The Turnbull Stakes, first run in 1948, was named in honour of the incumbent VRC chairman Richard Turnbull, and so, has no relationship with Malcolm.

It began as a 12-furlong race and changed to a 10-furlong race in 1971. In 1972, the Turnbull Stakes became a 2000m event when Australian racing went metric. Up until 1963 it was a handicap event, then WFA conditions applied from 1964-70. Since then, it has been a set weight & penalties race — whatever that means.

Notable winners of the race include Beau Gem (1948), Comic Court (1949 & 50), Rising Fast (1954), Redcraze (1955), Craftsman (1965), Tobin Bronze (1966), Galilee (1968), Leilani (1974), Dulcify (1979), Vo Rogue (1987 & 88), Super Impose (1989), Better Loosen Up (1990), Let’s Elope (1991), Naturalism (1992), Doriemus (1996), Sky Heights (1999), Sunline (2000), Northerly (2002) and Elvstroem (2004).

Don’t those names simply trip off the tongue like a tsunami of treasured memories? It’s just like I was back at Mass at St Anthony’s at Clovelly reciting the Nicene Creed in Latin. The Turnbull only became a Group 1 event in 2006 after the mighty Makybe Diva defeated a top class field to claim it in 2005.

The $502,000 Turnbull for 4YOs and up is run over a mile and a quarter in the old money and is a good test of horse, jockey, trainer and connections’ staying power at a middle distance. It is the natural stepping stone to the Caulfield Cup and the Cox Plate. It is a joy to behold for the high, wide and handsome.

The top weight carries 59kg and the bottom, 54.5kg. The difference is about what I put on in a day when I’ve got the nosebag over my face. The HQ track was verdant. The penetrometer was reading 4.8 and the rating was Fast 4.

THE HORSE

I was extremely pleased that Lloyd Williams’ 6YO grey gelding Efficient saluted in the Turnbull because my dear dead Dad told me to back it on Saturday morning to celebrate his 89th birthday. Thanks Dad!

Of course, you remember when Efficient ran down Purple Moon to claim the 2007 Big Cup before a Flemington crowd of 102,411. I was backing Master O’Reilly that day (came 8th) and I would have backed him again on race day but for his scratching in the morning. Thanks again Dad!

Williams, the 69-year-old property developer and one-time joint owner of Crown Casino, had three runners (Zipping and C’est La Guerre were the others) in this race but left it to son Nick to collect the $300,000 trophy.

Proficiently prepared by John Sadler at Mt Macedon, Efficient was withdrawn a few days before the 2008 Big Cup with fetlock knack. But for that unfortunate turn of events, he could now be being set for a hat trick of Big Cups. Then again, there is probably little chance of my aunty becoming my uncle.

Efficient was carrying only 57.5kg under special weights on race day compared to the 59kg he normally carries under WFA but the VRC handicapper has still given him the equal top weight of 58kg for the Big Cup. Go figure! In fact, why do we need set weights between normal handicapping and WFA?

Nick Williams says Efficient’s next stop before the Big Cup is the Cox Plate. His Kiwi Dad, Zabeel, and his Kiwi Mum, Refuse The Dance, would say they were very proud of their boy if horses could speak English and had the slightest idea what we were talking about.

THE JOCKEY

Nick Hall got the sit on Efficient and he “done good”! He made no bones about the fact that he only got the ride because Lloyd Williams is his Godfather and he thanked him for the opportunity and carried out his riding instructions to the letter: “I get all the glory for three-minutes work when there are a team of 80 people at Lloyd Williams Racing who work round the clock to get these horses in the peak of condition for me to sit on.” Well said, young man.

THE RECKONING

Ah, the travails of the punter! If I had a quid for every hot tip I was ever given on a horse race, I would be not writing this column for a pittance but be sunning myself on the Gold Coast with Mick Gatto. My punting pals, told me they had all studied the form guide, and to a man, they agreed that Red Ruler would win the Turnbull.

I begged to differ. I pointed out: “He’s drawn well and carrying bugger all but he is NOT one of the form horses in the Turnbull (Vigor, Predatory, Mal and El Sig there). He’s come 7th , 8th and 5th in his last three starts. He has not won a race for more than a year and half and that was a G3 in Enzed for Christ’s sakes.”

They didn’t believe me. Efficient had a starting price of $26 and paid $21.20 on the Victorian TAB. I am right pleased!

I was going to pick Denman in the Caulfield Guineas before I had a look at the field. Now I’m not so sure. QED.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.