In the spring of 1963 the New Zealand-based stallion, Summertime, achieved what no other sire had in the one-hundred-year history of the A.J.C. Derby. When Summer Fiesta passed the post first at Randwick on that sunny afternoon to give Tommy Smith his fourth win in the race, he also gave his sire a hat-trick of victories in the classic. In retrospect, the decades of the 1950’s and 1960’s came to represent a golden epoch for influential British and French stallions imported into New Zealand. It was an era that resonated with distinguished names like Ruthless, Fair’s Fair, Faux Tirage, Count Rendered, Le Filou, Alcimedes and Agricola. Let it be said that Summertime was up there with the best of them. An elegant, near-black horse of impressive conformation, Summertime was bred in England in 1946 by Sir John Jarvis and was by that wonderful English stayer Precipitation from the mare Great Truth. Summertime’s maternal granddam, Frankly, was a half-sister to Blenheim, the first of the five English Derby winners owned by H. H. Aga Khan III, and subsequently a champion stallion on both sides of the Atlantic. Great Truth was bred along similar lines to Blenheim, being a granddaughter of Bahram, who was also the sire of Blandford, the stallion responsible for Blenheim. It was a classic pedigree from which much was expected on the racecourse, and while Summertime didn’t quite live up to it, he was nonetheless a useful stayer.
In fifteen appearances on the racecourse, he managed to win seven races and £4,733 in first prize money. Unnoticed by the judge in his only two starts as a juvenile, Summertime was first seriously trained at three, winning five races in that 1949 season including both the Kempton Park Classic Trial Stakes (12f) beating the future English St Leger winner, Ridge Wood, and the Newmarket Lowther Stakes (14f). On the Free Handicap for that year, Summertime was rated at 8 st. 9lb, 12lb below the top-weighted Nimbus, winner of The Two Thousand Guineas and English Derby. A difficult horse to train, Summertime became temperamental and fractious at the barrier with age and only appeared three times as a four-year-old, although he won two races including the Chippenham Stakes at Newmarket.
The following year he was sold to the brothers John and Jim Malcolm to stand at their Te Rapa Stud. Te Rapa, near Hamilton in the Waikato region on the North Island of New Zealand, had been the birthplace of the mighty Mainbrace, who also stood there until his shortcomings as a stallion had been exposed. In fact, up to this time, John and Jim Malcolm had been tantalised rather than fulfilled by any draught of success with their stallions. Their cup seemed full when Admiral’s Luck, the sire of Mainbrace, had been resident stallion there; he had been leading sire of two-year-olds with his first crop in 1949-50 but died after only four seasons. Fair’s Fair was another of the brothers’ stallion importations. Again, he stood for only four seasons at Te Rapa as, failing to attract broodmare owners, the frustrated Malcolms on-sold him to Alton Lodge, only to see the horse strike sparks almost at once and go on to become New Zealand’s champion stallion.
It was this catalogue of misfortune that convinced the Malcolm brothers that theirs was not a partnership blessed by the gods, and accordingly, they resolved to go separate ways. It was decided that John Malcolm would start a new horse stud, Kinross, at Te Kauwhata with the young Summertime; Jim Malcolm would stay at Te Rapa and retain as his stallion prospect, Resurgent, an untried half-brother to Admiral’s Luck, who had been brought out to New Zealand when just a yearling. Remarkably each of the brothers individually enjoyed a level of success that had altogether eluded them when partners. Resurgent proved a marvellous servant, getting a string of winners on Dominion courses over many years and particularly horses with a predilection for soft ground. But it was brother John who hit the real jackpot. Summertime was to become New Zealand’s champion stallion and cover the fledgeling Kinross Stud with glory. Whereas Summertime had served his first book at Te Rapa at a fee of just 150 guineas, at the peak of his fame at Kinross, he commanded no less than 1000 guineas a pop.
Summertime’s first crop in 1952 included Summersette, winner of the V.R.C. Edward Manifold Stakes, and when Summalu (V.R.C St. Leger) and Hot Spell (V.A.T.C. Caulfield Guineas) came along in his second, his future was assured. The stallion managed to claim third place on the New Zealand Sires’ List in 1956-57 with only three crops racing, and the next year moved into the second spot. When leading Australian trainer Tommy Smith crossed the Tasman to attend the 1962 New Zealand National Yearling Sales in late January, Summertime had been the leading stallion in the Dominion for the previous two seasons, and his progeny now included the likes of Pique, Sometime, Summer Fair and Summer Regent. As we have seen, at the time the sales took place Smith already had in his stable a promising two-year-old gelding by Summertime with whom he harboured designs on the A.J.C. Derby and which were to be realised later that year.
It came as no surprise therefore when Smith bought extensively at those Trentham sales – eleven yearlings in all, spending 11,225 guineas. What did come as a surprise though, was that only one of them was by Summertime; but it was with this colt that Smith would win his fourth A.J.C. Derby. The yearling in question came relatively early on the first day and was Smith’s very first transaction. Lot No. 36 was described as a bay or brown colt by Summertime out of Fair Lynn, a daughter of Fair’s Fair, and was offered on account of Messrs P. G. and W. T. Colgan of Pukekohe in the Franklin district of the North Island. Fair Lynn had been a useful galloper and the winner of a minor handicap at Whangarei, but importantly, she was also a half-sister to that great stayer of the late fifties, Ark Royal. Ark Royal won many races in New Zealand including a Canterbury Cup and a Wellington Cup but was best remembered by Australian sportsmen for being one of three horses to share the triple dead-heat in that famous finish to the 1956 V.R.C. Hotham Handicap.
Of more significance to Tommy Smith in the pedigree, however, was Stratocruiser, a half-sister to Fair Lynn by Marco Polo, for she was the dam of Lady Cortauld. A poorly performed mare when racing in New Zealand and carrying the colours of Mick Moodabe, Smith, not for the first time, brought about a transformation upon Lady Cortauld’s transfer into his care as a four-year-old; she eventually won eight races and £7,426 and finished runner-up in the Newmarket Handicap at Flemington. Fair Lynn herself had already thrown Civic Centre, a place-getter in the Waikato Guineas, and was among some matrons that were fast giving Fair’s Fair a growing reputation as a champion sire of broodmares. It was just the sort of pedigree to grab Smith’s imagination, and while the compact, stylish colt wasn’t as mature as some of the other yearlings, he was, after all, an early November foal. At 1600 guineas sterling the future Summer Fiesta wasn’t cheap – indeed, he was the second most expensive yearling Smith bought on that trip. However, three of the other Summertimes sold, went for 2000 guineas or more, while the highest price paid privately at the sales was 4000 guineas for the Targui yearling that subsequently raced as Boundless, and became a high-class galloper in New Zealand.
While the average and aggregate prices obtained at those 36th New Zealand National Yearling Sales were pleasing, the Sydney and Melbourne Yearling Sales that autumn also offered some exciting prospects insofar as the progeny of good, imported sires were concerned. Throughout the 1950’s the more generous accounting and taxation laws applying to the importation of stallions and mares into New Zealand, compared to the laws pertaining here, had left Australian studmasters at a distinct disadvantage relative to their Kiwi brethren. The old tax formula was forcing studs out of horse-breeding. The landscape changed in April 1958 after considerable lobbying in Canberra by Australian breeders. The Commonwealth Taxation Department announced that Australian studmasters would henceforth be able to write down their stock for income tax purposes with a new maximum depreciation of 20% allowed each year, beginning with the 1958-59 financial year.
Within a matter of months Stockwell Stud in Victoria revealed that, as a result of the change, it had just paid £45,000 to land the stallion Arctic Explorer, a direct descendant of Pretty Polly, in Australia. Soon after, George Ryder, the managing director of the Woodlands Stud in the Hunter Valley, declared that he had secured the services of the Supreme Court stallion, Pipe of Peace. Raced by Stavros Niarchos and trained by Sir Gordon Richards, Pipe of Peace had been rated the leading two-year-old colt of his year in England and had run the minor placing in both The Two Thousand Guineas and English Derby in 1957 behind Crepello. Of course, others came in the wake of these stallions, but 1962 was the first year in which the progeny of such quality importations resulting from the tax change, was reflected in yearling sales catalogues.
The juveniles of Tulloch Lodge in that 1962-63 racing season mightn’t have been the smartest on record, but Smith had plenty of talent available with the likes of Young Victoria and Bright Picture, respective winners of the V.A.T.C. Debutante Stakes and the A.J.C. December Stakes, not to mention Game Prince, Step On It, and Arafura.
Still, Summer Fiesta was the juvenile that showed the most potential, which was confirmed at the official two-year-old barrier trials when he ran second in his Randwick heat and then lead all the way at Canterbury, sporting the colours of the Brazilian-born shipping magnate, R. P. De Lasala, and his colleague, R. Reiertsen. Summer Fiesta was the stable’s only representative when he made his debut on heavy ground in the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate with George Moore in the saddle, going to the post as the 9/2 third favourite. Although he ran an honest race, he could finish no closer than third, eight lengths behind the winner, Romanda. Smith gave the colt one more run before having him gelded and turned out for a four-month spell.
It wasn’t until his fourth start in a crowded juvenile handicap at Randwick in late February that the gelding broke through for his first win, by three lengths, after leading most of the way. Smith promptly whipped him down to Melbourne. He found Pago Pago and company too hot in the Merson Cooper Stakes at Caulfield but redeemed himself by winning the March Nursery on the first day of the Flemington Autumn Meeting. That performance was sufficient to see him go to the post as the favourite for the prestigious Gibson Carmichael Stakes over the mile on the third day but he failed to run a place. Brought back to Sydney, Summer Fiesta was runner-up to Skid in the Fairfield Handicap on heavy ground at Randwick, which seemed to flatten him for the Sires’ Produce Stakes the following Saturday. He failed in the race won by Time and Tide. His last appearance that season came with a minor placing at the City Tattersall’s April Meeting, after which he was set aside, with Tommy Smith already eyeing the prospect of yet another Derby triumph. Whereas Summer Prince’s juvenile year consisted of nine starts, Summer Fiesta had had ten.
Unquestionably, the star of the two-year-old ranks that season was the South Australian owned and trained Matrice colt, Pago Pago. After finishing third on debut at Victoria Park when the rings on his reins became caught on the buckle thereby restricting his head carriage, Pago Pago remained unbeaten during his next nine races as a juvenile. It was a flush that culminated in both the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and the S.T.C. Golden Slipper Stakes and £16,715 in stakes. Indeed, such was his dominance, it was found that when A.J.C. handicapper, Ken Goodwin, issued the Free Handicap at the end of the season, Pago Pago headed the weights with 9 st. 5lb, fully 7lb more than the next highest-rated horse, Time and Tide, who in Pago Pago’s absence had won the Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes at Randwick. It was the greatest margin between the first two horses since the Free Handicap had been introduced in 1953. Alas, for Australian racegoers who were smacking their lips at the prospect of this glamour horse testing his stamina in the classics the following season, Pago Pago was sold for £89,245 to Kentucky breeder Arthur Hancock to stand at the world-famous Claiborne Farm. Few of those sportsmen who bothered to peruse the Free Handicap weights would have paused to consider Summer Fiesta, weighted on a lowly 7 st. 12lb and thereby rated equal 22nd in the list of top juveniles.
As Summer Fiesta’s two-year-old season was unfolding during 1962-63, the great debate in New South Wales racing concerned the future of off-course betting. Off-course totalisator betting was already operational in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia with the race clubs in those States enjoying, or about to enjoy, huge financial windfalls from the increased betting revenues. In Victoria, for example, the turnover of the off-course tote in the 1962-63 racing season was about £23 million, of which £760,000 went to the Government and £700,000 to the race clubs. Victorian country racing had reached a peak of prosperity never known before, while the V.R.C. soon announced that its stakes for its 1964 autumn carnival would be increased by £21,200 to £84,750. Meanwhile, the oldest State in the land had been somewhat slower off the mark. During the 1962 New South Wales election campaign, Opposition Leader Bob Askin promised to legalise starting-price betting if he were elected.
In reply, Labor Premier Robert Heffron promised a Royal Commission, which was established later that year under Justice Ted Kinsella. A one-time member of the N.S.W. Legislative Assembly, and a leading Catholic layman, Kinsella was a shrewd choice given his successful legal practice mainly in common law and industrial work together with his sound knowledge of the Turf. A keen racegoer, he had joined the A.J.C. as far back as 1942. After the Commission was announced, an estimated six hundred S.P. bookmakers began meeting regularly at Randwick to formulate a response: retaining a Queen’s Counsel, appointing a public relations man, and advertising themselves as an organisation under the sonorous and euphemistic umbrella of the Racing Commission Agents’ Association. As an organised lobby group, it tended to use statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts, for support rather than illumination. Nonetheless, C. W. McCarthy, the secretary of the organisation gave evidence to the inquiry that the annual turnover of illegal S.P. betting in N.S.W. was estimated at around £260 million with some bookmakers enjoying individual turnovers of more than £1 million.
There were three main arguments against the introduction of an off-course Totalisator. Firstly, it would not stamp out illegal S.P. betting but rather would drive it further underground. Secondly, it would not cater for all people wanting to place a bet, especially those in small country towns. And thirdly that it would not yield enough revenue for the State Government to make legalisation worthwhile. That such arguments were nothing but palpable, self-serving nonsense, wasn’t lost on Justice Kinsella. The arguments in favour of a State-owned Totalisator, as opposed to the legalisation of privately-owned betting shops, were numerous. Firstly, both Treasury coffers and racing clubs would benefit more. Moreover, the Totalisator would be easier to police, and there would be less corruption; and that the atmosphere within totalisator agencies would be more congenial than sordid betting shops. The Royal Commission hearings lasted over eighty sitting days and called some eighty witnesses. The A.J.C.’s costs at the Royal Commission totalled £10,054.
In early April 1963, on the eve of the Randwick autumn carnival, Mr Justice Kinsella tabled his findings. He recommended that the State Government legalise a system of off-course tote betting for N.S.W.; he did not support any method of licensing S.P. bookmakers – either in the metropolitan area or the country. However, Kinsella also suggested that the State Government might consider permitting people in small country towns to place bets by telephoning agencies of the Totalisator Board. The major recommendations included that: all bets made off-course be remitted before the start of the race to the on-course pool; the statutory deduction from all pools not to exceed 12 ½ %; the minimum bet to be 2s/6d; provision be made for telephone betting against a cash deposit; and betting to be carried on until a time to be fixed as nearly as practicable in the metropolitan area to twenty minutes before the scheduled starting time. Justice Kinsella argued that the rules and practices of the T.A.B. of Victoria should be adopted in N.S.W. and that if legal off-course betting were to be protected against the unfair competition of illegal bookmakers, it was essential that penalties on illegal betting be increased. As an aside, Kinsella observed that fines in N.S.W. had remained unchanged for street betting since 1906 and office betting since 1875. Not that he was arguing in favour of penalising punters for S.P. betting, but rather the bookmaker.
In a reasoned summation, Justice Kinsella stated: “There is no system of betting which will satisfy all persons who favour a lawful method of off-the-course betting and meet with the approval of the whole community…. I am of the opinion that of the several methods which have been propounded, the only one of which advantages outweigh the disadvantages, is the off-the-course totalisator. I am satisfied it would be the most effective system in safeguarding the Crown revenue, contributing to the racing industry, and in eliminating corruption.” Kinsella felt that there was one substantial disadvantage that would flow from legalising off-course betting and that was an increase in betting. Outlining his reasons for selecting the totalisator scheme, His Honour said it would be clearly impracticable to extend to off-course bookmakers generally the same degree of supervision that was possible with metropolitan race clubs where bookmakers and their betting sheets at all times were subjected to close scrutiny. It would be difficult and costly to check effectively for tax purposes the amount of turnover and cash betting of off-course bookmakers. An obvious scheme to avoid detection would be for an off-course bookmaker to arrange for some of his substantial clients to telephone their large wagers not to his telephone at registered premises but to a private number where an agent would be stationed. There would be no novelty in this ruse, observed Kinsella, as it was frequently done by off-course bookmakers already.
Brian Crowley and Bill Longworth, respectively the chairmen of the A.J.C. and S.T.C., were quick to praise Justice Kinsella’s findings and they were aided and abetted by their counterparts in other States. Sir Chester Manifold, the vice-chairman of the V.R.C., speaking at the Australia Hotel on the occasion of the annual dinner for the Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of N.S.W. warned that N.S.W. racing would be ‘left for dead’ as a racing State if it failed to introduce legalised off-course totalisator betting. Manifold stated that the amount of money that had come into racing as a result of the T.A.B. in Victoria was much more than anticipated and racing ‘was gaining immensely’ from it. Even the Roman Catholic Church weighed-in to the debate, a spokesman advocating that the N.S.W. Government adopt Kinsella’s recommendations, a view challenged by the Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian orthodoxy. Ironically, the very week Kinsella brought down his report, the Victorian T.A.B. announced that it would begin offering off-course betting on the Sydney races the following Saturday. In other words, Victorian racing was about to benefit financially from T.A.B. revenues derived directly from Sydney racing in a way that N.S.W. itself was being denied.
As lobbying intensified before the parliamentary vote, a committee of N.S.W. racing clubs, owners, trainers and breeders sponsored advertisements featuring T. J. Smith as a spokesman. Smith, having only recently returned to Sydney aboard the Oronsay after a three-month tour of the United States, Britain and France, was eloquent: “In France, only the totalisator is legal, both off-course and on-course. There are no bookmakers. As a result, racing has boomed, and bloodstock in France is now superior to English bloodstock. This change has taken place only in the last few years. And it would be fair to say that the cream of stayers come from France today. Some years back the English blood horse was supreme. Today, unfortunately, this is not the case. In France wonderful racecourses, modern stabling, superior training tracks, excellent public facilities, moderate admission charges, higher prize money and top standard racing are the order of the day. Big bettors are non-existent, and there is no race rigging or doping. Racing is a clean sport, and in that country, the Totalisator cares for the entire racing industry as well as for the public.” Smith added: “In England, where the bookmakers’ betting shop system operates, racing is in the doldrums. There are doping scandals. Public esteem for racing is at a low ebb, and the leading trainers are becoming increasingly apprehensive.” Smith’s obvious self-interest in this very public debate resided in maximising prizemoney, and he added: “I think it would be a tragedy if the T.A.B. system is not promptly instituted here. How else can we hope to compete on equal terms with the other States?”
In August, after the State Australian Labor Party had announced its decision to support legal off-course betting to be conducted through the totalisator and not through bookmakers, there was an offer of £10 million by the Racing Commission Agents’ Association to the Government for the legalisation of off-course betting rights. The offer was circulated among Labor members of the N.S.W. Legislative Assembly. As a last-minute ploy, it smacked of desperation but showed the strength of the political lobby. Nonetheless, it split the ranks of S.P. bookmakers as the smaller operators feared that were the State Government to take up the offer, they would be reduced to the minor role of agents for the big operators. There was never a chance it would be accepted as plans were put in place for the introduction of the T.A.B. on July 1st, 1964, although circumstances would see it deferred until December of that year.
As much as the debate about off-course betting and the manner in which it would transfigure the racing landscape dominated discussions, there were other, more subtle changes afoot that suggested future directions for the sport. In February, coinciding with the occasion of the visit of Her Majesty, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, to Flemington racecourse, the A.J.C. made television history at its Randwick meeting conducted that same afternoon. Through the technical facilities made available by Sir Frank Packer’s T.C.N. Channel 9, a direct telecast of both the Queen’s Cup and the Duke of Edinburgh Stakes was made from Flemington to a closed circuit on Randwick racecourse with ten television sets placed in the three enclosures for course patrons. Those more reflective racegoers on that Saturday afternoon might well have considered how mighty oaks from little acorns grow. This Trojan horse, technology, like wireless broadcasts in the thirties, would, over time, have the same potential to deliver up both good and ill to the Sport of Kings.
Telecasts notwithstanding, there were more obvious manifestations of “progress” on the Randwick course during the winter of 1963. As the dreaded scourge of home-unit developments spread like a contagion in the streets of Randwick, the A.J.C. had begun constructing on-course stables. Trainers Fred Allsop and Pat Murray had taken the first and second of the new stable blocks, and Dick Roden was about to move into the third. Perhaps it was all inevitable, but the demolition of historic old stables that had once sheltered some of Australia’s great champions of the Turf to make way for ugly high-rise developments saddened me immeasurably. In a bygone age, small stables had been liberally scattered throughout the backstreets of Randwick and Kensington, and the residents of the neighbourhood took a personal interest in the horses stabled in their midst. The building of on-course stables ensured that the character and intimacy of much of the Randwick municipality changed inexorably, as the merry clink and clop of racehorses that once echoed down the thoroughfares, fast became the musical refrain of a disappearing age.
The ebullient Tommy Smith gave Summer Fiesta a very similar Derby programme to that which had so richly rewarded him the previous year with another son of Summertime. Whereas Summer Prince made his seasonal reappearance on heavy ground in the Hobartville Stakes, Summer Fiesta resumed on a quagmire at Canterbury in early August to run fourth in a restricted stakes race as the favourite. After that, Summer Fiesta’s Derby campaign was in perfect symmetry with that of the previous year’s winner, not only in races chosen, but outcomes as well. Just like the year before, heavy tracks were a depressing feature of the weeks of late winter, and the Sydney Turf Club was forced to postpone the Canterbury Guineas from the last Saturday in August until the following Wednesday. One suspects that the result would have been the same, postponement or not.
A change in riding tactics, with Moore riding Summer Fiesta back in the small field of five, saw him finish off the race like a genuine stayer with three lengths to spare over the second place-getter, Star Host. It was Tommy Smith’s third successive win in the Canterbury Guineas and his fifth in all, and George Moore had ridden the lot. Immediately upon dismounting, Moore confirmed that he would ride the rangy gelding in the Derby. The Rosehill Guineas over a fortnight later topped off Summer Fiesta’s Derby preparation perfectly although he ran into one better in the shape of Castanea. On paper, the Derby loomed as a somewhat lacklustre affair. The defection of Pago Pago to the U.S.A. was one thing, but a surprising number of the more promising juveniles from 1962-63 that seemed likely Derby candidates had failed to train-on as three-year-olds. This failure and the virtual absence of any high-class Victorian colts saw Castanea installed as the favourite.
A chestnut colt by Persian Book and the second foal of Spring Frolic, a daughter of Kerry Piper that descended from the English taproot broodmare Powder, Castanea offered an interesting pedigree. Spring Frolic, bred by Alf Ellison, hadn’t raced but was a sister to the smart country performer Buddong, winner of the S.T.C. Canterbury Park Cup and Canberra Gold Cup among other good races. Bred by Messrs W.S. Harris and Sons at the Holbrook Stud, Kerrabee, where high expectations were held for Spring Frolic as a broodmare, Castanea was offered at the Easter 1962 William Inglis Sales and had been purchased for 600 guineas by Mr J. Hill and given to Tom Kennedy to train.
Castanea’s road to the Derby hadn’t been smooth. After winning two-year-old handicaps at Rosehill and Randwick in December, the colt developed a growth on his hoof that necessitated a veterinary operation. Daily treatment after that restricted him to stables for almost three months. A special shoe was made for the troublesome hoof as it was threatening to grow inwards and develop into a club foot. The shoe was designed to straighten the foot and assist in the growth of the hoof. Trainer Tom Kennedy, having overseen the treatment and launched Castanea on his racing career, suffered the obloquy of being disqualified for twelve months, together with jockey Cliff Clare, by A.J.C. stewards following an inquiry into the running of Royal Echo in a maiden handicap at Canterbury on July 31. As a result, Castanea had been transferred to the Rosehill stables of trainer Herb Sampson. Soon afterwards the horse struck a purple patch of form, scoring a hat-trick of wins leading into the Derby that culminated with his clever victory in the Rosehill Guineas when jockey Bill Camer secured a fortuitous rails-run in the straight.
Summer Fiesta, one of three entries from the Smith stable along with Cold Cuts and Deep Image, remained a firm second favourite with George Moore in the irons. The horse’s owner, Mr R. P. De Lasala, who lived in Sydney, had returned early from a business trip to Brazil especially to see his horse run. Neither Cold Cuts, winner of the A.J.C. Fernhill Handicap in the autumn and sporting the John Wren colours carried to victory by Pandect in the race in 1940, nor Deep Image, the first of the progeny of Pipe of Peace to run in the race, were considered serious chances. The third fancy in betting charts was Paradise Inn, a son of the imported 1951 Ascot Gold Cup winner, Pan II, trained by Ron Dickerson at Clarendon. Paradise Inn had won twice at Rosehill as a juvenile and owed his popularity to having finished a nice fourth in the Guineas on the same course.
The only other runners quoted under double figures were Rosie Sun and Sunset Hue, although neither was looked upon as a genuine stayer. Rosie Sun, trained at Randwick by Bland Beck, who had also trained the colt’s dam, had been placed in the Champagne Stakes at two and each of the Hobartville Stakes and Canterbury and Rosehill Guineas at three. A recognised mud runner, the ground was not expected to suit the colt. Sunset Hue, a 2000 guineas’ yearling and one of two entries from Jack Green’s stable – the other being Gay Song – had finished runner-up in the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes and third in the Fernhill Handicap on a heavy track in the autumn. Although the colt had finished last in both the Hobartville Stakes and Canterbury Guineas, he had won at his last two starts in restricted company. Apart from Brandan, trained by Bill Murrell, no Victorian colts travelled up for the race – a decline in patronage that had become more noticeable as Melbourne prizemoney boomed vis-a-vis Sydney – a result of the largesse derived from the T.A.B.
The 1963 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions are set out in the table below:
Athol Mulley astride Rosie Sun elected to make the early running. He began smartly and led past the winning post from Skid, Paradise Inn and Ferrand. At this stage, George Moore on Summer Fiesta had allowed that horse to find his own rhythm and was running eleventh, behind Paradise Inn but just ahead of Castanea, who was slow to catch fire and second last in front of only the Victorian colt Brandan. Mulley deliberately slowed the tempo in an attempt to lead all the way, but still had the field strung out by the time he reached the six-furlong pole with a margin of a length and a half from Ferrand and Skid, with Sunset Hue next. It was between the six and five-furlong markers that Moore made his daring move on Summer Fiesta, dashing around the field to be in front coming towards the half-mile. The trick now was to catch him. Castanea may have been a trifle unlucky at this stage for although Camer wanted to move forward, he momentarily had no opportunity of doing so. Summer Fiesta led clearly coming towards the turn into the home straight from Rosie Sun, while Castanea remained in about tenth position and spotting the leader quite an advantage. Moore rode the Summertime gelding vigorously topping the rise, and although the gallant Castanea finished fast, his run had ended on the line, and he failed by a length and a half. Paradise Inn who had been fifth on the turn finished fairly to take the minor placing a similar margin away, with Rosie Sun a half-length further back, fourth. The Star Kingdom horse, Sunset Hue, failed to stay, something his famous grey son would also fail to do as a Derby favourite just seven years later.
And so, for the third time in seven years, the established firm of Smith & Moore had taken out the A.J.C.’s blue riband. While it was all impish smiles as trainer and jockey greeted each other upon Summer Fiesta’s return to scale, the bonhomie of the shared moment of glory masked a certain underlying tension in the partnership. History usually takes its time in reaching a verdict, but by 1963 Tommy Smith knew that both his status and that of his leading jockey, as legends of the Australian Turf, was already settled. What was still a subject for speculation, however, was just which man was the greater genius in his chosen profession. Each was on record with the claim that he didn’t rely on the other; each had endeavoured more than once to prove the point. Nonetheless, each knew that their general interest was best served when they functioned together as a team. At the close of the 1962-63 racing season, the 47-year-old Smith had won his eleventh successive Sydney trainers’ premiership.
It wasn’t unusual for Smith to train more than double the number of metropolitan winners of his nearest competitor. However, what was remarkable about this, his latest premiership was that for the first time in the history of Sydney racing, Smith had trained a century of metropolitan winners in a single season – 107 to be exact. It was a total that was more than four times the number accumulated by the ageing Maurice McCarten, who once again finished runner-up. Before our very eyes, the business of thoroughbred-training was being turned on its head. Large teams of racehorses, made possible by a superb stable organisation, the widespread practice of gelding, and the essential economies of scale that came in their wake, were here to stay. Modern veterinary science and advances in nutritional theory made sure that the break with the past was seismic. The Turf would never be the same again. And Smith had been at the centre of it all – effervescent, mercurial, calculating, and ambitious- embodying the very temper of the times.
By comparison, George Moore – seven years younger than Smith – at the close of the 1962-63 racing season had taken out his fourth Sydney jockeys’ premiership; and by a curious piece of symmetry, his total of metropolitan wins was just one shared dead-heat less than Smith’s. Moore that season hadn’t quite doubled the tally of his nearest rival – George Podmore with 56 wins – but it was close enough. Two bad race falls early in his career and the Flying East affair might have delayed Moore’s assault on the record book, but it was always going to happen. No one doubted that had he not chosen to accept European riding contracts during the years 1958-60, by 1963 he would have enjoyed seven successive jockeys’ premierships in Sydney. During that record-breaking 1962-63 season, the vast majority of Moore’s winners had been saddled-up by the T. J. Smith establishment.
However, while each of their characters had much in common, having been forged in deprivation and adversity, and each had shown a remarkable iron discipline and determination in climbing to the tops of their respective trees, at a certain level, just like Gilbert and Sullivan, their partnership was deeply incompatible. Neither man was prepared to forego his own ambition and ego. Each was singularly indifferent to the judgements of other men, or rather, so enamoured of his own judgement that he could brook no teacher. As far as each man was concerned, his own life experience was book and bible, and neither would admit any interpretation other than his own. It was this which constituted each man’s originality and strength, yet at the same time, it was the abuse of that principle which laid each open to strictures and censorship.
Smith’s complaints were often the sparks that ignited Moore’s explosions. The trainer had been made by nature sufficiently despotic and needed no impulse in that direction from the character of his occupation. Yet at the same time, Moore’s resentment of fancied slights was legendary. Countless were the times when, after a heated argument, George had told Tommy to ‘shove your mounts up your arse’. But the sporting public invariably found that when the trainer declared his acceptances for the following Saturday, Moore was once again the jockey and Smith’s rear end remained undefiled. Yet these bursts of anger and frustration, like tropical squalls that soon abated, were seized upon by the press and generated banner headlines that boosted the circulation of Sydney’s afternoon tabloids The Sun and Daily Mirror by the thousands.
These Derbies of the sixties and the events that surrounded them are as distinct to me as though the intervening years had never been, and the early to mid-1960s came to represent the noonday splendour of the famous firm of Smith & Moore. If any month of any year captured their fraught and mercurial relationship, then it was April 1963. At the first Sydney metropolitan race meeting held that month – at Canterbury Park – Smith horses won five races and Moore rode them all. It was the first time that the trainer had achieved the feat, although the jockey had done it before. Then, just ten days later, on Doncaster Day, came the most celebrated dispute in their long and combustible relationship. Moore argued with Smith over the riding tactics to be employed on Oakland in the Doncaster Handicap. Moore’s reaction to the trainer was irate even by his own choleric standards.
Before the very eyes of stewards and racing officialdom, the jockey angrily shook his whip at Smith and proceeded to give Oakland one of the most vigorous preliminary gallops ever seen before a major race at Randwick. Oakland was galloped almost at top speed to the mile starting-post. It hardly came as a surprise to many when Oakland a few minutes later finished last in the rich handicap. Upon dismounting Moore then asked to be relieved of the ride on Moviegoer, another of Smith’s charges, in the Coogee Handicap for which he had already been semaphored as the rider. While the stewards agreed to Moore’s request, both jockey and trainer were asked to appear before the A.J.C. committee nine days later. For their unseemly conduct, Moore was fined £125 and Smith £100 – the difference relating to Moore’s additional penalty for foregoing the ride on Moviegoer. The committee warned the pair that similar breaches again might see them both suspended.
Although Smith had declared in the wake of the Oakland case that Moore would never ride for his stable again, the breach lasted just seventeen days. Smith was physically tough and could command himself when necessary, whatever the burdens weighing upon him, but he was under real stress at the time. In a sense, he was riding the whirlwind and directing the storm that was challenging the very orthodoxy of racing stable management. It couldn’t have been easy to rise every day in the early hours of the morning and labour at course and stables until nightfall overseeing a team of one hundred horses and more. The week following the Doncaster incident Smith collapsed at the William Inglis Yearling Sales, and although he recovered quickly, it was clear that he was pushing himself to the limit and on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
A Macquarie St specialist urged Smith to have a three-month holiday, which the trainer had already planned. Touring England, France and America it turned out to be something of a busman’s holiday as he took with him various commissions from Australia’s leading studs to buy prospective stallions and fillies. While in France, Smith again collapsed and after returning to England spent time in hospital in Windsor, Berkshire. It’s interesting to note that whatever Smith’s medical issues at the time, they hardly impinged on his judgement of bloodstock, for one of the stallions that he bought on this European odyssey was Sostenuto. The commission was on behalf of his old friend, George Ryder and the Woodlands Stud. As we shall see in due course, Sostenuto would be responsible for the colt that would eventually give Smith his seventh win in the A.J.C. Derby.
Following his success at Randwick, Summer Fiesta was taken to Melbourne for the spring carnival where he finished an inglorious last in the Caulfield Cup won by another son of Summertime in Sometime. Sent to Flemington for the Victoria Derby, Summer Fiesta again disappointed in the race won by Craftsman. The Victoria Derby and the manner of Craftsman’s victory served to emphasise the superiority of the Melbourne colts that season and not for the first time the quality of the A.J.C. Derby field was questioned. The first two place-getters in the Randwick blue riband finished badly at Flemington and only Rosie Sun, who finished fourth in each contest, garnered any credit. Curiously enough, going into the race, it was regarded as one of the weakest in years and yet Craftsman, who gave the My Babu stallion, Better Boy, his first classic success, ran the second-fastest time in the history of the race. It was a triumph for the former Deniliquin amateur jockey turned trainer, Andy White, and owner, Deniliquin grazier, Mr A. C. Kirby. Moreover, the quality of the result was subsequently emphasised when the three place-getters, Craftsman, Sir Dane, and Future, collectively won thirty principal races on the Australian Turf before their respective retirements.
A fortnight after his Flemington failure, Tommy Smith despatched his horse to Eagle Farm in an attempt to win the Queensland Derby. In a field of only six starters, Summer Fiesta confirmed what many at Randwick on Derby Day had suspected: that he owed his A.J.C. Derby crown more to the Machiavellian intrigues of George Moore in the saddle on that celebrated occasion than to any superior ability. In the Queensland Derby, Summer Fiesta finished unplaced, the event that year won in race record time by the local Queensland champion, Confidence – his ninth in ten starts. Summer Fiesta remained in training for two further seasons, winning only three more races, the most notable being the ten-furlong Spring Handicap at the September Tattersall’s meeting at Randwick in 1964. His last race came in the A.J.C. Grantham Handicap during the 1965 Spring Meeting when he ran unplaced to the gallant Ziema, on one of those rare occasions during that spring when the latter horse didn’t run second. Summer Fiesta was then retired to a property in Tasmania.
In retrospect, the 1963 A.J.C. Derby field was a fairly poor lot. Castanea was arguably the best horse to emerge from the race, and he later won both an A.J.C. Villiers Stakes and a Q.T.C. Stradbroke Handicap despite a propensity to bleed; he was always more at home over seven furlongs or a mile as was shown by his brilliant seconds to Citius and Toi Port respectively in both the Doncaster and Epsom Handicaps. Neither Paradise Inn nor Rosie Sun ever won a principal race, while the best contest Gay Song ever won for Brian Crowley was the 1964 Villiers Stakes. Perhaps the most curious horse to emerge from the field was Sunset Hue. He won only three races – none in open company – in his eighteen-race career, which ended when he broke down in the Victoria Derby. Retired to The Dip Stud, Breeza, located in northern N.S.W. between Gunnedah and Tamworth, Sunset Hue won enduring fame for siring the great Gunsynd in his third crop.
Summer Fiesta was the last of the Summertime stock to win the A.J.C. Derby, although his descent into obscurity following the classic hardly dampened the profound influence that the great stallion was having on the Australasian Turf. It just so happened that in the very same crop that gave us Summer Fiesta, came a bay colt by Summertime that was to emerge as the best weight-for-age horse in Australia during the spring of 1964. Sir Dane, the horse in question, had been bred by Mr A. H. Paul in New Zealand from the Treasure Hunt mare, Casa, and sold privately as a yearling to trainer Duncan Cameron and Lincoln Rees, with the former owning two-thirds. Racing as Dane in New Zealand – the knighthood only came later with his crossing of the Tasman – the colt won three of his ten starts there as a juvenile and was rated the fourth-best two-year-old in the 1962-63 New Zealand Free Handicap, 9lb below the top-weight Mateland.
Brought across to Australia by his owners as a three-year-old and placed in the Flemington stables of Roy Shaw, he ran second in the Victoria Derby and later that season went on to win the rich V.R.C. Duke of Norfolk Stakes among other races. However, it was as a spring four-year-old that Sir Dane came into his own, cutting a swathe through his weight-for-age rivals in races such as the Craiglee Stakes, W. S. Cox Plate and the L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes. The rich handicaps were a different matter, however, and Sir Dane bears the dubious distinction of being the first horse ever to start the favourite for both the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups in the same season and yet fail to fill a placing in either.
There was a discordant postscript to those Cups failures just a few weeks later, when a dispute between the two co-owners saw Sir Dane put up for public auction on December 18 to dissolve the partnership. No reserve was placed on the horse, and the only stipulation was that the settlement was to be made in Australian dollars. This requirement meant that interested parties in New Zealand could only bid for Sir Dane if sufficient funds already existed in Australia as it was a time when the New Zealand Government was unwilling to allow large sums of currency to leave their shores. A bid from Tommy Smith at 12,000 guineas opened proceedings, which were conducted by Bill Stutt, and after just four minutes the four-year-old stallion had been knocked down to Duncan Cameron for 21,000 guineas with Smith the under-bidder. The extraordinary price seemed a fair measure of the faith that Australasian sportsmen had in the blood of Summertime. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it must be said that Mr Cameron got the worst of the bargain. Although Sir Dane did win four of his eight starts later that autumn viz. the V.R.C. Blamey Stakes and Queen’s Plate as well as the V.A.T.C. Futurity Stakes and M.V.R.C. Alister Clark Stakes, the stallion developed leg problems that saw him start on a racecourse only once during his five-year-old season, before three more failures in the spring of 1966 resulted in his retirement to stud. He proved a useful stallion, however, and the best of his progeny were Pyramul and Daneson, as well as the good broodmare, Lockleys.
Summertime’s successes in the seasons after Summer Fiesta and Sir Dane included the likes of Sobig, Ziema, Star Belle and Broker’s Tip. In all, Summertime covered sixteen books of mares from his initial season in 1951 until his last in the spring of 1966. For some years, the horse suffered the affliction of failing eyesight, and he eventually went blind in the final years of his life. Summertime died at Kinross Stud at twenty-three years of age during May 1969. Four times he was the leading New Zealand-based sire on combined Australian and New Zealand earnings, and his quality as a sire of broodmares saw him head that list in Australia in 1974-75. However, he wasn’t as influential as a sire of sires, and a number of his better-performed sons such as Sometime and Summer Regent were geldings. Nonetheless, in Sobig, he got one of the great Australasian-bred sires of the twentieth century and in siring three successive winners of the A.J.C. Derby, Summertime’s place in the history books is assured.