Turf Monthly

September 2021

Turf Monthly was an integral part of the Australian racing tradition. For over half a century the magazine was a must read for anyone with an interest in racing. It gave insights into the horses and people who made racing such an important part of life. Now it is back on the shelf and will again bring to life the history and heritage of the turf. Relive the great moments, the champion horses, jockeys, and trainers, and those characters behind the scenes that give racing such a colourful history. Turf Monthly wants to bring the champions of the past into the modern era so they become more than just a name in a pedigree.

Turf Monthly
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in this issue

2 min
editor’s letter

There has been a bit of talk of late about the increase in new big money races and the impact they have on the time honoured Pattern racing system. This system has been the backbone of world racing for generations and there are a few issues to be considered. Firstly, the reliability of the Pattern Committee recommendations must always be kept in focus. We have seen a growth in Group races for fillies and mares in recent times in response to powerful breeders’ lobbyists. The minute we get self-interest taking over from the interests of the breed, there should always be concern. The argument about races like the Everest are just another take on this. They do not affect the Pattern process but might boil down simply to a power…

5 min
the underwood stakes

The Underwood Stakes is one of the features of the early Spring in Melbourne. Held at Caulfield the race last year was won by the impressive Russian Camelot. It has a history of being won by quality horses. First run over a mile (1600m) at Williamstown Racing Club in 1924, the race was won by the champion, Whittier who also won the race the following year. In 1942, the war led to the race not being held and it was reduced to 1400m in 1943. In 1944 the Underwood went back to 1600m but was changed to 1800m in 1949. Interestingly this change was also accompanied by another dual winner of the race in Beau Gem who also won in 1950. In 1954 the race went to 2000m and was…

4 min
williamstown racing club

Williamstown was established the main port of Melbourne with the Yarra River too narrow to accommodate ships. Dredging of the river allowed for Station Pier at Port Melbourne to be opened in the 1850s. Williamstown lost its importance as a port and became known as “the fishing village.” In 1859, Williamstown local horse Flying Buck, won a race a Flemington by 10 lengths, prompting the development of Williamstown racecourse which actually was located at Altona. The first race meeting was recorded on Boxing Day in 1859. The main race that day was the Williamstown Handicap, the forerunner to the Williamstown Cup, and it was won by a South Australian horse called The Barber. A son of The Barb out of an unidentified mare, The Barber was to go on to…

4 min
the williamstown cup

The Williamstown Cup was first run in 1888 and won by Mara, a mare by The Ace who had also won the Hotham Handicap earlier in the Spring. The Williamstown Cup was the last of the four cups run during the Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival, with the others being the Moonee Valley, Caulfield and Melbourne Cups. The race was held over 2200m until 1920 when another furlong was added to take the distance to 2400m. From 1943 to 1950 the race was run over 2600m but for the remainder of the time it has stayed over a mile and half. The race changed conditions in 1999 when it went from a handicap to weight for age. One of the most notable of the early winners was Merman by Grand Flaneur…

11 min

When we talk about the greatest horses of the Australian Turf, one name that is often forgotten is that of Amounis. He raced at a time of some of the greatest champions in our history including Windbag, Spearfelt, Valicare, Mollison and the immortal Phar Lap. Not only did he compete against these greats, but he beat them all, including the mighty Phar Lap at the peak of his powers. Amounis also beat Gloaming’s Australian record for stakes money until his record was surpassed by Phar Lap. Amounis had a great record of carrying weight but was kept away from a lot of the handicap races because of the impost he would have been given. Trainer Frank McGrath never attempted a Melbourne Cup with the wonderful stayer despite saying that he…

3 min
frank mcgrath

McGrath, Francis (1866–1947) by Richard Waterhouse This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000 Francis McGrath (1866-1947), jockey and racehorse-trainer, was born on 17 October 1866 at Boorowa, New South Wales, eldest of three sons of James McGrath, carpenter, and his second wife Catherine, née Cahill (late Kane), both from County Tipperary, Ireland. Frank learned to ride early and had his first win on his father's horse, Killarney, at the Gullen races in 1875. Apprenticed to Sydney trainer John Alsopp in 1877, he moved to Edward Keys and in 1880 joined the Newcastle stables of John Mayo, for whom he rode Prince Imperial in the 1885 Caulfield Cup: McGrath suffered head and eye injuries when sixteen of the forty-one runners fell in the straight. Although he was plagued…