The King and Gold
Lisa and I went out to Royal Randwick on Saturday and had a great day at the track. Picked a few winners, had a little tipple and saw some wonderfully presented fillies and colts in the Member's enclosure. The races were fun but there were no "champions" running around. A conversation started about who was the best you'd seen race, in the flesh. We're all about the same age and to a person, Kingston Town was unanimous. It reminded me of something I wrote a few years back comparing him to Gold, so here's a revised edition of a September 2002 paper. Today, I found the cd of "The King" and his exploits and Lisa and I watched it together today.
The King and Gold
This is the story of the greatest racehorse I have ever seen in the flesh. I liken him to Gold. It's no great stretch to understand the similarities.
Kingston Town was foaled in 1976, a few years after the great Secretariat won the Triple Crown in the U.S. He was a jet-black colt, but he was passed-in at the yearling sales for only A$5,000 and was retained by his breeder with "the golden touch," David Hains. $8,000 would have got the King at auction. Ominously, he ran 18th of 19 horses in his first race. So they cut his nuts off.
He subsequently won 21 straight races in Sydney over the next three seasons. Unbeatable over any distance yet he was not appreciated much in Melbourne, due to his inability to win there, consistently. He didn't like going counterclockwise which is the Melbourne way of going! His jockey said it was "like driving a Formula one car stuck in 2nd gear". He was near unbeatable at Randwick or Rosehill or anywhere that they raced the right direction!
The King, as he was affectionately known, won every major race in Sydney over 3 years including The Australian Derby, the Rosehill Guineas, the Mercedes' Classic, the Sydney Cup and squillions more. These races are Group 1 status, comparable to say the Breeder's Cup in the U.S., The Arc de Triomphe in France, The July Gold Cup in England, The Japan Cup, or the Woodbine Classic in Canucklehead land.
In 1980 Kingston Town won 12 times and placed twice in fourteen starts. He won four Group 1 races in 3 weeks, culminating in his Australian Derby victory which was awesome. He blitzed the best 3 year olds in the country, in what is our "Kentucky Derby". In total he won about 18 Group 1 races over 4 years and would have been many more but for injuries. Good horses get these leg injuries because they try so hard. Squibs don't get hurt, 'coz they don't put in!
His greatest effort was in defeat, carrying the top-weight in the Melbourne Cup of 1982 when he was run down in the shadows of the post by a very good horse. His conqueror that day won both the big Cups that year and, rather than being known as the horse that "beat the King" he should be remembered as one of only half a dozen to win both Cups since 1880, or some such year. That he had the luxury of carrying about 10 pounds less over the 2 mile journey is not lost on fans of the King.
And so the King's crowning glory was not to be. I remember that day vividly. I played truant from high school with some mates and we went to the track to watch the Champ. The cheers as he hit the front at the top of the straight were deafening. The memory still gives me goosebumps. Never have I been so gutted on a racetrack as I was that day. (except on 15/4/2000 but that's another story). I saw grown men in tears, not because they did their ar$e on the punt, but because everyone "owned" him and it was "our loss".
He was the first horse in our history to win $1 million in prizemoney and his equivalent earnings today would be not much short of A$20 million.
As mentioned earlier, The King wasn't as appreciated in Melbourne, although the true equine observers weren't fooled, as he was always "thereabouts" running placings in their biggest races like the Victorian Derby, Caulfield Guineas and the Caulfield Cup ... BUT...
He is the only horse in history to win 3 successive W.S Cox Plates. The winners' list of this race is literally the "who's who " of Australian thoroughbreds. This is the "weight for age" championship of Australia and it's in Melbourne. Four horses have won it twice.
He won it in 1980, 81 and 82. It is invariably won by the best horse in the race because it's run under the fairest weight system. There is no "handicapping" in this race. You get the same weight as others your age and sex. It can't be any fairer... younger, inexperienced horses get less weight but only based on age, not ability and so on. Even with everything against them, Champions rise to the occasion. He won easily in 1980 as a 3 year old, with the caller saying, "Kingston Town is just jogging," as they turned for home and he won by many lengths with his ears pricked.
The 1982 Cox Plate will go down as one of the greatest racing performances ever. The King had dodgy legs. His trainer, master horseman Tommy Smith did a remarkable job holding him together for so long. Racecaller Bill Collins, who was the Melbourne racecaller for about 40 years and called literally thousands of races and knew horses inside out, is rembered more for his call of this race than ANY other race in Australian history.... The Cox Plate is 2040meters(1+ ¼ mile) on turf, on a tight turning track (going the wrong way for The King.. not exactly made to measure conditions).
Halfway through the race, The King was in all sorts of strife. He was locked away on the fence, behind a wall of horses (that happens to really good horses, the others gang up on you). At the turn for home... I will let another describe the details...
"Here was the best horse in the race smothered away on the rails. Then it happened. The black came out of the pack like a reeling drunk shouldering his way back for a re-fill. The whip caused him to roll over. Then he turned his head towards the rail. But - this is the uncanny part - from the instant he got clear he was going to win. This despite reeling and rolling, despite the horse being literally as unbalanced as a two-year-old having his first race around corners."
Bill Collins made "the call" at the home turn - "... Kingston Town CAN'T WIN"... He won running away from them all. He lamented afterwards "no way he could win...I will be remembered forever as the bloke who said Kingston Town can't win..."
In "They're Racing"(1999), Les Carlyon recalls an undying, magical moment of racing on Cox Plate Day.
"A race followed by a piece of mass euphoria seldom offered at such hard-nosed places as racecourses. People actually stayed to hear the speeches. They actually used their binoculars to view the presentation. For 15 minutes, it seemed, Kingston Town was not owned by David Haines and others but vicariously by these thousands who usually shun the waffle for the hustle of the betting ring."
Interestingly, The King won his three Cox Plates with different jockeys aboard. His regular jockey, Miracle Mal, is still the most suspended jockey in Australian racing history!!! Funnily enough, he was serving suspension twice when this race was run and hence the different jockeys each time. This illustrates that The King was unbeatable, no matter who rode him. Some say jockeys can make horses...who is kidding who... as John Hawkes, Australia's top trainer has been quoted "tie a monkey on a good horse and they will still win"... It is my experience that Jockeys can cost you a race very easily and they do regularly. The times they "win" a race for you through "their" ride rather than the horse's ability, you could count on 1 toe.
The King's legs went in his last race, another victory in the G1 Railway Stakes, where he raced 6 and 7 wide for the whole race, under pressure the whole way but champions don't lie down and he duly won. Again.
41 starts for 30 wins, 5 seconds and 2 thirds.
The King and Gold...
Gold is the Kingston Town of financial assets. When trouble struck, The King always won. He was adaptable. He won races from half a mile to 2 miles and he only raced against the very best horses of the era. Nothing phased him. He could lead the pack, take a sit midfield or go back to last, it didn't matter what the situation, he could deal with it. AAA rated risk to bet on.
Same with Gold.
You mightn't be able to earn the returns of other paper/monetary assets but when it goes pear shaped you know you can rely on Gold. Sure every now and then something outdoes gold, as occasionally The King got beaten, but generally that was in an "unusual" environment under "handicap" conditions. Many were quick to write off "The King" as a Sydney wonderhorse, who could not hack it down in Melbourne. Needed everything his way said the Melbourne pundits....sound familiar in Gold discussions ? A barbarous relic, old money, just a commodity, the new economy doesn't need gold.. blah blah blah.
Who is going to be the Bill Collins of the Financial/Gold markets? Alan Greenspan, Gordon Brown , Ben Bernanke, maybe?. Take your pick 'coz there's a heap of nominees!
I liken the current Gold/Financial market situation to the Melbourne/Sydney horse debate with The King. The pro-Gold camp know what this safest of assets has done, will do and is capable of under most conditions, like the Sydney punters. When conditions are perfect, he's unbeatable. We also know that no matter under what conditions, we are on the safest and best "horse." Sure we don't get a 50-1 return if we win, like the Melbourne punters who would back other horses to beat him. A betting ticket with 50-1 written on it is worth zip if it doesn't win, no matter how big the bet is. 100% of nothing is nothing.
Conversely, those on "the King", well we collected consistently, but small, almost every time he raced. Same goes for gold. Physical gold owners may not get dot.com rich, but no way will we go broke. In fact, relative to other's wealth, you will be "dot-com" rich, but with a real asset not some "idea" on a piece of paper.
Buy the right gold stocks and you will get dot.com rich..... certainly.
The quote from Les Carlyon is appropriate ... Watch what everyone does when gold explodes. The mob mentality, the dinner party circuit conversations about gold stocks, and don't we all know that everyone loves a winner. Remember the Nasdaq mania and the "celebrity analysts" and CEO's.
And as for horses getting "ganged up on" in races so that the best gets knocked back to the rest, well, people can draw their own conclusions regarding gold's trading performance. Is it a case of gold "getting locked away on the rails" so others can run, or is "our jockey no good" or is "the race fixed"?
Like "the King in 82" gold is about to burst out of the pack, again, and blow every other financial asset out of the water. That, I am betting on! The outrageous profligacy of fiat U.S. dollars flooding the world, will ensure it. People and countries are drowning in debt. Of course this is only my opinion and by no means a recommendation.
In the end, The King so demoralized other horses and trainers that he, at one stage had to race in a good Stakes race against only 2 other horses. He started at 50-1 ON... for every $50 you bet, you got $ 1 back...but you got your principal plus 2%.... the others were 100-1, but again, what's the good of a ticket on a loser! When he was beaten in 1982 Melbourne Cup, he started the longest price I could remember, apart from his first and second starts. He was 6-1 to win.
As mentioned earlier, I played truant and with a few mates from school went to Randwick to watch and get set on him. I worked part-time at McDonalds earning a few $ during high school. I took every cent I had in the world, about $250, and put it on his nose, but that's another issue regarding risk diversification!
As I said, the Melbourne Cup of 1982 was to be his crowning glory. To this day anybody who knows anything about racing says that the King was beaten by his jockey. The straight at Flemington is nearly 600m long. It has caught many visiting jockeys out whereby they "go for home" too far out and become a "sitting duck" for the others to run down. By his own admission, Miracle Mal went too early. It was the only way The King could be beaten .... External influences.
Lisa didn't mind watching this magnificent horse's career on film for 40 minutes or so. She wasn't worried about her hat or her new frock, she didn't have to worry about queuing for champers or donating a few bucks to the bookies benevolent fund. She was very impressed by the animal, though, and wants one just like him! That's a one in every 50 years chance.
The King died at 14yrs of age.
Gold never dies.
Long live "The King" of financial assets ... (and it's my contention that you can get set on "him" at about 10-1 odds at the moment, and his "opposition" have only got 3 legs!!).
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