This 1972 chapter of our chronicle introduces two brothers, Jack and Bob Ingham, who from modest beginnings on the Turf, proceeded to build the largest racing and breeding conglomerate in Australia of the twentieth century. Permit me to begin the story in 1918, the last year of World War I, when Walter Ingham Sr purchased forty-two acres of bushland on the Kurrajong-road in Casula, near Liverpool, on the western outskirts of Sydney for just on £1,000. It was a gift to his energetic and enterprising eighteen-year-old son, Walter Jr. In those days the land was relatively cheap – given its distance from the metropolis – and young Walter embarked on a fruit and vegetable farming venture, before deciding to transition part of his property into a poultry business. Initially, much of the farm was laid out with fruit trees, which, besides providing shade in a challenging climate, ensured a healthy cash flow while the poultry farm was being developed. Ingham’s enterprise started with just one cockerel and six hens, but his flock quickly increased. In 1925 Walter Jr married Dorothy Fabris in Liverpool, and the happy and successful marriage produced three children – Jack, Bob and Edna. Walter and his father were active within the Casula community with each serving on the Committee of the Casula Progress Association while in September 1930 Walter won an election for a seat on the Liverpool Municipal Council.
During the 1920s, as with most farms in that decade, Walter Ingham was self-sufficient and produced feed for his own poultry and workhorses. However, it was his absolute faith in the future of the poultry industry that set him apart from a number of his competitors. By the onset of the Depression, Ingham had already installed some wonderfully efficient equipment and transformed his hatchery into one of the most modern in New South Wales. Specialising in white Leghorns and black Orpingtons, and using both intensive and semi-intensive systems of housing, by the mid-thirties he had some 20,000 birds on his farm and a stand-alone building that accommodated an incubator room, egg-packing department, chick-despatch section and office. The incubator room had machines capable of handling 45,000 eggs. The incubators were of the ‘Buckeye’ mammoth variety and the brooding plant – accommodating 8,000 chicks at any one time was supplied by the same manufacturer. Walter was a believer in the colony system of rearing young stock, and much of the farm was devoted to colony houses and pens. The years of World War II and its aftermath were good years for the Ingham business as due to a shortage of meat, the company provided Australia with poultry products.
When Walter Ingham Jr died of cancer at Gloucester House in January 1953 at the age of just fifty-one, he bequeathed to his two sons, not just a flourishing poultry business, but some other livestock, or rather bloodstock, as well. And the most significant bequest, although rather well-disguised at the time, was a four-year-old daughter of Valiant Chief out of the Brueghel mare, Margaret Rose. Old Walter had raced a few horses from the same family in the last years of his life, and all of them had been trained at Rosehill by R. C. (Bert) Stanton, a relative of the Inghams. Bert Ingham had been based at Rosehill for many years, having been foreman to Bill Booth and branched out as a trainer on his own account at the beginning of the 1921-22 racing season when the A.J.C. first granted him a licence to train.
Over the years Stanton had trained some useful gallopers including the likes of Cheery Jack and Rodborough. Indeed it had been these visits to Stanton’s stables and the racecourse with their father that had imbued the Ingham boys with their love of the sport. Upon their father’s premature death, Jack and Bob Ingham retained the family colours of ‘brown and yellow hoops, brown cap’ and continued to race their father’s horses, such as Royal Mission, through the stables of Bert Stanton. When Stanton died in October 1956 at the age of sixty-one, the Ingham brothers kept their horses with Bert’s son, Ted, a second cousin.
However, while the decade of the fifties and the early sixties might have been golden for the Ingham’s poultry business, their fortunes on the racecourse were distinctly muted. Much of the problem lay in the relatively poor bloodlines of the thoroughbreds they chose to race. Although their horses were often by good stallions such as Delville Wood and Port Vista, the distaff side of the pedigrees left something to be desired. Some of their horses, such as Royal Delville and Lightning, were out of mares that traced back to the famous Golden Slipper, but others, such as Young Darcy, Good Intentions and The Somme were acquired through the auction ring. Both Jack and Bob Ingham liked to tickle-up the betting ring, but their stable representatives were giving them precious little opportunity to do so.
The year in which the ownership tag of ‘Messrs J. H. and R. W. Ingham’ appearing in the racebook became something more than just another set of hopeful owners, was 1965. It was at a race meeting at Randwick in July 1965 that Jack Ingham became front-page news – at least in the Daily Mirror – when he backed his horse, Young Darcy, from 16/1 into 9/1 to land the Clontarf Welter with Ray Selkrig in the saddle. The horse, a son of Persian Book, was trained by Stanton, originally for another client of the stable, but when that owner decided to sell out, the Inghams had secured the horse at auction in October 1964 for 1000 guineas. As satisfying as it was to land such a plunge, Jack and Bob Ingham were really looking forward to the 1965 A.J.C. Spring Meeting and the two semi-classics for two-year-olds on debut, the Breeders’ Plate and the Gimcrack Stakes. Ted Stanton was readying both a colt, King’s Challenge, and a filly, Port Joy, for these respective engagements and each was showing remarkable facility on the training track.
King’s Challenge was a well-bred son of Star Kingdom out of In Harmony that had been bred by Alf Ellison at Barramul. A half-brother to the A.J.C. Metropolitan and Summer Cup winner, Duo, the yearling colt had made the headlines when he brought 10,500 guineas on a bid by Ken Cantrell at the William Inglis Sales. By way of comparison, the highest price paid at those sales was 11,000 guineas for the Wilkes colt out of Foison, a brother to Wentworth that T. J. Smith bought on behalf of John Wren jr and which raced as Munificent. Cantrell, a Warwick Farm trainer had been bidding on behalf of Jack Ingham, who in those early days sought anonymity when buying bloodstock. When Ingham’s identity was revealed, it was clear that here was the advent of a new force in the field of bloodstock buying, the effects of which it was impossible at the time to predict.
However, as promising as King’s Challenge seemed, it was the filly, Port Joy, who excited the Ingham brothers most of all. Not only did she exhibit early speed but she was homebred, being a granddaughter of Valiant Rose, the mare raced by Walter Ingham senior. The first foal of Miss Port, Port Joy, like King’s Challenge, had won her heat of the official Randwick two-year-old trials, only when she did so, she was called Tender Joy. When the A.J.C. Registrar realised it was a tradename for a brand of Inghams’ chickens the A.J.C. committee ordered a change of registration. Nice try, Jack. Accordingly, it was as Port Joy that this daughter of Todman made a bird of winning the A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes after her stablemate, King’s Challenge had run third in the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate behind Nebo Road on the previous Saturday. In winning the Gimcrack, Port Joy landed £8,000 in three bets for the stable and gave Ted Stanton his most important success since taking out his licence.
Port Joy later continued the successful line at stud too, foaling to Royal Yacht the precocious speedster, Royal Brittania, winner of the 1973 S.T.C. Silver Slipper and the 1974 A.C.T.R.C. Black Opal Stakes. The year after foaling Port Joy, Miss Port dropped another delightful chestnut filly to Todman. Registered as Sweet Embrace, she won enduring fame as the heroine of the 1967 S.T.C. Golden Slipper Stakes, when, ridden by Cliff Clare, she upset a good field to give the Ingham brothers their first victory in the race at 40/1. Like Port Joy, she too was trained at Rosehill by Ted Stanton. The thrill of that triumph saw the Inghams dramatically increase their acquisition of bloodstock that was to be the beginning of an empire. Henceforth, life on the racecourse for Jack and Bob Ingham would be what Neverland was for Peter Pan, “an awfully big adventure”.
The 1960s was a decade of remarkable growth for the chicken industry, and the Ingham brothers were at the forefront. In 1958 the brothers built their first processing plant for chicken meat at Casula. Within just a few years, new styles and methods of processing and packaging of chicken meat led to a revolution in the industry. Thanks to the Inghams’ initiative in securing the Australian rights to some of this cutting edge mechanisation the company stole a march on its rivals. A halving of retail prices stimulated the boom during the years from 1960 to 1966. The volume of chicken sales in Australia rose more than six times in those six years before Sweet Embrace’s Slipper success and by then numbered some 65 million birds a year. And the Inghams supplied no less than one-third of that national market. Moreover, their business wasn’t even a listed company. In 1963, Inghams acquired a 50% interest in A. A. Tegel Turkey and by the time the first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet opened in Australia in 1968, the bird, or rather birds, had flown so to speak. Jack and Bob were licking both their fingers and their lips, and it had nothing to do with a visit to the Colonel!
Little wonder, then, that the brothers could afford to expand their racing interests. Still, while all of their horses – whether thoroughbreds or standardbreds, were jointly and equally owned by both Jack and Bob, the brothers’ interests did diverge. Whereas Jack Ingham’s preference lay with gallopers, Bob Ingham’s lay with pacers. Whereas Jack’s plunges at Randwick and Rosehill became the stuff of tabloid headlines, Bob achieved similar publicity with his forays into the betting ring of Harold Park. It was in January 1966 that Bob’s betting first hit the headlines, when, indulging in a saturnalia of slaughter, he reportedly won £40,000 at Harold Park Trots. It certainly wasn’t chicken feed, although in due course that’s probably what his winnings became.
Given the unwanted attention of the media, Bob Ingham protested to inquiring journalists: “Don’t call me a punter – I’m a poultry farmer!” Later that same year, according to the Daily Telegraph, Jack Ingham won a bet of $56,000 to $4,000 on Duo in the A.J.C. Metropolitan Handicap. It was also a year of higher activity at the yearling sales, and in the April offering of William Inglis and Son, among others, the brothers bought King’s Delight (Todman – Royal Gala) for $9,685 and King’s Empire (Biarritz – Yes And No) for $10,500. Whereas King’s Empire proved something of an expensive disappointment despite winning his heat of the official Randwick Two-Year-Old Trials, King’s Delight proved an excellent welter performer and won among other races the S.T.C. Winter Handicap as well as later proving a useful stallion.
There would be some expensive yearlings in the years ahead, and over the next few seasons, Jack Ingham would become more renowned for the prodigality of his spending than the elevation of his judgement. At the 1968 New Zealand Yearling Sales, Jack Ingham spent $32,000 on the Alcimedes yearling out of Brillante that raced as High Distinction. A half-brother to the Port Adelaide Cup winner, Bright Blend, and the good producing mare, Summer Queen, he struggled to win a maiden. For two years in succession, the Inghams bought the top-priced lot at the National Yearling Sales at Trentham. In 1971 Jack Ingham paid $40,000 for the colt by Alcimedes out of the A.J.C. Epsom Handicap winner, Chantal. Well-named as Mr Expensive, he proved just that when he failed with monotonous regularity on Sydney tracks as a race favourite. In 1972, acting through the Melbourne bloodstock agent, Jim Shannon, Jack paid $40,000 for the Alcimedes – Khoralee colt. A full brother to the Epsom Handicap winner, Citadel, and registered as High Destiny, it took him three seasons to win a lowly Auburn Graduation Stakes at Rosehill. And they were the expensive yearlings that at least made it to the racecourse. Think about those that didn’t, such as Dark Steel, a three-quarter brother-in-blood to Prince Grant that cost Jack Ingham $20,000 as a yearling but as a youngster tried to jump a gate. He fractured his pelvis and died.
The irony is that having spent a treasure at Trentham in years past trying to procure that elusive Derby winner, success eventually came with a rather modest purchase – at least by Ingham standards – at the 45th Annual New Zealand National Yearling Sales on the morning of Wednesday, 27 January 1971. The yearling in question was a bay colt, a mid-September foal, by Oncidium out of Golden Goddess, an unraced daughter of Gold Sovereign. There wasn’t a lot to go on insofar as racecourse performances on the distaff side of the pedigree were concerned. Anita Marie, the colt’s maternal grand dam, like her daughter, had never raced. However, Anita Marie at least boasted a distinguished half-sibling in Ganymede, the top-weighted filly in the N.Z. Free Handicap for the 1956-57 racing season and the winner of six races that year including the Great Northern Foal Stakes.
Offered on account of Mr H. W. Beatson of Woodville, the colt was knocked down for $8,500 to Jim Shannon, the Melbourne bloodstock agent who often acted on behalf of the Ingham brothers. An idea of price relativities can be gleaned from the fact that at those sales, 159 lots were sold for $723,950 at a record average price of $4,582. So, it can be seen that $8,500 wasn’t an insignificant amount, although the top-priced Oncidium out of the good broodmare, Kataban, went for $15,000 while two others each sold for $10,000. The most expensive lot that year at Trentham, as mentioned above, was the brown colt by Alcimedes out of the brilliant Chantal that went for $40,000 to the Sydney agents, William Inglis and Son, acting for the Inghams. The previous year, the colt’s half-brother by Agricola, which subsequently raced as Hampton’s Pride, went for $60,000 to a bid by Bart Cummings on behalf of another ‘Chicken King’, the Western Australian, Alf Hampton, and in so doing set a New Zealand record price for a yearling.
I might add that many astute buyers attending those sales were anxious to acquire lots by Oncidium. None more so than Bart Cummings who bought six of them including a stylish brown colt out of the mare Dicidiana earlier on the same day that the Golden Goddess colt was sold – and for precisely the same price. Just a couple of months prior, Cummings had won the V.R.C. Wakeful and Oaks Stakes double with Sanderae, a daughter from Oncidium’s first crop and as a result, the stallion’s reputation was beginning to burgeon. Certainly, Jack Ingham, who had attended that Melbourne Cup carnival, was impressed. Standing at the picturesque Te Parae Stud, just outside Masterton in the glorious Wairarapa district of New Zealand, Oncidium’s coming to New Zealand was the doing of Te Parae’s proprietor, Alister Coldham Williams. A foundation member, councillor, vice-president and ultimately president of the N.Z. Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, Alister Williams was a significant influence on the bloodstock of the Shaky Isles in the post-war years.
It was in 1966 that Williams arranged the syndication of Oncidium between thirty-two shareholders for a purported sum of $NZ120,000. Oncidium, a son of the great Alcide, was bred by the famous Lord Howard de Walden in England and raced in his colours. The horse started sixteen times over three seasons, winning five races and £30,121 in stakes. Although he was smart enough to run the minor placing in the Royal Lodge Stakes over the mile at Ascot as a two-year-old, Oncidium was a racehorse that needed time. At three, after winning the Lingfield Derby Trial, he started the second favourite in the 1964 English Derby but failed in the race won by Santa Claus; he similarly failed in the English St Leger but did manage to win the Newmarket Jockey Club Cup over two miles later that season. Oncidium claimed his greatest prize the following year when he defeated a crack field for the Coronation Cup run at weight-for-age over twelve furlongs at Epsom. Oncidium’s method of syndication ensured good patronage from the beginning, and his stud career got off to an excellent start when the classic winners, Chiming and Sanderae, came out of his first book.
But enough about Oncidium’s background and history. Let’s get back to that day in January 1971 at Trentham. The Randwick trainer, Tom Kennedy, had travelled to New Zealand with commissions to buy three yearlings, one of them being the colt from Golden Goddess. Alas, he was outbid on all three. It was later that same night that Jack Ingham telephoned Kennedy to offer some solace, and he asked the trainer which of the three yearlings he fancied the most. When Tom elected the Golden Goddess colt, Ingham replied: “Good. You can train him for us.” Registered as Gold Brick, the colt would become the first-ever starter in a Derby owned by Jack and Bob Ingham. Moreover, in a perfectly executed preparation, the colt would be triumphant. So, who was this fellow to whom Jack Ingham had readily consigned his $8,500 Oncidium purchase?
A dapper, stocky little man, with a ready smile and infectious enthusiasm and charm, Thomas Albert David (T.A.D.) Kennedy had struggled toughly to emerge as one of Sydney’s leading racehorse trainers. Born in 1927 and raised in the Canterbury district of Sydney, as a boy Kennedy always loved horses and used to peep through the outside fence of the racecourse when meetings were being conducted at the local track. Ambitious to learn, as a teenager he worked in the yard of a Canterbury trotting trainer-driver, Carl Bellamy. Kennedy gained experience in a number of other racing establishments, eventually acting as Pat Nailon’s foreman (“he taught me plenty”) in his Avoca-street stables.
After Nailon died in July 1950, Kennedy was granted his A.J.C. trainer’s permit. Kennedy began with two broken-down horses which he housed in two boxes that he rented at Rosehill. In order to pay the rent, he worked the night shift at the Goodyear Tyre factory, adjacent to Rosehill racecourse. But not for long. Valiant Lee gave his training prospects an immediate boost when he won the 1951 Wyong Ambulance Cup in December and later that same month credited Kennedy with his first Randwick success when he landed a Club Welter with Neville Sellwood in the saddle. The money flowing from those victories helped Kennedy obtain a house at Rosehill and marry Betty Jean Elley in February the following year.
Provincial wins soon gave way to more city wins with better-class horses that he invariably turned out perfectly groomed. Tom Kennedy exhibited his skill and patience when he successfully rehabilitated Tossing, a son of Channel Swell and the 1952 Doomben Cup winner, formerly trained by Maurice McCarten. Raced initially by Hal Lashwood and Joe Taylor, Tossing was regarded as irretrievably broken down when offered for sale as a station sire. Kennedy convinced Lashwood that with time and patience he might win races again. Two years later, Tossing landed some good bets for the stable when he won two open handicaps at Randwick. Kennedy in the years to come would enjoy a reputation for patching up crocks and Tossing was where it started. The nearby Parramatta River helped and Kennedy made full use of it from his Rosehill stables, swimming horses with chronic leg problems. Even if he only got them to stand one preparation, it usually created an opportunity for a betting sting, and Kennedy rarely missed when the money went down. It was a quality that attracted Jack Ingham among others in the fullness of time. In those early days, Kennedy also had the assistance of a gun apprentice in Barry Phillips.
Tom Kennedy’s most loyal and generous patron in those pioneering years was undoubtedly the Queensland grazier, George Warby. Warby had been one of Pat Nailon’s northern clients, and when Nailon’s former foreman hung out his own training shingle, Warby promised him horses and delivered on his promise with horses like High Spot and Paranilo, the latter costing 5800 guineas at the 1955 Inglis Yearling Sales. Indeed, rarely did the annual yearling sales at Inglis’s Newmarket stable pass by in the 1950s without Warby buying an expensive yearling or two.
High Missel, one of the top-priced yearlings of the 1957 sales cost him 4000 guineas, and he paid the same price for Preview, a son of Star Kingdom. The former did manage to win a Canterbury Novice but the latter, whose only previous start was a distant fifth in a Hawkesbury Maiden, was subsequently sold for a derisory 60 guineas as a spring three-year-old gelding. Despite such expensive setbacks, the 1957-58 racing season saw Kennedy train thirteen city winners for his clients to finish eighth in the Sydney Trainers’ Premiership. The following season he trained Compass, another son of Channel Swell and one who cost only 375 guineas as a yearling, to win both the S.T.C. Christmas Cup and the A.J.C. Summer Cup. Kennedy later saw the horse transferred out of his stables to another young up-and-coming Rosehill trainer named Theo Green, a former flyweight boxer, but that’s a story for another chapter.
If George Warby was Kennedy’s first patron, Jack Anderson was arguably his second. The Sydney businessman had a penchant for prefixing his horses’ names with the ‘Royal’ adjective, and Kennedy trained a number of them including Royal Heroic, Royal Emblem and Royal Echo to success. However, it was the last of that triumvirate that caused the biggest crisis in Kennedy’s training career. It came with the running of the horse, ridden by jockey Cliff Clare, in the Maiden Handicap at Canterbury on July 31st, 1963, when A.J.C. stewards disqualified both trainer and jockey for not allowing Royal Echo to run on his merits. Not only were the men’s subsequent appeals dismissed by the A.J.C. committee but the good burghers of the club disqualified Kennedy for an extra twelve months after he admitted that he had lied to stewards about his betting at two earlier inquiries.
However, Kennedy was allowed to serve the second disqualification concurrently with the first. As we have seen from the 1963 chapter of this chronicle, Kennedy’s disqualification saw him lose Castanea to Herb Sampson, and the horse ran second as the 9/4 favourite in the A.J.C. Derby behind Summer Fiesta. Castanea later went on to win a number of good races including an A.J.C. Villiers Stakes and a Q.T.C. Stradbroke Handicap. The disqualification also cost Kennedy King Roto, the minor placegetter in the 1962 A.J.C. Derby who went into the stables of Harry Plant and there subsequently won an S.T.C. Tancred Cup. When Kennedy did resume training twelve months later, his licence was downgraded to No. 2 status. Kennedy’s full initials, T.A.D., were always shown in the racebook and it was after the Royal Echo inquiry that some racing wags began to refer to him as Try Another Day Kennedy.
It was after returning from his disqualification and re-establishing himself that Kennedy set about developing the first of the modern stable complexes at Rosehill. ‘The Glades’, adjacent to Rosehill racecourse, afforded accommodation for some thirty horses as well as providing a family home and living quarters for stable staff. Kennedy was training thirteen racehorses for the coal magnate, Stan Fox, at the time. Indeed, such was the nature of this ‘state of the art’ new stabling that in November 1967 Stan Fox purchased the establishment outright, retaining Kennedy as his main trainer. The arrangement allowed Kennedy a fixed salary as well as 10% of all prize money won. Moreover, Kennedy could train for outside clients as well. I might mention that Kennedy’s first dealings with Fox occurred, ironically enough, when he sold him and his friend, Jack McKelvey, Royal Echo for $5,000 but continued to train the horse. It was thus that the very horse that had been the cause of Kennedy’s disqualification also led him to his biggest client and ultimately, for a time, his employer. So, some dark clouds do have silver linings.
However, training a few horses for just one of a number of clients is quite a different proposition to essentially becoming a full-time private trainer to a large team of up to sixty horses. Not every man’s temperament can adjust to the transition. Kennedy lasted just over six months with Fox, winning races with the likes of Nebo Road, Silver Service and Will Talk, before irreconcilable differences saw a parting of the ways in June 1968. Kennedy transferred his small team of horses to Warwick Farm until exactly two years later when the A.J.C. granted him a lease on Midstream Lodge on Randwick racecourse.
The stables, formerly occupied by Dick Roden, had been taken over by Neville Begg during Roden’s leave of absence. However, with Roden making it clear that he would not be resuming full-time as a trainer and with Begg already occupying Baramul Lodge in his own right at headquarters, the stables were allocated to Kennedy who had been patiently awaiting them for almost three years. The lease on Midstream Lodge re-ignited Tom Kennedy’s career. At the age of forty-three, he already boasted three world tours during which he had studied the leading stables in Europe. Suddenly, an impressive roll-call of leading owners and breeders were giving him horses to train including Lionel Israel, John Kelly, Keith Harris and Jim Fleming. But none would be more significant than Jack and Bob Ingham.
The calendar year of 1972 was to be a distinguished one in the racecourse fortunes of Jack and Bob Ingham, and almost all of it came from the foals of 1970. In attending the 1971 William Inglis Summer Sales, Jack Ingham found himself drawn to a flashy light grey colt on offer by John Kelly’s Newhaven Park Stud. The yearling in question was from the thirteenth crop of the champion sire, Wilkes, out of the distinguished broodmare, Fraction, who had already foaled the good winners, Somebody, Wilkonn and Somedonna. Accordingly, there was plenty of buyer interest surrounding the youngster including from a man then sinking large sums into bloodstock, John Foyster.
Foyster and Jack Ingham fell into a conversation at Newmarket and realised that they were both interested in the same yearling. Rather than bid against each other, the pair decided to buy him in partnership. Two hundred and ninety-nine yearlings were catalogued in those sales, and at $18,000 the Fraction colt was the second most expensive yearling sold over the three nights. After a discussion as to which stable into which to place the colt, John Foyster and Jack Ingham agreed on Tommy Smith’s Tulloch Lodge as each man already had horses trained there. Registered as John’s Hope, the colt would be unbeaten in four starts as a juvenile including the V.A.T.C. Blue Diamond Stakes and the S.T.C. Golden Slipper.
Meanwhile, over at Rosehill, Ted Stanton was putting the polish on a two-year-old chestnut filly purchased at those same Inglis Summer Sales as John’s Hope, but on the first night not the last. Like John’s Hope, she too was by Wilkes and had been bred at the Newhaven Park Stud but out of a Bob Cherry mare named Puppet. Jack Ingham had deputed Jim Shannon to bid for her as well. This cloak of anonymity afforded by employing a bloodstock agent was a feature of many of the Inghams’ thoroughbred purchases during these years. Bloodstock auctions are no different to most other forms of auctions, and the less known about a prospective buyer, the better for that buyer, particularly when he has deep pockets. The various players on-call can smell money and down through the years the temptation to pose spurious bids to advance a price hasn’t always been resisted.
It was a practice that might have saved Stan Fox and the Foyster family some incontinence of the purse during their halcyon years of buying bloodstock. Not that there was much bidding on this filly and when the gavel came down at the last call, Shannon had got her for just $5,000. He must have felt a sense of deja vu, as only two years before at the 1969 William Inglis Easter Sales he had acted as agent for the Inghams in securing the filly’s older brother. Registered as Punch, the horse had gone into Stanton’s stables and was showing real promise. At $7,500 he’d cost half as much again as this, his younger sister. Jack Ingham believed he’d got a bargain. And he had. Just on twelve months later, and registered naturally enough as Anjudy, the filly came from last on the turn on a dead Randwick track in a twelve-horse field to win the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes by a length. The Fixer and Light Praise filled the minor placings, with Century fourth.
Just eighteen days after Anjudy (14/1) had impressively caused an upset in the A.J.C. Champagne Stakes, Tom Kennedy produced Gold Brick in a Wednesday meeting at Canterbury for his racing debut in the Five Dock Maiden Handicap. Ridden by Ray Selkrig, the colt was subsequently mentioned in the stewards’ report for missing the jump and lugging badly in the last couple of furlongs. Nevertheless, by coming from eleventh on the home turn to finish fourth, Gold Brick earned $150 for his trouble. Almost four weeks later, Gold Brick and Selkrig stepped out again, this time at Rosehill in the St James Handicap over seven furlongs. Drawn wide, the pair could only finish tenth. Those two appearances served as Gold Brick’s racecourse education.
Come the last Saturday in May in the St. Leonards Handicap at Rosehill over six furlongs, and it was time for Jack Ingham and a good old-fashioned sting. With Stan Cassidy substituting for the unavailable Ray Selkrig and starting at 6/1, Gold Brick trotted in by four lengths to beat the 5/2 favourite, Merry Minstrel, landing an estimated $40,000 in winning bets from rails bookmakers alone. In just two bets Les Tidmarsh paid out $10,000. A week later at the same course but over a furlong-and-a-half further, Gold Brick raced away with another two-year-old handicap. It was after this, the horse’s final appearance for the season that Tom Kennedy declared to surrounding pressmen: “That’s a classic horse if ever I’ve seen one…they will see his tail for the rest of his life.” From that moment forth Gold Brick’s steps were set inevitably towards a dull spring afternoon on the last day of September and the wide green swards of Randwick.
It is interesting to reflect on the Free Handicap issued by the Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association of Australia for that 1971-72 racing season. Framed as a handicap and issued at the start of the new racing season, it represents a hypothetical race for three-year-olds over a mile. Top weight on 9 st. 5lb was John’s Hope, 1lb ahead of Sovereign Slipper, the Ray Guy-trained galloper that won the A.J.C. Breeders’ Plate, S.T.C. Silver Slipper Stakes and the A.J.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. Century, the son of Better Boy trained by Bart Cummings, was rated third in the Free Handicap at 9 st. 2lb based largely on his victory in the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. Jack and Bob Ingham’s filly, Anjudy, was rated equal fifth on 8 st. 13lb while Gold Brick languished down in the weights at 8 st. 5lb – equal thirty-fifth. Again, the handicaps emphasised the extent to which trends had changed and a breeding culture for sprinters had taken hold of Australian studmasters. Few of those at the top of the weights would have been expected to be competitive over the Derby distance as spring three-year-olds.
Gold Brick resumed from his winter spell on the first Saturday in August in a 1300-metre handicap at Rosehill. From a wide gate and in a big field the colt came home stylishly for a nice fourth with Ray Selkrig in the saddle. Tom Kennedy then chose the Hobartville Stakes, Canterbury Guineas and Hill Stakes as his Derby route and after being runner-up in the first two, Gold Brick finished just a length-and-a-half behind Gunsynd in the S.T.C. Hill Stakes (1750m), with Triton in between. The quality of those two gallopers lent a favourable colour to the performance and leading into the Derby, connections were confident. Gold Brick was only the second horse that Tom Kennedy had saddled in the Derby. His first, King Roto, had finished in the minor placing behind Summer Prince and Bogan Road in the 1962 classic.
The 1972 A.J.C. Derby field and race conditions appear in the table below:
A cruel wind whipped across Randwick on Derby Day. The public elect for the classic that year was a nondescript bay colt from New Zealand named Longfella. He was by the Alycidon stallion, Shy Boy, who stood at the Kempton Park Stud, Putaruru, before his export to Japan, out of Longhill, a daughter of the British stallion, Byland, and whose maternal tap root was Mountain Nymph, imported from England in 1855. Longhill, the winner of three races, died not long after producing Longfella. In truth, the colt’s pedigree was as undistinguished as his looks, which explains why Harry Stokes was able to buy him for just $685 at the Waikato Weanling Sales in 1970.
Stokes bought this ugly duckling as a birthday present for his wife, Mae. It was one of two shrewd purchases of bloodstock in the space of a matter of months that marked Stokes out as a fine judge of a thoroughbred. His second purchase was a yearling colt he bought the same year by Sovereign Edition that set him back $7,250. Registered as Beau Sovereign and trained in turn by Merv Ritchie and Geoff Murphy, that horse carried Harry’s colours to six wins in fourteen starts including the 1971 M.V.R.C. Moonee Valley Stakes and V.A.T.C. Caulfield Guineas and $45,435 in prize money. Alas, the bay colt broke down when resuming in January in the William Reid Stakes and had been sold to the Coral Park Stud in Western Australia. Stokes was hoping for better racecourse longevity from Longfella.
Longfella was placed in the Awapuni stables of Margaret Bull, a third-generation representative of a New Zealand racing family, and who even then was well on her way to establishing a reputation as the most successful woman trainer in the history of New Zealand racing. Easily the best two-year-old of his year, Longfella headed the New Zealand Free Handicap with 9 st. 9lb, fully 6lb clear of the next weighted, Chief Hagan. A bone lazy colt, Longfella won six of his nine starts as a juvenile including the A.R.C. Eclipse Stakes, Great Northern Stakes and Ellerslie Sires’ Produce Stakes as well as the Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes. Most of his victories came by narrow margins as he needed to be ridden off the pace as he idled if taken to the front too soon. The colt’s earnings of $37,200 as a two-year-old exceeded the previous record set by Daryl’s Joy in 1969. Longfella had been sent to Victoria to be prepared by Melbourne trainer, Geoff Murphy, specifically for the A.J.C. and Victoria Derbies. The colt opened his three-year-old season on his Australian debut when he ran a promising fourth in the Freeway Stakes at Moonee Valley behind Century and then came out and won the weight-for-age Memsie Stakes to frank his New Zealand credentials.
Longfella and Gold Brick apart, the third most favoured horse in course betting on the Derby at 11/2 was Blue Sky, a son of Bluescope out of the good race mare, Fawnia, trained by Clyde Cook. In retrospect, it was a falsely short price. What explained it? Partly it was the profound boom about his American-bred sire who stood at Ferd Calvin’s Dawson Stud, near Richmond in N.S.W. A good American handicapper, Bluescope had won 15 races from 49 starts in America and $US157,215 in stakes, and his yearlings had been in keen demand at the sales. Blue Sky, however, was homebred and carried the famous ‘all purple’ silks made famous by Poseidon in the A.J.C. Derby sixty-six years earlier. Like Poseidon, Blue Sky was owned by a member of the Denison family, who had also raced the dam, Fawnia, a speedy chestnut filly, to win both the A.J.C. Gimcrack Stakes and Flight Stakes. Blue Sky owed most of his prominence in the betting market, however, not so much to his or his owner’s pedigree, but rather to an eye-catching finish in the Rosehill Guineas when he came from fourteenth on the home turn to finish fourth.
The most expensive racehorse in the A.J.C. Derby field was yet another son of Bluescope in I’m Scarlet, and unlike Blue Sky, he was sold at public auction. Indeed, this full brother to the stakes winners Tumberlua and Big Scope, had topped the prices at the 1971 William Inglis Yearling Sales when the Gosford hotelier and land developer, Dennis Robinson, paid $27,000 to secure possession after a bidding duel with Angus Armanasco. Trained by Lionel Duggan at Rosehill, I’m Scarlet had finished runner-up in the Golden Slipper Stakes as a two-year-old, and in his latest appearance in the Rosehill Guineas led on straightening, only to be run down by Longfella to be beaten three-quarters of a length. In both the Slipper and the Guineas, I’m Scarlet had been a despised 40/1 outsider but he was at half that quote on Derby Day.
The leading trainer, T. J. Smith, had two starters in the blue riband, The Fixer and Show Caution. The Fixer, a mid-September foal and a son of Convamore out of a lightly-raced Pirate King mare, had cost Smith $11,000 on the opening day of the 1971 Easter Yearling Sales. Offered by Lionel Israel on behalf of the Segenhoe Stud at Scone where the stallion Convamore stood, he had been the most expensive of the eight yearlings Smith had bought on that first day. Carrying the colours of Mr P. E. Parker and his wife, established clients of Tulloch Lodge, The Fixer had won a two-year-old handicap at Randwick in February and taken to Melbourne to contest the V.R.C. Sires’ Produce Stakes. Although unplaced in that race won by Century, he had returned to Randwick for the A.J.C. Autumn Meeting and run second over the mile of the Champagne Stakes – beaten a length by the Ingham’s filly, Anjudy. Alas, The Fixer’s Derby preparation had been interrupted by corns on his near front hoof for which a special heart-shaped bar shoe had been fitted to relieve pressure. Show Caution, Smith’s second string, carried the colours of the Cox family and was a son of their stallion Showdown and a full brother to Stop The Show, winner of the 1972 V.R.C. St Leger. Show Caution had earned his start in the Derby by winning a 2800-metres Graduation Stakes at Rosehill on Guineas’ Day and, as then, was again being ridden by John Duggan.
Even as this extravagant cavalcade picked its way to the start, the money continued to tumble onto the favourite despite the shortened odds. Although the public would have none of it before the race, the heavy ground at Randwick certainly conspired to make the task of Longfella that much harder. Nonetheless, his subsequent record suggests that even at ten furlongs his stamina was suspect in a fast run race. I think to attribute the weather, as the reason for his defeat in the classic, is to discount the staying ability of the winner, Gold Brick. In the race, Gold Brick was always handy in about sixth or seventh position, following Longfella for much of the journey. Because of the state of the track, Selkrig had him closer than he would otherwise have ridden him. Unlike the Rosehill Guineas, the pace was slow and muddling, and Peter Cook on Longfella was given an uncomfortable ride with the colt pulling hard in the early stages of the race.
The classy sprinter, I’m Scarlet, led the field to the home turn. Selkrig’s only real moment of anxiety came when approaching the rise in the straight, and he had to decide whether to wait for a run on the inside or switch to the outside. Opting for the latter when a split came on the inside of Moscow, Selkrig managed to extricate himself with tolerable eclat. At the rise, The Fixer dashed two lengths clear out wide, but in turn, was quickly challenged by Longfella. Just as the favourite was being hailed the victor, Gold Brick burst upon the scene and in a matter of strides had the classic in his keeping. The Oncidium colt won by one and a quarter lengths from Longfella, with The Fixer weakening into the minor placing. The tyranny of distance had claimed yet another overblown Derby favourite. The A.J.C. veterinary surgeon later reported that The Fixer had been galloped on during the race and had been stripped above the off-hind fetlock.
So, ambition’s debt was paid at last! Tom Kennedy had finally won his Derby and for the best clients for whom he’d ever worked. Jack Ingham, a big rumpled man after his hectic dash through the betting ring, basked in the reflected glory of a Derby winner at Randwick while in victory his face resembled a glowering pudding. And it seemed particularly fitting that Ray Selkrig was the winning jockey. It was the diminutive hoop’s fourth success in the race following upon those on Prince Delville (1954), Royal Sovereign (1964) and Swift Peter (1967). The winning Kennedy-Selkrig partnership extended as far back as Compass in December 1958 when that horse credited the trainer with his first feature race triumphs in both the S.T.C. Christmas Cup and the A.J.C. Summer Cup, the latter in front of 39,000 people that crowded into Randwick racecourse for the occasion. The association between Kennedy and Selkrig really took off in that 1958-59 season, and in a sense, it never looked back.
Most trainers when asked immediately in the wake of a Derby victory about the best racehorse to pass through their hands, unhesitatingly nominate their Derby winner. Not so Tom Kennedy. As ebullient as ever, Kennedy unhesitatingly opted for Bay Cobbler. A son of Alcimedes out of the famous broodmare, Nereid, and therefore a half-brother to Sometime, Khoralee, Galston and Fox Myth, Bay Cobbler had gone around in the 1966 A.J.C. Derby when trained by Kel Suttle. Kennedy later trained him to win four successive races in the spring of 1967, which saw Bay Cobbler top the pre-post betting markets for the A.J.C. Metropolitan Handicap of that year. Unfortunately, in the last of that string of victories – the A.J.C. Spring Handicap at Randwick – the horse fractured his cannon bone in his off-foreleg when he stumbled rounding the home turn in the hands of Neville Voigt. The horse was subsequently thrown out of training, and although he did resume racing, he was never the same horse again. Clearly, all those years later, Kennedy still brooded wistfully on the might-have-been.
Conqueror and conquered repaired to Melbourne for the Victorian Spring Carnival. Whereas Longfella waited for the W. S. Cox Plate, Gold Brick went around in the V.A.T.C. Caulfield Guineas where he could only finish sixth in the race won by Sobar, from Century and Acidity. After running eighth in the W.S. Cox Plate behind Gunsynd at his nest start, Gold Brick succumbed to lameness in a fetlock joint, and his southern campaign was abandoned. This, together with the destruction of their promising stayer, Cool Alibi, a son of Alcimedes, after a race-fall at Canterbury the previous month, and the sidelining of John’s Hope, who missed his entire three-year-old season, was a reminder that 1972 wasn’t altogether a year of unalloyed joy for the Inghams.
In Gold Brick’s absence, the $60,000 V.R.C. Derby that year went to another son of Oncidium in Dayana, the yearling purchased by Bart Cummings for the former Australian Test cricketer, H. C. ‘Slinger’ Nitschke, earlier on the same morning that Gold Brick had been sold at Trentham. Dayana came into the race as the winner of his previous five starts including the S.A.J.C. South Australian Derby and the Geelong Derby Trial Stakes and yet started as the 11/2 second-favourite for the Victorian classic. The race favourite at the prohibitive odds of 4/11 was the all-conquering Sobar, a son of Sobig trained by Ken Hilton for the Southwick family. Hilton had made his reputation after he took over from his father, Harry, as private trainer to W. R. Kemball. Among the good horses that he trained for him was the weight-for-age champion, Lord, and thus it was believed he was accustomed to the pressures that come with handling a champion racehorse.
It is difficult now at this distance in time to conjure up the spirit of Sobar and the respect with which the sporting world regarded him leading into that Victoria Derby. Offered at the annual Trentham Yearling Sales by Gordon Mitchell of the Santa Rosa Stud at Longburn, he was a son of Sobig, the Summertime horse raced by the studmaster. Bought for $12,000 by Keith Southwick, a Melbourne businessman, he raced the colt in partnership with his mother and brother. Given only two starts as a two-year-old in the second half of the season, Sobar first stormed into Derby and Cup calculations when he was unlucky to lose the Craiglee Stakes at weight-for-age and then came out to win the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield in race record time. Next, he won the Caulfield Guineas, relegating Century and Acidity into the minor placings. However, it was Sobar’s exhibition in the 1972 Caulfield Cup that conferred greatness upon him when he became the first three-year-old since Yangtze in 1964 to take the race. Sobar’s winning time was a brilliant 2 minutes 27.1 seconds despite being eased down on the post. It was on the basis of that run that many good judges – Maurice Cavanough among them – considered him the best three-year-old up to that time to race in Australia since Tulloch.
Nonetheless, the Victoria Derby proved something of an anti-climax when Sobar went under by a neck to Dayana, with a further three lengths back to Longfella in third place. Sobar’s jockey, Harry White, upon returning to scale confessed to having ridden a bad race. The favourite, pulling hard, had been trapped four and five wide in the early stages of the journey and then given no peace by several of his rivals. Dayana’s victory was not only a triumph for the Bart Cummings – Roy Higgins team, but also for the New Zealand stallion, Oncidium. Apart from Gold Brick having given him the A.J.C. Derby and now Dayana the South Australian and Victoria Derbies, before the summer had expired Dayana would add the W.A.T.C. Western Australian and Australian Derbies as well as the Perth Cup to Oncidium’s tally.
As the dust of battle from the Flemington straight settled in the wake of the Derby, those that dismissed Sobar’s reputation as overblown were not aware of all the facts. The son of Sobig had sprung a tendon during the running of the race, something that was only detected upon the colt cooling down. It spelt the end of Sobar’s three-year-old season. It also spelt the end of Ken Hilton as his trainer. While Sobar was in the spelling paddock, Hilton suffered a heart attack, and with his incapacitation, the horse was transferred to Arch McClements. Although Hilton did come back to racing, it was short-lived, and he never regained Sobar. Ken Hilton collapsed and died at Werribee races in the first week of May 1974.
Whatever the scene appears to be for three-year-olds at the end of any spring, so often a different scenario unfolds in the autumn. Some of the topliners don’t come back to their best form, and some don’t come back at all. Moreover, so often additional maturity will see new three-year-olds emerge to dominate. There was a mixture of all this involved with the class of 1972. Dayana, for example, suffered a sacroiliac injury and didn’t reappear as a three-year-old after his Perth Cup victory. He then failed to win in sixteen starts as a four-year-old, although he did run six minor placings in some good quality races including the A.J.C. Autumn Stakes, Sydney Cup and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick. Sadly, in eleven more appearances on the racecourse over two seasons, Sobar’s tendon troubles prevented him from ever recapturing that eclat he exhibited in those three scintillating performances at Caulfield in the space of four weeks in the spring of 1972. Yes, he did manage to win the 1974 V.R.C. Blamey Stakes and the V.A.T.C. St George Stakes, but he was a mere shadow of his former self. Sobar failed to stand a spring preparation as a five-year-old and, after three runs, was retired from the racecourse. At stud, he got the 1981 W.A.T.C. Australian Derby winner, Venus And Mars.
Longfella presented different circumstances. After filling the minor placing in the Victoria Derby, Longfella was put aside. Geoff Murphy trained him to win both the C. F. Orr Stakes and the St George Stakes at Caulfield in the autumn, but after failing in the Australian Cup, the horse was transferred to Tommy Smith and Tulloch Lodge. Smith’s recent transformation of Gunsynd was very much to the fore and no doubt the Stokes family were hoping for a similar makeover with their putative champion. Alas, it never happened. Longfella did win the S.T.C. Tulloch Stakes at Rosehill in his first run for Smith but subsequently failed in the A.J.C. Australasian Champion Stakes behind Gold Brick. The horse also began his four-year-old season in style by prevailing in close finishes in both the A.J.C. Warwick Stakes and the Tattersall’s Chelmsford Stakes in his first two appearances that season. Thereafter, however, he lost his way and won only one more race in eighteen starts during which time he returned to Melbourne to be trained in turn by Des Judd, and then again by Geoff Murphy. Retired to serve stallion duty at the Fairview Stud, North Richmond, Longfella stood his first season at a fee of $750 in 1975. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given both the poverty of his bloodlines and his plebeian conformation, he failed to sire the winner of a principal race.
Unlike so many of his three-year-old rivals, Gold Brick did come back and although he only won one more race during that three-year-old season it wasn’t a bad one to win. I refer to the 1973 A.J.C. Australasian Champion Stakes at Randwick when he ran a race record in the hands of Ron Quinton, relegating Bachelor Baron and Idolou into the minor placings. While Gold Brick didn’t break down after his mishap in the W. S. Cox Plate the previous spring, his leg was fired, and Kennedy knew that henceforth the horse would be a day-to-day proposition. A week after the Champion win Gold Brick played a supporting role in the best piece of racing theatre I’d seen for years.
I refer to Gunsynd’s farewell appearance at his 54th and final race start in the A.J.C. Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick. It wasn’t the triumph for which the Goondiwindi Grey’s legion of fans had hoped. The New Zealand invader, Apollo Eleven, was in slashing form during that trans-Tasman visit and he added the Queen Elizabeth Stakes to the Sydney Cup that he had won earlier at the meeting. Amidst rapturous scenes, Gunsynd finished a half-length in arrears, with Gold Brick five lengths further afield in the minor placing. Next stop for Gold Brick was the Q.T.C. Derby in which he finished fourth behind the emerging filly, Analie. The colt was suffering intermittent lameness during his Queensland sojourn, and his unplaced run in the Derby ended his three-year-old season.
Gold Brick returned for as a four-year-old for a brief spring campaign of four starts that saw him win an open 1600-metre handicap at Randwick in November carrying 59.5 kg with Stan Cassidy in the saddle. Jack Ingham thought that it justified a trip to Perth for the W.A.T.C. Summer Meeting where he failed in the Winterbottom Stakes. It was the horse’s penultimate race start. Gold Brick did return for one race as a five-year-old, an unplaced effort in the S.T.C. Canterbury Stakes, but his legs could no longer stand a preparation. The son of Oncidium was retired with a racecourse record from 23 starts of 5 wins, 4 seconds, and 4 thirds and $83,540 in stakes. Jack Ingham arranged for Gold Brick to be syndicated to stand at the famous Oakleigh Stud in the Widden Valley. The stud had largely been dispersed about two years earlier when Tom Flynn sold-off his prized broodmare strength and the aged stallion, Red Gauntlet. Thirty-six shares at $4,000 each were sold for Gold Brick with the Inghams and Flynn each retaining ten and sixteen being made available to the public. Oncidium, his sire, had died only a few months before. Gold Brick’s initial service fee was $1,500.
It continued the trend towards more locally-bred stallions getting their chance at stud. For years, broodmare owners had been bewitched by those three little letters after a stallion’s name, i.e. imp. While not a success at Oakleigh and later on, Holbrook Stud, nonetheless Gold Brick did sire two stakeswinners of nine stakes races in Fimiston (W.A.T.C. Winterbottom Stakes etc.) and Lord Woden (Toowoomba Cup). Although Gold Brick was a relative failure at stud, the Australian foals of 1969 did yield some significant successes at stud. Jack and Bob Ingham’s other top colt from that season, John’s Hope sired eleven individual stakes winners of twenty-two stakes races including those top gallopers, Gold Hope and Grey Receiver.
However, easily the best stallion to emerge from that 1969 crop was Century. A brilliant sprinter, particularly down the Flemington straight course, Century won both a V.R.C. Newmarket Handicap and a Craven ‘A’ Stakes carrying the famous Trevaskis family colours. Retired to stud at the end of the 1973-74 racing season and syndicated into forty-two shares of $5,200 each, he went to David Leighton’s Mornmoot Stud, Whittlesea, in Victoria. Century went on to sire forty-four individual stakes winners of eighty-three stakes races including Rubiton, Double Century, Euclase, Stage Hit, Century Miss and Valley of Georgia. In 1978-79 he became the first Australian-bred stallion since Matrice to head the Australian Sires’ List.
Gold Brick and Longfella notwithstanding, what became of the other horses in the A.J.C. Derby class of 1972? As many suspected on the day itself, it wasn’t a vintage Derby, but a few of the also-rans went on to win decent races. The Fixer only ever won one principal race that being the 1973 A.J.C. Colin Stephen Handicap. Mighty Keys won the Q.T.C. Grand Prix Stakes while Gala Red took out the 1974 W.A.T.C. December Handicap. Moscow won the 1974 A.J.C. Winter Stakes and the S.T.C. W.J. McKell Cup. However, it was the expensive yearling, I’m Scarlet, that perhaps proved the best of the rest, albeit as a sprinter, and winning among other races the S.T.C. Canterbury Stakes, Theo Marks Quality Handicap and the A.J.C. Expressway Stakes, as well as proving a useful stallion at stud.
Gold Brick’s recurrent lameness in Perth in December 1973 and his virtual retirement coincided with his trainer, Tom Kennedy’s retirement as well. Although only forty-five, Kennedy’s health had been suffering and the general economic slump in the early 1970s rendered horse-training a more difficult profession. Kennedy ceased training at the end of the calendar year – just fifteen months after winning the A.J.C. Blue Riband and the highlight of his training career. He had held an A.J.C. licence for twenty-five years – the last fifteen as a No. 1 trainer. Yet it was far from the end of his active interest in the Turf.
There was another dimension to Tom Kennedy’s involvement in racing that demands acknowledgement here, and that was his long-term service as Federal president of the Australian Trainers’ Association. He became its inaugural president when the body was formed in 1967, and he remained in that role until he surrendered his training licence at the end of 1973. As such, he negotiated Federal awards and travelled representing trainers (employers) at conferences with the principal race clubs and the Australian Workers Union, which represented the employees of stables. Such was Kennedy’s skill as a negotiator and communicator that he averted several threatened strikes by the Australian Workers Union, perhaps most notably in November 1973 in relation to a proposed jockeys’ strike. Some racing journalists good-naturedly began to refer to Kennedy as the ‘Kissinger of the Turf’, given the success of his shuttle service diplomacy. The N.S.W. Minister for Sport, Ken Booth, even presented him with a plaque at Parliament House for his services to racing.
Few Derby-winning trainers have enjoyed a more varied and colourful afterlife than Tom Kennedy. A successful training career aided and abetted by some effective forays in the betting ring had made him an independently wealthy man. Such was the respect with which Kennedy was held within the racing community that a farewell testimonial dinner organised by the N.S.W. Trainers’ Association, held in the rooms of the Queen Elizabeth Stand on Randwick racecourse on Monday, March 18, 1974, attracted 350 people. A ballot was required to determine the allocation of tickets. Initially, Kennedy turned his back on Sydney and became a publican at Beaudesert in Queensland. However, in the winter of 1975, he returned to the Harbour City and purchased the Cleveland Inn Hotel, Redfern.
Like many men of talent, Kennedy was a compound of disparate elements. Underneath the wit and bonhomie, there was a determination of steel. And such a restless and ambitious man with horse racing in his blood could never be entirely satisfied merely pulling pints. In December 1976, Kennedy was elected to the Sydney Turf Club’s board of directors. A long-serving committeeman, in September 1990, he deposed Jim Fleming from the position of chairman, not by any backroom power play, but very directly after a divisive and stormy annual general meeting. Fleming had led the club for seven years and once been a patron of Kennedy’s stable but had alienated many by his autocratic management style. Kennedy secured the position by championing the notion of a maximum four-year-term for chairmen. It was to be a successful chairmanship that united the club and resulted in a more harmonious working relationship with the A.J.C.
It would be difficult to conceive of a more capable or equable chairman of any race club committee. At board meetings, he encouraged a general expression of opinion but never permitted time to be wasted. He possessed a seemingly inexhaustible fund of quiet determination and lively commonsense, all leavened with his natural bonhomie. As the best chairman do, Kennedy resigned at a time of his own choosing – the S.T.C. annual general meeting in September 1993, although he continued to serve on the committee until his retirement in December 1997. He also served as the S.T.C. representative on the N.S.W. Thoroughbred Racing Board. After a lifetime in racing, Tom Kennedy O.A.M. retired to the Gold Coast. Those last years of declining health served as a muted coda to the excitement of Kennedy’s fast years on the Turf. He died there in June 2002 at the age of seventy-four.