Flemington hosts National Hall of Fame Raceday this Saturday, with the nine-race card highlighted by the Listed Andrew Ramsden Stakes (3200m), Flemington’s ‘other’ two-mile race.
Six races will be named in recognition of recent inductees into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame, and Dr Andrew Lemon has noted their remarkable achievements for the National Hall of Fame Raceday racebook.
George John Watson, Irish-born early Melbourne colonist, was a horse dealer, coach proprietor, trainer, daring rider and racing official whose unpaid role for forty years earned him the label ‘the Prince of Starters’. Before starting barriers were invented, his craft demanded expert horsemanship, marshalling horses into line before despatching them by waving a large flag. Watson founded the Melbourne Hunt Club, fearlessly riding in hunts and steeplechases across country. He officiated at many racecourses including Caulfield. Watson was elected to the first committee of the Victoria Racing Club. At Flemington he officially started Melbourne Cups from 1861 to 1895.
Irish-bred Karasi was one of the world’s great jumpers. It was in Australia that he became a steeplechaser. Visiting Japan, he became the first to win the rich Nakayama Grand Jump three times (2005-07). Karasi originally raced in England. Coming to Australia he won a Geelong Cup, placed in Brisbane Cup (twice) and Adelaide Cup. He ran fourth in the 2001 Melbourne Cup. His first jumps victory came in 2003. His wins included the Australian Hurdle and the South Australia Grand National Hurdle. Injured preparing for a fourth Nakayama attempt, Karasi retired aged 13, his $3.75 million earnings a steeplechaser’s record.
William Arthur ‘Billy’ Smith, had a forty-year career as a lightweight jockey, winning large races at long odds. His greatest triumph was his unexpected victory on Hi Jinx in the Centenary Melbourne Cup, 1960. Born in 1928, Smith emerged as Melbourne’s top apprentice. In WA he won the prestigious 1949 King’s Cup. In the 1950s Smith rode in Perth and later New Zealand where he became premier jockey. Returning to Melbourne, he became champion jockey in season 1960-61. Group 1 victories followed in every Australian state. Champions he rode included Winfreux. Never losing his boyish charm, W.A. Smith retired in 1983.
Poitrel is only the third horse, after the champions Archer and Carbine, to have won a Melbourne Cup carrying a handicap of 10 stone (63.5 kg) or more. The wiry chestnut (St Alwynne – Poinard), born in 1914 at Arrowfield Stud NSW, was unsold as a yearling. His breeders, William and Frederick Moses, retained him for racing. Poitrel blossomed into the best stayer of his day in Australia, winning 16 black type races. Soon after taking the 1920 Melbourne Cup at six years, Poitrel was retired to stud. His best son was Begamba who won St Leger Stakes in three states.
Colin Hayes was quite simply one of the three great Australian trainers in the second half of the 20th century. With Bart Cummings and Tommy Smith, Hayes dominated the training scene with quiet dignity. He achieved 28 Adelaide training premierships and 13 in Melbourne, once winning 10 races nationally in one day. The career tally was 5333 wins including two Melbourne Cups. He became synonymous with the historic Lindsay Park stud and training property in the Barossa Valley. After his retirement in 1990 Hayes remained a force in the Australian breeding industry, while his family continued his legacy of training success.
Chris Waller made Australian racing history quickly and comprehensively. First visiting as a young New Zealand trainer with four horses in 2000, he settled in Sydney in 2007, established stables at Rosehill, trained his first Group 1 winner in 2008 (Triple Honour in the Doncaster). By season 2010-11 he was the premier Sydney trainer and has maintained that place ever since. By the end of season 2016-17 Waller had trained more than 75 Group 1 winners nationally, most famously Winx, triple Cox Plate winner, the horse of her generation. Waller has been inducted into the NZ Racing Hall of Fame.