Babe and Brueghel
Featured Image: Babe Singleton when he was stallion groom at Widden ‘boxing’ with ‘Brueghel’ rearing on his hind legs
Some would claim Babe was a showman. Others called him a ‘show-off’; but not to his face! It was considered unwise, even potentially terminal, if accusations were levelled after a longish linger at the “Linga Longa” pub in Gundy?
Gundy Races were legendary; as was local horseman ‘Babe’ Singleton. Most horses and their owners, jockeys or trainers, would start out for Gundy, perhaps a week before the due date of the race meeting, depending on the distance they had to travel. By allowing themselves plenty of time to get to their destination, the horses would arrive without undue stress.
Some horses were led to Gundy tied to the back of a sulky travelling at about five or six kilometres per hour. They would walk slowly and rest whenever the horses began to sweat. As they walked the horses were allowed to graze, and by doing so, were both fed and exercised en route to the meeting. While travelling they would camp in stockyards or on the roadside. Whenever they’d pass through a town or village they’d buy supplies which they carried behind in a wagonette.
“Babe” recalls this time with fondness. He and his father, Walter Singleton’ would spend weeks on the road travelling the so-called “circuit” from race meeting to race meeting. Nearly every community both large and small had their own racecourse by the 1930s. The circuit might start at Gundy, then on to Moonan and Stewarts’s Brook and back to Scone.
“Babe” Singleton won the “Snake Gully” Derby on “Ajax” at Gundy on New Years’ Day 1939. Starters and riders in the ‘Snake Gully Derby’ included ‘Babe’ Singleton on ‘Ajax’, Bill Holmes on ‘Socks’ who ran second and Bill Phillips riding ‘Static’. The ‘ladies’ in the race asked for no quarter and received none! ‘Babe’ and ‘Ajax’ won by half a lap, with ‘two lengths of the paddock between second and third’! The journalist writes (in parenthesis) ‘the third horse had not passed the post when this edition went to press’. The race took place on January the 1st; even the great Ken Howard would have had trouble describing the result? These days it’s politically incorrect, even taboo, but he might have regaled ‘you’ll need a black tracker and a hurricane lamp to find this one’!
Apart from Babe (Widden) several members of the Singleton ‘Gundy Clan’ worked in the thoroughbred breeding industry; Walter (Yarraman Park), Dick (St Aubins), Sel (Fairways) and latterly Andy (Woodlands). Andy even braved a term at the helm of the Linga Longa following an apprenticeship stint at Muttaburra (Q), the home of Dinosaurs!