Roy Glashan's Library
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The Armidale Chronicle, NSW, Australia, 23 June 1906

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-06-01
Produced by Terry Walker, Gary Meller and Roy Glashan

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DICK STURGESS had not attended a sale of thoroughbreds for some time. He was half-disgusted with his recent luck on the turf. But a whisper had gone abroad that Burrumbeet, the son of Maranoa, was for sale. The owner was a Chinaman, named Wong Lee, and his experience with the big bay horse had led to a series of financial blizzards.

It was well known in Melbourne and Sydney that Wong Lee had a big following of backers. From Goulburn to Bourke the market gardeners and lottery men put their money on the dish faced Burrumbeet every time it started.

Dick Sturgess was interested in the doings of the big bay. The best English and Australian racing blood was in its veins. As a weight-carrier it challenged comparisons with Malua and Paris; from hock to neck it was a pack of muscle and sinew.

On the day of the sale, Sturgess received a letter from his friend Cardew in Queensland, known throughout the Gulf as a man who would fight flood and fire to pay a debt or help a comrade. His letter ran—

Buy Burrumbeet. He is worth 2000 guineas. You will probably pick him up for 200. I am coming to Sydney this week. Will explain further.—Jack Cardew."

THE sale was well attended. Sturgess, a bit uneasy in mind, met Wong Lee, the owner of Burrumbeet in the auctioneer's room. In the matter of horse dealing Sturgess had found Chinamen more to be trusted than the average European or Hindoo; they would not lie or auction a faked horse under false pretences.

'What's wrong with Burrumbeet?' asked Sturgess bluntly.

The Chinaman glanced at him steadily: there was a look of dejection in his wrinkled face. 'Him welly goo' horse. Me unlucky. You buy him, you mi' win everyt'ing, savvy!'

'He seems to have been running badly. He lost the Metrop when be ought to have won easily; How much have you lost over him?'

The Chinaman's eyes kindled suddenly. 'Thirty thousand pond,' he said gently.

Sturgess whistled softly. 'All your own money?' he asked sympathetically.

'No, no!' Wong Lee shook his bead. 'Money b'long to other Chinamen syndicate, you know. We lose welly much an' shut up, eh?' He laughed lightly.

The first bid for the unlucky bay horse was 100 guineas. Sturgess added ten; in three minutes it had reached 200. A short, black-haired man was bidding against Sturgess.

The auctioneer watched both men closely, with the cunning of his kind, he tried to pit them against each other.

'Two hundred, only two hundred! Come, gentlemen, you couldn't buy a decent dog for the money!' he cried. 'The horse has been badly trained and run. Look at the animal gentlemen; clean built as a new nine inch gun. Fit to win a Melbourne Cup if he gets honest treatment.'

'Two-fifty,' nodded Sturgess. The black-haired man added ten. Sturgess raised another twenty, and his rival turned away in disgust. Burrumbeet, the loser of many fine races, was knocked down to Sturgess for 280 guineas.

'An out and out shyster,' said a dealer in the crowd. 'He is the worst finisher south of the line.'

Sturgess laughed, and gave instructions to have the unlucky horse sent to his stables.

'Sound in wind, limb, and pedigree, sir,' said Warner, his trainer, after a trial and careful survey of Burrumbeet. 'But I'd like to speak my mind before you spend more money on your purchase.'

'Speak out.' Sturgess eyed the trainer in surprise. 'Let us hear the best and worst; it's all in the game.'

Warner passed his hand with a slight flexing motion across the horse's chest.

'See here, sir,' he said, huskily. 'The horse was ill-used when a colt.' He pointed to a number of old scars scarce visible through the fine silken coat. 'Badly cut and hurt, I should say. Looks as though a man with a rake had been at work on his chest.'

Sturgess examined the spot indicated and found that Warner was right. It appeared to him as though the horse had slipped near a barbed wire fence or had jagged himself against loose corrugated iron.

The trainer shook his head. 'Those scars are old teeth marks,' he said quietly, 'the work of a mastiff or hound of some kind.'

'Do you think it has interfered with his racing up to date, Warner?'

'Hard to say, sir. I know the horse as I know one of my own children. I saw him run at Caulfield last year. Had the field behind him until he came to the straight; then be seemed to get scared over something and bucked up. Played the game right through the season—races like a motor and chucks it at the pinch.'

'There's an outside influence at work,' answered Sturgess thoughtfully, 'something I'm dying to sift and find out for the sake of a good horse that has suffered ill treatment.'

THE next day Jack Cardew arrived from Queensland, and met Sturgess at his house near Randwick.

'Glad you bought Burrumbeet,' he began warmly. 'If you regret your bargain, I'll take him from you and allow 50 guineas on your deal.'

'Thanks; I'll see him through the season,' laughed Sturgess, placing a chair on the verandah for his friend. 'I think you know something, Cardew, that isn't in the stud book.'

The miner laughed and his eyes shone strangely. 'I knew something that would have saved the Chinese syndicate 30,000. I know enough to have you ruining yourself in twelve months,' he replied earnestly. 'The man with the dingo won't let you win a race, and the books will bleed you white, Dick.'

'The man with the dingo! What do you mean?' Sturgess regarded him seriously.

'Listen.' Cardew lay back in his chair and lit a cigar thoughtfully. 'Two years ago, Ralph Spence, the Melbourne owner, imported Burrumbeet from Lord Belstrade's stud for 1000 guineas. After the colt was landed in Melbourne it was sent to one of Spence's stations on the Murray. About a month after its arrival trouble broke out among the shearers; there were riots and grass burnings, and some of Spence's property was destroyed. One night a man named Hawker sicced a purebred dingo on to the colt in a grass paddock near the river. It was a cruel affair. The dog fought the colt as though it were a sheep, tearing its breast and mutilated it badly. Spence offered a reward of 100 for the arrest of Hawker, but the man and dingo were too cunning, and so far as Spence was concerned neither was seen again.

'Spence's vet, a clever French surgeon, took the colt in hand, and after six months' careful treatment had it in first rate order. A year later, when Burrumbeet appeared on the tracks, no one would have guessed that it had been half eaten by a dingo.

'The horse,' continued Cardew, 'won his first race at Randwick, and at the Summer Cup put up a record for the last five furlongs.' Cardew sat up in his chair stiffly and looked keenly at Sturgess. 'Burrumbeet did nothing after that. Just dropped into the habit of getting badly licked when he ought to have won.'

'Well,' Sturgess shrugged his shoulders, 'what do you think?'

'The man with the dingo has been doing the thinking,' grinned Cardew, 'and the unscrupulous sports helped him. Whenever Burrumbeet swept into the straight, Hawker, with the dog on a chain, used to show himself near the rails.'

Dick Sturgess stood up as though someone had touched him with a knife. Then he sat down, and his lips were white as a sick man's. 'Go, on,' he said, hoarsely.

'Looks funny, doesn't it,' went on Cardew, 'to see a man shoving an old dingo through the rails on to the course at the moment when Burrumbeet is leading into the straight by three lengths. Some people think a horse is blind to everything when running a race. A dozen things will throw it out of its stride; a bit of white paper or a fluttering rag will send many good nag shying across the course.'

'Then you think that Burrumbeet still remembers the dog that tore its breast?' asked Sturgess, harshly.

'Remember it! I guess a horse's memory is as long as a dog's,' answered Cardew. 'The sight of the old dingo snarling under the rails would bring back old memories, and utterly spoil its chances of winning.'

'Didn't the jockey notice the man and the dingo?' ventured Sturgess.

'Not a bit. Dozens of dogs, black and yellow, hang about racecourses. The jockeys that have ridden Burrumbeet put it down to funk or bad temper. Mr. Spence sold the horse to a Chinese: syndicate.'

'Do you mean to say,' broke in Sturgess, 'that Hawker and his dingo follow Burrumbeet from race to race spoiling his chance of winning?'

'Yes, when it pays. The game of baulking Burrumbeet was played for all it was worth. Once the horse catches sight of the dingo standing near the rails it's all up.'

'Who pays Hawker to interfere with the horse's running?' asked Sturgess, suddenly.

'It pays a lot of unscrupulous people to put a good horse out of the race at times,' answered Cardew. 'Once it becomes known that certain horse can be rattled, depend upon it there is always one man anxious to see him stiffened.'

Sturgess remained deep in thought for a moment; then he moistened his dry lips. 'Why did you advise me to boy Burrumbeet when you knew that he is so easily put out?'

Cardew rubbed his palms together softly, as though he were handling gold dust.

'Deal with the man and the dingo, and you have got the best racehorse in Australia.'

Sturgess rose and placed the verandah excitedly. His eyes kindled with the fire that never accepts defeat.

'I begin to understand the game that Hawker and his dingo have played. I shall enter Burrumbeet for the Caulfield, but I've no guarantee that Hawker and his dingo will keep out of the way.'

'The dog is never seen until the day of the race,' said Cardew. 'Probably our only chance of dealing with it will be a moment or two before the bell rings.'

'If we placed a couple of good riflemen at different points of the coarse, we might get a shot at the brute,' growled Sturgess.

'And bring the police and stewards on your track for shooting across the flat on race day. Get yourself disqualified for life. Caulfield is the easiest course in the world to play tricks on. There's a sand hill at the back where a man might hide a dozen dogs. Hawker will choose the same spot this year. I am certain that he came from the sand hill last year. Leave it to me. I'll fix up the dingo if it shows its ears at Caulfield and no one will hear anything about it.'

CARDEW left that night, and a month later met Sturgess at his Elsternwick stables. The big bay horse was in excellent condition. There was a feeling throughout the racing world that Burrumbeet would run well under Warner's hand; there were others who looked upon the bay as a brilliant waster, with no heart for a finish.

Sturgess dearly loved a good horse and a good man. He felt that Burrumbeet had received cowardly treatment from the beginning. His sense of justice smarted at the thought of a valiant thoroughbred suffering a wrong at the hands of unscrupulous sportsmen.

The day of the race was bright and full of promise for the men who had placed their fortunes at the disposal of horses. Sturgess had missed Cardew early in the morning. He had sent a messenger to his hotel, but he was not to be found.

Burrumbeet, keen and fit as a well-tempered blade, stood in the saddling paddock with Warner and the jockey in attendance.

Where was Cardew? Sturgess fretted in and out of the grandstand. The crowd surged in and around until the flat resembled a sea of moving heads. He glanced towards the naked spaces beyond the course at the sand ridge, where fifty men with dingoes might be hiding. A bell clanged, and the loud murmuring of the crowd deepened and ceased suddenly.

'Eight to one Maranoa!' cried a bookmaker in his ear. 'Seven to one Burrumbeet!'

Where was Cardew, who bad promised to look after the man with the dingo? Sturgess squeezed his way through the crowd, and levelled his glasses upon the sand ridge. A bit of smoke drifted across the line of vision.

The countryside beyond seemed destitute of human habitations. A bit of uncleared scrub land filled the near perspective. Suddenly the figure of a man moved stealthily towards the sand-ridge. Lowering his glasses slightly, Sturgess saw a yellow dog following at a distance.

The owner of Burrumbeet gritted his teeth; his breath came in sharp expulsions: 'Hawker and his dingo, by Jove! Where in — is Cardew?'

The man stooped near the rails and beckoned to the yellow dog that crouched sullenly in his wake, and half refused to come to heel. The man stooped forward again and seemed to fling a threatening word at the halting dingo. A moment later he had seized the dog by the neck and was hauling it to the edge of the course.

Sturgess remained dumbfounded for a moment; he was overcome by a wild desire to rush into the Judge's box and have the race stopped until man and dingo were ejected from the grounds. Turning again with poised glasses, he saw the figure of Cardew rise from the grass holding in his arms a big-chested bull dog.

Sturgess fairly jumped as his glasses swept the field. Cardew and Hawker faced each other with the suddenness of a policeman and burglar. Hawker turned and ran furiously towards the scrub. The dingo whipped round with ears stiffened, the hair bristling on its neck and shoulders.

Too late! In a flash the bull dog swung in and flung it to earth without sound or effort. The fight as it appeared to Sturgess was short and horrible. The bull dog pinned its yellow adversary by the breast and worried it into a lifeless heap.

The race bell rang sharply. 'They're off!—They're off!' The horses moved from the post in ragged line; the race had begun.

Sturgess lowered his glasses and closed his eyes for a moment. A great babel of voices rose about him.

Then came a sharp silence and a crashing shout.




The flat was alive with gesticulating arms; men sprang in the air waving their hats. Sturgess opened his eyes as the horses swept into the straight. Maranoa, Dreadnought, and Peerless were almost abreast; behind them, like a sleuth, crept Burrumbeet. Dreadnought swerved and rolled in his stride. In a flash the horses drew together at the Judge's box. A hush fell upon the crowd; then a shout broke like a gunshot on Sturgess's ears:


TEN minutes later Cardew appeared leading his bulldog into the paddock, where Sturgess and Warner were shaking hands beside the big bay horse.

'Anybody want to buy a dead dingo?' laughed Cardew. 'There's one lying at the back of the course.'

'Kindly introduce me to your friend,' said Sturgess, patting the dog's broad back. 'I owe him a debt of gratitude.'

'Name of Bill,' laughed Cardew. 'Next time Hawker appears at a meeting, Bill will race him to the first police station, eh, Bill?'

And the dog looked up as though it understood.


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.