Who was I?

4 min read
In our weekly series, we take a walk down memory lane to learn about some of the characters, both human and equine, in whose honour our important races are named. This week we look at Dark Jewel, who has the G3 Dark Jewel Classic at Scone this weekend.

Cover image courtesy of Scone Vet Dynasty

Australian breeding owes a great debt to the little mare Dark Jewel. She was chestnut, like her sire Star Kingdom (Ire), with a couple of white feet and a strong blaze down her face, and, as inauspicious a racehorse as she was in 1950s Sydney, she was wildly famous as a broodmare.

In fact, the unassuming Dark Jewel is the reason Star Kingdom ranked so prominently as a broodmare sire in the 1960s. She was his first daughter to produce a stakes winner, and in total she foaled five stakes winners for 28 stakes wins between 1960 and her death in 1971.

Dark Jewel | Image courtesy of the Tait family, accessed through Bob Charley's book 'Heroes and Champions'

Today, each of these offspring would be the classiest of Group-race winners.

The first of them was Heirloom (Rego {Ire}), who won the Maribyrnong Plate and Widden S. at two before the Thousand Guineas at Caulfield as a 3-year-old. In 1962 came Betelgeuse (Wilkes {Fr}), who won a pair of stakes races that included the AJC The Shorts.

Next there was Cabochon, a son of Edmundo (GB), who won the Epsom, the Stradbroke and four other stakes events. After that, in 1964, the Rego (Ire) filly Birthright came along, and she was the second of Dark Jewel’s Maribyrnong Plate winners.

However, the best was well and truly last for Dark Jewel in 1967. That year, she foaled the superb stallion Baguette by Rego (Ire), and that horse’s 14 stakes wins included the 1970 Golden Slipper, the Champagne S. and Sires’ Produce S., and yet another Maribyrnong Plate for his dam. Baguette also won the Newmarket H. and Doomben 10,000, as brilliant a foal as his dam could muster late in her amazing life.

Dark Jewel was foaled in 1953, bred by Sydney man Ken Quinn from a mare called Red Lace (Excitement {Ire}). This was the family of the 1925 VRC Oaks winner Redshank (Thrice), who was the dam of the outstanding Kiwi galloper Red Manfred (NZ) (Manfred).

In 1955, Dark Jewel appeared at Inglis’ Newmarket complex in hustling, bustling Randwick junction, where she sold as an Easter yearling to Pat Osborne for 1200 gns. Trainer Fil Allotta signed her ticket. The filly was one of 17 second-crop offspring by Star Kingdom in the Sale, and a long way off the top price of 6500 gns.

Allotta didn’t get much out of Dark Jewel on the racecourse. She won just three races in Sydney from 25 starts before Osborne flicked her to auction once again. Her trainer couldn’t bear the thought of her selling for so little though, and Allotta bid successfully to 550 guineas for her.

In the end, the trainer sold Dark Jewel to his important client, ‘Griff’ Tait, the father of legendary breeder Sandy Tait and grandfather of today’s Twin Hills studmaster, Olly Tait. It proved a family affair, with original owner Pat Osborne a first cousin of Griff’s wife, Daisie.

On the Tait family’s pretty hamlet of ‘Gobarralong’ in regional New South Wales, Dark Jewel produced a total of 11 foals, of which nine were the winners of 58.5 races. When she died on the property in February 1971, in foal to Rego once again, her tombstone read simply; ‘a broodmare without equal’. And so she was.

Who Was I?
Dark Jewel
Star Kingdom
Tait Family