Queensland's first Cup winner was named after its two-legged "mother"
By Ross Stanley
The 1959 Melbourne Cup went to a New Zealand-bred gelding that was owned in Julia Creek, trained by a former Mackay boy and ridden by a "lucky last minute" South Australian jockey.
With Pat Glennon aboard, Macdougal added the loving Cup to the Brisbane Cup and AJC Metropolitan Handicap trophies that had gone Reg Brown's way earlier in the year.
The bay son of Marco Polo and Lady Fox was a poddy foal and was bottle-reared by Peggy Macdougal at Trelawney Stud. The Cambridge nursery was run by Seton Otway, the remarkable Kiwi whose property was the early home for Tulloch and seven Melbourne Cup winners.
A star lodger was Foxbridge, broodmare sire of Hiraji (1947), Foxzami (1949), Hi Jinx (1960), Silver Knight (1971) and Macdougal, while Polo Prince (1964) was by Marco Polo from Foxbridge's granddaughter Sou' East.
Trelawney was also the abode of Alcimedes, father of Silver Knight and Galilee (1966).
In 1955 Reg's father Norman (N.H.) Brown had inspected the Trelawney yearling draft and had been impressed with Macdougal. He wrote the words "strong looking customer, will stay" in the catalogue.
"But apparently Otway told my grandfather he would prefer that he didn't purchase the colt because of his fractious nature. He ignored his advice and paid 1800 guineas which was among the top prices of the sale," said Reg's daughter Heather Pascoe who runs Plaintree Farm, home to the Danehill stallion Conatus that boasts Denise's Joy on the maternal side.
"After the hammer fell my father told Seton Otway that he would like to name the colt after his breeder. Mr Otway suggested he would prefer that he be named after Miss Macdougal, the stud groom who had reared him on a bottle."
Sadly N.H. Brown, who started off the highly successful Nonda line of station horses, passed away in 1956 before Macdougal had raced. His fine judgement could not be rewarded in his lifetime but his son Reg took up the reins. Reference to the estate of N.H. Brown was aptly retained in the racebook horse ownership entry.
Macdougal was initially educated by Pat Murray. Then at two he went to Ted Hush and after his death, Peter Lawson took over, winning races with him and picking up a third placing as a three-year-old in the 1957 Brisbane Cup behind Foxbridge's son Cambridge.
"My father was introduced to Dick Roden by a mutual friend when they were waiting at Brisbane airport for their suitcases. Dad was thinking of finding a new trainer for his four-year-old Macdougal. The north Queensland connection was clearly a major influence in his decision to give the horse to Dick Roden and Macdougal shifted stables soon after," said Pascoe.
"Horses have become a commodity and a business, but back in the days of my father and grandfather they were servants, companions and friends. Back in that era horses were a religion and true believers recognised one another as soon as they met."
Seemingly the trainer and the owner were reading from the same page of the same textbook and their experiences and values were to intermix productively.
The Roden family home was in Nebo Road, the thoroughfare that leads to Mackay's racetrack.
The town's sugar mills deployed draught horses and Dick's childhood was enveloped in richly practical equine experiences.
His father Bill was a veterinarian and as well as witnessing general vet calls, young Dick was also a regular at Mackay Turf Club's Ooralea Park where his father was committeeman, honorary animal medic and, for a while, handicapper.
One of Dick's ponies was Pilly. It had a twin named Winkie and the latter was ridden by a show ring rival and mate known to the world as George Moore.
The 1930s were tough times and Bill Roden gave a pony to Tommy Hill, another of his son's friends.
Incredibly Mel Schumacher, a former Dick Roden apprentice, pulled Hill's leg in the infamous 1961 AJC Derby finish.
As a schoolboy Dick picked up money cleaning out boxes and tending to horses on racedays.
After one excursion the lad came home with a "giveaway" called Bernfly courtesy of a frustrated owner who had lost plenty on it. The neddy's problems were sorted out and he won 14 races.
During his teens Roden embarked on an animal husbandry course at Gatton College and found time to boot home around a century of winners as an amateur jockey.
A special moment was when Apple Pip, owned and trained by Bill Roden, picked up the Amateur Cup trophy at Rockhampton.
Much travelling was involved and a friendship was kindled with Gunsynd's foundation trainer Bill Wehlow who was working at the time in central Queensland as a train drover, tending to horse and cattle passengers.
Macdougal's Melbourne Cup assignment had not been a pushover with the tartan kilt meeting many a thistle before the 8/1 chance swept clear of Nether Gold (Bill Camer, 20/1) with White Hills (Roy Higgins, 50/1) a half head back in third placing in the 99th edition of Flemington's signature event.
Reportedly Glennon had told connections as he was legged up that he would win the Cup for them by three lengths and that was the margin the judge posted.
Queensland's Grand Garry, the Dalray four-year-old that Macdougal had beaten by an inch and a half in the Eagle Farm two miler, and the Bart Cummings-trained Trellios, the weakening leader, were next home in the field of 28.
There had been hurdles to get around in the gelding's earlier life and there were unwanted problems in the Victorian campaign itself.
The emotionally insecure stayer had a history of being a poor eater and Roden had altered his dietary intake.
With the Brown's help a new "out of the way" yard was set up and a pony was strategically placed in the adjacent space so the thoroughbred would copycat its feeding timetable.
The training program was also carefully structured with slow work over ground a major element.
Also his box walking and head and shoulder weaving across a stall opening used up energy and put added strain on the legs and joints. He was somewhat claustrophobic and relished being kept in the wider, more open area.
Preparing Macdougal to do his job as a racehorse was a classic case of really tailoring to the individual animal's head and body and going on that sort of mission was Dick's forte.
After winning the Brisbane Cup Roden told pressman Jim Vine that he "gave the Brisbane winter climate full credit for the Cup win. In Sydney Macdougal was a dainty feeder who had to be coaxed to eat three feeds a day. In Brisbane there was no coaxing and he polished off four and looked for more."
In the spring of 1959 the six-year-old did not handle the train trip south to Melbourne all that well and had to be coddled for a few days.
Next he was injured when the Caulfield Guineas winner Prince Lea nicked him during a track gallop.
A Cox Plate run was ruled out and obviously preparations were not only hampered but the heat in the leg had to be treated as a priority.
Regular rider Ron Hutchinson started to waver and ended up finalising a Cup ride on Trellios after the pair had won the L.K.S. Mackinnon Stakes.
Hutchinson was in the irons when Macdougal did get to the post and wound up in second place behind Grand Garry in the Hotham. It was a tidy, encouraging effort and the jockey feared he may have pulled the wrong rein with his option for the forthcoming Tuesday's main event.
Jack Purtell had made the same mistake in 1950 when he got off the Jim Cummings prepared Comic Court (25/1) to partner the unplaced favourite Alister.
That time Pat Glennon fluked the ride on the Powerscourt entire that was strapped by a young Bart for his father.
Nine years later Glennon, who was to take Sea Bird to victory in the 1965 Epsom Derby and Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe, was hired for Macdougal on race eve.
Macdougal, carrying 8.11 (56kg), was magnificently strong, shaking off a wall of chances in the final furlong.
Hutchinson, who had been very confident turning for home, did not really have to identify the rival who was rapidly passing him. He knew who it would be.
Victoria's leading rider that season was destined to never win either leg of the spring Cups double but his son Peter got on the board with Fraar in the 1993 Caulfield Cup.
Hutchinson rode with distinction in Great Britain for two decades, finishing second to Lester Piggott in the 1964 premiership.
The superb Flemington-in-November victory delighted Nonda Downs Station's Reg Brown and he rang from the track to organise lollies and drinks for the children and beer for the adults at all the Julia Creek and Richmond hotels.
N.H. Brown's family were able to savour the realisation of his greatest dream. In the lead up to the Second World War he had chosen to sell his band of broodmares including Lady March who was pregnant to Excitement. The foal raced as Russia and the Ted Hush-trained chestnut saluted with Darby Munro in the saddle in the 1946 Melbourne Cup.
N.H., the entire's actual breeder who had played a demanding and pivotal role in the north west's vital wartime effort, was quoted as saying: "There you go. I'll just have to find myself another one."
Reg Brown was totally determined to honour his father's wish and do everything possible to fulfil it.
Macdougal was a marvellous handicapper, also taking out the 1958 Queen's Cup at Randwick. He failed in Baystone's 1958 Cup but his third successive entry in the event saw him run a most creditable ninth (58.5kg, 50/1) of 32 in Hi Jinx's 1960 Cup.
He backed up to win the VRC Handicap (14f, 2800m) shortly after and then another excellent endeavour saw him pipped by a nose when conceding the Caulfield Cup winner Ilumquh 2.5 kilograms in the 1960 Williamstown Cup (now Sandown Classic).
After placings in the AJC Summer Cup and Tattersall's Cup the veteran saluted in the Henry Lawson Handicap (10f) at Randwick in February 1961.
Unfortunately he had to be put down at the same track after the running of the 1961 Invitation Stakes.
Dick Roden closed off a highly significant chapter, one that had been triggered by a fortuitous meeting at an aerodrome. There had been satisfying excitement for him and there was more to come.