Ken Howard: Prince of Race Callers

Ken Howard: Prince of Race Callers

Featured Image: Hilton Cope and Ken Howard at White Park Racecourse, Scone on Saturday 5th June 1976

The caption reads:

Discussing the progress of Saturday’s Trainers Day race meeting were the “Prince of Race Callers” Ken Howard, and new race club committeeman, former jockey Hilton Cope. Ken Howard received a standing ovation for his description of the Ken Howard Intermediate Cup and greatly pleased the committee with his offer to return again next year.

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The Breeding Scene & the Melbourne Cup

The Breeding Scene & the Melbourne Cup

Listen also audio: The Upper Hunter and the Melbourne Cup have a lot more links than you think – Breakfast – ABC Radio

By Harley Walden 2005

Featured Image: Peter Pan in the AJC Autumn Plate at Randwick in 1935. Peter Pan won the Melbourne Cup in 1932 and 1934

Whenever a new champion arrives on the racing scene or a new stud opens its quest into the breeding arena memories are rekindled of a stud that produced so many great racehorses. In this article I have outlined the deeds and connection Kia Ora Stud, Scone had with Australia’s premier staying race, the Melbourne Cup.

Since its foundation as a breeding property in 1912 the famous thoroughbred nursery over the next fifty years could be described as the doyen of other noted properties. It has featured in the principal races of Australia and the USA but its importance in the Melbourne Cup must be particularly stressed. The latter is the main distance handicap on the racing calendar.

Thirteen years after Percy Miller founded “Kia Ora” and under the spectacular management of A W (Bert) Riddle, “Kia Ora” produced the mighty Windbag the winner of many WFA races culminating in a record breaking win in the 1924 Melbourne Cup. Windbag, by Magpie (imp.) from Charleville was a real tonic for the Scone district.

Three years later another Melbourne Cup winner merged from the same establishment. This time it was Statesman by Demosthenes (imp.) from the imported mare Marcelle. A number of years since the Statesman year, in which all three placegetters were reared on “Kia Ora”, the second horse was Strephon by Saltash. Strephon was rated good enough to ship to England to throw down the gauntlet to the best horse racing in the old country; unfortunately he failed to acclimatise and never produced his Australian form. The third placegetter, Demost, was also by Demosthenes.

Other notable Cup horses owe their existence to the famous Upper Hunter breeding establishment. Foremost among these would be Peter Pan, bred by Mr Rodney Dangar of “Baroona”, Singleton, but certainly sired by, although not at the time of conception, by a “Kia Ora” based stallion, Pantheon (imp.), himself placed third in the two-miler as a six-year-old carrying 9st 3lb (58.5kg) in 1926. Peter Pan won the cup as a three-year-old in 1932. The following year, 1933, “Kia Ora” again figured in the placegetters, this time Mr Bob Miller’s colt Tropical dead-heating for third with the New Zealander, Gaine Carrington.

In 1934, this time under extreme conditions, Peter Pan was again victorious carrying 9st 10lb (61.5kg).

Five years further on and we find Maikai and Pantler, both sired by Pantheon, filling second and third places respectively. Maikai, form Western Australia, suffered a narrow defeat by Old Rowley in the 1940 running of the major handicap. Nineteen forty-six saw yet another “Kia Ora” product figure in the prizemoney, this time, Carey by Midstream (imp.) finished in third position.

The year 1951 saw the mighty Delta by Midstream (imp.) from Gazza by Magpie (imp.) successfully carry Neville Sellwood to victory.

“Kia Ora” by this time was becoming known world-wide as the greatest horse nursery in the Southern Hemisphere, but it was to rise to still greater heights by 1956 when Evening Peel by Delville Wood (imp.) from Mission Chimes by Le Grand Duc, another Kia-Ora import, reigned supreme in the great two-mile event to defeat the New Zealand great Redcraze.

Baystone, in 1958, by Brimstone (imp.) from Unity by Manitoba (imp.) was the final Kia-Ora bred to take the two mile stayers’ classic bringing to an end a domination that had run for near on 35 years.

In these latter years of Australian racing and breeding where the pendulum has swung to the sprinting breed of racehorse it is highly unlikely that what this world acclaimed stud achieved in those early years will ever be achieved again. Any stud capable of producing the number of Melbourne Cup winners as “Kia Ora” did, and standing the sire of Peter Pan, a dual cup winner and producing nine placegetters, surely highlights the astute managerial plan behind the production of so many high class performers.

Footnote: I believe ‘Cambridge Stud’, Cambridge, NZ might mount a challenge to the number of individual Melbourne Cup winners produced?

Cradle of Thoroughbreds

Cradle of Thoroughbreds

Douglas M Barrie 1953

Featured Image: The County of Cumberland was the early nursery for all horses in the colony

Australia’s first organised race meeting was held in Hyde Park, Sydney on Monday 15, Wednesday 17 and Friday 19 October 1810.

Seventeen horses competed for the main events, besides “several matches held between ponies.” Further meetings were held in 1811, 1812 and 1813.

After the crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813, exploration commanded the energies of the leading citizens. Race meetings recommenced again in 1819, although it was not until 1825, when the first Sydney Turf Club was formed, that racing in Australia really went ahead.

There were a number of good stallions on the mainland early enough to beget our first competitors. Best of these was the English horse Northumberland (imported in 1802) and his sons Percy, Hotspur and Young Northumberland; also Rockingham (imported in 1799) and Washington (imported ex-America in 1802). Besides these were several stallions from Oriental sources, such as Campbell’s Shark and the same owner’s great early sire Hector. The majority of importations prior to 1820 were of Arab origin.

Stride, imported in 1822, and Steel Trap, in 1823, led the influx of great English blood, which has not since ceased. From this time breeding increased rapidly. Bloodhorses were required not only for racing; they had a vital role in the development of the Continent.

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Racing – A Walk Down Memory Lane

Racing – A Walk Down Memory Lane

By Harley Walden 2002

Featured Image: Peter Pan in the 1933 AJC St Leger Handicap ridden by Jim Pike

The story of Australia’s greatest national sport began with an impromptu bush racetrack, the meeting run by settlers near Windsor in New South Wales in 1805.It contained all the elements of the rugged, the exciting, the bizarre, the picturesque, the daring, the roguish and the boisterous, but never dull and never static as entertainment.

The first recorded Australian race meeting was staged in Hyde Park in Sydney Town on October 15, 17 and 19, 1810. The main event, a two mile run, carried the prize of a silver plate worth fifty pounds. Captain Richie riding Case, a grey gelding freshly imported from the Cape of Good Hope was the successful contender.

Up until then the Cape had been the main source of the better-class horse in the colony, but stallions and some valuable breeding stock were also imported from England, and on two occasions from America.

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Three Courses at Gundy

Three Courses at Gundy

By Leonie Walker, Scone 1983

As there was an Inn at Gundy in the 1850s, and it was customary, in those days, for Inn Keepers from time-to-time to arrange race meetings on a course in the vicinity of their Inns, it is likely that racing at Gundy began as early as the late 1850s.

However, the first report of a race meeting which the writer has an advertisement announcing that the races would be held at Belvue (the early name for Gundy) on April 4, 1873, and that the races were organised by Duncan McPhee, then the licensee and owner of the Inn.

In those days Gundy was even smaller than it is now, as a report dated 26th April 1876, described the village as comprising a Public School, a Public House, an English Church, a Presbyterian Church and two or three dwellings. Both a race meeting and a ball were held at Gundy on St Patrick’s Day in 1877.

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Back to the ‘Deen

Back to the ‘Deen

By Harley Walden 2000

Featured Image: Courtesy of Harley Walden. (I believe the trainer is ERNIE Cribb. It looks like a very young apprentice Alan Robinson in the background?)

The Aberdeen Jockey Club was founded in 1898; down through the years suffering a number of setbacks, including three floods, the first in 1913, the second in 1955 and the one that finally  ended horse racing in Aberdeen was in February 1971.

It’s near on thirty years since the Aberdeen club last unfurled its flag at the pretty Riverside racetrack situated in the bend of the Hunter River at Aberdeen (Jefferson Park). Long gone are the times when the quietude and lethargy gave way to the pounding of hooves and raucous and staccato voices of the men supporting their satchels, those were the good old days, the roarin’ days when the ‘Deen boasted one of the most progressive clubs in Northern NSW.

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When Tester Had His Day

When Tester Had His Day; a Sire That Left His Mark

Racing on the Old Tracks – And More Recent Times; Celebrities of the Periods

Taken from the Scone Advocate dated 24/3/1939

Featured Image: ‘Tester’; gratefully acknowledge Haydon Family (Bloomfield) website


Picking up the threads, or concluding lines, from the last article under the above heading, dealing with the Merv/Kotoroi gelding, Kinetic, Scott Johnston, who had him, promised to supply particulars of others of the many gallopers he had in hand. This information has not come to hand, so the writer, again relying on his memory, continues his memoirs.

He (the scribe) was a very small boy when George (“Sappie”) Campbell led Kotoroi in a winner of the Flying Handicap on the old St Aubins track. She was a beautifully built chestnut mare, and great was the excitement and jollification when the judge declared for her.

It was a Manchester Oddfellows’ meeting, and the late Alf Fleming, for years on the staff of “The Advocate,” and subsequently at the helm of “The Murrurundi Times,” was the guiding hand behind the fixture.

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On the Old Tracks in the Days Long Past

On the Old Tracks in the Days Long Past; Other Sporting Characters and Incidents

Taken from the Scone Advocate 10/3/1939

Featured Image: James ‘Grafter’ Kingsley

The identity of the chronicler of those notes, which have appeared in “The Advocate” from time to time, and which deal with racing and incidents on the many old tracks in the Northern districts in the days when black beards were in vogue, has been elicited from more quarters than one, and from far-removed places, too, thus indicating that they have been widely read. The author is merely one of the members of our literary staff, who has a flair for early history, whether it pertains to our pristine politicians, our first settlers, or the early-day sporting fraternity of which the district has every reason to point with pardonable pride of their achievements.

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“Them was the Days”

“They’re Off!” – When the Spurters Spurted; and Old Palliah Plugged On

“Them was the Days”

Featured Image: J F Poynting’s Willow Tree Hotel, Scone: It appears publicans played a very large part in promoting racing, betting and gaming events!

Taken from the Scone Advocate 7/3/1939

When the scribe, a few days ago, in his moment of leisure, “knocked” a couple of columns of “copy” together, dealing with the doings and incidents on bush tracks, no small section of our readers, like Oliver Twist, passed their, as it were, for a second helping – asked for more, and more.

Penned wholly from memory, the reminiscences of happenings are asked to be accepted in the spirit in which they are presented.

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Doings of the Old Tracks

Doings of the Old Tracks – In the days long since

Celebrities of the Period

Featured Image: George Hopper’s ‘Crown & Anchor Hotel; the start for the match race between Archie Hall of ‘Nandowra’ and W. Grogan of the Commercial Hotel, Aberdeen

Taken from the Scone Advocate 3/3/1939

Apart altogether from the annual and picnic fixtures which eventuated in the days long since, many matches were run and it was not uncommon for these latter events to end unsatisfactory.

With but two horses, and, of course two riders facing the starter, it was quite an easy matter to “get at” one of the riders, the outcome being that the winner would virtually have a walkover.

In the days referred to there would be meetings held in almost every little locality. Distance was no object to the old-time sportsmen, and hundreds of miles were covered along the bush tracks.

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