Bernborough Foaled In 1939 In Queensland - Sire British Stallion Emborough
When the subject is great Australian champion thoroughbreds, the name of Bernborough will certainly appear in the early, rather than the latter part of the discussion.
Aside from his Australian Racing Hall of Fame worthy career, he appeared at a time when the Australian collective psyche was in sore need of a hero to distract it from the cares of the WWII years where the prospect of a Japanese invasion loomed daily.
He staged a dramatic come from behind victory in the 1945 Doomben 10,000 that is commonly described as “Bernborough from the clouds.”
Only scant time had elapsed since anxious punters and the general public was busy scanning the clouds, the ever present possibility of Japanese warplanes overhead foremost in their minds.
Foaled In 1939 Queensland
A bay colt of large proportions, Bernborough was foaled in 1939 in Queensland. His sire was the British stallion Emborough and his dam was the Aussie native Bern Maid. The rest of his bloodline contains many British thoroughbreds, as well as a few from the United States and France.
Bernborough often invites comparisons with Phar lap. Both were over 17 hands and covered close to 30 feet with every stride, swallowing large sections of turf when they hit a serious gallop.
Some might feel that comparing Bernborough to Phar lap is an example of unchecked hubris, but Bernborough’s racing record seems to prove otherwise.
Suspect Owners Frank And John Bach
Like others that went on to significant accomplishments, Bernborough did not experience the finest of beginnings. His racing ability was never questioned, but he was initially prevented from racing at many courses in Queensland and New South Wales due to the cloud of suspicion that hung above his owners, Frank and John Bach.
The two brothers tried a flanking maneuver as a way of getting around the ban imposed against their horse, but their effort lacked the opacity to fool the racing stewards.
Bernborough was eventually sold to Azzalin Romano, whose reputation was sufficient to permit Bernborough to play upon the major stages in Sydney and Melbourne.
Four Wins From 5 Starts As A 2YO
Jumping five times as a two-year-old, he produced four wins and one second-place finish and did so in such dominating fashion that he was already carrying 9 stone 9 pounds.
He raced only 4 times as a 3-year-old, winning all four. Injuries plagued him during this period of time and he raced only two times as a four-year-old, losing both. He recovered sufficiently to make eight starts as a five-year-old. That campaign featured him winning three times along with one second-place finish.
This is when Mr. Romano gained possession of Bernborough. The big bay was permitted to run at Canterbury racecourse in December of 1945, where he managed a respectable fourth place.
Next, in a stroke of good fortune for both rider and horse, Athol Mulley was hired to ride Bernborough. Together, the two managed monumental feats, the chronicles of which are clearly legendary at the very least.
Bernborough Tackles Heavy Weights
First up, the two produced a victory in the AJC Villiers Stakes. This was followed by 14 consecutive wins at distances between six and 11 furlongs, were Bernborough often had to tolerate substantial weight penalties. It is hard to imagine any of the specialists of the current area winning so consistently over such varied distances.
Some of the significant wins produced at this time were the be VATC Futurity Stakes, the Newmarket Handicap, Rawson Stakes, Chipping Norton Stakes and the All Aged Stakes.
Finally came the remarkable victory in the Doomben 10,000 that forever cemented Bernborough’s image in the minds of all.
Laboring against 25 competitors and carrying 10 stones 5 pounds, Bernborough, running almost dead last at the final turn, came from behind and overtook everything in his path to win by two lengths and set a record time.
Doomben Cup Win
He then backed that up in the Doomben Cup where he carried almost 11 stones. Bernborough then, seemingly in effortless fashion, produced wins in the Warwick Stakes along with the Chelmsford, Hill Stakes and Caulfield Stakes.
Expectations were high for Bernborough in the Caulfield Cup, and even though he managed to place fifth, Mulley was dismissed as Bernborough’s rider. In his next race, the LKS Mackinnon Stakes, he was seriously injured.
Prompt veterinary triage saved his life, but his career as a runner was over. Roman then sold Bernborough to the American movie mobile, Louis B. Mayer. He stood stud in Kentucky until passing away in 1960. He was more than a little successful as a sire, producing three significant horses that accounted for 40 victories between them.
Australian Racing Hall Of Fame
Bernborough rightly went into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class that included Phar lap, Carbine, Tulloch and Kingston Town.
His versatility and ability to win despite spotting his competitors with significant weight advantages time after time are two of the things that place him deservedly in the conversation of all-time greats.