When Tester Had His Day; a Sire That Left His Mark
Racing on the Old Tracks – And More Recent Times; Celebrities of the Periods
Taken from the Scone Advocate dated 24/3/1939
Featured Image: ‘Tester’; gratefully acknowledge Haydon Family (Bloomfield) website
Picking up the threads, or concluding lines, from the last article under the above heading, dealing with the Merv/Kotoroi gelding, Kinetic, Scott Johnston, who had him, promised to supply particulars of others of the many gallopers he had in hand. This information has not come to hand, so the writer, again relying on his memory, continues his memoirs.
He (the scribe) was a very small boy when George (“Sappie”) Campbell led Kotoroi in a winner of the Flying Handicap on the old St Aubins track. She was a beautifully built chestnut mare, and great was the excitement and jollification when the judge declared for her.
It was a Manchester Oddfellows’ meeting, and the late Alf Fleming, for years on the staff of “The Advocate,” and subsequently at the helm of “The Murrurundi Times,” was the guiding hand behind the fixture.
The mare was mated with the imported sire, Merv, who was secured by one of the Hanna family. There was a fault in the lineage of the horse, which prompted the Thompson family to turn him down, and the late John Vigers, of Scone, who turned out a good one or two, notable Molly Butler, could have had him for the proverbial “song,” as it were. However, he let a fortune slip when he missed his chance. Merv went on to sire many hundreds of winners in all company, including some of the greatest weight-carriers in the land.
Strange as it may seem, Merv’s stock were of the hardy sort, and came to hand early. Kinetic, for instance, invariably gave of his best six weeks from the paddock. He was bred, by the way, by the late Mr G. K. Clift, who had a penchant for the strain, his second choice being the get of the imported Prudent King.
Kinetic was not only a brilliant galloper, but he produced useful performers in Bush Kate, Benita and Miss Benita. The sire of the trio was running on “Cliftlands,” and little better than a yearling, jumped the dividing fence and foaled three mares on the property. With Miss Benita, Scott Johnston won no fewer than 32 races, taking out three with her on one afternoon at Gunnedah.
But more outstanding successes were destined to come the way of the young Scone owner-trainer. He lifted a power of races with Ruby Queen, Willie Ploma and Blue Tilly, all out of the great mare Thelma, bred by the late Silas Rose, of Parkville. The first named as Renoric, and the remaining pair by Merv. Scott really got hold of Blue Tilly after she had been placed on discard, or scrap heap, as it were, but he patched her up and scored with her on practically every provincial course between Armidale and Newcastle. At one stage of her remarkable career she won six on end, commencing with a double at the Armidale Cup meeting, two more at Tamworth, and another brace at Wallsend – six races in eight days.
It was at Wallsend that Lord Nagar was favourite at a prohibitive price, but Blue Tilly left him standing at the end of ten furlongs. Such a burst of brilliance did she reveal that at least one astute judge on the course contended that the mighty Woorak would have had the job in front of him running her down. And within a short week, Lord Nagar, bred at “Kelvinside,” or was it “Russley,” Aberdeen (?), Fairly bolted with the Villiers Stakes at Randwick.
Willie Ploma, a rich chestnut colt, was however, probably the pick of a fine string held by the Scone-ite. He won in every direction and in all company, capping a fine sequence by taking out the Denman Stakes, six furlongs, at Randwick, with any number of lengths to spare in a field that included the great Balarang, who started at even money. Then there was Aberdonia; a gelding that came into his hands when it was thought the best had been seen of him. A flat-footed horse, the hard tracks did not suit him, but in the softer going he troubled the judge on at least thirty occasions. Then there was Dalmeny King and Electric Bullet, both bold gallopers, who picked up their full share of races. Mersina, another of the Merv tribe, and cast-off at the time, gave the lie direct to his former when he landed races at will almost including, including an Armidale Cup. With St. Rosaline, he also landed quite a few races, including a Corinthian Handicap at Scone under the steadier of 14st 2lb.
At this particular period, a trio of wonderful speedsters comprised Winsome Lady, Malt Mary and Lady Maltster, and many an epic struggle they figured in. Winsome Lady was by Merv, and the other two by Maltster. Malt Mary and Lady Maltster were sisters, the former owned by Mr F. B. Haydon and the latter by Mr. Andy Stewart, of Muswellbrook. Lady Maltster was a chestnut mare, with a black spot on her rump, and if the writer is nor confusing her with another speedster, galloped in an ungainly and peculiar manner, swinging her near foreleg, the aftermath of a fracture, which yielded to treatment.
But let us get back to the earlier, “the roaring days,” when there were no padded and comfortable floats, no turned tracks, when the horses were roadbed or overloaded to fixtures separated by the space of hundreds of miles. It is here that Tester is re-introduced and let it be said in those days that any prad produced with an infusion of Tester blood was to be respected, and there were good reason for doing so.
By The Tester (imp) from Phillis, by Yelverton (imp), this black horse was foaled way back in 1882, and he passed on at “Bloomfield,” where he had been sheltered by the late Mr. B. Haydon for many years, in 1905 – 23 years of age.
From 1888 to 1905, he produced for the public 250 foals and for his owner 190, a total of 440. The blood was very much in demand, just as the Cecil strain of breeding makes the sale of horses intended for stock work or camp drafting today. Strange to say, the public was belated in their waking up to the value of the blood. One reason may be that the horse was never really trained for racing, yet he won on score of occasions, and in sprint events had his colours lowered on one occasion only.
He produced many of the best stock horses in Australia, but unfortunately, very few ell bred mares were mated with him. (*Amanuensis note: The original writer might have meant pure-bred thoroughbred mares?). Despite his limited opportunities, he begot such well-known winner as Harvest Home, Gentleman Jim, Patty Brown, Santa Claus, Peg Leg, Betsy Bay, Pearl Bay, Vixen, Broken Bay, T.S., and numerable sprinters capable of holding their own in all parts.
Mr. F. B. Haydon, now a prominent figure at the many different Bushman’s Carnivals in the State, won two races on Tester on the old Murrurundi course when he was but nine years of age, and let it be known that most of the horses on the station to this day track back to the black sire.
Hardy, intelligent, and endowed with stamina, some of the get have been ridden as far as 102 miles a day, whilst a seventy mile ride was just an ordinary days’ work. Mr. J. H. Doyle, of “Merawah,” Boggabilla, had a mare by hi that stood up to years of hard work, and which he frequently rode to and from the Goulburn River, “Drummond Flat,” 70 miles, and with a days’ spell, the 70 miles back. Promise, the black mare with which he won an Open draught at Murrurundi, was produced by the mare in question, while Witchery, another fine mare in the same ownership, traces back to Tester.
In a previous article, mention was made of the meteoric rise of the Ruenalf gelding Rue Victoria. From a humble beginning, he rose to great heights, capping his success by taking the Brisbane Cup in 1915. Actually the first man to handle this fellow was Jim Rose, of Aberdeen, and the writer was present one July afternoon when Jim placed him in a “Kelvinside” paddock prior to a grass-fed meeting billed to be held at Aberdeen. It was Jim who knocked him onto shape, and, ridden by Alley “Sloper” Smith in his first race, could have toyed with his field had he been allowed to do his best. But Jim, like Will Stephens and the late Fred Chaffer, who prepared him for more serious business that was to follow, were overlooked when the sovereigns were plonked on in the Maitland district, where he led two fields a merry dance to land a double.
And the closing chapters of the horse’s life were not in India, as already stated in these columns, but at the head of the Rouchel, where Les Hoad gave him a life of comparative ease in the role of hack and packhorse.
Of racing in Aberdeen, when the amateurs and grass-feds held sway under the AJC rules, Mr. T. H. Fleming was most invariably in the judges’ box, and the writer of these notes, more often than otherwise, was with him, cannot recall one instance where he erred in giving his decisions.
At the present time, with the urge of the magic-eye camera to assist judges, because of a disgruntled section of the public, it is here contended that the man in the box alone is in the position to correctly place the horses as they flash through the last line of vision. On one occasion, Pabulam, a black horse by Master Grand, bred on “Kelvinside,” was thought to be the winner at one such fixture. He was firm favourite and naturally the public wanted to see his number posted in the semaphore. The judge, however declared for a brown gelding, Arden Orr, who flashed up on the extreme outside. Arden Orr had actually won by a margin of three-quarters of a length! Still many believed the favourite had triumphed.
The late R, Steinbeck, of Moonan Brook, and of the Dungowan district, was one of the best sportsmen in the district in his day. He had quite a number of horses, with which he took on all-comers, not excluding the all-conquering Lagoona. One of the best of his prads was Stranger, and with him he picked up not a few races, but Dame Fortune rebuffed the popular Upper Hunterite time and again. Still he never deserted the game.
Then there was Mr. Will Worrad – by the way, the old gentleman celebrated his 91st birthday a few days since – who invited all and sundry to the meetings conducted on the now almost forgotten Tooloogan track.
The Cloud and Slumber were two of the best hose he possessed. Mark you, they had good days on the Dartbrook in the years, and the piles of the old grandstand were still standing a few years ago. And they put on a high jump, too. With a mere pony, Erin’s Isle, W. W. took the popular event one afternoon when the bar had been raised upwards of six feet, and Len (“Maori”) Morris, then a stripling, was in the saddle.
The n there was the late Albert Worrad, one of the greatest characters and wags of his time. He owned a neddy, which he called Socks, an appropriate appellation, by the reason of the fact that his charge had stocking forelegs. There was the time when Albert had his place on the market. “Good grazing country, area under wheat, and well-watered by creek,” the description ran. A prospective buyer was making an inspection, “Where’s the wheat?” was one of his first enquiries. “You’ll have to dig for that, it hasn’t come up yet,” was the quick reply.
Albert was on evening in charge, temporarily, of the old Crown and Anchor Hotel. Presently a bagman happened along. His roll was placed near the bar entrance. “Any chances of a feed mate?” The temporary keeper not only gave an affirmative answer, but introduced the rum bottle as well. “Now what about a decent camp?” The veteran of the road could not understand the warmth of the welcome thus offered. He only took a “tumble” later that night when the very irate wife of the licensee bundled him out of her bedroom, swag and billy can in wake. Fact.
Are horses doped? If so, what is the effect? An instant of a horse being thus “livened” came under the writer’s notice one afternoon on the Denman course. A certain brown gelding of the Don Reynaldo line was saddled for the opening event, and well backed too. He finished well back, much to the disgust of the tall owner-trainer, who was in business out Gundy way. It was a disagreeably cold day. “We’ll get our money back in the big ’un,: said the lanky son of Ireland with emphasis.
The contents of a square bottle, gin-size, were forced down the gelding’s neck. An evil smelling concoction it was. The gelding stepped out for the principal handicap, ears pricked, as if given a new lease of life. He was meeting, in addition to the horse that finished ahead of him earlier in the afternoon, quite a number of others. When the judge was reached, his ears were still standing out, kangaroo fashion, and lengths ahead of his nearest rival!
A week or two later, this scribe had hired himself to the Muswellbrook track. Just as befoe the commencement of the big event, a certain bay horse that should have been pensioned off years before if age counted for anything came under notice. It was not altogether the horse that attracted the attention. One sniff of the liquid preparation still adhering to the hair of its throat was the magnet. And yet another old stager won with his neck stuck out, after being backed from 10 to I to a quarter of those odds.