Blandford Races 1900

Blandford Races 1900

Mrs ‘Tiger’ Batterham (April 2018) has just told me she remembers going to the Blandford Races; they were known as ‘The Spurts’!

Featured Image: Blandford earliest documentation; Blandford today has about 330 residents and us situated astride the New England Highway north of Scone and just south of Murrurundi. It is bounded by many important thoroughbred studs and this is the major local industry. It has a public (primary) school which has produced a great array of talent covering several generations.

Excerpt, Letter to the Editor, Racing at Blandford in 1900, Scone Advocate, Tuesday 4th April 1961; Reprinted in ‘Mac Bridge; The Man and his Recollections’ by Heather Ashford and Margaret Ashford-Macdougall 1983, Scone and Upper Hunter Historical Society, 1983 Bi-Centennial Publication No. 2

Racing at Blandford in 1900

Easter Monday, 1900, was the first time I saw racing at Blandford. The main topic at the time was talk of a previous meeting, when a horse owned by Bill Greer, and ridden by Albert Hussey, failed to take the turn into the straight, and sprawled over the fence and finished up in the middle of the metal road. I do not know how the horse got along, the rider was hurt and badly shaken – no swabbing at that time! But it has been said caffeine would not have been found, but traces of something purveyed by Johnny Walker.

However, at the Easter meeting, 1900, the double was won by a horse named Trial, owned by the late Harry Hall, of Willow Tree, ridden by Dooley Sevil. One of the bookmakers on course was the late Dan Lewis, spoken of as Dismal Dan. Dan Lewis later became a trainer of some note at Randwick and led in the winners of five or six Sydney Cups and the winner of one Melbourne Cup. (I’ve been unable to verify this; but let’s not spoil a good story with ‘alternative facts’!)

At a meeting on Boxing Day, 1900, the late Harry Kenny entered his horse Brolga in a race, but was so much under the weather he failed to get the horse ready and Brolga was still tethered to the fence whilst the race was being run. Brolga, later that season, was killed on the Murrurundi race-course whilst competing in a race.

At the Blandford meeting, I remember three satchel swingers, Dan Lewis, Rufe Naylor, who later took Winooka to America for a racing season, and Jim Kennan, who also ran a horse named Burdekin at the meeting.

During the Boer War, Ted Corbett, auctioneer of Scone, journeyed to Blandford for the purpose of purchasing remounts for the Army. A fair number of settlers turned up with horses for sale. The meeting place was the yard at the Plough Inn. Tom Gilshenan was there with a brown gelding by Tester (cannot just recall the name of the gelding), which was not for sale, but appeared to be there in the hopes of licking up a quid by running a quarter of a mile match race. Tom said “I’ll run anything for a quarter of a mile for a pound”. Charlie Hartman said “I’ll have you on if you will wait till I get Quiver out of Bill Greer’s Lucerne paddock”. This was agreed. Charlie Hartman’s brother, Mick, rode Quiver, but I forget who rode Gilshenan’s horse. Ted Corbett acted as judge, and Bill Greer as stake-holder. In the run, Quiver, by Stockwell, was declared winner, and before the riders dismounted, Tom Gilshenan and Charlie Hartman were engaged in a bout of fisticuffs. A fair amount of gore was spilled, but no one badly hurt. When it was over Ted Corbett was heard to say “There’s no doubt this is a good place to come for free entertainment”.

At this time, Blandford boasted of a hotel, the Plough Inn kept by Mrs Dougherty, and three wine shops were kept, one each by Anthony Schumaker (known as old Shuey), one by Mrs O’Brien and the third by one Heiler.

I saw Jack Norvill ride his Tester gelding, Pardon, in a bridle race over a quarter of a mile. Jack was riding so vigorously and had such a lean on, some said he wanted to reach the post before his mount. The answer was that Jack was emulating Tod Sloan and was forcing him all the way.

Tod Sloan was an American, whose success in America and England, with the crouched-seat racing position, first introduced by Australians Tot Flood and James Barden, convinced the racing world of the advantages of the crouch style, and led to its general adoption. ‘Tod’ Smith, son of ‘Advocate’ Smith was given that nickname because he rode in the same style.