The Missing Years 1932 -1933, 1933-1934

 

That the likely favourite for our Bluebloods 1932/33 HOTY started his triumphant season as a one-start maiden is a unique achievement. But then again, much about Peter Pan was forever unique.

A midfield finish in a Two Year Old Hcp at Randwick over 6f in the last weeks of Autumn was hardly a portent of the great things to come. But the elegant son of Pantheon and Alwina soon set about creating his own legend and not long into the 1932/33 racing year, the racehorse Peter Pan would become a household name.

When resuming at three at Warwick Farm on 27 August in a Novice Hcp over a mile, the chestnut colt was the well-supported 5/2 favourite on the back of solid stable support and in a deceptive finish, Peter Pan shared the honours with the 5/1 chance Babili, the supporters of each receiving half the face value of the straight-out ticket, to use a term from the era. On the same programme, Peter Pan’s warrior stablemate, Amounis, ran his last race when unplaced in the Warwick Stakes, the poignant significance of which must have struck an everlasting chord with their trainer Frank McGrath and his stable. The four year old Chatham returned to racing in ominous form when winning the Campbelltown Hcp on his way to a brilliant Spring campaign.

Peter Pan’s win was encouraging to be sure, but in restricted grade, and the colt was generally quoted on the sixth line of betting for the AJC Derby following the race, with the market leaders being the much-vaunted New Zealander Gaine Carrington and Kuvera, the outstanding two year old of the season before, as well as the promising Oro.

Frank McGrath chose not to run his rising star in the traditional Derby lead-up, the Rosehill Guineas, but saddled up Peter Pan for the 1932 Hill Stakes where the colt took on a field of quality older horses, headed by Nightmarch and Johnnie Jason. Under his lighter weight, Peter Pan raced on the pace and after taking the lead early in the straight, Peter Pan justified his connections’ confidence when running out a comfortable winner over the 1929 Melbourne Cup winner and the 1931 Victoria Derby winner. The AJC Derby market was turned on its head.

A fortnight later, Peter Pan took his place in the Randwick Blue Riband as the 3/1 second favourite behind Gaine Carrington, which had defeated Kuvera at weight-for-age when landing the Chelmsford Stakes as his final lead-up. The Rosehill Guineas winner, Bronze Hawk, was ineligible for the classic, being a gelding, but the placegetters from that race, Kuvera and Oro, had support slightly wider in the betting.

Jim Pike rode Peter Pan for the first time and the pair had the race in control throughout with the chestnut colt having a comfortable 1.5 length margin over Oro on the line. Kuvera finished third while Gaine Carrington, a future Caulfield Cup winner, was at the rear. Peter Pan at just his fourth race start had won Sydney’s richest and most prestigious race in the style of an outstanding three year old. Melbourne and a date with destiny now beckoned.

The bar was raised again at Peter Pan’s next start when contesting the Caulfield Cup a fortnight after Randwick. In a field of twenty, Peter Pan was second elect at 7/2 behind the local Induna, with 10/1 available bar two. Slowly away, Peter Pan was last at the half-way mark before commencing a lightning move around the field to be in touch with the leaders by the home turn but not for the first time or the last time, Caulfield brought about the undoing of a Sydney galloper.

The horse and his rider, Andy Knox, were all at sea down the straight and Peter Pan eventually weighed-in fourth to the runaway winner, Rogilla, the first meeting of the two great horses. Rogilla, two years older, but carrying only 5lbs more, had finished runner-up to Chatham in the Epsom Hcp and to Denis Boy in The Metropolitan two days later. Overcoming feet issues in the days before the Cup, Rogilla was backed from 15/1 into 10/1 on race day.

Even so, Peter Pan’s effort was impressive enough for him to be promoted to Melbourne Cup favouritism but having not been nominated for the Victoria Derby, the Melbourne Stakes on Derby Day saw a return clash with Rogilla under much more favourable weight-for-age conditions for the lightly-raced colt. Peter Pan had a new rider, the lightweight Bill Duncan, the 10-times Champion Victorian Jockey, and they were backed to the exclusion of the rest to start at 6/4. Duncan would also win the title in the year under review.

The 1932 Melbourne Stakes was run at a moderate tempo and after jumping cleanly Peter Pan was shuffled back in the 9-runner field coming to the turn. There was still some work to do entering the Flemington straight but the Sydney colt’s class shown through as he picked up the leaders in a few strides and went on to win with something in hand from Rogilla with Middle Watch third, the winning margin a length.

A handful of three year olds had won the Melbourne Stakes, but none since Loyalty in 1893, while the only Melbourne Stakes – Melbourne Cup winners in the same year to that time were the legends Carbine, Malua and Phar Lap. The Melbourne Cup was the next assignment for Frank McGrath’s brilliant colt, aiming to create history of his own.

The Caulfield Guineas winner Liberal, a son of Windbag, won the Victoria Derby in style from Gaine Carrington to come into Cup favour as the second favourite but Peter Pan held sway in the market at a general quote of 7/2 to 4/1.

If Peter Pan had been beaten in the 1932 Melbourne Cup, the legitimate excuse was there for all to see. Film footage of the race and the severe interference to Peter Pan midway still makes one’s jaw drop all these years later, despite the result we all know. Travelling smoothly and well within himself in the run down the Maribyrnong River side, calamity struck soon after and the favourite all but hit the deck when caught up in the turbulence coming from all sides. About sixth at the time, Peter Pan went back to worse than midfield at a critical stage of the great race.

Champion jockeys are just that for a very good reason, and Bill Duncan was a champion jockey aboard a champion horse in the hands of a champion trainer. There was no panic. As the Cup field entered the straight, most had written off Peter Pan’s winning chances with the colt somewhere in the ruck approaching the final furlong as the Moonee Valley Gold Cup winner, Yarramba, sprinted to the lead.

What happened next was simply breathtaking. Somehow, at the distance, Duncan found clear galloping room and sensing the horsepower underneath him, the jockey now asked Peter Pan for the supreme effort. Switched to inside of Yarramba, Peter Pan finished like an arrow to win the Melbourne Cup going away, against all odds, at only his seventh start.

Everyone is allowed a favourite Melbourne Cup, and so, I now confess, the 1932 renewal is mine.
In the Autumn, Peter Pan remained in Sydney and consolidated his ranking among the all-time great Australian three year olds by winning four of his five starts against all comers.

First-up, the glamour colt defeated Rogilla by a length in the Randwick Stakes over that track’s famous mile course, before a barrier mishap next time out saw Peter Pan unplaced in the Rawson Stakes, won by Lough Neagh. An aberration, and the great horse soon bounced back to winning form adding the AJC St. Leger, defeating Oro and Kuvera again, the Cumberland Plate and the AJC Plate at the Sydney Autumn Carnival within the space of a week, although Lough Neagh’s sterling finish made the latter race a close call.

Peter Pan’s classic year was now over with an outstanding 11-9-0-0 record. Dominant against his own age, six of his wins had been against the older horses, under both handicap and weight-for-age conditions. A maiden on Day One of the season, a household name soon after, a legend to this day.

While it could be said that Peter Pan and his connections were aristocrats of the turf, Rogilla was a touch more “common folks”, a term the famous US racing writer Joe H. Palmer once used to describe the American handicap champion Stymie, comparing that horse to, say, the bluebloods Man o’War or Calumet’s Whirlaway.

An angular, ungainly type at best, Rogilla was a late bloomer for his lessee owner/trainer Les Haigh, a proud Novocastrian. The horse was bred by Hunter White of Havilah, Mudgee but was leased to Haigh throughout his racing career. At his ninth start, Rogilla had won the Vaucluse Hcp at the AJC’s 1932 Autumn Carnival and in the new season Haigh set his promising five year old an ambitious programme.

Third-up Rogilla dead-heated with the brilliant Chatham in a division of the Tramway Hcp at Randwick, when in receipt of 12lbs, before winning the Camellia Stakes at Rosehill in his final lead-up to the Epsom Hcp. Again, Rogilla squared off against Chatham with the latter the public elect at 4/1 ahead of Johnnie Jason on the next line with Rogilla and Winooka at 7/1.

Punters got it right as Chatham held out Rogilla this time to win the Epsom by a half-length with Winooka third. Chatham raced in third place most of the way before easily running to the front in the straight and while Rogilla made a late charge from the pack, Chatham’s victory was never in doubt over the closing stages. The win gave jockey Jim Pike the Epsom/Derby double.

Two days later Rogilla backed up in the 1932 The Metropolitan. To that stage, the son of the Hurry On stallion Roger de Busli (also sire of Oro) had not raced beyond a mile although his bloodlines and racing pattern suggested stamina. This time Rogilla raced more prominently but he was clearly outstayed late by the imported Denis Boy, a stablemate of Peter Pan, and was beaten by the same margin as in the Epsom.

Rogilla then bolted away with the Caulfield Cup to win by panels before finishing second to Peter Pan in the Melbourne Stakes. On that form, the gelding was well fancied for the Melbourne Cup but at the end of a long preparation, Rogilla could finish only midfield.

In the Autumn, Rogilla won twice from 7 starts highlighted by success in the 1933 Sydney Cup. Like Peter Pan, Les Haigh’s horse had come a long way during the racing year with victories in two of Australia’s major Cups and while his record for the season of 16-5-5-1 was top class, Rogilla’s best was still to come.

Two of the first foals sired by the great champion of the ‘20s, Windbag, were colts from the mares Kanooka and Myosotis and were bred by Percy Miller although Miller did not stand the home-bred 1925 Melbourne Cup winner at his Kia Ora Stud at Scone. Both dams were daughters of Gloaming’s excellent sire The Welkin and the colts were sold one after the other at the 1930 Wm. Inglis & Son Easter Yearling Sale, with the Kanooka colt realising 200gns and the Myosotis colt 650gns. They would race as Winooka and Chatham.

Winooka began his career with Tim Brosnan in Queensland but was moved to the Sydney stables of Mick Polson as a three year old in 1931/32, having won his second start at Eagle Farm by 4 lengths the previous March. Although winning only twice in his classic year, Winooka ran boldly when runner-up in the VRC Newmarket Hcp and he was placed in the All-Aged Stakes after that.

At four, Winooka’s form hit new heights. The entire won the 2nd Division of the Camellia Stakes at Rosehill first-up and then led in the Epsom Hcp before weighing-in third to Chatham and Rogilla in a vintage renewal. On Cox Plate Day, Mick Polson’s horse won the Dundonald Hcp over 6f before finishing second to Denis Boy in the Cantala Stakes the following week and third to Chatham in the Linlithgow Stakes on Oaks Day.

In the Autumn, Winooka raced in scintillating form, winning 6 of his 8 starts and no one doubted that he was at the top of the sprinter/miler ranks by the close of the AJC Autumn Carnival. Winooka’s two defeats were in the Oakleigh Plate first-up when beaten a head by the lightweight Imbrani, conceding that horse 23lbs, and in the Newmarket Hcp when a close fourth to the brilliant Waltzing Lily under 9st 8lbs on a wet track.

In between those two races Winooka defeated Kuvera and Gaine Carrington in the Futurity Stakes by 3.5 lengths and a week after the famous Flemington Straight Six, the Windbag horse had no trouble winning the Leonard Stakes over the same course with 9st 13lbs defeating the 1931 Newmarket winner Parkwood in a time 3 seconds quicker than Waltzing Lily’s. Parkwood was again a distant runner-up when Winooka thrashed him and Waltzing Lily (4th) in a Quality Hcp at Moonee Valley over the sprint course 9 days later. The Valley race was held midweek, and part of what was termed the Eight Hours Day meeting.

Winooka then made his triumphant return to Sydney racing. The four year old won the 1933 Doncaster Hcp with 9st 13lbs, the second highest weight ever carried to victory in Randwick’s historic mile, and then added the All-Aged Stakes over the same course a few days later and the inaugural running of the C. W. Cropper Plate over 6f a few days after that.

It was not just Winooka’s victories that stand out, it was also the dashing barrier-to-box manner in which they were achieved. When defeating the 1932 winner, Jacko in the Doncaster, Winooka under topweight made all the running and set a course record. He led throughout at his two other wins that week winning by 5 lengths both times, prompting one journalist of the day to write that Winooka gave “the greatest exhibition of galloping ever seen at Randwick”. Coming not that long after Phar Lap’s dominance and, perhaps more interestingly, over the same week that Peter Pan also won 3 times, there is certainly food for thought in that comment.

Winooka’s record for the year was 13-8-2-2, his only unplaced run being the Newmarket, when fourth.
The efforts of Winooka, Chatham and the Derby winner, Liberal throughout the year saw Windbag finish second to Heroic on the General Sires’ Premiership, by an ever so narrow margin. Peter Pan’s sire, Pantheon, was third. It is a most unusual situation therefore that the oldest progeny of the three leading sires of the year were just four year olds in the case of Heroic and Windbag and three year olds for Pantheon. The three stallions had had many battles on the track in their day too, but we will get to that in due course.

There was a subtle but important aptitudinal difference between Windbag’s sons Winooka and Chatham. Whereas the former was never tried beyond a mile, extending Chatham beyond that proved no problem as his record in such races as the Craven Plate and Cox Plate shows.

Chatham’s status as one of Australia’s greatest racehorses is without question and his form in the Spring of 1932 was sensational with six wins from seven starts that term. Following the Epsom, Chatham defeated the proven WFA star Veilmond in the Craven Plate over 10f and then as the 10/9 favourite, he won the first of his two Cox Plates from Viol d’Amour and Johnnie Jason to make it five wins in succession as a four year old for his new trainer, Frank Williams.

Backing up on Derby Day in the Cantala Stakes, Chatham’s winning run came to an end when fourth to the versatile Denis Boy under 9st 6lbs but all was right a few days later when the great horse took out his second Linlithgow Stakes by a hollow 3 lengths to round out a superb campaign.
As a three year old Chatham had raced in great heart during the Spring only for his form to fall away during the Autumn. The same proved to be the case the following season, when Chatham failed to win in four starts in the early months of 1933, with minor placings in the C. F. Orr Stakes and C. M. Lloyd Stakes when only third at 10/1 representing form well below the horse’s best. Chatham’s record for the year was 11-6-1-1 but like Rogilla, Chatham had more to give.

As did Peter Pan. The golden era of Australian racing was far from over. The irony being that there are many seasons in which any one of the year’s four outstanding nominees would have been a clear cut and most worthy Bluebloods HOTY.

Peter Pan’s return to racing was delayed until the Autumn of 1934. In the early weeks of the new season, the chestnut was back at Frank McGrath’s Randwick stables but the master trainer could sense all was not right with his stable star, who was found to be tying up in his left shoulder. He ordered a further spell.

Winooka on the other hand followed Phar Lap’s trail to the USA and raced exclusively there, in match races, as a five year old. Mick Polson’s apprentice, the Hall of Fame jockey Edgar Britt, who had ridden the horse to win the 1933 Futurity Stakes was sent to ride.

But three of the best horses of the early ‘thirties had seasons to remember and once again it is fair to say that in many years any one would have been a clear-cut Bluebloods HOTY. Either Chatham, Rogilla or the three year old Hall Mark.

Chatham’s outstanding Spring form had no doubt delighted connections in the two years previous just as his sudden loss of form in the New Year must have had them perplexed. To put it simply, the horse made a whistling noise at speed and the obvious conclusion was that the son of Windbag may be a roarer. But veterinary opinion said otherwise and so, acting on that advice, the horse was bled at the end of his four year old campaign. With astonishing results, even though the horse continued to make a noise for the rest of his career.

At five, Chatham began the new season in form equally as brilliant as the year before. He added the Warwick Stakes, the Canterbury Stakes and the Hill Stakes to his already impressive CV, winning by panels each time, before defending his Epsom title with a magnificent win in the Randwick mile under 9st 10lbs. After bungling the start, he ran down Regal Son conceding 31lbs to the horse which would win The Metropolitan the following Monday.

On the middle day of the AJC’s Spring Carnival, Chatham won his second Craven Plate in a 3-way thriller from Kuvera and Lough Neagh before another brief but outstanding Melbourne Spring campaign.

The year before Chatham had gone to the Cox Plate directly from the Craven Plate, but now connections decided on the Caulfield Stakes 10 days later as his next start. Starting at a shade of odds-on, Jim Pike dictated terms from the front and let Chatham slide around the home turn and although the strong stayer Middle Watch made ground, Chatham and Pike were always in control down the running to win in record time.

During his career, Chatham ran up several sequences of victories and going into the 1933 Cox Plate it was six on the trot, his longest ever winning run, but it came to an end when he was beaten into fourth place behind Rogilla that year, the winner finishing at a great rate to win going away.
As he had done the two previous years, Chatham rounded out his Spring campaign with a comprehensive victory in the Linlithgow Stakes over the Flemington mile on Oaks Day, defeating the 1933 Newmarket Hcp winner Waltzing Lily by 2.5 lengths.

Autumn had not seen Chatham at his best as a younger horse, but in the early months of 1934 the son of Windbag was in great heart winning four of his five starts beginning with the WFA Randwick Stakes in early March. This event saw Peter Pan return to racing as a four year old but Chatham was in no danger at any stage and bolted in by 4 lengths from Lough Neagh while Peter Pan was fourth of the five starters at his first run for 11 months.

The pair of champions met again in the Rawson Stakes over 9f a fortnight later with Rogilla adding further interest to the contest following his flashing finish to dead-heat in the Denman Stakes. But Chatham had an off day every now and then and second-up he was headed by Lough Neagh on straightening before Rogilla put in his winning burst. Peter Pan was caught in traffic before finishing best of all for second place. Chatham was fourth but to be fair, this was an outstanding race fought out by horses of the highest class.

However, the loss was only a blip on Chatham’s radar and at his next three starts over the AJC Autumn Carnival his legend was secured. With a significant turnaround in the Doncaster weights compared to the Rawson Stakes, it is little wonder punters preferred Rogilla to Chatham, with the former sent to the post the 6/4 elect and the latter at 6/1. Chatham was to carry 10st 4lbs, Rogilla 9st 5lbs. Rain on the day made for a heavy track.

Ridden by Jim Pike, Chatham missed the start by a length or two and while there was nothing flashy about his historic victory, the champion fought off challenge after challenge to win the 1934 Doncaster Hcp by a half-head. Rogilla settled a long way off the pace and ran on for seventh, about 2 lengths away. The time for the mile was 1.40.5, almost 5 seconds outside the race record, a clear indication of the state of the going.

Chatham had equalled the Doncaster’s weight-carrying record held by Marvel, the 1892 winner. The pair share the title to this day and will hold it for a good while yet. Both were marvels.

The following Wednesday, Chatham and Rogilla faced off again in the All-Aged Stakes over the same course, but back to weight-for-age conditions. This time, Chatham was odds-on with Rogilla at 20/1 (which seems good value all these years on), but the great miler was in sparkling form and ran out a comfortable winner from the well-fancied Kuvera with Rogilla next.

Three days later, Chatham was saddled up for his third race of the week, his last race of the season, and cruised home to win the C. W. Cropper Plate over 6f by 2.5 lengths from the Doncaster runner-up, Golden Wings. Chatham had emulated Winooka with those three carnival wins and that victory rounded out a simply magnificent 13-11-0-0 year, a record at weight-for-age and under handicap conditions that only a few of any era could match.

Counting dead-heats, Rogilla had won 10 races from 25 starts prior to 1933/34, but in that season, Les Haigh’s 6YO won another 11 times from his 17 starts, which also included two split decisions. Already a star with victories in the Caulfield Cup and the Sydney Cup, Rogilla now took on the best all year round, sometimes at distances to which he was unsuited and sometimes when least expected to win, he won. His underdog status certainly just seemed to fit. Drawing a line through Rogilla, we can piece together the 1933/34 racing year.

Throughout his career, Rogilla came to hand quickly and first-up in August 1933 he dead-heated in a 6f Flying Hcp at his home track at Broadmeadow. Which on its own would seem unremarkable, except that he carried 10st 9lbs that day and was tailed-off early.

Placed third to Chatham and Kuvera in the Warwick Stakes next time out, Rogilla then won the Chelmsford Stakes and Spring Stakes at two of his next three starts, with an unplaced effort behind Chatham in the Hill Stakes in between. Unplaced as the 7/4 favourite in The Metropolitan, Rogilla bounced back to win the Randwick Plate over 2 miles later in the week for his fourth win of the season.

Shipped to Melbourne with the Cup his main mission, Rogilla upset Chatham in the Cox Plate, the one and only time the latter was beaten that Spring and added the Melbourne Stakes on Derby Day to start 5/2 favourite for the Melbourne Cup. But just as he had done the year before, Rogilla made no show in the two miler and beat only a few home, the race going to the outstanding dual Derby winner, Hall Mark.

Rogilla backed up the following Saturday in the C. B. Fisher Plate and the result was the same as the Melbourne Stakes when the chestnut won with Gaine Carrington and Kuvera again filling the placings.

Following his win in the Rawson Stakes in the Autumn, Rogilla came back in distance to 6f to win the Liverpool Hcp as his final Doncaster trial but Chatham, in his peak performance, proved superior in that race and again in the All-Aged Stakes a few days later.

But Rogilla’s biggest payday for the season was still to come. It was Randwick’s turn to host the valuable King’s Cup over the classic distance and it attracted a strong field under its Quality Handicap conditions. Peter Pan was topweight with 9st 5lbs giving Rogilla 2lbs and the four year old started the public elect at 3/1, a point shorter than Rogilla. The ever-popular son of Pantheon was back in winning form with victories in the Autumn Plate and Cumberland Plate at weight-for-age during the week, while Hall Mark, Oro and Kuvera were there too, as well as some lightly-weighted stayers which were given a chance at the handicaps.

The 1934 King’s Cup was an epic won by Rogilla in a thrilling, as well as controversial, finish. The drama came about in the straight as after reaching the lead Peter Pan rolled away from the rails towards the challenging Kuvera only for Darby Munro on Rogilla to seize the half-chance and coax his mount through the narrowest of gaps on the favourite’s inside. So tight did the trio race over the final stages that the result was in doubt until the final strides with Rogilla edging ahead to win from Peter Pan and Kuvera in a race for the ages.

Rogilla’s record for the year was 17-11-0-2 and even though his prizemoney earnings for the season were less than in 1932/33, I think this was Les Haigh’s heavyweight, with a Joe Frazier-like left hook, at his peak.

After being beaten in his first 5 starts the year before, Hall Mark then won 4 races in a row including the AJC Sires’ Produce Stake and Champagne Stakes to end his juvenile year as the nation’s leading two year old. Much was therefore expected of the son of Heroic in the new season with a programme aimed at the classics and all being well, the Cup.

Beaten first-up in three year old company under a big weight, Hall Mark won the Underwood Stakes from Waltzing Lily before that very good mare turned the tables in the Memsie Stakes a week later with the 100/1 chance Break Up splitting the pair. Three runs back had readied Jack Holt’s colt for the first of his major assignments, the 1933 AJC Derby.

Sydneysiders had seen Hall Mark in the Autumn and were well aware of his ability but the Rosehill Guineas winner Blixten, another good’un by Night Raid, held a narrow call in the market at 7/4 although Hall Mark firmed on the day from 3/1 to 2/1 on the back of his stable’s confidence. Although the time for the race was only moderate, Hall Mark won the Derby easily in the manner of a top class colt from Deputy Ruler with Blixten weakening into third place, over 4 lengths adrift of the winner.

Hall Mark came back to the mile of Caulfield Guineas the following Saturday but was upset by the front-running 16/1 chance Palphar with another of the year’s best colts, Limarch, doing well for third. When the dust had settled and thoughts turned to the Victoria Derby, Hall Mark and Blixten were the two most fancied again, with the Heroic colt on the top line at 9/4.

There was no loafing in the Flemington Blue Riband as Palphar again attempted an all-the-way win, but Hall Mark sailed past to win in a breeze by 5 widening lengths equalling Phar Lap’s race record in doing so. All looked bright for the Melbourne Cup, but Hall Mark was one lame horse following the Derby, with the diagnosis an infection in an injured heel. As the news spread like wildfire amid rumours that the colt would not run, Hall Mark’s quote drifted to 10/1 for the Melbourne Cup.

And while his place in the field was in doubt until the morning of the race, somehow Jack Holt had his horse fit enough to run after days and nights of around the clock care. Darby Munro rode Hall Mark in his Derby victories, but the Cup mount went to the apprentice, Jack O’Sullivan, who had been beaten on the colt in the Guineas. Once a confirmed starter, Hall Mark was soon into 4/1 second favourite, behind Rogilla.

O’Sullivan rode a race beyond his years, settling Hall Mark on the rails a few lengths off the pace before producing him approaching the furlong mark. History shows that Hall Mark was not an out-and-out stayer in the manner of Peter Pan, the 1932 Cup winning three year old, but his acceleration at the critical moment is what won the day. Hall Mark dashed to the front inside the distance and although the proven older stayers Shadow King and Gaine Carrington and others made late ground, Hall Mark’s advantage was just enough to get him home.

Hall Mark had emulated Grand Flaneur, Chester, Poseidon, Prince Foote and Trivalve as winners of the AJC and Victoria Derbies as well as the Melbourne Cup in their classic years, where Phar Lap and Manfred among others had fallen just short. No three year old since has achieved that treble and it is noteworthy that Trivalve’s wins in those races just 6 years earlier had returned double the prizemoney won by Hall Mark in the Depression era.

The Heroic colt did not reach the same heights in his Autumn campaign, but he raced well most times with 2 wins and 3 placings from 6 starts. He was beaten into second place by Gaine Carrington in the Williamstown Stakes first-up over 10f and then by the three year old Danilo in the St. George Stakes. While we recognise that race as being run at weight-for-age, the conditions were weight-for-age with penalties and allowances so that Hall Mark, carrying a penalty, had to concede Danilo, given the allowance, 20lbs on the day only to be beaten a half-neck.

Hall Mark then had a series of stirring clashes with the high-class three year old Limarch, dead-heating with that colt in the VRC St. Leger after looking likely to score comfortably inside the final furlong, but then winning outright by a neck in the King’s Plate a few days later with something in hand as Limarch rallied late under strong riding.

Hall Mark had not been beaten in Sydney and was returned as the odds-on favourite for the AJC St. Leger against two long time and most worthy rivals, Limarch and Blixten. After setting a moderate tempo on a heavy track, Hall Mark led at the distance but was outstayed over the final stages by the winner Limarch, who just had the better of Blixten on the line and although beaten less than a length, the result for Hall Mark was seen as disappointing.

Unplaced in Rogilla’s King’s Cup at his final start at three, Hall Mark nevertheless had had an outstanding 13-6-4-2 season. The game, little horse would continue to be among the nation’s best over the next two years.

Published February 2016