Kings of the Turf

A History of the AJC Derby From 1861 to 1977

Author: Ian Ibbett

1976 – Great Lover Keeps It All In The Family!

No race on the Australian Turf carried more sentiment with the great trainer Tommy Smith, the least sentimental of men, than the A.J.C. Derby. After all, when Playboy took the event in 1949 it was Tommy’s first major race success and the prize money won, and the bets landed, set him up for life. Moreover, it was that breakthrough that saw clients begin to beat a path to his door. However, Playboy apart, for all of the Derbies he had won during the intervening years, none gave him more satisfaction than his triumph with Great Lover in the 1976 renewal of the classic. A homebred, T. J. shared in the ownership of the horse with his brother, Dick. The story really began when Dick Smith went to New Zealand on a holiday trip back in the fifties.

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1938 – The Wizard of Mordialloc!

When Jack Holt saddled up Avenger to win the 1937 A.J.C. Derby, it was his second victory in the race from as many starters – Hall Mark having been the first back in 1933.  Exactly seven days after Avenger’s thrilling victory at Randwick, the great Victorian trainer produced a small and lightly framed two-year-old chestnut colt, a very near relation of Hall Mark and one who sported the same famous colours, for his racing debut at the Caulfield Spring Meeting.  It was one of the rare times that the horse in question, Nuffield, failed to win.  For in the course of the next twelve months this colt would emerge as the best juvenile of his year and ultimately credit Holt with a hat-trick of Derbies at Randwick.

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