The recent death of legendary show business icon Bert Newton brought back memories of his involvement in the Victorian racing and breeding industry.
Newton, an avid Fitzroy supporter, also had a deep love for horses and raced many over the years.
Former leading race caller and prominent racing identity Bryan Martin fondly recalls the good times he had with Newton who he had a lot of fun with over the years.
The pair first met when they worked for radio station 3DB in the 1980s.
Martin recalls buying a Victorian bred yearling at the Melbourne sales back in the 1980s, it was a filly by Cerreto (IRE) out of Lynne’s Star and raced as Cerlynne.
“Lynne’s Star (Star Affair) was a daughter of Our Lynne and I used to call her and there was Star Kingdom through the family,” Martin said.
“I said to another mate of mine Johnny Hallam who lived up at Beulah and was a trotting bookmaker, let’s buy one and see how we go.
“And Cerretos were going well with Ray Hutchins (Epsom trainer).
“We paid $10,000 for her and Hutchie bought her for us.”
Martin said it became apparent from “day dot” that the filly had ability and finished fourth, beaten half a length on debut over 1100m at Flemington at odds of $21.
The filly then finished second at Moonee Valley in a 1200m race at $5 and then won as the $2.75 favourite at her next start, also over 1200m, on July 20, 1985 at Caulfield.
After a spell, Cerlynne resumed with two unplaced runs before finishing a narrow second in the Melba Handicap (1600m) at Moonee Valley.
“It was over a mile and I had her going for a fortune in the quaddie and she laid off the track on the turn and Ming Princess got up in the inside and beat her by a half neck,” Martyn said.
“We took her to Adelaide for the Australasian Oaks (2000m) and she finished third, beaten by Miss Clipper and another filly in a three-way photo in the Auraria Stakes over 1800m at Cheltenham.
“She then raced in the Australasian Oaks with J. Stoker riding her and Miss Clipper won the race she and ran out of our skin to finish fifth.”
After the Oaks, Martyn said he was contracted by bloodstock agent Tim Stewart who was buying up the Star Kingdom line fillies and mares.
Stewart told Martin that he was buying for a big American breeder.
“He asked me if she was for sale and told him they are all for sale,” Martin said.
“I said she was for sale without chatting to the other owners and he said would $150,000 buy her and I said $150,000 clear and told him to add in his commission and everything else and that $150,000 clear would get her.
“I rang Bert and said remember that filly that cost us $3300 each? He said yeah and I said I can get you $50,000 for her.
“I think he said do we take her by taxi.”
Martin revealed that Hutchins was opposed to the sale and wanted to keep training the filly who he said was a great stayer that would win a Cup for them.
But she was sold and Hutchins pocketed $6000 from the cashed-up owners.
Cerlynne ran a couple of races in America before going to the breeding barn.
Martin described Newton as a great guy and friend who was the best entertainer the country had ever seen.
“And of course when we got the 50K we bought another, a tried horse, but he couldn’t win a maiden,” he said.
“But we put carpet throughout the house and had a holiday in Noosa.”
Martin said Newton raced many horses, including multiple city winner Predominate with Geelong trainer Kath Johnson, 1989 Kilmore Cup winner and Listed race winner Spacecraft which was trained by Geoff Murphy.
“He had a very good two-year-old called Lord Mornington that won the Maribyrnong Plate and was a brilliant galloper,” he said.
“Another one was Colin’s Choice and he had Lady Matthias with Bob Hoysted.”
Many of Newton’s horses raced in his Marist Brothers colours.
Martin said Newton loved the racing game, loved a punt, the characters and the racecourse.
“He just loved racing and he had success,” he said.
“And he had great success with a couple off very smart pacers called Major Lord with Teddy Demmler and a horse called Benjarbee with Ronny Peace.
“He punted huge, huge because he was the biggest earner in Australia at the time.”
Newton’s wife Patti was also part owner in many of the horse’s she raced with her late husband.
Martin said Newton loved the horses as an animal, probably just as much as the public loved the show business icon.