December 1, 2018
There’s been a lot of publicity recently about Winx – well-deserved, of course … world record consecutive Group 1 wins, four Cox Plates – but South Burnett journalist Keith Kratzmann believes that with all this buzz, another great champion is at risk of being forgotten.
Keith, 84, is one of the few racing enthusiasts who can still recall the exploits of the famous Bernborough.
Along with his father, Keith attended the 1946 Doomben 10,000, a race long-remembered by a war-weary nation.
Meet a true Queensland superstar, Bernborough.
Bernborough was the greatest weight-carrying galloper of all time.
Born and bred on the Darling Downs, he did what no other galloper achieved – except perhaps Phar Lap. He raced week after week with heavy handicap imposts over distances varying from six furlongs (1200 metres) to 11 furlongs (2200 metres) .
The Oakey champion put together 15 straight wins in just 10 months covering all three eastern States before failing in the 1946 Caulfield Cup where he suffered four checks in running.
This ride by Athol Mulley upset connections and meant Mulley would never ride the “Toowoomba Tornado” again.
Two bookmakers bet 3-1 each way on Bernborough while other fielders had the champion at 7-4.
The two bookies were barred from Victorian racetracks but Mulley was never questioned by stewards about the ride.
Disaster then struck on November 2, 1946. With new jockey Bill Briscoe aboard, Bernborough broke down with a badly damaged fetlock in the weight-for-age LKS MacKinnon Stakes.
(Bernborough recovered from his injury although he never raced again. He was sold and sent overseas to stand at stud in Lexington, Kentucky, where he died in 1960.)
I well remember when I was just a 12 year-old living on a property at Stuart Valley on the Kingaroy-Kumbia Road.
Dad decided to drive his T-model Ford utility to Brisbane to see his brother the same weekend that Bernborough lined up for the 1946 Doomben 10,000.
Because funds were limited, Dad and I each paid 3d (I guess the present equal of 50 cents) to get into the Flat.
Against a field of 26 runners and carrying 10st 5lbs (about 65kg), Bernborough gave some 10kg to the lightweight chances. He came from 23rd place at the final turn to win by two lengths in record time.
The late racecaller Keith Noud burst on to the radio: “Here’s Bernborough from the clouds, he’s coming like a tornado.”
Just seven days later, Bernborough, now lumping 10st 11lbs (about 68.5kg), took out the Doomben Cup over the 11 furlongs (2200 metres).
In 1946, very few cars attended race meetings however upwards of 20,000 people arrived in buses, trams and rail to see this superstar in action.
The Queensland champion also won top events in southern States including the Newmarket (where he ran the final 200 metres in just 10 seconds – a record which still stands) and Futurity Stakes in Victoria; and, in Sydney, the Rawson, Chipping Norton and All Aged Stakes.
It should be remembered that Bernborough raced against quality Australian distance gallopers who had been bred and prepared for feature distance events, including the Caulfield and Melbourne Cups.
The emphasis now is on breeding two-year-olds to compete for outrageous millions of dollars with many retiring to stud as three and four year-olds.
Leading owners and trainers are importing gallopers from the United Kingdom and Europe to compete in very ordinary fields for the Australian distance events.
When Bernborough retired he was sold to American movie magnate Louis Mayer where he stood at stud in the US and produced up to 40 winners.
The champion’s magnificent efforts have earned him a well-deserved place in the Australian Racing Hall of Fame alongside Phar Lap, Carbine, Tulloch and Kingston Town.
A Cinesound newsreel covering his career was shown in picture theatres right across Australia up to the 1950s.
In 1977, Oakey Chamber of Commerce honoured the marvel galloper with the erection of a statue outside the Jondaryan Shire Council chambers in Oakey.
Doomben has also never forgotten the champion by having his history, photographs and a newsreel of his performances on display which is visited regularly by racing patrons. The tribute and its presentation is the work of former Courier-Mail and Sunday Mail turf editor Jim Anderson.
Keith Noud, who covered Bernborough’s historic victories in 1946, rated the Downs prodigy as the greatest galloper of all time.
In just one year, the Toowoomba Tornado put together 15 straight victories in both handicaps and weight-for-age events drawing record crowds in all three States.