A lot of champions since but this horse had it all 20 January 2020
In 1979 Ron Wilson and I went to Randwick racecourse in Sydney and, while he bet in tens of thousands with runners putting his money on, I found a nook in the Champagne Bar of the members’ grandstand.
I was mad keen on the racing and watched everything I could live or on television but the moments entertaining beautifully groomed ladies were just as much fun in between.
In the Spring Champion Stakes, a 2000 metre race for three-year-olds at Group I, the winner caught my eye. It was his sixth straight win.
Recalling the day’s events with Ron and others that night, I said this horse would never get beaten again. Ron then took me apart saying I was used to Perth racing and that in Melbourne and Sydney horses win with such authority all the time. There were so many of these that my statement was ridiculous.
A month later we were in our room at the London Hilton on an overseas trip of a lifetime with The West Australian football writer Geoff Christian and West Perth league coach Graham Campbell. Ron played for West Perth.
The kid was so big then that he wanted to bet on the Melbourne spring carnival races so, late at night, he would ring Australia write down the field, do the form and then bet on that race before repeating the process.
When he wrote the field down for the Caulfield Guineas, I saw my horse and told him don’t bother to do the form, it would win. He ran third. A fourth and a second followed on similar nights while in Europe and the USA. Granted they were in the Caulfield Cup and the Victoria Derby but I bowed to my friend with the greater knowledge. But I was right.
The horse resumed in his home town of Sydney in February of 1980. He won that day the first of 19 wins at his next 21 starts. He was Kingston Town.
This fabulous gelding won the 1980 and 1981 W.S. Cox Plate, a 2050 metre weight-for-age event at Moonee Valley regarded as the championship of Australian racing. In 1982, Kingston Town returned to try to win it for a third time.
I sat in a top level of Moonee Valley’s members’ section (memory said it had no roof but I may have that wrong). At the turn, caller Bill Collins, one of the legendary race broadcasters, was going back through the field and uttered the line that made him infamous: “Kingston Town can’t win.”
Hard under the whip and going nowhere, Collins in that second was right. One second later he could be wrong. Kingston Town came wide and began to come. The three-year-old Grosvenor had shot clear but Kingston Town was storming home.
What happened next I have never felt at a sporting event before or since. The crowd rose as one to cheer him home. The connections of Grosvenor notwithstanding, it felt like every man, woman and child was cheering Kingston Town no matter what they owned, what they had backed, what their favourites were.
The greatest horse I ever saw live. Kingston Town wins his third Cox Plate
At the finish he won clearly and we thought we would never see its like again. Then Winx won four of them and put that idea to bed.
Kingston Town won 30 times from 41 starts.
It’s the only Cox Plate I’ve seen live and, certainly until Winx won her four in a row, the most famous.
His final race was a month later in Perth, the Western Mail Classic. He won. I was working for Yosse Goldberg and at trackwork at the now-defunct Helena Vale racecourse just outside Midland. We had lots of stalls occupied because we had lots of horses to work and I was standing in the last available vacant stall talking to Yosse’s trainer, Bill Fell.
A man led a horse past our string and said “Excuse me” so he could use the stall I was in. I ducked under the rail and kept talking to Bill, who then nodded at the new horse over my shoulder.
“Doesn’t look like much, does he?” I looked at the horse and then back at Bill with a query written on my face. “Kingston Town,” he said.
I may not have known him without the jockey silks on but Kingston Town remains the best horse I have ever seen live.