Tony Arrold “Staying the Course in Race Writing”: Final Scratching
Featured Image: Tony Arrold conducting Bart Cummings’ Memorial Service @ Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral on Monday 7th September 2015
On Monday 13th July 2020 Tony Arrold penned his finale valediction in ‘The Australian” newspaper. He’d been writing this for nigh on 50 years having begun as a cadet reporter in 1971. He called it ‘Staying the course in race writing’. In his own words Tony had been ‘tapped on the shoulder’ by the Sporting Editor during the week. If you are a subscriber you can access this article at:
“It’s been too much, too young for our million-dollar babies”
5:53PM July 12, 2020
The negatives for the nation from COVID-19 are incalculable, but I believe there is a positive in these turbulent times of change to benefit the Australian racing industry.
The alarming decline in the standard of the home-bred stayer over the past 15 years has been a frustrating issue for me in an otherwise strong industry, with prizemoney levels the envy of most major countries.
Tony was one of the elite Group I Race Writers’ cadre which also included Bert Lillye, Ron Casey, Jack Ward, Keith Robins, Max Presnell, Ray Alexander, Bill Whittaker and Les Carlyon. They’re an increasingly rarefied breed; to the brink of extinction.
Tony Arrold’s perspicacious analyses were a ‘must read’ every Monday in “The Australian”. Also included were the results of the previous Saturday’s metropolitan race results throughout Australia complete with the breeding of both winners and placegetters. For about 10 years I was an honorary tutor invited by Ollie Tait for the Darley Flying Start program at ‘Kelvinside’ Aberdeen. The fortunate few (12 each year) were carefully selected from an International cluster of aspirants in the thoroughbred industry. For their placement in Australia they were instructed to always peruse Tony’s column every Monday in “The Australian”. This was considered their right-of-passage ‘passport’ to the highest cognitive domain on the Australian racing and breeding scene. They were well informed.
In his valedictory (13/07/2020) Tony rued the dearth of staying bred horses produced in Australia over the past 15 years. He adduced as evidence recent results in our Major Group I races beyond 2000 metres. He attributed ‘blame’ to owners and breeders’ compulsive obsession with our most competitive, and lucrative, 2yo sprints: the Golden Slipper, Blue Diamond and Magic Millions ‘spurts’ among many others. The inaugural Golden Slipper was run in 1957 (‘Todman’ won) so I’m not sure I’m on exactly the same page as Tony? At least Star Kingdom could sire Derby Winners. One week earlier Tony had boisterously lauded the world’s best sire in an erudite tribute to ‘Galileo’. I’ll miss his regular features. I used to buy ‘The Australian’ specifically to read his columns. I’m now blocked out from the website as a non-subscriber. I think I’ll leave it that way. Robert Murdoch won’t miss my regular contribution to his retirement fund?