TOMORROW night’s Melton program will provide numerous trips down memory lane as Tabcorp Park honours some of the industry’s past greats.
Thrilling fans with their prowess during the 1950s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, the quartet of stars have captured majors such as the Inter Dominion, South Australia Cup, Lady Brooks Cup, Derbys and Oaks.
The first honouree of the evening is the Bold David Free-For-All, named after the 1970 Inter Dominion champion.
While the former star will always be remembered for his victory in the industry’s pinnacle event, Bold David’s story goes beyond his racing feats.
A solid built pacer with a strong determination matched only by his heart, Bold David was the equine reflection of the man who took him to grand heights – the late Alf Simons.
Just to highlight the bond between man and beast, Simons drove Bold David to all of his 41 wins.
Ironically, Simons initially turned down a request to train Bold David, but changed his mind in order to help a friend.
“I had a lot of horses at the time and didn’t want to take him,” Simons was quoted as saying.
“Charlie (Priddeth, owner) was a very good man with young horses and a great friend of ours, so I agreed.
“I certainly never regretted accepting his offer.”
Bold David was retired after breaking his cannon bone as a nine-year-old. He contested 189 races for 41 wins, 41 seconds, 30 thirds and $97,303 in prizemoney.
Simons, who was sidelined by injury resulting from a race fall, didn’t drive Bold David during his last start, with Peter Ward taking the reins.
Despite the loss of his stable star, Simons continued to prepare a string of handy competitors during the ensuing years, with his own driving career coming to an end in 1982.
Although he tried to appeal the inevitable, Simons was a victim of the compulsory retirement rule.
Simons’ final success as a reinsman was behind Basil Bells at Stawell on July 13, 1982, just four days short of his 65th birthday.
Arguably the best filly produced in the southern hemisphere will then return to the spotlight with the running of the Argent Classic.
Foaled in 1952, Argent was by inaugural A G Hunter Cup winner Silver Peak from handy producer Scottish Maiden.
Trained by Jack McKay, Argent was unbeaten from four starts as a two-year-old, with her wins including the Victoria Breeders’ Plate and Saplings Stake.
It was the following year that Argent achieved immortality in what was a vintage season for three-year-olds.
Argent’s 10 wins for the term not only include the Victoria and New South Wales Oaks, but also the Derbys from both states and she remains the only filly to achieve such a remarkable feat!
On top of that, Argent also won her Victoria and New South Wales Derby heats and won three races against open age company at the Ascot Vale Showgrounds – including her first start for the season!
Amazingly on January 6, 1956 – just five months into her three-year-old year and first-up from a spell – Argent beat her older rivals as the 4/5 favourite.
Leading throughout, the filly accounted for Summer Van and Pay Load, which went on to win the Hunter Cup, in 2:09.2 over 11 furlongs.
On the same card, Cheyenne captured the fast class event in 2:11.8 over a similar distance.
Argent raced her way into open company as a four-year-old before being retired to stud.
She only produced four foals – all winners – before being found dead one morning.
Argent’s progeny was Gyro, which was plagued by injuries throughout his career.
Limited to 48 starts, which netted 19 wins and 14 placings, Gyro joined his mum on the Victoria Sapling Stake honour roll in 1963 before emulating her New South Wales Derby triumph in 1964.
Grand mare Angelique will be the next honouree with the running of the Angelique Club Cup.
Founded by several wives of media men, the Club is named after the former outstanding pacer, with the feature part of Victoria’s Mares’ Triple Crown.
The late Bob Cain affectionately referred to the group as the “Old Boilers Club”.
A star in her own right, Angelique’s name goes side-by-side with the late champion horseman, Gordan Rothacker, who passed away in November 2010.
Although linked with many top class performers, Rothacker is best remembered for his association with Angelique.
Bred and owned by Rothacker’s wife Jean, Angelique held the mantle as the premier pacing mare in Victoria during the 1960s.
Retired at the age of nine, Angelique registered 45 wins and 50 placings from 138 starts for just on $70,000.
Included in her wins are the Victoria Oaks, the Lady Brooks Cup (twice), SA Trotting Club Cup, two heats of the 1964 Inter Dominion (runner-up to Minuteman in the Final) and 21 Free-For-Alls.
Rounding out the ‘awesome foursome’ is champion trotter True Roman.
Trained by Graeme Johannesen, True Roman won a host of key events, including the industry’s ‘holy grail’, the Inter Dominion, which he captured in 1988.
An evergreen performer, the son of True Duane was retired as an 11-year-old with record earnings of $530,732 thanks to his 73 wins and 36 placings from 137 starts.
True Roman also holds the mantle for the most wins at a Victorian metropolitan track – 35 at Moonee Valley.
The squaregaiter’s tally consists of an incredible 34 metro and a country success. Better yet, his country win was in a pacers’ event!
Moonee Valley was also the scene of True Roman’s Inter Dominion victory when driven by master reinsman Gavin Lang, which has led to the weekend’s honour as part of the Melbourne-based/Victorian-trained Inter Dominion winners’ features.
A pacing-bred performer, True Roman was purchased by Johannesen and close friend, Roger Dalton, from Ron Pocock, who originally bought the youngster at a Sydney yearling sale in 1981.
Sixth upon debut at a Wedderburn non-TAB meeting, True Roman broke his maiden status at his fourth outing when driven by Lang.
That was the beginning of a formidable partnership, with Lang partnering True Roman to top shelf triumphs such as the Australasian Trotters’ Championship, two V L Dullard Cups, two South Australia Trotters’ Cups, four Cochran Cups, three Freestone Cups, three Chris Howe Cups and two Grand Slam Finals during the next nine seasons.