2019 Bendigo Cup
It might not be the race that stops the nation, but even to this day the Bendigo Cup brings the City of Greater Bendigo to a stand-still, with a local public holiday gazetted to mark the occasion. Today, BRAC celebrates the great race with a look back into its history…
While the first Sandhurst Cup was held in 1868, it was preceded by the Bendigo District Cup which was inaugurated by the Bendigo Jockey Club (BJC) in 1859. The District Cup was a weight-for-age event restricted to horses whose owner resided within ten miles of Sandhurst, had not won more than £20 from public purses, and had been owned in the district for no less than three months. The first running was on February 2nd with ten horses contesting four, one-mile heats and eventually won by a horse called Doctor. The Council regularly announced full or half-day holidays for Bendigo race days, on requests from the Club, like this one sent in 1885 (left).
A ‘handsome silver cup, surmounted appropriately with a horse’ at a value of 60 guineas was commissioned, and in the second year of its running, was on display at Mr Joseph’s store in the Pall Mall in the week leading up to the event.
The city of Sandhurst was officially changed to Bendigo in 1891 but the Sandhurst Cup and Bendigo Handicap remained two, discrete events. In late 1893 we start to see a few references to the ‘Bendigo Cup’, seemingly interchanged with the Sandhurst Cup, mainly by bookmakers and dressmakers. In 1913, a deputation petitioned the BJC to include a separate, Bendigo Cup, open to horses from a wider catchment that would include Kyneton to the south and the Murray River to the north. In December of that year however, the Club determined that in order to ‘harmonise the name of the club and serve to advertise the district’, the Sandhurst Cup would be retired and replaced in totality by the Bendigo Cup.
100 Years Ago…
So it was that the 1919 Bendigo Cup was only the fifth ever run at the track (Moonee Valley hosted the feature in 1915 as the BJC grounds were being used by the Army), and was won for the first time by a Bendigo-owned horse. The race was run over a mile and a quarter (2000m) for a purse of £500 and contested by 11 runners including the previous year’s winner, Seabound, Hoprig, the Ballarat Cup winner, and Melbourne Cup scratching, Telecles. It was four-season veteran Bullengarook though who took honours for Serpentine grazier, William Coutts (Cup finish, below).
Bullengarook (by Footbolt from Bess O’ The Barn, above) was trained by Jeremiah ‘Jerry’ Tie, a former jockey who had grown up in Echuca and lived for a long time in Bendigo, where he took training stables at the corner of Hamelin and Dundas Streets, current site of the Holy Rosary Catholic Church (see Rate Book, below). The VRC had granted him a dual jockey-trainer licence in 1884 at the age of 16 and rode his first winner soon after at Kotupna (north of Kyabram) before moving to Melbourne and riding for trainers including Robert Sevior (a Sandhurst Cup winning trainer) and Neil Campbell. He was still training from his Caulfield stables at the age of 86 but retired in 1957, citing the winter being too cold and wet for him.
Tie moved his training operation to Caulfield and the horse had been sent to those stables two months before the Bendigo Cup was run. He would go on to become a very successful trainer, at one time training 134 winners for just one owner (Martin Driscoll) including twelve progeny of the one mare, Cornwreath, and winning a Moonee Valley Cup, two Standish Handicaps, and a CB Fisher Plate.
Bullengarook had won the Epsom Plate in 1917, one of 14 total winners by November 1919 but his form had been patchy leading into the Cup despite having beaten subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Artilleryman at Caulfield back in August. Ridden by Alfred ‘AC’ Walker, the Cup represented the horse’s sixth victory on his ‘home’ track, having only been unplaced there on one occasion. In the Cup, he took the lead less than half a mile from the winning post and just held on to win the event, returning to scale amid great cheers from the crowd. A toast to his owner was drunk (with musical honours) by Club president, Samuel Lazarus, in the Committee Room. Trainer Jerry Tie (below) had a long association with the Club president, having rode his horses in show jumping competitions at the turn of the century.
Jockey AC Walker would go on to experience success overseas, partnering British galloper Parth to victory in the 1923 Greenham Plate, and a third in the English Derby; he also rode a treble for the Maharajah while in Calcutta for the Boxing Day meeting in 1930.
Long after the Bendigo Cup, Bullengarook gained a commonality with the jockey of the 1869 Sandhurst Cup winner, Warrior, in that both were reported as being dead – rather prematurely! In 1922, rumours circulated that Bullengarook had been killed in an accident between the Williamstown and Caulfield race courses following an unexpected return to good form to win the Werribee Welter. The Herald reported that the horse, a ‘great favourite’ of his owner Mr Coutts, was in fact very much alive. Almost three decades earlier, reports that Sam Haynes had died in Madras were put to rest when it was found in 1883 that he was living in India and working as a billiard marker for former Australian jockey, Duffy, who owned a hotel there.
Bullengarook was from race mare, Bess O’ The Barn, a sister to 1909 Grand National Hurdle winner Fossil, the mare once put jockey George Scobie on the deck at Dowling Forest; her temperament seemed to miss Bullengarook but passed on to his sister, creatively named, Bullengarook’s Sister. It was said she buckjumped so well that she was impossible to train, and so was sent to the breeding barn where she foaled a colt which would later be named Marshfield. Marshfield was much like his mother and was said to regularly drop his riders three or four times a morning but did go on to win several hurdle races.
Bullengarook himself never had a saddle put on again after his retirement (with a record of 26 wins from 86 starts, being unplaced only 16 times) and went to live on the Coutts farm at Serpentine. Until 1931, he remained the only Bendigo horse to win the home-town Cup (that year’s winner Lampra was owned by Bendigonian, Mr P Hogan). Bullengarook was hand fed during the drought and was used as a paddock nanny for the young horses, with Coutts believing that he had taught many of them to gallop well. The horse was said to be fond of whisky, with Jerry Tie giving the horse a nip or two before his races. Bullengarook was 25 when he died in 1938.
50 Years Ago…
The whisky-loving Bullengarook would have been a sponsors’ dream for the 1969 Bendigo Cup – the popular spirit brand, Black & White Whisky, was on board in a big way, with promotional girls on course and presenting huge bottles of their product as part of the trophy packages, but certainly no opportunity for the four-legged participants to sample their product…
The Tasmanian horse, What’s Brewing (left), was victorious in the 1969 Cup for trainer Ron Maund, then based at Flemington, clocking a new race record. Upon presentation of his trophy – an oversized bottle of scotch – Maund thanked owners, Mr & Mrs Hay, for the opportunity to train the horse which was a narrow winner over Stay Fresh (trained by Richard Larson) and Alcatraz (trained by Bon Hoysted and ridden by top jockey, Roy Higgins). What’s Brewing’s winning rider, William ‘Billy’ Smith, was also presented with an enormous bottle of scotch (below); the Bendigo Cup was his fourth with the horse.
The 2200m Cup was the highlight of a two-day carnival which carried $19,000 in total stakes and drew 520 entries overall, with nine Melbourne Cup runners also entered in Bendigo’s feature. Bill Lienhop had served on the BJC committee for 17 years by that time, and was in his fourth as president; the ‘ranger’ (or ‘track manager’ in today’s parlance) was Rupert Mansfield, who had been doing the job for 24 years.
The 1968 & 1969 Melbourne Cup winner, Rain Lover, was paraded for the large crowd, having been just named the VRC Racehorse of the Year. Fashions had also grown as part of the race day, with ‘brilliant reds, greens, pinks and oranges’ adding to the atmosphere of the event[i]. Visitors to the Cup included the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Melbourne (Cr & Mrs Best), the chairman of the TAB & VRC committeeman, Mr Nicholas, the 1969 Miss Victoria, Susan Fairbairn, and Chief Secretary, Sir Arthur Rylah.
One of several local hopes that year was Wings Of The Morning, trained by Kevin Wynne whose stables were on what is now known as Wynnes Lane, off Racecourse Road in Ascot. The stallion, who later stood at stud, was beaten in the Seymour Cup in mid-September, and was then prepared for a tilt at the Caulfield Cup. The week prior, American jockey John Sellars paired with him at Bendigo to set a record mile track gallop. Wynne had won the Caulfield Cup the previous year with Bunratty Castle but did not enjoy the same luck in 1969 with Wings Of The Morning in a controversial Cup (won on protest by Big Philou who was later scratched from the Melbourne Cup amid a doping scandal.
Wings Of The Morning had beaten What’s Brewing as a 3YO in the Eclipse Stakes at Caulfield, but as aged horses, What’s Brewing had a stellar lead-in to the Bendigo Cup, securing the Cranbourne Cup, the Moonee Valley Cup and the Moe Cup earlier in the year. Other Bendigo runners in the local Cup field were Aspyrtus, also trained by Kevin Wynne and ridden by Stuart Rawiller (uncle to contemporary jockeys Nash, Brad & Stacey), De Valera which was trained by Tom Torpy, and Coogee Bay, a George Daniel galloper.
George Daniel had already secured a Bendigo Cup winner, with Oswald in 1962. He had presented one runner in a Melbourne Cup to no avail, but Sailors Guide gave him a Queen Elizabeth Stakes over Tulloch, and when they travelled to America, the International Stakes too, the only Australian horse to have done so.
Maund later relocated to Ballarat and trained a Grand National winner (Faux Pas, 1971), while What’s Brewing went on to win the Sandown Cup in the following year.
150 Years Ago…
Perhaps one of the most impressive winners of the Sandhurst Cup was in 1869. The second-ever running of the Cup took place on Wednesday 17 November 1869, the second day of the Bendigo Jockey Club’s carnival. At this time, the race was run the Sydney way (clockwise) and was over two miles ‘and a distance’. Four horses contested the field and the Cup was ultimately won by Warrior (by New Warrior from Annie Laurie).
Warrior developed a reputation as an ‘iron horse’ and his six-year-old season certainly proved that – on November 4th, the gelding was the winner of the 1869 Melbourne Cup (2200m), backing up the following day in the Spring Handicap (2000m) where he ran second, and again on the 6th in the Queen’s Plate (4800m) where he again took second place.
Warrior was then placed on a train to Bendigo, with several stablemates, and took part in the Bendigo Handicap (2400m) where he was defeated by Praetor, but turned the tables the following day in the feature, winning the Sandhurst Cup by half a length. Five runs in a fortnight, including wins in the Melbourne Cup and the Sandhurst Cup – he was certainly well named.
Trained by Robert ‘Bob’ Sevior, a former western district publican, the horse was then put on a train to Castlemaine, with several other of his horses which were owned by prominent Jewish bookmaker, Abraham ‘Austin’ Saqui. The Castlemaine carnival was next on the card, and the horses were stabled nearby at Robert’s property adjacent to the Muckleford track; Warrior would only secure a placing in the Prince of Wales Stakes at that meeting. Saqui and Sevior had a successful partnership for about eight years.
Sevior appears in the records several times, including a divorce case after he had moved to stables in Flemington, where his wife Mary Cusack petitioned for decree nisi and alimony in 1878 alleging adultery with the house girl, Mary Edwards; Sevior later married Edwards and the couple had several children together.
Warrior’s owner, Austin Saqui, was also often in the headlines – as the subject of action for slander, as the brother of famed singer Sarah Saqui, as the victim of an unusual and slightly dubious Little Bourke Street robbery, and ultimately as subject of an inquest. The well-known bookmaker from Clifton Hill had suffered with gout for some time, and became accustomed to taking opioid based sleeping draughts; in 1889 he overdosed on his prescription – accidentally according the coroner and family, but rumours suggested the markets had not been kind to Saqui in recent times and may have been a purposeful act. He died owing over £20 to John D Pearson, South Melbourne and Kimpton & Kimpton, Brunswick, for horse feed.
While Joe Morrison had ridden Warrior in the more prestigious Melbourne Cup, Sam Haynes – rated an equal in the saddle by many – was the winning jockey in the Sandhurst ride, beating home Praetor and Norma. As mentioned above, Haynes was inaccurately reported dead, but after his stint in India, returned to New Zealand and seems to have worked for a time as a groom, passing away in Christchurch in 1914.
At the end of his racing career, Warrior’s form-line read 66 starts for 27 wins and 18 placings, including an unbeaten three-year-old season, and in his ninth year, the 1873 Australia Cup. In May of 1873, he put his foot in a track hole in a race in NSW, fracturing his shoulder; with no probability of recovery, was euthanised, ending his life in the same district he was foaled. Within five years, Sevior had collected a second Australia Cup, with a 3YO filly named Sybil. He continued to train until developing stomach and oesophageal cancer; the industry held a benefit to help with his medical costs, and he was much lauded when he died in 1896.
Warrior was the first horse to ever claim a Melbourne-Sandhurst Cup double; the only horse to have repeated the feat was The Quack a few years later in 1872.
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