Kings of the Turf

A History of the AJC Derby From 1861 to 1980

Category: 1860’s

1867 – Fireworks Explodes Upon the Scene!

There were few more famous or distinguished broodmares in the early Victorian Stud Book than Gaslight.  Bred in England by Sidney Herbert in 1850, she was purchased by William Yuille, on behalf of Hector Simson, while on a visit to England in 1857.  Gaslight cast her first foal on board ship during the passage out, although it never amounted to much and she then missed the two following years. Illumination, by Warhawk, was her first foal to race in Australia, and, in Phillip Dowling’s hands, among other events, the filly won the 1864 V.R.C. Oaks and St Leger later in the same season.  It was at the break-up of the Bournefield Stud that the old mare, heavily in foal to Kelpie, was sold to Hurtle Fisher.

Some months later a colt was foaled and by the time Fisher dispersed his Maribyrnong Stud in April 1866 the youngster had developed into an impressive, powerful yearling. There were some fabulous prices paid at that auction and not least for the Fisherman stock.  Little Fish was bought-in for 1150 guineas, Sour Grapes for 1100 guineas, and Sylvia for 600 guineas but the Kelpie offspring went cheaply and all bar one man ignored Gaslight’s son.  It was Patrick Keighran who came, saw, and bought the colt for 200 guineas – the only bid made.  Keighran subsequently registered the horse as Fireworks and decided to race him in partnership with his friend Samuel Martin.

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1862 – The Towns of Richmond

The 1862 chapter of our chronicle introduces us to a family that came to have a dominant influence on bloodstock in the colony of New South Wales in particular, and throughout Australia in general.  The founding father of the Australian branch of the Town family came to the first colony in less than auspicious circumstances.  John Town (1773-1846) was apprenticed to a Lincolnshire tailor when he was sentenced to life imprisonment at Warwick, England, in 1796; he arrived in Sydney on board the Royal Admiral in the year 1800.

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1861 -The Prophecy of Cassandra!

It was on a balmy autumn Tuesday, March 2nd, 1858, that the bloodstock of the Macarthur Bros’ historic Camden Park Stud came before the public in an unreserved disposal sale.  Situated just outside the County of Cumberland some forty miles southwest of Sydney, Camden Park had been the home of Captain John Macarthur and his descendants since 1805.  In time, it had become the most influential nursery for blood-horses in the land.

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