‘Caranna’ and the Cobcrofts

‘Caranna’ and the Cobcrofts

Featured Image: Denise and John Cobcroft at a Sydney ball in 1974

Picture: Rick Stevens     Caroline Overington       The Australian   12:00AM November 1, 2017       Sydney

I’ve labelled this as being about a really good race horse ‘Carannna’ but he’s actually only the lynchpin. It’s all about his owners; the Cobcroft Family of ‘Willowtree’. If you want to know about Caranna the racehorse and stallion visit Ian Ibbett’s great website:


The story of ‘Caranna’s win in the 1955 AJC Derby is a great one. The Cobcroft Brothers Gavin and Arthur were the very fabric of the then ruling rural realm of extremely successful farmers and graziers. They were also the embodiment of the post-WWII veterans who returned to a ‘land of plenty’ in the massive wool boom of the same era. They were hedonistic as well as halcyon days. They all deserved their rich rewards. Fellow genre grazier and North African veteran J K Thompson of ‘Ballantyne’, Cassillis ran second in the Sydney Cup of 1955 with ‘Gay Rannick’. The winners’ enclosure would have resounded wildly and loudly to the bards from the bush. I’ll wager there were some massive side-bets and negotiable bragging rights?

Gavin’s sons Brien and Johnny didn’t miss anything either and made the most of their bountiful opportunities. It was said of Lord George Byron that ‘he was bad, mad and dangerous to know’. That probably came from the pens of his irascible adversaries and jilted lovers? There were elements of Byron about the Cobcroft boys albeit with a distinctive Aussie flavour.  Johnny in particular was a dab hand at reciting Banjo’s poetry. Sydney icon nightclubs ‘Chequers’ and ‘The Latin Quarter’ were their favourite hunting grounds. Palm Beach, the ‘Cabbage Tree Club’ and the ‘Pacific Club’ were for rest, recovery and rehabilitation. Nonetheless Brien and Johnny were great fun to know; if you had an iron constitution, unlimited stamina and indestructible liver! I feel privileged to have known them both quite well. Somehow I survived.

I have an apocryphal but true story of a great night out I enjoyed with Denise Cobcroft. It was after a big day at Royal Randwick Races. Quite a few of us were left quaffing large flutes of champagne in Percy Sykes’ personal domain near the unsaddling enclosure. Denise had been modelling a beautiful fur coat with radio star Bob Rogers as the host. Johnny had to fly home early to Quirindi. Eventually I was left with Denise who did not want to go home. She suggested that we ‘do the pubs in Paddington’? I was a trifle reticent but soon acquiesced without much more persuasion. We had a fabulous night out. Denise escorted me ‘like a dog on a leash’ around some joints I’d never ever seen. Everyone knew her. She was a charming hostess. I’ve often wondered what they thought of this vapid little wimp she’d collared for the evening? I never ever did find out; and I don’t think Johnny did either!

As for ‘Caranna’; he finished his undistinguished stud career at Geoff and Bev Adams ‘Sans Tache’ Stud Farm, Dry Creek Road, Parkville, near Scone. I think the Adams’ Charolais Cattle showed more dash than most of the progeny of Caranna? Denise had a heart of gold as depicted as follows:

Denise Cobcroft estate offers amazing donation


Brent Zerafa@brentzerafa

15 July, 2017

A donation of $400,000 has been made to the National Jockeys Trust with a blessing from Denise Cobcroft, the single biggest donation since its inception in 2004.

The donation was made at the National Jockeys Trust luncheon at Caulfield on Saturday by the Denise Cobcroft Breeding Trust.

The Trust was established as a result of a conversation that Denise had with Bob Charley prior to her passing.

Charley explained that Cobcroft made a plea for him to continue breeding with her mares and that the proceeds would be used to help injured jockeys.

“Denise Cobcroft was known as a charismatic, warm-hearted, titian-haired beauty with dancer’s legs and abiding love of animals. It was Denise’s desire that the money should benefit injured jockeys so it gives the Trustees great satisfaction to have been able to fulfil the wishes of this beautiful friend,” said Bob Charley AO.

Charley is one of three Trustees along with Peter Brown and Fred Moses.

“The bequest from the Breeding Estate of Denise Cobcroft is the largest donation ever received by the National Jockeys Trust,” said Paul Innes, Chairman of the National Jockeys Trust.

“It is extremely humbling to formally acknowledge this donation, on behalf of the National Jockeys Trust Board of Trustees and most importantly the beneficiaries of the National Jockeys Trust.

“We would like to thank the Trustees Peter Brown, Bob Charley AO and Fred Moses for their management of the Trust and for making this presentation.”

Denise Cobcroft was the daughter of a Hollywood actor and her Uncle was an Oscar winner. She was a dancer in London and worked in film and theatre across New York, Paris and New Zealand.

She eventually came to Melbourne and appeared on the Don Lane and Barry Creighton Shows before forming a strong affinity with animals.

Denise met her husband and soul mate of four decades at the 1966 Singleton Horseshow. John was a wonderful horseman, playing polo for Australia alongside brother Brian who represented Australia in the Olympic Games.

John and Denise made a striking couple, who loved their life on the horse and cattle property Parraweena, where Denise continued her great passion for horses, dogs and breeding and judging poultry.

Denise Cobcroft passed away in 2010, five years after her husband John in 2005.

The Cobcroft racing story beings with the success of Caranna (1955 AJC Derby, Rosehill Guineas, Caulfield Guineas etc); raced by John’s father. The Cobcrofts raced and/or bred many stakes winners including Salaam, Big Circle, Hot as Hell, Flaming Hot, Pekalan, Momentaire, Key Issue.