When the subject turns to all-time great flats racers, the name of a certain New Zealand thoroughbred is certain to be mentioned early in the conversation, with little room for debate as to whether or not he deserves mention.
That would be Tulloch, a Kiwi product that enjoyed exceptional distinction amongst the output of a country well known for producing exceptionally distinctive horses of the stayer variety.
Over the course of 53 jumps betwixt 1956 and 1961, he won 36 times, with 12 seconds and 4 thirds and only 1 unplaced. He first competed as a two-year-old in the spring of 1956, winning in just his second start, and then racing three more times in Melbourne, where he won on two occasions.
Tulloch’s early good showing certainly would have been welcome to his trainer, T.J. Smith, who had purchased him as a yearling for 750 guineas. Various expenses, including the boat trip back to Sydney, brought his total up to just under 1,100 pounds, and he would earn nearly 10 times that amount in prize money, making him a worthwhile investment indeed. If you were to take the races in which he won and placed, and then extrapolate his winnings to current values, it would work out to almost $6 million.
Tulloch was foaled on 1 October 1954. The New Zealand connection was all on his dam’s side, Florida. That fact also applies to Island Linnet, Unawed, Unawares and Ambush, going all the way back to 1891.
Tulloch’s sire side included Khorassan, Big Game, Bahram, Blandford and Swinford, all from Great Britain, other than Blandford of Ireland.
He certainly was not an especially attractive horse from a conformation perspective. He had a distinctly swayed back and it is not entirely clear what T.J. Smith saw in him, but that is why T.J. Smith was one of the greatest trainers of all time.
That swayed back might have indicated some sort of genetic anomaly, which might also have accounted for the mysterious illness that sidelined Tulloch as a three and four-year-old that resulted in his being absent from racing for almost two years. It is interesting to speculate how many more jumps he might have made if he had not missed that extended period, but it is difficult to find fault with his record, no matter what the cause of his absence.
After his good showing in his spring campaign, Tulloch continued to experience good results, even if he was subject to occasional inconsistency. His first two starts of the autumn produced two second place finishes, after which he defeated strong competition in the form of Ace High to win the VRC Sires Produce Stakes. Ace high returned the favour by beating Tullich in the Ascot Vale Stakes. In a three horse race, the AJC Sires Produce Stakes, featuring Tulloch, Todman and Prince Darius, Tulloch was a convincing winner, only to lose to Todman by six lengths in the 1200 metre Champagne Stakes. In total, he competed 13 times as a two-year-old, winning seven and placing second six times.
Things started out swimmingly for Tulloch as a three-year-old. He beat Melbourne Cup winner MacDougal in the Warwick Stakes, and then left Prince Darius watching from six lengths back in the AJC Derby, beating a track record held by Phar Lap since 1929.
He was sent to Melbourne to try his fortune there, where he won the Caulfield Guineas and turned in a most impressive performance in the Caulfield Cup, where in winning, he set a then-record time for the distance on a turf track.
Tulloch was the natural favourite for the 1957 Melbourne Cup, even though his owner E.A. Haley and trainer T.J. Smith had a disagreement over whether or not Tulloch would go the distance the Cup required. Haley claimed that he did not think it was proper to run a three-year-old heavily burdened over that great a distance, whilst Smith openly speculated regarding how great a winning margin Tulloch would produce. Tulloch destroyed Prince Darius by eight lengths in the VRC Derby.
Tulloch was scratched from the Melbourne Cup, which was won narrowly from Prince Darius by Straight Draw.
During the autumn portion of that campaign, Tulloch and Prince Darius resumed their rivalry, where Prince Darius beat Tulloch twice, including a win in the St. George Stakes and a finish behind Sailors Guide in the VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes.
He concluded his three-year-old season with victories in the VRC St. Leger and five additional races in Sydney.
His record to that point stood at 29 jumps for 21 wins, seven seconds and one third.
Foreign buyers unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Tulloch’s owner to sell him, and Haley was contemplating running his racer in England at the United States, which had a vibrant racing industry at that time, when Tulloch succumbed to the mysterious stomach malady that nearly killed him, caused frequent infections, and caused the horse to lose a considerable amount of weight.
Recovery And Return As Five And Six-Year-Old
Tulloch returned to the track in March of 1960. He picked up precisely where he left off, winning four times against worthy competition in a highly successful autumn campaign. In the spring, he would win the Cox Plate and other prestigious races, but he then suffered a letdown in the 1960 Melbourne Cup, due partly to carrying 64 kg and partly to poor strategy by jockey Neville Sellwood. His seventh place finish was to be his only unplaced of his career. He came back in the autumn portion of the season to win three more times before concluding his career with a win in the 1961 Brisbane Cup.
Suffice it to say that Tulloch did not equal as a stud anything close to his exploits as a racer. He stood at E.A. Haley’s Te Koona Stud for a period, and then was moved to Old Gowang Stud, where he died 30 June 1969, well short of the typical life expectancy of any horse, let alone one of his stature who would have received exceptional treatment.
He was inducted into the Australian Racing Hall of Fame in the inaugural class of 2001, rightfully taking his place alongside Bernborough, Carbine, Phar Lap and Kingston Town. He is also included, as would be expected, in the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame, thanks to his line on his dam’s side, with other Kiwi greats, including Carbine and Phar Lap, although that honour had to wait until 2008, two years after the establishment of the New Zealand hall.