ‘Gundaroo’ and from where he was to enjoy unprecedented success for over thirty years. Winners came quickly from the big barn and Booth supplemented the operations by growing his own barley there as well. Any suggestion that Rosehill wasn’t a suitable place for preparing stayers was effectively scotched when The Rajah, as Booth came to be known, trained David and Scarlet on the course to win successive Sydney Cups in 1923-24. Other good horsemen began to follow Booth’s lead and in the years to come before World War II the likes of Bert Papworth, Mick Webster, Bert Stanton and Morrie Anderson, to name just a few, settled there. As we have seen, it was Papworth who was responsible for training Rosehill’s first A.J.C. Derby winner when he prepared Talking out of his Weston-street stables to win the race for Parramatta butcher, Sam Cash in 1936.
Rosehill received its most significant fillip in 1943, however, with the decision by the McKell Labour Government to pass legislation abolishing proprietary racing. Instead, the activities of the six previously licensed race clubs would be channelled into a new, non-proprietary body, to be called the Sydney Turf Club with leading sportsman William W. Hill as its inaugural chairman. The closure of courses such as Moorefield, Rosebery and Victoria Park during the decade after World War II saw quite a few trainers gravitate to Rosehill, where real estate was decidedly cheaper than at Randwick and the eastern suburbs. While venerable, old racing stables at Randwick were being demolished in the 1960’s to make way for the dreaded scourge of high-rise home unit blocks, significant expenditure was going into building elaborate new stable complexes at Rosehill.
Moreover, as the Sydney Turf Club garnered strength and resources with the passing of the years, modern facilities were established including the Paddock/Leger Stand completed in 1958, and the new Members’ Stand finished in February 1961, following the closure of the racecourse for a year. The Golden Slipper Stakes, first run in 1957, quickly became the club’s signature event and by the early sixties had acquired prestige and standing out of all proportion to its brief existence. Indeed, such was the transformation in the quality of both horsemen and horseflesh doing business at Rosehill, that in the early 1960’s two successive A.J.C. Derby favourites were trained there rather than at the more traditional Randwick. And it is the first of them that concerns us here. For it was from modest backyard stables in Eleanor Street itself that Bogan Road sallied forth for his rendezvous with destiny in September 1962 – as the shortest-priced Derby favourite in over three-quarters of a century!
There is an old-fashioned romance behind the story of the 1962 A.J.C. Derby that is now altogether missing in a racing world dominated by big stables, flash money, and production-line training methods. It is now a world where the racehorse seems no longer commonly loved as a sentient animal but rather regarded – if regarded at all – as nothing more than a means to a gamble, subject only to the laws of avarice. It is a world, moreover, where loyalty might be defined as a loose association between the principals involved – whether owner, trainer or jockey – extending no longer than the period of two consecutive losing performances. In stark contrast, our year 1962 serves up the story of two country boys, Jack Montgomery and Bill Noonan, who grew up together during the 1890’s in the Warren district of western New South Wales imbued with an entirely different set of lasting values, based on hardship and mateship. As boys, they rode their horses together along the Bogan Gate Road dreaming dreams of Turf glory that were to be eventually realised but not until fifty years and more, had passed.
Born in Bourke in July 1890, Jack Montgomery was the second son of a small-time farmer and grazier with a holding around Trangie, who refused to follow his father and older brother onto the land. Instead, he opted for life as a racehorse trainer, first preparing his small team out of a small village near Trangie, but later establishing stables at Dubbo. Montgomery’s modest background afforded him no purchase on circles of influence, and the first of his owners around the western N.S.W. circuit were men such as Ted Hilliard and Fred Cabot, who were next-door neighbours and friends in Dubbo. Another early client was Bill Noonan, some eighteen months younger than Jack, but one of his closest friends when the pair attended school in Warren together, and who as a boy spent a lot of time within the Montgomery home.
Noonan’s family had the Line View Stud at Nevertire and during young Bill’s formative years were hobby breeders. In his early days as a trainer, Jack Montgomery was satisfied with making occasional forays to Sydney from Dubbo, although most of his early victories were won on the country circuit. The very first horse Montgomery brought to Sydney was Canegrass, a gelded son of Orby’s Pride that he trained briefly on behalf of George (G.B.S.) Falkiner, the prolific sheep breeder who had taken over Haddon Rig, the famous 82,000-acre property near Warren. Canegrass had won a string of races in the country, and Montgomery managed to win a £200 handicap at Warwick Farm in January 1934 with the horse before he was placed in the stables of leading trainer, Jack King, and Montgomery returned to Dubbo. Still, the experience convinced Montgomery that he could make it in the big time.
The horse that finally helped to make up his mind to settle in the metropolis was Toriwa, a chestnut gelding by East Tor, with whom he won several events in the country during 1935 as well as picking up a couple of Menangle Park Hundreds, so-called because the total prize money was £100. Montgomery brought him to Canterbury Park in March 1936 and with Jimmy Simpson in the saddle and handicapped with just 7 st. 11lb, he won the Canterbury Cup, worth a valuable £400 plus trophy in those days of the Depression. Interestingly enough, the minor placings in that Canterbury Cup went to Raeburn, a Queensland Derby winner, and Urunalong, a daughter of Magpie and the future dam of True Course. At the time he won the Canterbury Cup, Montgomery – with just a permit to train and a growing family to feed – was renting a house with two horse boxes at the rear in Prospect Street, Granville, not far from Rosehill racecourse. In August 1936 Montgomery was granted his trainer’s licence and a little more than a year later he bought Morrie Anderson’s property in nearby Eleanor Street, No. 47, upon which stood a humble weatherboard cottage and several horseboxes, with ample land already subdivided into a series of small paddocks.
The stables had become unsuitable for Anderson, who had previously shared them with his father, Gavin, but following his father’s death in late 1936, the son now sought smaller training premises nearby and proceeded to take accommodation in Glebe-street, Parramatta. Both winners and clients were hard to come by in those dark days of the Depression, but the horse that did more than any other to secure Montgomery’s place in Sydney happened along a few years later in the shape of a smart chestnut son of Dunnottar named Fermanagh. During the worst years of the Second World War, the colt kept the wolf from the Montgomery door by winning his way through the ranks and eventually taking out the 1942 N.J.C. Cameron Handicap, besides taking an open handicap over the mile at Randwick carrying 9 st. 7lb and running second in The Shorts the following year. Had Fermanagh not been so straight in his front legs, Montgomery always maintained he would have posted an even more impressive racing record.
Meanwhile, Jack Montgomery’s permanent relocation to Rosehill saw Bill Noonan register his racing colours of ‘green, orange braces, orange cap’ with the A.J.C. in October 1937. Hitherto, the Nyngan pastoralist, who had married and prospered on the land, was content to race the odd horse in the western districts on an ad hoc basis, but with his friend putting up his shingle in the metropolis, Noonan resolved to try to give him a hand. One of the first horses with which Noonan and Montgomery enjoyed some success in the city was Marquis, who they bought as a four-year-old tried horse in January 1944 for 424 guineas. Marquis more than returned his purchase price with a series of placings in the city and eventually won a ten-furlong handicap at Rosehill in July 1945 at the juicy price of 20/1.
Later, when the horse proved too slow for city class, Noonan raced him with success around his own bailiwick at places like Dubbo and Warren. It was about the same time that Jack Montgomery leased the filly, Love Star, by Pure Gold, from Evelyn Haley of Wimbledon, the future owner of Tulloch. Love Star raced in the interest of Jack’s wife, Grace, and proved a decent money spinner and a Randwick winner in the difficult months just after the war. The next handy galloper to pass through the Eleanor-street stables was Forbidden, a mare by The Jeep owned by Ted Hilliard and she proved a surprise 50/1 winner of the Kia Ora Handicap at the 1953 A.J.C. Spring Meeting in the hands of Ray Selkrig. Still, the decade of the fifties passed with only a modicum of victories for Montgomery from a series of nondescript gallopers, while that longed-for champion remained as elusive as ever.
Jack Montgomery wasn’t to know it, but the decision in 1956 by Boorowa studmaster, John Kelly, to import a lightly-raced son of Court Martial for stallion duties at Newhaven Park was to provide that important turn in fortune’s wheel. As we have seen, Wilkes, the horse in question, created quite a sensation with his first season crop, which included the champion filly, Wenona Girl. The stallion’s second crop was perhaps even more noteworthy for, while it didn’t produce another quite as outstanding as Wenona Girl, it did include a higher proportion of brilliant two-year-olds such as Emblem, a sister to Wenona Girl and like her, winner of the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes; not to mention Young Brolga carrying the colours of Bill Longworth to victory in the Breeders’ Plate and Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick as well as Native Statesman, winner of the V.R.C. Maribyrnong Plate. Both Montgomery and Noonan were attracted to the stallion, while Noonan had realised that time was running out for him to see a champion carry his orange and green livery.
Noonan, therefore, resolved to spend more money to buy a better brand of bloodstock. Acting through an agent, Bill Noonan bought two yearling colts from Wilkes’ second crop, spending 5700 guineas and 725 guineas respectively on the horses that subsequently raced as King Wilkes and Master Wilkes. Jack Montgomery trained the pair of them. King Wilkes eventually won his way through the grades and developed into a useful welter horse, although he never went within coo’ee of returning his overblown purchase price. In the case of Master Wilkes, rheumatism severely restricted his dalliance on the racecourse. Still, that experience hadn’t daunted the two men and the following Easter at the 1961 William Inglis Sales it was the progeny of Wilkes and his third crop that again captured their attention. Now, the workings of destiny are often inscrutable, but long afterwards – when the colt had proved his worth – the two men agreed that they had each been drawn inexorably to Lot No. 583.
The colt in question was a massive individual out of the top producing Brueghel mare, Pittura, to be sold on the last day of the sales when small breeders then held sway. Bred at Alfalfa, Canowindra, by John Payten, a descendant of the great Tom Payten, the Payten family had raced Pittura through the stables of Fred Allsop, and she had been a city winner. Indeed, Pittura came from a line that had been in the Payten family since Pie Crust, that beautiful mare that had conjured up such magic from the loins of Grafton back at the turn of the century, and, in so doing, rendered such renown to Tom Payten’s reputation as a bloodstock breeder. Papillon, the dam of Pittura, herself had bred four winners including Flywood, runner-up to Deep River in the 1952 A.J.C. Derby; while Pittura had already thrown two good Melbourne gallopers in Royal Crown (£4,500 stakes) and Lady Regal (£5,187), the latter a runner-up in both the Debutante Stakes and Sandown Guineas. Accordingly, this, her latest yearling, was in keen demand. Bill Noonan was forced to go as high as 2500 guineas to get him on that last day. Fifteen of Wilkes’ progeny changed hands at that auction, and the Pittura colt was the third most expensive of them of all. Nonetheless, his price fell a long way short of the record price of 6500 guineas that the Sydney Turf Club chairman, Bill Longworth, outlaid to obtain the full brother to Wenona Girl, which he later named Grammar Lad.
Bill Noonan registered his colt as Bogan Road, named after the famous stretch of roadway from Forbes to the north of Parkes, and now incorporated into the Newell Highway in Western N.S.W. It was a stretch of the country familiar to the bushranger, Ben Hall, who was shot nearby and now lies buried in Forbes Cemetery on the Bogan Gate Road. Fast horses mattered in Ben’s day, too, but it is doubtful if the colourful bushranger ever had one quite as precocious as this Wilkes colt with his extravagant stride. Jack Montgomery was never to forget that sublime August morning upon Rosehill racecourse, as the earliest streaks of dawn flushed the eastern sky when he worked Bogan Road against the clock for the very first time. That the stopwatch didn’t lie was confirmed when the son of Wilkes impressively won his heat at the official Randwick two-year-old trials. Rather than run in the Breeders’ Plate for which Bill Noonan believed winners were handicapped badly in later life, Bogan Road’s first essay on the Turf came four days later on Wednesday, the third day of the A.J.C. Spring Carnival in the Canonbury Stakes.
Both Montgomery and Noonan knew just what they had on their hands even if the betting ring wasn’t quite sure, and the fact that the unfashionable young Arthur Gallagher had been entrusted with the mount led bookmakers to take some risks. Gallagher had earned the ride because of the long hours he had put in on the training track and the fact that he had partnered the colt in the official trials. It was a calculated gamble by Montgomery and Noonan, for Gallagher hadn’t ridden a metropolitan winner since July 1957, but both owner and trainer believed it was a ‘sit and steer’ job. Still, it gave the stable a market and backed into 3/1, Bogan Road, despite a sluggish start, ignited his career, winning in slashing style by eight lengths in a time that was only one-tenth of a second outside Todman’s Randwick record. Besieged by well-wishers as they waited on the grandstand verandah for Bogan Road to return to scale, both Bill Noonan and Jack Montgomery knew that they had found their elusive champion at last!
It was a similar haze of speed in Bogan Road’s next three races, when, piloted by Gallagher, he posted winning margins of never less than three lengths, yet still cracked smart times; but, of course, by now, Gallagher or not, his starting prices were prohibitively odds-on. Among the many who were impressed with this winged Pegasus was leading trainer, Tommy Smith. Smith was now at a stage in his career where he was acquiring client strength with the assurance of a moving glacier, and, never backward at coming forward, made overtures to Noonan to switch stables with the freak colt. Many men would find such attention from Australia’s leading trainer flattering; Noonan found it an impertinence. Tommy didn’t fully realise the length and depth of the Noonan-Montgomery friendship.
Given a brief let-up over the summer, Bogan Road was brought back into work and set for the Sydney triple crown of rich juvenile races, i.e. the Golden Slipper, Sires’ Produce and Champagne Stakes. Bogan Road tasted defeat for the first time at Canterbury Park on his re-appearance in early March, when, handicapped with 9 st. 5lb and looking as burly as a Parramatta alderman, he was unable to give either Persian Market or The Tempest more than 24lb in weight in a six-furlong quality handicap. It was an even less-flattering result a fortnight later when pitched against good older horses such as Kilshery and Fine and Dandy in a flying handicap at Rosehill. Entrusted to the hands of Jack Thompson, he finished out of a place entirely. It wasn’t ideal lead-up form for the Golden Slipper.
The favourite for the S.T.C. signature event in 1962 was an Orgoglio filly hailing from South Australia named Proud Miss; she had captured the imagination of the sporting public by winning ten races in succession including the Debutante Stakes and Merson Cooper Stakes at Caulfield – an Australian record sequence at that time for a filly or mare. Curiously, Proud Miss hadn’t been entered in the classic two-year-old races. Trained by Graeme Heagney and ridden by top Melbourne hoop, Jim Johnson, she went to the post a 10/9 favourite at Rosehill with Bogan Road best backed to beat her. Before a crowd of 32,000 people which bettered the previous record S.T.C. gate in Todman’s year, Proud Miss tasted defeat for the first time. Never given a moment’s peace in front by April Wonder, a filly that will figure later in this chronicle in her own right, Proud Miss was left a sitting shot for a late swooper. It came in the form of another female in Birthday Card, who won by two lengths, with the expensive Grammar Lad a close third. Bogan Road, once again in the hands of Arthur Gallagher, negotiated the home turn somewhat awkwardly and finished a disappointing sixth in a race that was run in 1 minute 11.4 seconds, equalling Todman’s race record.
The nimbus of glory that had formerly suffused Bogan Road dulled with these three successive failures. Although the press began to question both horse and jockey, Montgomery and Noonan kept their faith with Bogan Road and Arthur Gallagher. They believed Bogan Road’s wide draw explained the Golden Slipper failure in the field of thirteen and the fact that he had been ridden for speed early, rather than allowed to settle back and come late. When the bookmakers took liberties by offering 6/1 in the Sires’ both men helped themselves. Certainly, Bogan Road’s trackwork in the days leading into the A.J.C. autumn fixture suggested that the strapping son of Wilkes had lost none of his lustre. And so, it proved. The colt returned to his pedestal with a magnificent win in the Sires’ Produce Stakes when he came from second last in a field of seven on the turn, to head the pacemaker Grammar Lad right on the line. Birthday Card, the 5/4 favourite, was third, a length-and-a-half away. It was a similar story in the Champagne Stakes. Despite a 7lb penalty taking his weight to 9 st. 3lb, Bogan Road again stormed home to relegate the same two horses into the minor placings.
Rather than send the colt to the spelling paddocks, Montgomery elected to go to Queensland and attempt to emulate the performance of Wiggle four years earlier in winning the Stradbroke. Alas, Bogan Road didn’t travel well and was off his food in the days before the rich handicap in which he ran a disappointing second-last behind Kilshery. That completed the big horse’s first season, and some weeks later when the weights were issued for the Free Handicap, it was found that Bogan Road was rated the best of his year with 9 st. 5lb, or 5lb more than the South Australian filly, Proud Miss. Grammar Lad was the next rated on 8 st. 12lb, or 1lb more than Birthday Card. As Bill Noonan looked back on his most successful season ever with a colt that was so superior to contemporaries, he became understandably seduced by the grand illusion of classic glory the following season. An illusion, it seemed, that was shared by the framer of the Free Handicap. However, in perusing the weights issued in that mythical race from a Derby perspective, neither Noonan nor many other sportsmen for that matter, gave so much as a second thought to Summer Prince, a gelded son of Summertime trained by Tommy Smith, who was rated some 22lb inferior to the massive son of Wilkes.
In August 1962 the long-time chairman of the A.J.C., 71-year-old Sir Alan Potter, resigned from that office to be succeeded by the former vice-chairman, 66-year-old Brian Crowley. A member of the club since 1929, the committee since 1940, chairman since succeeding George Main in 1945, and knighted in the New Year’s Honours List of 1960, Potter’s resignation came about as a direct result of the N.S.W. Government establishing the “Kinsella Royal Commission of Inquiry into Off-the-course Betting in N.S.W.” It was an inquiry intended to help the Government usher in an off-course totalisator system and thereby enable them to lay their hands on the sorts of cash flows that had been sloshing into the Victorian Treasury coffers ever since the T.A.B. had become operational in that State in March 1961. Potter, alone of the nine-man A.J.C. committee, favoured the licensing of off-course bookmakers instead, and as a result, his had been an uneasy tenancy of the chair during the cold weeks of winter 1962.
Potter’s dramatic resignation came on a Friday before he was due to give evidence at the royal commission and he argued that race clubs would get much more money more quickly if a system of licensing off-course bookmakers was adopted and the sordid betting shop atmosphere that the totalisator promised, avoided. History would suggest Potter’s judgement was suspect on this matter, as indeed it was on other matters during the long years of his chairmanship. One needs to look no further than the parlous state of racing in the United Kingdom to see the folly of licensing large off-course bookmakers and allowing them to hold an entire industry to ransom. Indeed, the prize money and racecourse facilities that eventually flowed from T.A.B. revenues made Australian racing for a long time the envy of much of the world.
Alan Potter had migrated here from England as a young man and ultimately became a director of one of the largest shipping firms in Australia, Birt and Co Ltd. Elected to the A.J.C. committee in December 1940 to fill the vacancy brought about by the resignation of Hunter White, he was not a widely known racing personality at the time although he had owned Khartoum, a horse that Frank Marsden had trained to win the 1932 A.J.C. Winter Stakes with just 6 st. 11lb. Possessed of an air of bland superiority, Potter carried to excessive lengths an aristocratic assurance, that conviction that he was not quite as others. At times during his chairmanship, it almost seemed that he sought to surround himself with an atmosphere of feudal servility at the club.
The immediate post-war years at Randwick seemed to him to bring a deplorable declension in social standards which he countered by an unreasonable insistence on etiquette; and he particularly detested the promiscuous use of Christian names, which he considered rather vulgar. The slightest familiarity was to be discouraged. In short, the man was an insufferable snob. Shyness was sometimes ascribed to him and occasionally used to excuse or explain his behaviour, but the genuinely shy do not comport in the manner he did. Sir Alan Potter eventually resigned from the A.J.C. committee in December 1962, only to be replaced by another reactionary powerbroker in Sir Frank Packer. Potter’s closing days on the committee were a biting demonstration of the political truth that, while friends come and go, enemies accumulate.
The months of winter spent themselves in a succession of dreary days, but nothing emerged to suggest that Bogan Road’s Derby pre-eminence wasn’t justified. However, there was one significant change in the Montgomery training establishment. When Bogan Road resumed in early August to win the Campbelltown Handicap at Warwick Farm, he was being trained not be Jack Montgomery but by his son, Ken. Granted an A.J.C. training permit in early July to train in the 1962-63 season, the one-time aircraft factory mechanic now had a new flying machine on which to hone his skills after his 72-year-old father voluntarily relinquished control of his Eleanor St stables. Although a gentle and sensible colt, because of his great size and strength Bogan Road was a handful and Jack Montgomery, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, conceded he was ‘a job for a younger man’ although he continued to supervise the colt’s preparation from a distance.
Nor was it the only change surrounding the glamour colt, as his regular jockey, battling Arthur Gallagher, had tragically lost his life in a race fall at Bourke on the last day of June. Gallagher had been riding Angkor in the Diggers’ Race Club Cup when the horse fell and threw him heavily. While on the ground one of the other horses galloped on Gallagher and he died from the resulting chest injuries. An indication of Gallagher’s status as a jockey and the significance of Bogan Road to his career lay in the fact that he had won just nine races on metropolitan courses during his last season and six of those had come courtesy of the son of Wilkes.
Gallagher’s sudden death resulted in Mick Hood, the third generation of a long-established racing dynasty, winning the prized ride, having been partnering the giant horse in trackwork. Looking more like a mature four-year-old than an early season three-year-old and measuring fully seventeen hands high, Bogan Road was imperious under Hood’s stewardship in winning both the A.J.C. Campbelltown Handicap and the Tattersall’s Tramway Handicap in his first two appearances in the new season. Moreover, he was showing himself as a horse for all seasons for neither the heavy mud at Warwick Farm nor the imposition of 8lb more than weight-for-age on fast ground in the Tramway, against a field of top sprinters, held any qualms.
Despite Mick Hood’s flawless horsemanship, there was an understanding that – come Rosehill Guineas Day – the mount on Bogan Road would go to Athol Mulley, who was set to resume his turbulent life in the saddle on that very day. Mulley had been initially disqualified for two years over his ride on the Queensland horse, Tiberius, in a flying handicap at Canterbury in March 1961 when stewards judged that he hadn’t allowed the horse to run on its merits, although notably neither the trainer nor owner of Tiberius incurred the stewards’ wrath. In May 1962 the A.J.C. committee reduced Mulley’s disqualification by more than six months and announced that he would be allowed to resume riding on September 15th. At the time of his exclusion, Mulley was riding in the best form of his career, as evidenced by the fact that, despite missing the last four months of that 1960-61 racing season, he still finished the leading rider in Sydney. During his exile, Mulley had maintained his riding weight of 7 st. 8lb by working on his property just outside of Grafton in northern N.S.W. Bogan Road provided Mulley with the perfect comeback. Allowed to settle back in the field, off a good tempo, Bogan Road dashed clear in the straight to win the Rosehill Guineas going away by four lengths. It was a performance that lent deception lighter wings to fly. Public opinion crystallised about Bogan Road as the Derby favourite. How could this magnificent colt fail to stay the extra two furlongs given his obvious superiority?
The Rosehill Guineas suggested that Bogan Road held a mortgage on the blue riband. The only possible chink in his make-up lay in his pedigree. Wilkes, his sire, only raced three times in his life and was successful twice at distances of 7 ½ furlongs and 10 furlongs. Bogan Road came in his third crop and, with one or two exceptions, his stock had thus far been fast two-year-olds, sprinters, and milers, including Wenona Girl, Young Brolga, Pardon Me, New Statesman, and Grammar Lad. It was significant that Wenona Girl had run last in the A.J.C. Derby when strongly favoured. Bogan Road’s dam, Pittura, was a Brueghel mare. In Bogan Road’s favour for the Derby trip, was his natural disposition and ability to relax in a race. Conscious of the immense pressure that Bogan Road’s bulk placed on his forelegs, Ken Montgomery prepared him for the Derby with long, slower work rather than fast, demanding sprints that tended to make the colt cranky. On paper, Summer Prince seemed to pose his only danger and, unlike the favourite, Summer Prince’s pedigree exuded stamina. Moreover, his lead-up form was strong having won the Canterbury Guineas and finished second to Bogan Road at Rosehill. This time, however, the established firm of Smith and Moore resolved that the favourite would not be allowed to relax over the longer journey of the Derby. In the fortnight after Rosehill, at Smith’s behest, Summer Prince endured arduous long gallops on the Randwick course to draw his stamina out to the full.
The 1962 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:
Final acceptances for the blue riband numbered just seven horses, a measure of the extent to which most people believed Bogan Road was a sure thing. Summer Prince apart, the only others offered at less than 33/1 in the betting market were Arrogant Boy and King Roto. Arrogant Boy, the winner of the Q.T.C. Claret Stakes, was by the brilliant Nasrullah horse, Orgoglio, who stood at Harold Nitschke’s The Nook Stud at Nagambie. Few bloodstock men believed an Orgoglio horse capable of winning a Derby. Although there was the redeeming feature in his pedigree that at least Arrogant Boy was out of Reservation, a daughter of the dour Irish horse, Enfield, winner of The Cesarewitch (18f) and Queen Alexandra Stakes (22f) in England. Moreover, Arrogant Boy’s half-brother by Ottoman, Resotto, had won the 1958 Grand National Hurdle. However, Arrogant Boy had shown such little promise as an early juvenile that prominent Victorian trainer, Brian Courtney, recommended his sale. Athol Strong, a Queensland horseman with a shrewd eye, got him for 850 guineas on behalf of Bill Stanley and his wife, and Athol’s son, Neil Strong, was now training him. Although small in stature, Arrogant Boy was built on thick lines. King Roto, on the other hand, was a Star Kingdom colt that had cost his owner, Sydney hotelier Cyril Maloney, 2900 guineas at the Sydney Yearling Sales. Although disappointing in the Canterbury Guineas, King Roto, trained by T.A.D. Kennedy, had won a Three and-Four-Year-Old Handicap at Rosehill in race record time before failing in the Guineas on the same course.
To attack boldly from the start is a tactic to which most jockeys are strangers. Not so George Moore. He knew as he surveyed Mulley on Bogan Road that the best resource against an adversary who doubted his mount’s strength and stamina was not to doubt his own, and Moore’s intentions became clear the moment the gates crashed open. On ground that was officially described as holding after recent rain, he rode Summer Prince hard from his outside barrier to the first turn out of the straight and quickly established a five lengths’ lead going up the side of the course. Bogan Road at this stage was back in the pack and running fourth. The initial advantage that George had stolen from his rival jockeys seemed mere petty theft at first, but it became more glaring as the race unfolded.
Summer Prince was unofficially timed to run his first six furlongs in 1 minute 12.75 seconds and by then had extended his margin to eight lengths. Athol Mulley at times had a remarkable capacity for underplaying his hand but not on this occasion. Alive to the danger, the jockey moved Bogan Road up on the outside of Pengam to share the second position and then just before the seven-furlong pole, clearly assumed second place. Moore gave the rangy Summertime gelding a respite down the back of the course and at the half-mile his lead over the favourite had been reduced to five lengths. While Montgomery and Noonan had not entirely relinquished hope at this stage of proceedings that wasn’t true of the other rival owners and trainers. For the rest of the field were already off the steel and being scrubbed along by their riders.
Just before the turn, it was apparent that Mulley was niggling Bogan Road, but he was still some three lengths behind the pacemaker. The speed had indeed succeeded in establishing its unsettling tyranny on the favourite, and although Mulley rode vigorously in the straight, the colt was past helping as he started to roll in towards the rails behind Summer Prince – a sure sign of tiredness. As Moore saluted the judge, he still had two-and-a-half lengths to spare, and he had a cheeky look back to see where the others were. King Roto ran past an exhausted field of horses coming from last on the turn to take the minor placing, albeit ten lengths behind Bogan Road. To say that George Moore had stolen the race was an understatement. This had been grand larceny in broad daylight. Moreover, there were 47,000 witnesses that saw the whole thing!
Now, let us agree that the fickleness of the racecourse multitude is legendary: those poor punters that strut and fret their hours at the track constantly seeking that proverbial good thing. And when a jockey is beaten on a 3/1 on favourite in a big race, those very same souls that cheered so earnestly as the horse made his way to the starting gates, can often become bitter and vocal in their frustration upon the horse’s return to scale. But there was a realisation among the Randwick faithful on that fateful afternoon that Mulley had afforded Bogan Road every chance and ridden him the only way possible. Given the circumstances, where Mulley had failed no one else could have succeeded. Certainly, both Bill Noonan and Jack Montgomery, experienced horsemen with a lifetime of racing behind them, believed so. Indeed, each harboured in his nature a streak of almost superstitious fatalism: to them in all that happened on a racecourse there seemed a dark inevitability. The uncomfortable truth was that the colt couldn’t stay the classic distance in a truly run race. And, as a measure of just how true this Derby had been, only Tulloch and Skyline had ever gone faster.
A tall, powerfully-built gelding, Summer Prince had been purchased by Tommy Smith for 1500 guineas at the New Zealand Yearling Sales on behalf of Bill Bradshaw and family, who had previously won the Derby with Prince Delville in 1954. It wasn’t hard to understand why Smith had been anxious to buy him as he was by the all-conquering stallion Summertime, while his dam, Clarashah, had already produced Foxmara, a brown gelding that Smith had trained to win a Newcastle Cup and finish an unlucky second to On Line in the 1959 Sydney Cup. Clarashah, herself a daughter of the French stallion Pherozshah, hadn’t raced but was a sister to a useful winner in Hazaan, who had already proved her value as a broodmare.
Summer Prince, an early August foal, had made his racecourse debut in the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate on Derby Day the year before, when he failed to attract the judge’s attention in the race won by High Vista. The horse proceeded to run a series of placings in his juvenile races but only managed to break his maiden status in his ninth and final appearance as a two-year-old. It came on a heavy track when he won the Fernhill Handicap on the last day of the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting in the hands of Ray Selkrig. The first event of the season over a mile for juveniles, the race had proven a portent for classic honours in the past, and Summer Prince’s victory had particular merit for the horse had been caught wide for much of the journey. Smith had charted what was to become the conventional campaign towards the Derby with Summer Prince. The gelding had resumed for a fine third in the Hobartville Stakes on a heavy track at Warwick Farm, before taking out the Canterbury Guineas on similar ground a fortnight later. Summer Prince had then been unable to match Bogan Road’s turn of foot in the Rosehill straight when runner-up in the Guineas in his final Derby hit-out.
The jockey who so spectacularly conspired to bring Bogan Road undone, and who many regard as the best Australia has produced in the years after World War II, was born the son of a sugar farmer on 5th July 1923 at Mackay, northern Queensland. Life wasn’t easy for young George Moore after his father died when he was only eight, and his childhood and early youth became a financial struggle as his mother took on a job as a station cook to make ends meet. The bonds of love and affection between mother and son that were forged in such adversity would never be set asunder; she believed in her son’s star and that absolute faith infused young George with remarkable strength and self-belief down through the years. George’s first job was as a message boy and general hand in a store in Mackay at five shillings a week. From the very beginning, George was gifted in the saddle and by the age of seven was winning prizes in show-jumping at the Mackay Show on his own pony, Beeswing.
A friend of Brisbane trainer, Louie Dahl, spotted the talented lad and suggested an apprenticeship to Dahl. Soon after arriving in Brisbane, another trainer there, Jim Shean, was also taken by the youngster and for £150 he persuaded Dahl to transfer over his indentures. At the time, Shean was also the master of Neville Sellwood, some seven months older than Moore, and the more glamorous, articulate and secure. Against such competition, Moore struggled for early rides. He later recalled: “We went through a tough school in Brisbane – the sand track at Albion Park. With the sand belting into your face at Albion Park you couldn’t see where you were going so you learned to ride more or less by feel and touch. And at the end of my time, I had only £1300 in the bank.” Nonetheless, Shean provided him with opportunities to broaden his experience, and in the spring of 1939, Moore travelled to Sydney and Melbourne with horses for the spring meeting. It was on this fateful train journey that he first made the acquaintance of a young Tommy Smith. Years later Moore acknowledged that this time spent in Melbourne, domiciled at Cecil Godby’s stables, was where he really learnt to ride.
George Moore rode in his first race at Albion Park on August 3, 1938, and rode his first winner, Overdraft, at Eagle Farm on New Year’s Day, 1940. His talents soon procured his notice. The winners began to flow and a few months later his first crack at the big time came when he partnered the lightweight, Expressman, to win the valuable Doomben Newmarket, the precursor of what became the Doomben Ten Thousand. Young George, just seventeen, still had a 3lb allowance when he went out on Expressman but when the latter poked his head in front to win from Beaulivre, it took the lad’s tally of winning mounts to twenty and cost him his remaining allowance. The victory was memorable for, apart from launching his career, his mother had invested £20 of her modest savings on the horse at 20/1. It was no accident when, in June 1951, Moore, together with his mother, bought 30,000 acres of prime pastoral land at Galway Downs, 26 miles from Hughenden in Queensland – and the name of their company? The Expressman Downs Pastoral Company! Moore twice won the Brisbane Jockeys’ Premiership while still an apprentice, and he made infrequent visits to Sydney during his indentures.
It was on one such trip in 1942 that Moore had his first ride for Smith at the A.J.C. Spring Meeting on Urgent Rate in the Gimcrack Stakes. Smith won the race with another filly that he saddled, Ajixa, and it represented the up and coming trainer’s first major success. In the following event on the card, Moore was beaten a half-head on Goose Boy in The Metropolitan. In the jockeys’ room immediately after that race, Moore clashed heatedly with Teddy Doon, accusing the latter of colliding with his mount and costing him the race. It was a character trait with which stewards and racegoers would become increasingly familiar over time, although on this occasion the stewards’ subsequent inquiry resulted in Moore’s suspension for one month for careless riding. It was after the ride on Goose Boy that Jack Shaw, the leading bookmaker, declared of Moore: “In another year he will be Australia’s best lightweight.” It took a little longer than a year, but Shaw’s forecast proved accurate alright. In 1943 Moore’s first good winner in Sydney came on board Victory Lad in the Breeders’ Plate and even then, he considered relocating from Queensland, being able to ride at the handy weight of 7 st. 9lb.
Fretting under the tutelage of Shean, Moore finally relocated to the Harbour City in the final months of his time in the late summer and early autumn of 1944. He arranged for the transfer of his papers to Peter Riddle, who then trained out of the old Marsden stables in Bowral Street that would later become Tulloch Lodge. At the time, Tommy Smith was working only a stone’s throw away at Newmarket as a stable hand for Mack Sawyer. Moore won the Wentworth Handicap on Vermeil at the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting shortly after his transfer and a race on Babillard at Rosehill a few weeks later. He turned twenty-one and came out of his time on July 25, 1944, and then proceeded to ride a winner on each of his first three Saturdays as a senior, with a treble at Moorefield a few weeks later.
During 1944 and 1945 while he worked to get established, Moore rode prominently for trainers Ossie Pettit, Bill Chaffe, Jack King and fellow Queenslander, Tim Brosnan. In 1946 George Moore served notice of his adroitness in riding distance races at Randwick when he managed to win both the A.J.C. Sydney Cup and The Metropolitan aboard Cordale, trained by Gordon Ray for Elliot Randall. In each race, Moore allowed the horse to relax in the rear of the field to the half-mile and then brought him around the home turn without having to go more than five horses wide to sustain a finishing burst down the straight. At that 1946 A.J.C. Spring Meeting when Moore won The Metropolitan on Cordale, the jockey went very close to collecting the feature double, going down in a sensational Epsom on Young Veilmond (also owned by Randall) by a mere half-head and a half-head to Blue Legend and Shannon respectively.
However, Moore’s rise to glory wasn’t wholly untrammelled. In March 1945 he suffered a badly broken leg when his mount Ducal Gem fell in a welter at Canterbury Park. A doctor, who was pioneering bone graft surgery, treated him at the time and the extensive operation involved putting four screws in the jockey’s leg. It is almost certain that he would have won the Sydney jockeys’ premiership in the 1946-47 racing season but for a second broken leg sustained in March 1947 in a barrier trial at Victoria Park. At the time of the accident, Moore had ridden 37 ½ winners and was easily leading the premiership. In the end, Billy Cook got up with a total of 42 wins. Still, Moore bounced back winning the 1948 Doncaster on The Diver before 92,000 people – the largest crowd ever seen at Randwick; and then in July 1949 repaid the Godby family for some of their previous hospitality when he won the Doomben Cup on Rio Fe for ‘Bill’ Godby.
However, Moore’s career suffered a rude interruption in February 1954 when the hoop was charged with breaches of the rules of racing over the so-called ‘Flying East Affair’. The race that caused all the trouble was a Maiden Six at Hawkesbury on October 21st, 1953 when a horse called Fragrant Air was first past the post, only to see the race awarded to the runner-up, Flying East, subsequently in the stewards’ room on a protest. Flying East had been ridden in the race by Queensland jockey, Tommy Hill, and had been sensationally backed in from 33/1 to 5/2. George Moore had ridden another runner in the event. Pressmen covering the meeting reported that they failed to see any interference that warranted a protest, let alone one from Flying East that required upholding. The story refused to go away. The A.J.C. instituted an investigation and then belatedly in February 1954, almost four months after the race, charged Moore, and owner-trainer Colin Butterworth, of breaches of the rules of racing. Moore was charged with owning and backing Flying East and with providing false and misleading information.
Moore admitted the charge of betting but denied ownership, maintaining that his father-in-law owned Flying East. The A.J.C. committee refused to believe Moore’s version of the story and disqualified him for three years, seeing the whole unsavoury episode as something of a Queensland cabal. Herbert Stokes, the stipendiary steward officiating at Hawkesbury on that infamous occasion, hailed from Queensland, as did Moore, Hill and Butterworth. Hill was a close friend of Moore and stayed at his Maroubra home for a time upon first coming to Sydney. Stokes, seeking to avoid interrogation, resigned before Moore’s appeal was heard thereby avoiding having to appear as a witness. Reg Moses, a friend of Moore and an A.J.C. committeeman, absented himself from the proceedings and subsequently resigned from the committee. Moore, rather than implicating his friends copped the disqualification, serving out his time on his Hughenden property felling trees, cutting posts, and riding muster, and at the same time reducing his golf handicap to eight.
In the end, he served only 2 ½ years of the term before being re-granted his licence at the beginning of the 1956-57 season, riding a double on his comeback day on horses trained by Harry Darwon and Tommy Smith. Moore was embittered over the disqualification and returned to the saddle more determined and focussed than ever before. “I’m interested only in G. Moore”, he declared. He resolved after that to completely segregate his private friendships from his very public business as a jockey. His return happily coincided with the season in which he began his partnership with Tulloch. It was also the season, when, for the first time he rode five winners on a program on a metropolitan racecourse, the happy occasion being at Randwick on January 19, 1957, thereby matching the achievement of Bill Cook, Neville Sellwood and Jack Toohey. At the end of the season, Moore had won his first Sydney jockeys’ premiership with 83 wins, relegating Sellwood, who had already won five such titles, into second placing – and getting the better of Sellwood always gave Moore particular satisfaction.
George was the absolute professional and his remarkably successful career owed much to his determined character and indomitable will to win; he laboured with constant assiduity to cultivate his own powers. That he was meticulous in his approach to race-riding is demonstrated by the fact that he pioneered the use of film footage in analysing race form. Following upon a holiday in the United States in 1949 where George first observed someone filming horse-races, he returned to his native shores armed with a sixteen-millimetre movie camera, new telescopic lens and projector. It might seem passé in the modern era of digital imagery, but this was a revolutionary approach at the time. George personally employed a cameraman to film from the top of the old Leger stand at Randwick and other suitable vantage spots. It was the last three furlongs of a race that Moore wanted to capture. The distance over which filming was possible was dictated by the capacity of the lens available at the time. The film was subsequently developed and delivered to George at his home on the Sunday evening where he would pore over the footage to determine his future books of mounts. It might sound narcissistic but Moore in conjunction with a very close friend, Max Gray, maintained a book that detailed every ride of his career once he became established. Iris, George’s charming wife, scrupulously kept sets of scrapbooks recording her husband’s triumphs.
Moore’s imperious grandeur in the saddle did not arise merely because of the inferiority of other riders; nor was it such that he reigned cold and impassive in a distant majesty. The fire in his soul burnt red, and sparks flew from it that fell hot upon those about him whether they were fellow jockeys, trainers, stewards, or even committeemen themselves. Renowned for his hair-trigger temper, when Moore let fly he could express himself in language that always presented a spice and flavour of its own. Quick to perceive personal persecution from authorities even when none existed, his clashes with officialdom were legendary; and his run-ins with fellow jockeys weren’t always restricted to races, with fisticuffs in the jockeys’ room de rigueur on some occasions. A prima donna, the nickname ‘Cotton Fingers’ was bestowed early in the 1950’s by trainers Tommy Smith and Tommy Clune, in recognition of his gentle and sensitive touch, an allusion that he could steer a half-ton of thoroughbred on nothing more than a thread of cotton.
Indeed, by the late 1950’s, Moore’s renown was acknowledged throughout the world. In the first week of July 1958, a couple of months before Tulloch was scheduled to resume racing, Moore accepted an offer to ride for Prince Aly Khan in France for one month’s trial, having negotiated the arrangement through France’s leading trainer, Alec Head. Head had about two hundred racehorses in training, and apart from Prince Aly, his other major client was the seventy-year-old French perfumer, Pierre Wertheimer – the man behind Chanel. Moore had briefly visited France the year before and ridden a few horses for Wertheimer and was au fait with Head’s operation. Tulloch’s subsequent illness scotched any doubts that Moore may have had about extending the trial.
Thus began a three-year stint that saw Moore successful in some of Europe’s richest races. These included the 1959 Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe and 1959 Eclipse Stakes (Saint Crespin III); 1959 English Two Thousand Guineas (Taboun); 1960 Ascot Gold Cup (Sheshoon) and 1960 French Derby and Grand Prix (Charlottesville). When George won the Grand Prix on Prince Aly’s Charlottesville, it came just two months after the death of the fast-living prince in a car crash in Paris on 12th May 1960. Even after relinquishing overseas contracts to remain in Australia for the sake of his family, Moore remained much sought after by European stables. In 1961 Harry Wragg had him flown especially over to take the mount on the much-fancied Sovrango in the English Derby, only for the race to be won by Wragg’s despised no-hoper, Psidium. Thus, by 1962 and the A.J.C. Spring Meeting, Moore was at the top of his game, and his Derby ride on Summer Prince to bring about Bogan Road’s undoing showed all the guile and judgement of pace that the hoop had garnered in his travels around the globe.
That it had been more Moore than the horse that was responsible for the victory in the 1962 Randwick blue riband, was rather borne out by the subsequent career of Summer Prince. Certainly, the Derby was to prove the zenith of his fortunes on the racecourse. Though naturally athletic, Summer Prince was congenitally lazy – a curious mixture of indolence and vitality. Taken to Melbourne, he failed in the Caulfield Guineas won by Coppelius and even by the time of the Victoria Derby, there were suspicions that Summer Prince had already lost his enthusiasm for racing. Edgar Britt, who was then writing for the Daily Telegraph, suggested that the hard front-running tactics in the A.J.C. Derby had taken a lot out of the horse.
This suspicion notwithstanding, Moore tried the same dashing tactics in the blue riband at Flemington only to be run down by both Coppelius and Bright Blend. After an unplaced run in the Melbourne Cup, Summer Prince travelled to Brisbane where he suffered the ignominy of defeat as a 2/1 on favourite in the Queensland Derby, going down to Brisbane colt, Honest Man, by a head after a stirring duel up the Eagle Farm straight. After that, the career of Summer Prince reads like a catalogue of disappointments, save for a weak handicap victory in the hands of stable apprentice Bob Thomsen at the Tattersall’s Club Randwick meeting in December 1963. Following six unplaced runs as a five-year-old, Summer Prince retired from racing. As a gelding, his future was already bleak, and he was destroyed less than two years later after cannoning into a brick wall while galloping about in his retirement paddock.
Likewise, the post-Derby career of Bogan Road makes for grim reading, at least insofar as the racecourse was concerned. The horse was sore in both forelegs after his shock defeat in the Derby, and it was with some difficulty that Montgomery unloaded the stumbling giant down the ramp when the float arrived back at the Eleanor Street stables. Bogan Road required the application of hot and cold foments and poultices on both front fetlock joints in his box that night. It hardly augured well. Although there was an attempt to train him in the summer with the Doncaster Handicap as his autumn target, a strained tendon in his off foreleg saw to it that the colt was pin-fired in both front tendons and sent to the paddock for the balance of the season. A massive horse, he became even heavier with age and suffered recurrent leg problems.
It was this that explained his failure to train on as a four-year-old and in five appearances that season could only manage a couple of placings in the N.J.C. Cameron Handicap and the S.T.C. Theo Marks Quality Handicap. After breaking down and finishing unplaced in the 1963 Epsom behind Toi Port, the prepossessing entire was offered for sale as a stallion, but, provoking little interest, his leg was treated and he was sent to the spelling paddocks instead. Brought back into training for the rich autumn meetings of 1964 the leg again gave way before he could even face the starter. This time he was retired for good; his full racing record standing at 19 starts for 9 wins, 3 seconds and 1 third and £16,985 in prizemoney. Following an arrangement between owner Bill Noonan and studmaster John Kelly, Bogan Road went to stud at Newhaven Park at an initial service fee of 300 guineas, including a free return, with Noonan retaining ownership of the horse.
Bogan Road let down into a magnificent stallion. However, the presence of his own sire Wilkes at Newhaven Park, now serving mares at 1000 guineas which matched the fee of Star Kingdom; and the fact that Bogan Road stood there at a time when the cultural cringe regarding Australian-bred stallions was still pronounced, crowded out his chances of securing high-class mares. Muted as Bogan Road’s opportunities were during his stay at Boorowa, they markedly improved after he was purchased for 5000 guineas in April 1969 to stand at Stan Fox’s Kurrajong Park. I think one can make a strong argument that this was the most significant bloodstock purchase during Fox’s relatively short but very active life on the Turf – a life that involved hundreds of bloodstock transactions. The years that Bogan Road had languished at Newhaven Park seemed to pique Fox’s interest in the horse rather than otherwise, for they were also years in which Pittura further enhanced her broodmare credentials.
In 1965 the grand matron had produced a full brother to Bogan Road in the shape of Alfalfa. Unlike Bogan Road, Alfalfa was retained by the Payten family to race in their own colours, and, like Pittura, was placed in the Randwick stables of Fred Allsop. Although out in the same year as Biscay, Alfalfa was arguably the best two-year-old colt of his season, finishing runner-up in both the Silver Slipper and Golden Slipper Stakes and taking the minor placing in the Sires’ Produce Stakes at Flemington and Randwick. An injury as an older horse prevented him from fulfilling his true potential. Alfalfa alone would have been enough to remind Fox of the potency of the old Pie Crust lineage, but there was even more compelling evidence. Venetian Ways, the year-older full sister to Bogan Road, had demonstrated the continuing richness of the blood when she dropped a filly foal to the American imported stallion Ruler in 1964. Registered as Ruling Ways, she won both the Gimcrack and Sires’ Produce Stakes at Randwick for her trainer, Jim Barker.
Of course, Fox needed no such reminding of the credentials of Wilkes. After all, his first and best racehorse, Nebo Road, was from the stallion’s seventh crop. Moreover, just weeks before, old Stan along with more than forty thousand other people, had watched the clash between Vain and Special Girl in that historic thirteenth running of the Golden Slipper Stakes. Vain was a son of Wilkes; Special Girl a granddaughter. I’m sure those that remember it will agree it was the most ballyhooed race of the epoch with its Melbourne Vs Sydney and Barnum and Bailey overtones. Incidentally, that remains a record crowd for Rosehill, eclipsing the previous mark set the day that Bogan Road ran so ingloriously in the Slipper behind Birthday Card.
Whatever the motives of Fox in buying the stallion – and they were mixed – it was a shrewd bit of horse-trading. Bogan Road went on to produce nine individual winners of some twenty-two principal races at stud. Alas, Stan Fox passed over to the silent majority before the best of Bogan Road’s progeny to carry his ‘grey and purple seams’ arrived on the scene, but his widow Millie was to enjoy the pleasure of a succession of fine gallopers by the son of Wilkes. As though aware of Stan’s enterprising act of faith, Bogan Road produced the likes of Rare Form, Young Blood, Winter’s Dance and Sydney Cove to grace Nebo Lodge. It was Rare Form, of course, who was responsible for ending Kingston Town’s sequence of Sydney wins when he caused an upset in the 1982 Tattersall’s’ Chelmsford Stakes at Randwick. Other good horses sired by Bogan Road included Playbill, King Bogan, Roadwise and Cross Road.
Neither Bill Noonan nor Jack Montgomery lived long enough to see Bogan Road establish his reputation at stud. Noonan died in May 1967 at the age of seventy-five in his Macleay Regis apartment. Jack Montgomery lived almost five years more, slipping the bridle in January 1972 at the age of eighty-two around the time that Bogan Road was beginning to make his mark as a sire. Jack’s son, Ken, the nominal trainer on that famous Derby Day, continued to train racehorses, remaining at Rosehill until September 1972 when he moved to ‘Cordale Park’ in Austral, 26 miles south-west of Sydney. There he resided for more than twenty-five years, but he never again had one as good as Bogan Road pass through his hands. Eleanor Street today presents an entirely different aspect to that which greeted Montgomery in his heyday.
Gone are the paddocks adjoining Montgomery’s cottage where he used to graze his horses and in their place, is a modern block of residential apartments. The neat weatherboard cottage still stands though – or at least it did in 2009 when I visited Jack Montgomery’s youngest daughter who had continued to reside there. However, those few stable boxes that were left standing out the back had become rundown and derelict while the old willow tree, under which Bogan Road among others once proudly paraded, was gone. There was a certain pathos and poignancy in the scene when I reflected that it was from here full of hope on a crisp, spring morning in September 1962 Jack Montgomery and Bill Noonan supervised the loading of a massive three-year-old colt onto a horse-float for that fateful journey to Randwick. Still, I knew in my own heart that no matter what came after, a dream came true there – for a while at least – for two old men who had grown up together as boys in the Nyngan district, and who remained firm friends all the years of their lives.