The Missing Years 1921-1922 – The Roaring ’20s

Caption: Eurythmic (Eudorus (GB)-Bob Cherry by Bobadil)

 

The 1920-21 season is the earliest to be reviewed in the current Bluebloods HOTY series which will now work its way through the 1920s until the final article for 1929-30 will answer the original question that in the beginning sparked my interest, “How many times was Phar Lap the HOTY”. Big Red has two in the bag already and is favourite for the third in his three year-old year but to win he will need to come from behind at half-time.

But before then, before Phar Lap was born, there is the dawn of the golden age of the Australian Turf. Strap yourself in and stay tuned.

The VRC handicapper paid Eurythmic a tremendous compliment when allocating the five year old 10st 5lb for the 1921 Melbourne Cup, exactly the weight the champion Carbine had carried to victory in 1890 at the same age. With Poitrel retired, the chestnut was rated head and shoulders above anything else in the land, but while Eurythmic had another stellar season in 1921-22 the horse was dogged by injury, by interference and, equally, by the handicapper on occasions. In Melbourne in the autumn Eurythmic put up one of his greatest performances but in Sydney a few weeks later, the first signs that he was no longer the nation’s dominant force began to appear.

Resuming once again for his spring campaign in the Memsie Stakes and starting the 4/5 favourite, Eurythmic scored comfortably from the three year olds Demetrius and Harvest King but next time out, four weeks later, Tangalooma ran him down in the October Stakes to end Eurythmic’s unbeaten record at weight-for-age since arriving in Melbourne the year before. The margin was a short half-head and sections of the crowd did not take too kindly to the odds-on favourite’s unexpected loss to his well-supported stablemate. Tangalooma was a fine stayer in his own right and in very good form that spring and over time he proved a worthy opponent for Eurythmic whenever they met.

Eurythmic bounced back from that defeat to win the Caulfield Stakes (from Tangalooma and Amazonia) and the Herbert Power Stakes (from Lionel Atwill and Tangalooma) in typical style, coming from off the pace to score with something in hand both times. The five year old was not asked to defend his Caulfield Cup crown and instead was next seen out on Derby Day when finalising his Melbourne Cup preparation in the Melbourne Stakes, a race he had won in 1920.

Now the Eudorus five year old met a dangerous new opponent for the first time. The imported horse Violoncello had taken time to strike form in Australia but had shown his best when winning the 1921 Caulfield Cup a fortnight earlier. But ridden as usual with supreme confidence by Frank Dempsey, Eurythmic had his opposition covered at every stage and although the winning margin was a half-length over Violoncello, most were in no doubt that Dempsey had only asked his mount for enough to win, a few days ahead of the Carbine challenge.

But what did concern the racing writers as well as the punters and bookmakers of the day was Eurythmic’s Cup weight. Violoncello, for one, would meet him 16lb better while the Melbourne Stakes minor placegetter, Amazonia, dropped to just 7st 11lb, a turnaround from Derby Day of 33lb. On one hand Eurythmic was undoubtedly the champion of his time with 22 wins from his previous 24 starts, on the other hand the task ahead was historically formidable.

 

Eurythmic

The 1921 Melbourne Cup looked as wide open as ever, with 11 of Eurythmic’s rivals going to the post at 20/1 or under, among them the brilliant filly Furious, who had trotted up in the Victoria Derby, the grand Sydney stayer David, old mate Tangalooma and several other notable stayers of the time including one of the headline horses of the decade, Purser, a 7/1 chance. Bookmakers risked Eurythmic at odds of 5/1.

The hopes of his sporting connections and his loyal supporters were dashed a half-mile from home when Eurythmic met severe interference when travelling strongly on the bridle according to his rider Bill McLachlan, who had replaced Frank Dempsey after that jockey had fallen in a later race on Derby Day. The chestnut was pulled out of the event and post-race was found to have a deep laceration to a fetlock and pastern. Eurythmic’s spring campaign ended there and then.

The 1921 Melbourne Cup was won by the three year old filly Sister Olive, starting at 16/1. It must be long odds that another three year old filly will win the Cup any time soon and well worth noting that Sister Olive’s only other victory in her career was the Maribyrnong Trial Stakes on debut, a race she won by an impressive six lengths. But as a juvenile, Sister Olive tended to run too freely for her own good and it was only when taught to settle that the filly showed her true worth.

Sister Olive’s lead-up form was solid although somewhat unconventional by modern standards for a three year old filly. The first sign of what lay ahead came when a strong closing third to Purser in the Stand Hcp over 12f at Flemington a fortnight ahead of the Caulfield Cup, in which she again ran above her station for fourth placing. In between those two events, Sister Olive was also fourth to Demetrius in the Caulfield Guineas.

If nothing else, Sister Olive had the pedigree for the Melbourne Cup. Her sire, Red Dennis, was one of so many imported horses to race in Australia during and immediately after the Great War and in a brief career on Australian tracks the son of the very good sire (but poor racehorse), Tredennis, won the valuable Australia Day Cup at the old Williamstown course. The filly’s dam, Jubilee Queen, was equine royalty, being by the excellent stallion Positano (the sire of four Melbourne Cup winners) from the imported mare Tragedy Queen, the dam of the 1910 Cup winner and champion sire, Comedy King. When retired to stud Sister Olive would continue the female line excellence as the dam of the star miler Manolive and fourth dam of the Hall of Famer Tobin Bronze, our Bluebloods HOTY in 1967-68.

Sister Olive backed up in the VRC Oaks but this time Furious was too good winning just as easily as in the Derby, while the Cup winner toiled home a distant third in the field of five. Furious had been the outstanding two year old of the season before, winning the AJC Sires’ Produce Stakes and Champagne Stakes to claim the title. Like Gloaming and the top class sprinter-miler Greenstead, Furious was by the 3-times champion sire The Welkin and raced in the famous light blue and pink colours of her breeder, E. E. D. Clarke, owner of the Melton Stud in Victoria.

In Sydney that spring, Furious won the Rosehill Guineas and Clibborn Stakes and was runner-up to Cupidon in the AJC Derby and while the filly would again outclass the colts in the VRC St. Leger later in the season, Furious was unable to break through against the older horses at weight-for-age. But her form lines in those events lead us now to a horse who called Newcastle home, a horse called Beauford.

Quicker than I can type, you will be thinking of the four famous Beauford v Gloaming clashes and settling down with a glass of red to savour what was racing, as well as the spirit of racing, at its definitive best. But we must not get ahead of ourselves. Those glorious days await in the review of the 1922-23 racing year. Beauford’s rise to champion status the season before, in 1921-22, is the best kept secret I have come across in this Bluebloods HOTY series. It goes like this.

Unraced at two, Beauford was unplaced at his first three starts the following year before breaking his maiden with a six length win at Wallsend and then adding a second win at Newcastle three runs later. His lessee owner/trainer Sid Killick looked ahead and dared to think big.

As a four year old Beauford’s rise through the ranks began when the unheralded horse from the coalfields took out the open class Kensington Hcp at the AJC Spring Carnival when resuming and then backed up a week later to win the Chester Hcp on the last day of the meet. From there, Killick chose his races carefully and after winning the Railway Hcp at Rosehill in April, Beauford started the 3/1 favourite in the 1921 Doncaster Hcp, in which, beaten a length, he weighed-in third.

As the 1921-22 season dawned, Beauford’s record was six wins from 14 starts. To date, the horse had showcased natural talent while on an upward spiral but now Killick’s faith and patience were about to pay off in spades.

Alas, Beauford’s five year old season began not with a bang but a whimper. Actually we do not know that for certain as there are no reports on a long forgotten minor event at Newcastle, in which Beauford was unplaced under 10st 8lb. Beauford would not be beaten again in the 1921-22 season. More than that, Beauford won his next eight starts for the racing year without a glove being laid on him.

The AJC handicapper had also formed a positive opinion of the Novocastrian and when Beauford came to Randwick for the Tramway Hcp he was asked to carry 9st 10lb, although even then he was in receipt of 10lb from the established star sprinter/miler Greenstead. The task was beyond the topweight and Beauford, as was his custom, made play in front and was never in danger to win by two lengths from Greenstead with the smart sprinter Wish Wynne well beaten in third place.

On that performance Beauford looked a lock for the Epsom and his grip on the race tightened further when leading all the way to defeat Violoncello in the Hill Stakes in record time next time out. A fortnight later, Beauford returned to Randwick for his major spring mission and most punters were in his corner, sending out the angular five year old favourite at 7/4, with double figures available all bar one.

In the history of the Epsom to that time only a handful of horses had succeeded with 9st or more, but once again Beauford made the job look easy. Always in the leading division, the favourite went clear over the rise and it was a case of shut the gate as the horse simply bolted in, to win the famous Randwick mile by a comfortable 2.5 lengths. If that looked straightforward, Beauford then made hacks of the opposition, which included Furious, in the AJC’s feature weight-for-age event, the Craven Plate, the following Wednesday.

The distance was new ground for Beauford but it made no difference as he led throughout to win by three lengths claiming the Australian record for 10f in the process. Furious was beaten four lengths into third, behind the quality galloper Syce Knight in second place. Melbourne was not on the agenda however and the Craven Plate was Beauford’s finale that spring. It was also the last time the horse raced in Killick’s colours. His lease expired and in future Beauford would carry the more familiar set of white jacket, tartan sash and black cap of his owner, W.H. Mackay. Killick continued to train his stable star.

Beauford

Over summer, there was the usual media speculation as to whether the undisputed champions of Melbourne and Sydney would clash or possibly be joined from across the Tasman by the great Gloaming, although no one could be quite sure where or when that may happen. Beauford’s program was most likely to be aimed at the 1922 Doncaster Hcp, for which the horse from Newcastle was weighted above both Eurythmic and Gloaming.

Eurythmic was the first to return to the racetrack in the autumn and was immediately back in winning form when holding off the strong late challenge of the top class three year old colt, Harvest King, to win the St. George Stakes by a neck with the pacemaker, Sister Olive, holding on for the minor placing. Under the penalty and allowance conditions of the race, Eurythmic conceded the runner-up 33lb.

Now the champion’s connections threw a curve ball. In 1921 after the coal strike had forced the cancellation of the VATC’s feature autumn race meetings, Eurythmic held a nomination for both the Newmarket Hcp over 6f and the Essendon Stakes over 12f on the opening day of the VRC Carnival and it was only a day or two out that the stable declared for the longer race (which he duly won). The following year to the surprise of most, especially as the middle distance weight-for-age events at Flemington again seemed at his mercy, Eurythmic accepted for the Futurity Stakes as a lead-up to the Newmarket.

In the history of the Futurity Stakes, which at the time was one of the most valuable and prestigious races in Australia, no horse, not Phar Lap, not Ajax and not Bernborough, has carried more weight to victory than Eurythmic did in 1922. This was one of the chestnut’s finest hours, among so many.

Carrying a 20lb penalty over the scale and facing opposition that included Greenstead, Doncaster winner Speciality, Caulfield Guineas winner Demetrius and the Oakleigh Plate winner Wish Wynne, Eurythmic’s task was daunting and, I dare say, way beyond any lesser animal. With 10st 7lb (or 66.5kg today), Eurythmic’s winning margin over Wish Wynne was slender but once he found clear galloping room in the straight and headed the mare inside the furlong his great heart got him home by a neck. “The Argus” reported:
“Comparable only to the magnificent reception given to Eurythmic on Saturday was the reception Carbine met when he won the Melbourne Cup with 10st 5lb in 1890”.

Racegoers sure did know their racing back then as first prizemoney of £2,100 took the five year old’s total earnings to a new Australian record of £31,501, surpassing Carbine’s mark set 30 years earlier. Sadly, Greenstead broke down in the race and did not cross the line, but the gallant horse was saved for stud where the son of The Welkin proved a fine sire.

Eurythmic was then asked mission impossible, to attempt to win the Newmarket Hcp a week later under 10st 3lb. After all, this was the nation’s best middle-distance horse (under a crushing weight) taking on the best short-course horses in the land down the unfamiliar Straight Six. Even so, Eurythmic was the public elect among the rank and file on race morning, but the chestnut eased in the market on the day as the renowned horseman and punter, Eric Connolly, launched what turned out to be a brilliantly executed plunge on his quality sprinter, Rostrum, the eventual 4/1 favourite. In a large field and after striking interference at the start, the best the champion could do was to finish slightly better than midfield as Rostrum won with ease, sending bookmakers to the wall.

Wish Wynne had been runner-up to Eurythmic in the Futurity Stakes and the pair met again in the C. M. Lloyd Stakes over the Flemington mile five days later. True to form the mare made Jack Holt’s horse work hard for his victory but the odds-on favourite was too strong at the distance and came away over the final stages to win by 1.5 lengths, with Furious a well-beaten third.

Two days later, on his home track at Newcastle, Beauford returned from his summer spell to win an open handicap over 6f. But consider this. The five year old carried 11st 9lb (74kg) to victory while conceding the runner-up a mind-boggling 62lb (or 28kg). Beauford had come back in good form you could say!

As Eurythmic’s connections rested their horse ahead of his Sydney campaign and reviewed their options, Beauford went racing. The weight-for-age Rawson Stakes conducted by the Rosehill Race Club was far from the most valuable race in those days but because of its timing leading into the AJC Autumn Carnival, the event suited the programs trainers mapped out for the top flight. Thus, over the years, the race’s importance grew in stature and Sid Killick decided to go there with Beauford in 1922.
Although he had risen through the handicapping ranks, Beauford’s transition to racing under the scale was seamless. It was his destiny. The horse from Newcastle won the Rawson Stakes in a hand-canter, once again proving superior to Furious, defeating that filly into third place by a comfortable five lengths. Beauford’s grip on Doncaster favouritism immediately tightened but within a few days of this success, connections scratched the gelding from the Randwick mile and, in doing so, threw down the gauntlet to the reigning champion. Beauford’s next race would be the Autumn Stakes over 12f at Randwick on Easter Saturday, a head-to-head clash with the formidable Eurythmic at that horse’s most preferred trip.

From nine starts over the classic distance Eurythmic had won eight times but it could be said he had not met a horse with Beauford’s brilliant tactical speed, which was (and still is) the most powerful weapon when racing at weight-for-age. On the other hand, his rival had only raced beyond a mile twice, stretching out to victories in the Craven Plate at 10f and the Rawson Stakes over a furlong less. Their contrasting styles made for an absorbing contest between the best two racehorses of 1921-22 and over 90,000 racegoers came to Randwick to see for themselves.

A field of five accepted for the Autumn Stakes, as Beauford and Eurythmic were joined by the stayers Sister Olive, David and Salitros preparing for the Sydney Cup two days later.

The race also brought together two of the great jockeys of the era, Frank Dempsey from Melbourne on Eurythmic and the outstanding Sydney-based rider, Albert Wood, on his regular mount, Beauford. Wood may not be as well remembered as Dempsey these days but his reputation at the time was first-class, with a collection of feature race wins aboard the outstanding classic winners Cetigne, Wolaroi and Richmond Main as well the 1920 Sydney Cup on Kennaquhair in the seasons prior.

Speed maps were a long way in the future in 1922 but the likely race pattern of the Autumn Stakes would have been clear to the 90,000 in attendance well before starting time. None of his rivals could (or would want to) match Beauford’s early speed and when the field passed the winning post with a lap to go the gelding had a clear 2-3 length advantage from Eurythmic, followed by Sister Olive, Salitros and then David. Wood’s task was to rate Beauford to perfection and draw on the horse’s undoubted brilliance over a distance at which many doubted the brilliant horse.

Entering the long back straight with a mile to run the horse from Newcastle had doubled his lead as the field following continued to race in indian file. At the half-mile Dempsey urged his mount closer but Wood had given Beauford an easy furlong or two and coming to the home turn he again sent the son of Beau Soult on.

This time Eurythmic had no answer and over the famous Randwick rise the race was as good as over with Beauford streaking away from the odds-on favourite for a famous victory as Eurythmic conceded second place to Sister Olive in the final stages. The winning margin was four lengths with two lengths between second and third. Hats were thrown in the air and all and sundry congratulated Beauford’s sporting connections on a sublime performance. I suspect not many horses and jockeys of any era would have bettered the Beauford/Albert Wood combination that day, as owner Mackay and trainer Killick shared the limelight, deservedly so.

Four days later Beauford backed up into the All-Aged Plate over a mile against five rivals including the Doncaster winner Julia Grey, although none were given a chance of upsetting the 1/10 favourite. And so it proved with Beauford coasting home an easy winner in track record time from Tangalooma with Julia Grey “a bad third”.

Beauford’s season was now over. He had won eight of his nine starts and £10,726 for the racing year, mostly in top class company. The five year old had carried weight above the scale when winning the Epsom under handicap conditions and had developed into an irresistible force at weight-for-age thereafter. Beauford could hardly have done more.

Eurythmic also raced once again during the AJC Autumn Carnival, but was well below his best when only third of four to David (ridden by Albert Wood) and Furious in the Cumberland Plate over two miles. His connections licked their wounds and puzzled over the Sydney form of their star galloper. But perhaps, in hindsight, the answer was the Futurity Stakes. Champions such as Phar Lap and Ajax were destined to win the same race under the maximum 20lb penalty only for their magnificent winning runs to come to an end soon after. I have no doubt the 1922 Futurity Stakes took something out of Eurythmic. By the same token his excellent record for 1921-22 was in the order of 12-7-1-2, but with earnings of over £3,000 less than his NSW nemesis.

The Bluebloods HOTY for 1921-22 is a match between Beauford and Eurythmic. There have been many seasons when either’s record for the year would be sufficient for a clear victory, but that is not the way things work as we know.

Beauford and Eurythmic raced on with success in 1922-23 but the pair did not meet again. For the former, there was a date with destiny.