The career of dual Kingston Town Classic winner, Old Comrade, was short but stunning.
In twenty-two racetrack starts he registered just six wins, but with four of them at Group One level there is no doubting his quality, especially with two of those successes being glorious victories over the great champion, Northerly, and both of those in Group One events.
Unplaced at his only two starts as a juvenile, for trainer John Price, Old Comrade was transferred to charismatic conditioner Lindsay Smith in the spring of 2000. Smith, who would also soon prepare Plastered to amazing W.A. and Victorian Derby wins, was destined to first nurture the three-year-old Old Comrade from maiden to stardom in a single season. He would then lose the horse briefly, to young Victorian trainer Cliff Brown, before getting him back again in time for further remarkable achievements.
Smith was, in fact, the only trainer to win with the gifted brown gelding.
By former good galloper Old Spice, out of the unraced Ksar mare, Belgravia, Old Comrade was granted the significant benefit of being bred at Bob and Sandra Peters’ Yalebra Stud, at Keysbrook. After a firstup third for Lindsay Smith at Ascot (as a 20/1 shot), the youngster won his maiden at Bunbury as a raging hot favourite. He was ridden by Jason Brown, one of seven jockeys Old Comrade would have in his all-too brief career.
Smith was so impressed with the three-year-old, that he then started him in the Placid Ark Stakes – a Listed Race – which he bolted in at odds of 12/1, again with Brown in the saddle.
A get-back horse with a brilliant and sustained finishing burst, Old Comrade ran an excellent second in the Group Two Lee Steere Stakes, a week later, to the talented and widely-travelled Victorian, Umrum. A 14/1 pop on that occasion, the inexperienced Old Comrade was nevertheless in to second favourite behind the odds-on Umrum, when reversing the decision a fortnight later in the state’s feature weight-for-age race, now known as the Kingston Town Classic (Group One). In that race, he was ridden for the first time by champion jockey, Paul Harvey.
Old Comrade then ran second in the Lee Steere Classic for three-year-olds (Group Three) and second to the sensational Northerly in the Group One Railway Stakes, with Umrum, who finished fifth, again the beaten favourite.
Spelled for nine months, Old Comrade returned as a four-year-old to be placed at two of three outings for Cliff Brown (both Group level sprints) before Lindsay Smith took over the horse once more and, astonishingly, won the Railway Stakes with him, first-up.
Paul Harvey was again the pilot and after finishing runner up in the Prince of Wales Stakes (Group Three), Harvey reined Old Comrade to his second Kingston Town Classic victory, attained in awesome fashion and as a warm popular elect with punters.
Following a let-up, Old Comrade resumed in the autumn.
Unplaced in a short sprint first-up, he was then just behind the placegetters in two subsequent sprints in Melbourne, prior to a gallant second in the Group Two St. George Stakes at Caulfield. In that event, he was beaten less than a length (at 9/1) by the odds-on champion, Northerly.
Nine days later, Old Comrade was a 9/1 chance again and Northerly once more odds-on, in the $1.255 million Group One Australian Cup at Flemington. It was Paul Harvey at his best that day as he inch by inch gunned down the soon-tobe dual W.S. Cox Plate winner, to score narrowly.
Northerly had eclipsed the Australian Cup a year earlier and would win again a year later, so Old Comrade thus denied that horse an eventual trio of consecutive victories in the race.
It was the acme performance of Old Comrade’s career, and, still only a four-year-old, the sky seemed the limit for him. Fate, however, had other plans. Unplaced at his next two runs – in Sydney – an emerging tendon injury meant Old Comrade had to go into surgery in a Sydney vet clinic.
Tragic to relate, he died there, after suffering a serious infection. An uncanny talent, Old Comrade’s career ended with six wins and eight placings from twenty-two starts, including four Group One triumphs.
The ill-fated galloper earned a total of $1,782,250 in his spectacular but brief time on the track.
PRINCIPAL RACE WINS
• 2000 Kingston Town Classic (G 1)
• 2000 Placid Ark Stakes (LR)
• 2001 Railway Stakes (G 1)
• 2001 Kingston Town Classic (G 1)
• 2002 Australian Cup (G 1) (Flemington)