Day At The Track

2019 WA Hall Of Fame #12 - Royal Force

09:51 AM 21 Feb 2019 NZDT
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Royal Force and trainer George Kennett,Harness racing
Royal Force and trainer George Kennett

Royal Force was purchased sight unseen by Wagin farmers George and John Kennett at a Melbourne yearling sale for $2,100 because he was a son of Johnny Globe. Kennett had previously won races with another son of Johnny Globe in Lord Glenfern although the 22yo stallion was in the twilight of his career at the time Royal Force was born.

Royal Force was one of only seven foals by Johnny Globe born in 1969 and his dam had been sold in foal at a sale for $1,050 and had been purchased by pedigree guru Ian Daff of Victoria.

While he showed ability it took Royal Force six starts before breaking through for his first win in a lowly 3yo race at Williams in January 1973 with Colin Ball in the cart.

At his next start at Gloucester Park he was backed from 33/1 to 10/1 and downed the odds on favourite Parking unleashing a sensational sprint down the outside of the track. This finish was to become his trademark although he was to prove tough enough to win in top company after racing outside the leader.

He repeated the dose at his next start and although beaten by Parking in a heat of the WA Derby he closed out his first season of racing by winning the WA Derby and a heat and final of the WA Sires Produce Stakes.

After a disappointing 4yo season Royal Force came back with a vengeance as a 5yo winning a heat of the 1974 WA Pacing Cup. He came from last with a lap to travel with a brilliant burst that carried him past Adios Victor and Speedy Ben in the straight.

He was an unlucky fourth in the final won by Just Too Good from Adios Victor and Speedy Ben and his driver Jack Retzlaff lodged a protest against Adios Victor after he was checked and he had to stop driving on the home turn when making his run. Stewards didn’t see it the same way as the driver and dismissed the protest.

The following year, with farrier Dudley Anderson at the reins, Royal Force won a heat of the WA Pacing Cup on the opening night of the carnival and he also won a third night heat when Retzlaff resumed as driver. This was a time when the WA Cup format was similar to the Inter Dominion with three rounds of heats and points being the determinant of the final field.

After racing below his best in the final Royal Force and Dudley Anderson combined for a brilliant win in the New Year Handicap before Royal Force ventured to Adelaide for the 1976 Inter Dominion where the stallion finished third to Nevada Smoke and Carclew and Anderson was suspended for pushing out.

Les Marriott was given the drive in the second round of heats and Royal Force raced outside the leader before sprinting clear at the top of the straight and holding on to win. Royal Force finished fourth in the final set of heats to easily qualify for the final.

Royal Force was somewhat unlucky in the famous final won by Carclew from the sensationally supported Pure Steel. He came from ninth with a lap to travel to finish strongly into fifth place after being held up behind Carclew with Alphalite on his outside.

Kennet took Royal Force to Melbourne after the Adelaide Inter Dominion and on the tiny Melbourne Showgrounds circuit he was superbly driven by Victorian Bill Le Sueur in taking out the Marathon Handicap over 3120 metres beating a field that included dual Inter Dominion champion Hondo Grattan.

Le Sueur positioned Royal Force on the back of the 10/9 favourite Royal Gaze and received a perfect cart into the race before sprinting clear on the home turn to win running away by six metres from Royal Gaze with Alphalite third.

First prize was $10,000 with a $1,000 bonus for bettering a 2:08.0 mile rate while the trophy was a brand new Holden Gemini car.

Royal Force was sent for a spell and did a light season at Kennet’s Mundijong Stud which he had bought both for that purpose and to avoid the long trip to and from Wagin for his champion.

Resuming in a heat of the WA Pacing Cup, Royal Force finished third to Pure Steel and Paleface Adios on the opening night and was again third to Pure Steel in a heat on the third night of the carnival. An unlucky seventh on the second night when he finished with a flat tyre saw Royal Force fail to qualify for the final.

Royal Force was a brilliant winner of the WA Cup consolation and it was to be the first of four successive wins for the black stallion.

The third of those wins came in the 1977 Fremantle Cup when he overcame a 20 metre handicap to down Tulyar Prince and Yerilla Court. He started favourite at 9/4 and Anderson brought him with a sensational sprint to win running away.

It was Royal Force’s 22nd win and took his earnings past the $100,000 mark and he joined James Eden and Pure Steel as the only horses to have passed the milestone to that point in time.

Kennett, a man renowned for his toughness, loaded Royal Force onto a float and headed to Melbourne for the A G Hunter Cup. Pure Steel also headed east but he was afforded the luxury of an air trip.

Royal Force won first up in Melbourne, showing his liking for the big track, when he won the Sapphire Free-For-All over a mile in a new Australian Race Mile Record of 1:57.0.

More significantly the time secured Royal Force the final berth in that year’s Miracle Mile at Harold Park where the stallion headed after finishing third to Pure Steel and Paleface Adios in the Hunter Cup.

Originally scheduled for March 4th the Miracle Mile was put back a week as Sydney was deluged with rain and a water main also leaked across the track.

The week’s delay was a blessing in disguise for Kennet as he feared having to scratch Royal Force from the Miracle Mile after the stallion developed a heavy cold.

The 1977 Miracle Mile was the first time the elite six horse field featured six horses with sub 2:00 records and it included the likes of Pure Steel, Paleface Adios and future Inter Dominion winner Markovina and such was the depth of the field that Royal Force was a 7/1 chance.

Public opinion as to Royal Force’s chances were reflected in the grizzled punter who leaned over the fence in the back straight as Dudley Anderson was completing the horse’s pre-race warm-up.

“He gave me a fair earful and told me to go back to Perth in no uncertain terms”, Anderson recalled years later.

Brilliantly driven by Anderson, Royal Force enjoyed the perfect trail and sprinted clear turning for home and then held the run of Paleface Adios in the run to the line.

Anderson went looking for the abusive punter as he was easing Royal Force down in the back straight but the villain had made himself very scarce.

Royal Force stayed in Sydney after the Miracle Mile and overcame a 15 metre handicap to down Markovina and Hermosa Star in a heat of the NSW Lord Mayors Cup. Royal Force had been 25 metres off the leaders with a lap to travel before his legendary last lap sprint carried him to victory.

He finished third to Markovina and Al’s Holiday in the final of the Lord Mayor’s Cup before heading to Brisbane for the 1977 Inter Dominion at Albion Park where the horses raced in the reverse direction to every other track in Australia.

In an official trial before the Championship got under way Royal Force led and beat Pure Steel and Bay Chapel going within a tenth of a second of the Albion Park track record in the process.

During the heats of the Inter Dominion Royal Force was unable to find the fence and he failed miserably to handle the reverse way of going even to the point of striking himself in one heat.

In the WA Pacing Cup run in December 1977 Royal Force finished second to rising star Rip Van Winkle on the opening night before going sore and spending twelve months on the sidelines.

Showing he had lost none of his brilliance Royal Force returned to the track as a 9yo and brilliantly won two heats of the 1978 WA Pacing Cup including a victory over Pure Steel on the third night of heats.

Royal Force started at 8/1 in the WA Cup final due to a second row draw and wound up third behind Pure Steel and Koala King.

His last start came in the 1979 Fremantle Cup won by Flashing Ardri when he finished fifth breaking down in the process. The 1979 Fremantle Cup was to be his final start.

He was retired to stud and did a fair job siring 81 winners including Sinn Fein which won 31 races including wins in a Golden Nugget Championship and two Northam Cups on his way to earnings of almost $250,000.


Alan Parker

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