The late journalist and RadioTAB presenter, Graham Dawson, penned a wonderful story in Turf Monthly in February of 1989 (pictured), reflecting on the brilliant 1970 Stradbroke win of the Dick Roden trained Divide and Rule. It is repeated in full below in the interests of the historical significance of the victory.
On this website today, I should have run an exclusive story on further problems encountered racing on the course proper of the Ipswich racetrack yesterday, but that story will go up here tomorrow night now. Justracing has been exclusively on top of the story for weeks and again there were problems at Ipswich track yesterday and I can tell you from feedback I’m getting that some senior riders aren’t happy.
However as Saturday is Stradbroke day, there’s obviously a very thin veneer of opportunity for me to place this Stradbroke story here, looking back on one of the great post World War 2 Stradbrokes – the 1970 version of the race, which was won by Divide and Rule. In victory the horse landed a mammoth plunge. The late journalist and RadioTAB presenter, Graham Dawson, wrote a wonderful article in Turf Monthly in February 1989 reflecting on the win - and it makes a great read. This is what Graham Dawson wrote:
At 62 years of age, former trainer Dick Roden is about to return to Racing.
At the moment he’s not saying where, nor in what capacity, but you can bet your bottom dollar he’ll make headlines when he does make his move.
Dick Roden has been like that his whole working life.
His horse, Gresford, was the first beaten galloper to be swabbed in Queensland, back in 1955. Headlines.
Gresford was also the first horse flown from Brisbane to Melbourne to race. More headlines!
The trip wasn’t wasted as the Roden-trained speedster won at Moonee Valley – twice.
However, the event which still rankles Dick Roden took place in Brisbane on a sunny Friday afternoon in June, 1970.
Dick, and his wife Elaine, had taken their champion three-year-old Divide and Rule to Brisbane for the seven-furlongs Group One Stradbroke Handicap.
Trevor Harper, now the trainer of High Regard, was apprenticed to Dick at the time and he accompanied the horse to Mascot for the flight north.
Divide and Rule provided a bit difficult to handle and hit his head on the plane with such force that a gaping wound was opened as wide as the Sydney Heads.
Harper rand Roden immediately the plane arrived in Brisbane. As the story unfolded, Roden’s heart sank.
He rang Brisbane vet Fred Manahan who inspected the horse.
Manahan recommended full treatment for the wound.
“We can’t give him an injection,” Dick advised the vet. “The race is only 10 days off.”
Instead, Manahan stitched it and kept the wound clean.
News of the incident made headlines around Australia. Divide and Rule was highly fancied for the Stradbroke. Everything the horse did, or did not do, made sporting headlines.
“We had him in a trial the Tuesday before the race,” Dick recalled recently in his home overlooking the Blackall Ranges on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
“He ran third behind Mr Hush but it was a nice trial because I’d left his shoes on, and there’s a big difference between racing plates and shoes.”
“But he blew the place down after the trial.”
Racing writers told their readers Divide and Rule could not win the Stradbroke the following Saturday.
On the final fast day’s work, the Thursday, popular track rider ‘Doc’ Baker jumped aboard the gelding.
“Doc did the job just right,” recalled Dick Roden in admiration.
“Divide And Rule ran 1:06 for the five furlongs, but he came home the last two in a tick over 22!”
“Which was a fantastic effort.”
Dick went to breakfast with Elaine and smiled across the table:“We’re right!”
The next day, unbeknown to Dick or Elaine, a leading Sydney racing journalist broke the rules and took a vet to the stables to inspect Divide And Rule!
Then, as now, such action is enough to force Stipendary Stewards to take action against the journalist who should have known better.
Only one journalist bothered to ask Dick if the three-year-old was ready for the Stradbroke.
Jack Ward of the Sydney Morning Herald range Dick on the Thursday afternoon.
“He’s as fit as I can make him and I think he’ll run the race of his life,” replied Roden.
“He was the only newspaper man to talk to me before the race. Certainly the one who took the vet to my stables without permission didn’t!” Dick Roden is ropeable even now.
Such ‘headline’ hunting is intolerable, quite apart from being contrary to the Rules of Racing.
Despite the hiccup with journalists, Dick Roden prepared Divide And Rule to land the biggest plunge ever landed in Australia.
“I don’t deny that,”said Dick, smiling.
“I knew it was going to happen. Everyone said the horse couldn’t win, hadn’t done enough work. He was backed in from 8-1 to 9-2 before easing to start at 5’s and won in new race record time!”
Divide And Rule, ridden by Bill Camer, settled midfield in the Stradbroke. As the field straightened the gelding had to wait before making his run to victory.
Camer waited, and waited, and then let the big striding son of Alcimedes free.
With giant strides Divide And Rule bounded to the lead to score by one and a half lengths from Gypsy Moss with Black Onyx third.
While Dick and Elaine collected $17,000 first prize money, supporters of the stable collected hundreds and thousands of dollars on every metropolitan and provincial racetrack in the nation.
The press came after Roden’s blood. It was claimed he had deceived the public.
That’s nonsense, of course.
No-one has asked Roden, apart from Jack Ward, just how the three year old was performing in his race preparation.
“The next thing we had to do was get him ready for the Doomben Cup,” Dick recalled.
“We sent him out for the Tattersall’s Cup. He gave Gipsy Moss 22lbs and ran second, beaten just over a length.”
“I thought he was a good eachway chance.”
Divide And Rule started in a 7f trial on the Tuesday prior to the Doomben Cup and ran beautifully.
“This is a certainty,” Roden told his wife.
After exercise on the Friday morning before the Cup, Dick went to the stables. Ironically, Gipsy Moss was being prepared from the same stables and Dick saw her walking down the street. He did not like what he saw.
Divide And Rule was backed off the map, started evens favourite for the Doomben Cup (Gr1) (11f) and scored by two lengths from Rajah Sahib with Shorengro third.
One keen supporter of Divide And Rule, who flew up from Sydney for the race, approached the bookmaker Brian Ogilvie to place his bet and said:“ Can I collect this straight after the race?”
Ogilvie replied:“ He’s got to win!”
The punter shot back:“ Don’t worry about that, he’ll win.”
That was the last time Australians saw Divide And Rule in action.
Dick Roden took the horse to America where he was two races and $91,000.
“ We still own Divide And Rule,” said Dick proudly as Elaine returned from the study with a framed photo of the champ.
“We leased him to race in America. Arnold Winick trained him for Mrs Muriel Blum of Chicago.
“He’s well looked after, Everytime we go around the world, we call in on him. He’s at a place called Del Ray Training Centre, north of Miami,” said Dick.
“He’s leading a marvellous life.”
Divide And Rule was bred in New Zealand in 1966. He is by Alcimedes (GB) out of the Pride of Kildare (GB) mare Beehive.
Tom Whittle, the construction boss from Sydney, wanted to buy Divide And Rule at the NZ Yearling Sales.
Dick Roden went to New Zealand with Whittle. It was after he’d split from Stan Fox and he was on a downer.
Whittle told Roden he was prepared to go to 20,000 pounds to purchase the colt.
“It was the year of Foysters burst on the scene and they purchased anything they wanted,” Dick remembered.
“We bid on a number of horses but couldn’t get them. The Foysters beat us time-and-time again.
“We were the underbidders on Divide And Rule.”
As they boarded the plane for the return flight to Sydney, empty handed, Dick suggested to Whittle they would concentrate on the Inglis Sales at Easter.
Dick sat at the front of the plane, second class in those days.
Whittle sat in the back, first class.
During the flight home Whittle engaged his neighbour in conversation. Little did he know he was seated alongside the “Filipino Fireball”, Filipe Ysmael.
Tom related his tale of woe regarding the yearling sales, in particular his dismay at missing out on the Alcidedes colt.
Whittle said:“My trainer said you bought the best and cheapest Alcidedes in the sale. He’s a potential Derby horse.”
Ysmael asked:“Who’s your trainer?”
“Dick Roden,” replied Whittle.
Ysmael did not say another word to Whittle. Instead he got out of his seat and walked down to second class to talk to his racing manager, Frank Ford.
“We’ve got too many horses in training in Melbourne,” Ysmael told Ford. “I think Dick Roden is the man for the Alcimedes colt. Where is he?”
Ford pointed out Roden to Ysmael.
“We drank black coffee for two and a half hours,” Dick said.
“Because you are so rapt in this horse he’s the first I’ll give you to train and I’ll send you 15 from Melbourne,” Ysmael told Dick.
When one door closes ...
From Ysmael, Dick Roden got Tereus, the dam of Cap d’Antibes. He also got Silver Strike the horse Ysmael had $100,000 on the day he won at Newcastle.
Roden remembers getting Tereus ready for her first start.
“I’ve got to make a certainty of this,” he told Elaine. He did. “In a maiden event at Hawkesbury, Ysmael had $65,000 on her and she won in a photo finish. I just knew she had to make a bird of it.”
He trialled better than Foresight, the top wfa sprinter, and was engaged in a maiden at the Provincials!
Roden told Ysmael the horse was a living certainty.
“He wanted an even half million off Waterhouse and the bookie replied he was only holding $38 on the race!” said Dick laughing.
Waterhouse, the Bill variety, bet Ysmael an even $100,000 and there was another $60,000 cash put on with other bookies around the track.
“The horse played up in the boxes but won by seven lengths,” Dick said.
From then on Ysmael allowed Roden select his yearlings. However, the world came crashing down around the trainer’s ears when Ysmael was disqualified in Melbourne over the running of Follow Me and held a dispersal sale.
“We bought Divide And Rule for $45000 and then had to face the third degree to prove we were acting on our own behalf and not for anyone else,” Dick related.
At the time, Divide And Rule had faced the starter on two occasions under dick Roden for Ysmael, being unplaced behind Denmark in the Glenhaven Handicap at Rosehill and unplaced to Constant Rhythm in a two year old event at Randwick.
The first time dick went home from the track after he and Elaine had purchased Divide And Rule, he was chuckling.
Elaine recalled the incident:“He smiled and said we’ve got another champion?”
Another unplaced effort to Megalo Boy in the Marcarthur Quality at Rosehill completed the 2YO career of Divide And Rule.
When he continued campaigning for the Derby he was in the care of Neville Begg.
Pressure had gotten to Dick Roden and he suffered a nervous breakdown.
He decided to have a six months break from Racing. The Roden’s gave Begg Affectionate and Divide And Rule to prepare.
Divide And Rule had been gelded.
“Being by Alcimedes, they could be nasty horses as stallions. The best of the breed were geldings; Galilee and Prince Grant being examples,” said Dick.
Ron Quinton, Begg’s stable jockey, rode Divide And Rule in a trial at Warwick Farm.
Grand Challenge beat him a neck. Quinton came back to Roden and told him his mount was a ‘fantastic’ horse to ride. At three years, Divide And Rule won the Kellyville Graduation (7f) at Rosehill, finished second to Bold Warrior at Randwick in the AJC Stakes (8f) and ran unplaced in both the Tattersall’s Chelmsford Stakes (9f) and the Rosehill Guineas (10f).
By now, Darby McCarthy was the gelding’s regular rider and the pair combined to win the AJC Derby (Gr 1) (12-fur) at Randwick in October, 1969, by five lengths from Gallicus with Mighty Concorde a short head away third.
Begg wanted to take Divide And Rule to Melbourne for the Spring Carnival,.
Roden didn’t like to interfere with another trainers plans and went along with the idea – to his regret.
Unplaced runs in the Cox Plate and the Victoria Derby to Daryl’s Joy proved Roden’s initial instinct of sending Divide And Rule for a spell was correct after all.
The gelding was sent to Jim Fleming’s “ Stone Lodge Stud” where popular horseman Dick Turner cared for him day and night for three months.
“The horse was tired,” Dick Roden explained.
He requested that Divide And Rule be allowed out in a yard in the daytime but that he be stabled at night.
“A horse of that ability could take fright in the night and injure himself,” Dick instanced calmly.
When Divide And Rule was ready to come back as an Autumn three year old with the Stradbroke as his mission, Dick Roden, took was ready to come back to training.
He took out his licence and got him ready for the Stradbroke-Doomben Cup double.
Much to the chagrin of Australia’s bookmakers who still talk about the “ ... biggest plunge of them all”.
Dick Roden retired from training in 1970 when his champion three year old Divide And Rule was leased to race in America.
He had spent a lifetime associated with horses and was tired.
He was also on his way to becoming one of the nation’s wealthiest men in racing.
Dick was initiated in the ways of racing by his grandfather who bred horses for the Indian market.
“My father was a veterinary surgeon who raced a lot of horses,” recalled Dick Roden.
Born in Mackay in 1926, Dick was formerly educated at Gatton Agricultural College, west of Brisbane, where he was to complete an animal husbandry course.
“It was wartime and amateur riders were allowed to compete against the professionals on race day,” Dick continued.
“I won about 100 races in all.”
During holidays from College, Dick would head off to the races where he rode any and everywhere around the Mackay coast.
The biggest race he won was the Central Queensland Amateur Cup on a horse call Apple Pip for his father.
He went straight from Gatton College to the Rockhampton Jockey Club.
“That’s where I met my wife, Elaine,” said Dick. “Her father Nieve Frawley was my boss on the Stewards panel.
The statement is not made because of the family relationship. It is made in full belief that it is true. Not many people in Queensland would argue.
After Frawley ruled racing in Rockhampton for many years, he journeyed south to Brisbane where he became Chairman of the QTC panel and kept the sport operating within the rules for a good number of years. “He was offered jobs in Sydney and Melbourne but he wouldn’t leave Queensland,” Dick Roden recalled proudly.
After a couple of years at Rockhampton, Dick Roden left racing for another line of employment and moved to Sydney.
“George More was an old friend from my days in Queensland. I went to Randwick with him and rode work for Jack Green,” Dick continued.
The racing bug bit again, long and hard, in 1949 and Dick and Elaine Roden returned to Toowoomba where they purchased stables. “My old stables are now used by Jim Atkins, the trainer of Prince Ruling, Just Now and company,” said Dick.
Roden stayed in Toowoomba for two years before moving to the old P. J. O’Shea stables in Brisbane which are now owned by Neil Strong.
“I bought them off Charles Hope,” he said. “I stayed in Brisbane for three or four years before Neville Sellwood and Harold Cooper talked me into moving to Sydney.
“I bought Dan Lewis’ stables at Randwick. They had a lot of history about them. Dan won five Sydney Cups.
“We won the Melbourne cup with Macdougal out of those stables.”
The first winner Dick Roden ever trained was Falcon Man.
He was the trainer’s second starter in a race.
Roden was 24 years of age and the meeting was at Eagle Farm.
“He got beaten in as photo finish at his first start with Peter Morgan on him,” Dick recalled readily.
No scrap books. It’s all stored up in the memory bank of this remarkable horseman.
Once feared by Australia’s bookies for his ability to get a horse right for a specific race, Roden went from a feather duster to a silk purse and back again as he rode Racings roller coaster to eventual success.
“Peter was probably in the class of Sellwood and other riders of that ilk. He was very talented,” Dick suggested. “However, I felt that at times he lacked applications.”
Falcon Man started at 33-1 at his first start. Dick Roden thought the horse could win and he was backed accordingly.
“It meant a lot to us,” he candidly admits all these years later and with a Melbourne Cup trophy on the lounge room table.
Unfortunately Peter Morgan was not at his best that day. When he came back to scale he said to Roden: “Dick, the horse never ran out of condition – I did!”
Still, that was that.
Dick and Falcon Man returned to Eagle Farm two weeks later but the bookies only bet 6-1 about his chances this time.
However, the money was landed and there was fruit on the sideboard.
“I then got a horse called Gresford,” said Dick. “He was part of the Toowoomba team which transferred to Brisbane.”
The first start Gresford had for Roden, the stable backed him in from 66-1 to 6-1 at Eagle Farm and he won easily.
“Then we started him in the wet in a race at Doomben. At that time we didn’t know he couldn’t handle the wet despite his tremendous speed,” Dick continued.
“After the race, the horse was swabbed. He had pulled up distressed. He was the first beaten horse to b3e swabbed in Queensland.”
The owner of Gresford was a Downs grazier. He was a strict Christian and objected to the inquiry regarding the running of his horse (which incidentally was held by Neive Frawley, Elaine’s father).
The Downs grazier said he wanted to sell Gresford and found a willing buyer in Dick Roden.
“We were scraping the bottom of the barrel at the time and we paid for him with our last bit of money,” Dick admitted.
The next time Gresford was produced by Roden, he was backed from 33-1 to ‘no betting’ and bolted in.
Dick Roden was proving a natural as a trainer.
He had ridden a lot of horses in training and in races and he credits his grandfather with being an outstanding horseman.
“Training horses is simply about common sense,” is Dick’s throwaway.
At 12 years of age, young Dick Roden went to the races and would sit between two stalls holding the horses.
He got paid 10 shillings for an afternoon’s work.
Then a galloper named Bernfly entered his life.
His trainer had backed him on 12 occasions and he’s been beaten each time.
In disgust the trainer gave Bernfly to the young Roden.
“In those years things were a bit tight,” Dick recalled. “The depression was on and when I got home my mother said we had enough mouths to feed.”
“When dad came home from the races I was in tears. He talked Mum into letting me keep the horse.”
Dick and his father discovered Bernfly suffered from claustrophobia. He did not like being kept in a stall.
The family had several stables on three acres of land and Bernfly was allowed to run in a paddock.
“Dad and I would stand for hours assessing horses,” said Dick.
He learned that each horse had its own personality. Dick did not train a horse without trying to understand the animal first.
While in Brisbane he never had more than 12 in training and 20 was his limit in Sydney.
Restricting numbers gave him a better chance of success. Gresford was the horse which got him started.
“And I had a boy with me called David Hetherington who was out of the bush at Clermont; he was a real ‘bushie’,” recalled the famed horseman.
“He was in Mel Schumacher’s class.
“Having him was fantastic. He had so much ability and you could trust him.”
Dick Roden was a great friend of Melbourne trainer Theo Lewis, who trained for Ossie Porter, the owner of St Fairy.
Lewis recommended Hetherington for the ride on Royal Radiant in Wodalla’s Melbourne Cup but he ran fifth.
David won the Queens’s Cup on Euphrates on his 16th birthday and even hardened racing men credited him with being a natural horseman.
Roden and Hetherington went south and dick formed the opinion that Moonee Valley would suit the stable star – Gresford.
Thus, Gresford became the first horse flown from Brisbane to Melbourne to contest a race. Prior to Gresford, they went by rail, road and sea.
Stable supporters backed Gresford in from 12-1 to 5-2 at the Valley and he won by 10 lengths!
“We produced him again and he won by eight lengths,” said dick, satisfied.
Taken back to Brisbane, Gresford won the lightning Handicap at Eagle Farm in course record time.
“French Charm, El Khobar, New Joy and Mac’s Amber were other good horses I trained, said dick matter-of-factly.
He got Mac’s Amber when Theo Lewis was given a holiday by Melbourne Stipes.
Then there was Baron Bossier.
“If he had been a hand taller, he’d have been a topliner,” suggested Dick.
Mention El Khobar and racing memories come flooding back for Dick Roden.
Roden secured the horse from New Zealand stud master Sir Wolff Fisher who owned the ‘Ra Ora Stud’.
The horse had won as a 2YO and when transferred to Roden, he was beaten at his first start at Eagle Farm.
“Then he won an Encourage Handicap by 10 lengths,” Dick remembered.
“The horse had been ill and I suggested to Sir Wolff that we bypass the Stradbroke Handicap because I didn’t think he was forward enough."
Then, while he was still a Trial class horse, El Khobar was weighted on 8 st. 4 lbs. (52.5 kg) for the Doomben Ten Thousand!
The win by El Khobar, despite his surprising weight impost, in the Doomben Ten Thousand of 1956 ranks as probably Roden’s greatest training achievement.
Roden is proud of his achievements. “If you set money as your goal, you are in trouble,” said Dick. “Set achievements and the money will follow.”
According to Roden a trainer has to assess the ability of each horse and go from there. “You can’t set a Wednesday handicapper for the Melbourne Cup.
“El Khobar? I’m not saying he would not have won the Stradbroke but I didn’t think he was forward enough in condition to mix it with our top sprinters over seven-furlongs. “I thought the run in the Stradbroke might have flattened him, and where do you go from there?” he asked.
El Khobar went straight from winning an Encourage to winning the Ten Thousand (now the Rothman’s 100,000).
“I thought the horse was a certainty,” Roden declared.
Even with 8 st. 4 lb. And a barrier 22! It was a top of the class field that year. Knave and Kingster, two brilliant sprinters were also in the race.
El Khobar jumped cleanly and led all the way.
At the time it was Roden’s biggest thrill in racing.
Sir Wolff Fisher had the Ten Thousand-Cup double that year.
Ironically, Dick Roden’s famed ability to judge a horse let him down as the Doomben Cup field made its way onto the track. “I didn’t think that Fair Chance was a major hope in the Doomben Cup. Sir Wolff had four running with El Khobar and I suggested to him here was one he wasn’t about to collect on,” said Dick, smiling as he told the story on himself.
Ron Hutchinson, the Melbourne jockey now in retirement in England, rode Fair Chance and won the Cup.
Despite the horse looking like Radish in the enclosure before the race!
About this time Neville Sellwood and Harold Cooper convinced Dick Roden he should try his luck in Sydney.
Cooper trained Plato, Grey Boots and company.
Roden rated him a genius with horses. Sellwood had formed a great partnership with Roden during the annual Winter Carnival when he rode the stable’s horses. He knew Roden could make the grade in the southern capital.
Roden won the Warwick Stakes with El Khobar, defeating fellow Kiwi Syntax, and then the famous match-race was staged.
El Khobar and Syntax.
Dick had six horses engaged at Doomben that day and couldn’t get to Sydney, so Maurice McCarten saddled up El Khobar with Neville Sellwood the rider.
It’s a day Dick will long remember.
He walked down to the local shop bright and early on Saturday morning to buy a bottle of milk (remember bottles, they were before cardboard carton and plastic containers). In those days Tom Foley ran a programme on Brisbane radio and it was one of the most listened-to sessions on racing in Australia. Tom asked Dick for his opinion on the match-race.
All the newspaper tipsters had gone for the New Zealander, Syntax.
“Well,” said Dick, mil bottle in hand. “If Syntax tries to go with El Khobar he’ll bust him up and if he gives El Khobar too much start he’ll never run him down.”
The latter happened.
Norm Holland on Syntax gave El Khobar and Sellwood too much start and the Roden trained galloper won easily.
The match-race had come about following a difference of opinion between Sir Wolff Fisher and the owner of Syntax.
It appears the owner of Syntax complained to Fisher that the Warwick Stakes was too short and that his horse would ‘slaughter’El Khobar the next time they met.
Sir Wolff Fisher, never one to back down from a challenge, agreed to a match race over 8 and a half furlongs at Canterbury.
El Khobar was a marvellous horse.
He later went to America where he ran a world record for six and a half furlongs at Hollywood Park when trained by Buddy Hearst.
The day El Khobar defeated Syntax at Canterbury, Roden’s latest apprentice had his first race ride at Doomben.
He was Mel Schumacher!
“When he turned 21, I’ll never forget the occasion", Dick recalled shaking his head, slowly. “I said to Mel .. ‘You’ve got a lot of gear of mine. Will you bring them back to the stables today. You go your way and I’ll go mine.’”
Mel protested, saying he wanted the association to continue but Roden was firm. He and the stormy petrel of Racing would part company.
Mel Schumacher later hit headlines for his ride in the 1961 AJC Derby when it was claimed he pulled the leg of rival jockey Tommy Hill inside the final furlong of the classic.
“He was working for me for six months before the QTC committee gave him a licence,”Dick recalled.
“Both Mel and I were put through intensive questioning by members of the committee who doubted some aspects of his application for an apprenticeship.”
“Mel rode a winner for me on his first day at the races, French Charm. I admired his ability.” But Mel was too fiery for Dick to handle.