How COUNTRY RACING has changed!
With the Scone Cup Race meeting just around the corner as I write (Fri 6th May 2023) I’m reminded of how much things have changed in my ‘neck of the woods’ in the 56 years of my incumbency (1967 – 2023). Thank you, John Hutchinson, and Mandy Logan! I’m indebted to both.
Featured Image: A traditional ‘bush race meeting’
At first, I thought my late great friend and colleague Harley Walden had compiled this dossier. It’s his style although perhaps slightly more erudite and esoteric? The names evoke paramount memories of the best of times. Docket, River Ridge, Queer Street, Solo Lad and Merry Jack were part of racing folklore which John Hutchinson defines as ‘North of the Range’ (Murrurundi) onto the fertile Liverpool Plains beyond. It certainly was very fecund breeding ground for very tough and sound racehorses. This was fully franked later by ‘bush stars’ such as Mac’s Tune. I know for a fact that Merry Jack (conqueror of ‘Cabachon’) was in solid work for 5 years non-stop with Arthur Gore. People’s Champion ‘Gunsynd’ was yet to emerge from the Breeza Nursery of ‘The Dip’ then under the astute tutelage of local legend John Clift.
Prolific New England stallions such as Epistle (originally destined for Kia Ora), Galipar, The Toddler, Tingo and Switch in Time often led the charts for individual winners and races won; at least in NSW.
Carping along similar theme, smaller studs have disappeared from the milieu including ‘The Dip’ (John Clift, Breeza), ‘Rossmar Park’ (Clive Duddy, Quirindi), ‘Stratheden Stud’ (John Park, Tamworth), ‘Okehampton Stud’ (John Nixon, Manilla), ‘Stradbroke Stud’ (John Peterswald. Kootingal), ‘Morvada Stud’ (Max Woods, Inverell), John Cunliffe Bloodstock Sales (Tamworth), Tyrone Stud (Jack Johnston, Scone) etc. This mirrors the situation in the Bylong Valley where ‘traditional’ thoroughbred breeding has terminally foundered.
This scenario seems to have disappeared altogether. I wonder why?
21st September 2005
In my time, Docket was one. River Ridge another, indeed, one of the best. And then there were the likes of Queer Street and Solo Lad and the bonny mare, Black Look, no more than a pony.
And Merry Jack. As true as steel. One day in the last at Randwick, Merry Jack (Red, blue cap) defeated the great Cabochon (Red, white cap), a fact I have waited over 30 years to put into writing.
They were sired by the likes of Epistle and Galipar and The Toddler, stallions a generation or two ahead of the same region’s more familiar prolific winner getters, Tingo and Switch in Time, but of the very same ilk.
I am showing my age again.
Docket, River Ridge and co. were horses of a bygone era, members of a wonderful club. You will know the type. Win a dozen races in the bush, come to town on the limit in a Graduation Stakes or Welter at Rosehill, be backed off the map by the travelling cockies, and a colourful legend or two is born. Go back home and eventually win another 20 or 30 races, whatever.
I could name them by the score. Money for jam, and all great fun.
These days, win a dozen races in the bush, come to town in a midweek NMW, be weighted at 59.5kg and run seventh. Not the same.
You see what I mean by a bygone era.
Docket, River Ridge and co. made their name north of the range, the Liverpool Ranges that is, which takes in most everything north by northwest of Murrurundi, the historic town 20 minutes along the road from Scone to Tamworth.
Geography is not my go, but you get the idea.
And, to the ever so elite club of Docket, River Ridge and co., we now welcome the Quirindi-trained Mac’s Tune. And trained by Geoff O’Brien, who I remember working at Redbank and Segenhoe Studs at Scone twenty odd years ago. So, well done Geoff!
With the Spring Carnivals happening, stallion parades left, right and centre, Danehill-this and Zabeel-that, I don’t mind saying this tourist found it somewhat refreshing to see old Mac storm home the winner in Saturday’s Starlight Stakes-L at Rosehill.
You can keep your Cox Plate, Melbourne Cup and Golden Slipper. As only we veterans know, the single most important race on the calendar is (sometimes) the Emirates Park Lightning, the traditional last race on Scone Cup Day.
Back that winner, over the country’s best 1100m course I would add, and the world’s your oyster. Accommodation and petrol worries disappear with correct weight.
And that’s exactly what Mac’s Tune did this year, defeating among others last week’s Newcastle Cup dead-heat winner, Carael Boy, before adding to his impressive tally with a feature race win at Gosford next time out and, of course, Saturday’s career best triumph. Mac’s Tune scoreline now reads at 32: 12-3-7, with $198,000 in the bank.
Need I add, that in the old days of Scone’s White Park, River Ridge and Solo Lad also won the equivalent race, the whatever Lightning, while absolutely slaughtering their fields in the process, like the good horses they were.
So, if I told you that Mac’s Tune is by Macksped from Just in Tune by The Blues from Just Miff by Sir Daniel, you would say…
…probably nothing, I guess.
But, if I added that Macksped (by Lunchtime from Pardalaote by Snipe) won 5 races at tracks such as Tamworth and Quirindi, and that Just in Tune, a daughter of Clive and Patricia Duddy’s imported English sprinter The Blues, also won at Tamworth and Quirindi, and that her dam, Just Miff, by the former Stratheden Stud (Tamworth) stallion Sir Daniel, won her maiden at Binnaway, which I think (see above re geography) is somewhere near Tamworth and Quirindi, then perhaps you will forgive my indulgence.
An outcross, Mac’s Tune’s nearest duplication is to Gainsborough in the sixth generation. Just seems right somehow.
I know what you’re thinking.
Okay… the Scone Cup is important too.
With thanks to John Hutchinson