Australian Racing History: The Legendary Desert Gold
By Kristen Manning
A win by the promising Blondie at Sandown on Wednesday brought back timely memories of one of the greats of the Australasian turf, a mare so revered that each year at Trentham a Group Three race is run in her honour.
The Legendary Desert Gold.
What a wonderful mare she was, the winner of 36 of her 59 starts – a remarkable 19 of those consecutively!
Which is why it is timely to think of her; Winx on Saturday attempting that same feat!
Such a reputation did Desert Gold forge, so popular did she become with racegoers of the WWI era, that in 1919 – whilst she was still racing – a movie was made loosely based on her exploits.
Sadly the black and white feature has been lost, a shame as wouldn’t it be fun to see what it was like. Reviews suggest that it was somewhat corny and poorly acted but one of the stars would make it worth watching.
Desert Gold herself!
Yep, whilst racing she took time off to be the star of her own film; that is one adaptable racehorse.
Several leading jockeys of the time also had cameos and is the debut for the aptly named Marie Ney (get it?!) who went on to a successful acting career in the UK. Copies of the film were lost in a 1925 fire.
But back to Desert Gold’s racing career. Whilst she preceded the pattern system the Australian stud book recognises 31 of her victories as having come at stakes level – amongst those the New Zealand Derby, the New Zealand 2000 Guineas, the Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes, and the All-Aged Stakes; all now Group One races.
Several of her other wins came in major races no longer run, races which had also been won by the likes of Phar Lap and Tulloch.
A bold front runner, Desert Gold broke through at her sixth start at two and at three was unbeatable. Winning hearts all over New Zealand, she was just as popular in Australia, at her first local outing winning the St George Stakes at Caulfield. Two Sydney wins followed and the following season she tackled the Melbourne Cup, eighth under a big weight.
Racing until seven, Desert Gold was out of the placings only six times in her lengthy career and she is a just member of the New Zealand Hall Of Fame.
|Great Northern Foal Stakes (1914)
Royal Stakes (1915, 1916)
Islington Plate (1915, 1916, 1917)
Hawke’s Bay Guineas (1915)
New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1915)
Manawatu Sires Produce Stakes (1915)
Great Northern St. Leger (1916)
Awapuni Gold Cup (1916, 1917, 1918)
CJC New Zealand Derby Stakes (1915)
ARC Great Northern Derby (1916)
New Zealand Oaks (1916)
Wellington Stakes (1916)
VATC St George Stakes (1918)
AJC All-Aged Stakes (1918)
Taranaki Stakes (1919)
At stud Desert Gold was represented by three winners, the best of those being the Timaru Cup winner Chrysology.
Her genes still flow through the modern thoroughbred – such as in Blondie who was impressive saluting at Sandown on Wednesday; her second success from just three starts.
Desert Gold is her ninth dam.
There have been a number of quality performs who descend from her – the likes of feature race winners Desert Fox, Gold Rod, Gold Rail, Makanui, What’s The Verdict, Tango Miss, Goldenway, Regal Empress, Desert Chief, Rakanui, Breakfast Creek, Gold Circle, Ace Queen and In Pursuit amongst them.
Desert Gold was successful broodmare that produced a total of nine foals, of which six raced and three were winners. Her named produce are:
- 1921 filly, Desert Land by Finland (AUS)
- 1922 filly, Oreum by King John (IRE), dam of the brilliant Gold Rod, won 14 stakes races including AJC Epsom Handicap and AJC Doncaster Handicap
- 1924 filly, Auratum by Absurd (GB)
- 1925 filly, Pure Gold by Psychology (GB), dam of Gold Trail (won Auckland Cup etc.).
- 1927 stallion, Chrysology (by Psychology), won Timaru Cup
- 1928 filly, Sahara by Grandcourt (GB), dam of stakes winner, Karachi and others
- 1930 filly, Fintry by Chief Ruler (GB)
- 1932 filly, Treasure Trove by Gainscourt (GB)
Her family has continued to produce many winners.
|Sire||All Black (GB)|
|Owner||T. H. Lowry|
Kristen Manning is a freelance racing writer and pedigree analyst based in Melbourne. A keen owner/breeder who loves every aspect of thoroughbred horse racing, she has written two books focusing on the deeds of Fields Of Omagh and Prince Of Penzance.