With the running of the 2011 Australian Derby on Saturday we take a look at some memorable AJC Australian Derbys.
In April last year Stathi Katsidis was riding the crest of a wave after Shoot Out gave him victory in the Group One AJC Australian Derby – seven months later the 31-year-old jockey died at his Queensland home with the cause of his death still undetermined.
Katsidis had a history of drug and alcohol-related problems but had seemingly turned his life around.
Undoubtedly the highlight of his career was Shoot Out’s Derby triumph as it was for Gold Coast trainer John Wallace whose previous success at the highest level was with Mother Of Pearl in the 1982 Queensland Oaks.
The Derby was also a milestone for the stallion High Chaparral who sired the trifecta in the feature when Shoot Out beat subsequent Caulfield Cup winner Descarado by 1-1/4 lengths with Victoria Derby winner Monaco Consul a neck away third.
It was a rare result in a three-year-old Classic achieved only by High Chaparral’s own sire Sadler’s Wells and champion New Zealand stallion Sir Tristram.
Sadler’s Wells sired the trifecta in the 1999 Irish Derby when Montjeu beat Daliapour and Tchaikovsky and again when High Chaparral won the same race in 2002 from Sholokov and Ballingarry.
Sir Tristram did the trick in the 1986 New Zealand Oaks when Royal Heights won from Empire Rose and Eau D’Etoile.
THE LEG PULL
The AJC Derby was 100 years old in 1961 but the events on that day overshadowed anything that had gone before or has occurred in the ensuing 50 years.
Tommy Hill on Summer Fair had edged ahead of Mel Schumacher’s mount Blue Era in the run to the line when Blue Era fought back and got the verdict.
But on returning to scale Hill told disbelieving officials Schumacher had grabbed his leg and held it over the final 50 metres, retarding Summer Fair’s progress.
The head-on camera verified Hill’s assertion and Summer Fair was awarded the Classic on protest.
Lovable larrikin Schumacher was disqualified for life but was allowed back into racing after serving six years.
Phar Lap died in mysterious circumstances in America 79 years ago this month – but his legend never will.
Even though it is more than three-quarters of a century since, his death provoked a massive outpouring of national grief.
Big Red is still regarded as the best Australasian racehorse to ever poke his head through a bridle.
The big horse had already attracted the public’s admiration before the AJC Derby of 1929 – after it his name was on everybody’s lips.
With Jim Pike in the saddle for the first time – he was eventually to ride Phar Lap 30 times for 27 wins – the gelding backed up the potential he had shown when winning the Rosehill Guineas with an exhilarating performance in the blue riband at Randwick.
The Red Terror won the Derby untouched by 3-1/2 lengths in race record time – the rest is history.
THE BIG O
More than 40,000 people went to Randwick in 1996 to watch what is still regarded as one of the finest, if not the finest, Derbys.
In a vintage crop of outstanding three-year-olds, the people’s champion Octagonal was up against the likes of Victoria Derby winner Nothin’ Leica Dane, Bart Cummings’ star Saintly and the brilliant Filante.
“Occy” did what he was famous for, and what the huge crowd had come to see.
With Darren Beadman riding his usual patient race on the Zabeel colt, Octagonal had only three runners behind him approaching the home turn but again displayed his renowned never-say-die finish to nail subsequent Cox Plate and Melbourne Cup winner Saintly by a long head.
The top-notch Filante and Nothin’ Leica Dane had to settle for third and fourth respectively.
The incomparable Kingston Town had a staggering 15 starts as a three-year-old, winning 12 of them including his memorable victory in the 1980 AJC Derby.
Kingston Town kicked off his Classic season with a win over 1200m in August 1979 before successes in the Group Two Peter Pan (1500m) and Gloaming Stakes (1850m) and his inaugural Group One trophy in the Spring Champion Stakes.
He was then sent to Melbourne where he was surprisingly beaten in three consecutive races when third in the Caulfield Guineas, fourth in Mighty Kingdom’s Caulfield Cup and second to Big Print in the Victoria Derby.
But there was to be no stopping the King the next autumn.
He resumed from a spell to win the 1200m Expressway Stakes at weight-for-age before winning the Listed Heritage Stakes and stringing together Group One wins in the Rosehill Guineas, the Tancred Stakes, now The BMW, and the Derby.
The King had nothing left to prove – but he did anyway with his last three starts as a three-year-old yielding more Group One glory in the Sydney Cup just five days after the Derby before giving his northern fans something to remember with successes in the Grand Prix Stakes and Queensland Derby.
Overall Kingston Town had 41 starts for 30 wins including 14 at the elite level.