Lover of kings and racing won at Royal Ascot with Aussie horse
12 Jun 2012 | Although Choisir became the first Australian bred, owned and trained performer to star at England’s historic Royal Ascot carnival, one which began at this London perimeter located course back in 1711, when successful in a space of five days in June 2003 in the King’s Stand (five furlongs) and Golden Jubilee, he was not the first Australian to succeed there.
Way back in the year 1900 Merman, an 8-year-old Australian stallion who had been a mid road performer back home, winning the Williamstown Cup in Melbourne, confirmed that he was one of Europe’s best stayers of the time by taking the region’s premier staying test, the Royal Ascot Gold Cup over 4000m.
Cheering him on, no doubt, was his England owner Lillie Langtry, a sweetheart of the theatre revered as Jersey Lily, and also her Royal lover, the then Prince of Wales and later King Edward V11. Very much into racing, Lillie enjoyed her best success with Merman, earlier winner in England of the Goodwood Cup (two mile), Newmarket Jockey Club Cup (two mile) and the Newmarket Cesarewitch (two mile, two furlongs).
Used at stud with modest success in England and then Germany, Merman was one of a number of Australians campaigned by Lillie, all in the ownership of ‘Mr Jersey.’ Another, Aurum, a son of the Musket champion performer Trenton, was one of the best horses to leave here, winning the VRC Ascot Vale Stakes, Sires’ Produce Stakes, C.B. Fisher Plate, VATC Caulfield Guineas and AJC Champagne.
In addition, Aurum finished third to the W. Forrester owned and trained brothers Gaulus (6yo, the winner) and The Grafter (a half head second) in the 1897 Melbourne Cup and then at the same carnival won a Flying Stakes on the third day and was successful twice on the fourth, including the C.B. Fisher over two mile. Half his Melbourne Cup carnival earnings were remitted to Lillie Langtry.
Aurum suffered feet trouble on the voyage to England that restricted his racing, but his trainer, the same one that had Merman, claimed him the best horse in his stable.
Also in England at the same time as Merman was The Grafter, a horse who went within a half head of two Melbourne Cup wins, following his second placing in1897 with victory the next year. A gelding, he won a number of races, including then high quality City and Suburban Handicap (10 furlongs) on Epsom, the home of the Derby.
Another Australian bred horse to win a good race at Royal Ascot a century plus ago was the mare Mons Meg, annexer of the Ascot Gold Vase (two mile), but she was foaled to northern hemisphere time. She was by 1883 Melbourne Cup winner Martini-Henry, a son of Musket, sire also of Carbine (first and second Melbourne Cup) and Trenton (second and third Melbourne Cups), two top Australian sires sent to England in mid age and in the background in thousands of pedigrees around the world today.