“They’re off!” When the Spurters Spurted and Old ‘Piallah’ Plugged On

“They’re off!”

When the Spurters Spurted and Old ‘Piallah’ Plugged On

“Them Was the Days”

Acknowledgement: ‘The Scone Advocate’ Tuesday 7th February 1939

07 Feb 1939 – “THEY’RE OFF!” – Trove (nla.gov.au)

Featured Image: Gundy Cup 1928

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

Penned wholly from memory, the reminiscences of the happenings, are asked to be accepted in the spirit in which they are presented. Most of the tracks which attracted crowds in the days referred to have long since disappeared. In many instances closer settlements, with the introduction of the plough, have been responsible, and then, again, there too many present-day counter attractions – mechanical coursing, for example, has magnetised no small proportion of those who made the smaller race meetings possible – and other reasons that caused clubs to haul down their flags, never to be hoisted again.

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Ten Best Thoroughbred Sires in past 60 years

Ten Best Thoroughbred Sires in past 60 years

“The past 60 years has seen the growth of the shuttle stallion concept, changing the Australian breeding industry forever”.


Acknowledge: Tony Arrold; ‘The Australian’

See: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/horse-racing/the-list-10-best-sires/news-story/63e7fe91febf447d049e73bcd366ec61

Featured Image: ‘Danehill’

From Horse Racing; October 8, 2020

The stallion shuttle era and the explosion of stallion services into double-century figures are two notable milestones of Australia’s thoroughbred breeding industry – not merely for the past 60 years, but in the 221 years since the first recorded thoroughbred stallion, the British-bred Young Rockingham, was led ashore in Sydney Cove.

The dual-hemisphere stallion idea was tested here in 1976 with four young stallions sent from Ireland’s then fledgling Coolmore Stud. The bold but risky and expensive exercise was relaunched in 1989, when the five pioneering stallions included Coolmore’s Last Tycoon, subsequently champion sire for 1993-94.

The shuttle squad of seven in 1990 included Danehill, a Coolmore-Arrowfield Stud joint venture, who was destined to become the phenomenon of dual-hemisphere history, snaring multiple sire’s titles in Europe and Australia, with his record nine in the latter boosted by a further seven crowns claimed by his sons Redoute’s Choice (three), Fastnet Rock (two), Exceed And Excel and Flying Spur, and the past four by his grandson Snitzel.

In tandem with the shuttle fashion growth – the stallion intake from Europe, North America and Japan rose astonishingly to 66 in 1996 – was the startling trend of soaring mare covers.

Danehill became a centurion server in his fifth season, 1994, but he has been put in the shade in the Lothario stakes – the 2019 spring saw nine stallions each serving an average 225 mares after a 2018 high, when 14 stallions each covered a 200-plus book.

10 Best Sires

The stallion shuttle era and the explosion of stallion services into double-century figures are two notable milestones of Australia’s thoroughbred breeding industry.

1.Danehill (US) 1986 by Danzig

2.Sir Tristram (Ire) 1971 by Sir Ivor

3.Better Boy (Ire) 1951, by My Babu

4.Zabeel (NZ) 1986 by Sir Tristram

5.Star Kingdom (Ire) 1946 by Stardust

6.Bletchingly (Aus) 1970 by Biscay

7.Redoute’s Choice (Aus) 1996 by Danehill

8.Wilkes (Fra) 1952 by Court Martial

9.Encosta de Lago (Aus) 1993 by Fairy King

10.Showdown (GB) 1961 by Infatuation

Hollywood Harley

Hollywood Harley

Featured Image: “Shooting at Cuan 1956”; Taken from ‘Moving Images and the Theatre’; “The Shiralee…Filming in the Upper Hunter”. Federation Publication No. 1, Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society 1997

I acknowledge that much of this ‘blog’ has been ‘inspired’, if that is the right word, by my late good friend Harley Walden. Much of his work has been variously plundered, plagiarized and purloined by me. I’ve made no secret of the fact and admit it all now.

Ealing Studios, London “hit town” in Scone in on 6 September 1956 to shoot the “The Shiralee” at local sites in Gundy, Wootton and The Cuan at Bunnan; “a warm human story of an Australian swagman set against the sheep stations and countryside of that vast continent”.

Harley was a passionate local advocate of all things Scone; especially the thoroughbred racing and breeding components. He differed from almost everyone else with few exceptions in that he wrote most of it down.  However he did not restrict his passion to horses only. Hidden away was a strong thespian streak which went largely undiscovered. I only found this out by fortunate serendipity when I was researching material to satisfy my own burgeoning self-interest. I doubt Harley threatened the male lead in the movie Peter Finch? However not to be totally outdone Harley generously lent his pony ‘Paint’ for the film.

Quick Knock Classic

Quick Knock Classic

Featured Image: Betty Shepherd riding ‘Quick Knock’ during track work on the old race track at White Park, Scone in the early 1960s

See also: https://sconehorsefestival.com.au/honour-for-australias-first-female-horse-trainer-betty-shepherd/

Most good judges rate this as one of the greatest action shots of a horse fully extended at fast gallop. Remember the photo was taken over 60 years ago when photographic (camera) technology was several generations behind the instant gratification we enjoy so much today. All four feet are captured off the ground ‘in the instant’ with Betty crouched in perfect position over the withers. Note the absence (c. 1960) of protective skull cap; and the ‘presence’ of stylish footware!

A framed copy of this photo forms the centrepiece of the main bar in the tastefully renovated Thoroughbred Hotel at Scone; thank you Peter Allen & Kriston Harris. I’ve lost count of the myriad aficionados and ‘amateurs’ who’ve commented on this masterpiece of fast action technology. Sadly Betty, Peter Allen and ‘Quick Knock’ have left us; but they all leave their legacy for posterity.

There’s an interesting tale about the acquisition of ‘Quick Knock’ by Betty’s late husband Archie? Archie was an entrepreneurial local ‘odds maker and taker’ with an innovative telephone service-of-the-day. He could also ‘arrange things’? A certain lot at the Scone Thoroughbred Sale in the Puen Puen draft had attracted his attention. The gullible ingénue auctioneer was ‘persuaded’ to bring the gavel down fast when Archie held the advantage early in the bidding contest. What’s a few £££’s (those were the days) between busy people? Hence the given name ‘Quick Knock’ for the new purchase!