Tony Turnbull and Hondo Grattan after winning the 1973 Pacing
© Clyde Lett
Hondo Grattan and Tony Turnbull
Hondo Grattan (on the rail) races for the finishing line ahead
of Royal Ascot and Glamour Chief to win the 1973 Pacing
Championship, Harold Park.
© Clyde Lett
1974 Pacing Final, Gloucester Park - Hondo Grattan crosses the
finishing line well clear of Adios Victor
|Tony Turnbull holds the trophy high after
winning his second Inter Dominion Final with Hondo Grattan
photo courtesy Ron Bisman and Taylor
Strong’s “The Inter Dominions – Saga of the Champions (1977-78)”
|Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios in a
tight contest in the 1974 Miracle Mile, Harold Park
© Gene Lett
|Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios parading
© Gene Lett
| Parading after the 1973 Pacing
Championship, Harold Park
© Gene Lett
|Hondo Grattan received a reception outside the Bathurst Civic Centre with trainer/driver/part owner Tony Turnbull
WINNER OF TWO INTER
DOMINION PACING CHAMPIONSHIPS (P.1:59)
Few harness horses had achieved that mystique status of “folk
hero” before the emergence of a smallish standout pacer from mid
west NSW in the early 1970’s. What made Hondo Grattan even more
unique was that he was quite probably the only standardbred at
that time to have had a song composed about his deeds on the
racetrack. Much later his great rival Paleface Adios also had a
song written about him.
Bred at Tarana near Bathurst and of a North American/New Zealand
cross of breeding cultures, Hondo Grattan had that irresistible
and mysterious combination of determination to win and not give
in - elements that endeared him to the public and harness racing
Foaled a year later was another much loved pacer, the flashy
chestnut Paleface Adios P.1:57.6 from the Riverina region of
south western NSW. Their clashes at tracks throughout Australia
thrilled patrons everywhere but it was to be several years
before the two giants of harness racing were actually of an open
age to compete against each other.
Hondo Grattan also had a trainer/driver who had the same game
characteristics and who was noted for his cheeky larrikin style
of response in nearly all circumstances. Tony (AD) Turnbull was
born in 1930 on the family farm called “Greenvale” at The Lagoon
near Perthville, a few miles from Bathurst, and learned to drive
as a teenager on his uncle’s (AJ Turnbull) horses. Wins came on
country tracks and at Harold Park meetings prior to night
trotting, and he later drove his father’s (WG Turnbull) horses
around the Western Districts.
The long road to success started with the Turnbulls’ 1950
purchase of Loyal Raider P.2:14.6 bred by Edgar Tatlow of Hagley
in northern Tasmania. The stallion was a great unhoppled pacer
around the country areas, winning 24 races and who sired seventy
six individual winners. These included for the Turnbull family
the classic winning Miniature Bill P.2:01.4ms and First Kiss
P.2:05.2ss an Inter Dominion heat winner in the famous 1960
series won by Caduceus.
During the 1960’s Bill (BS) and Bob (RS) Webb were clients of
Tony Turnbull and interested in having a brood mare or two at
their sheep and cattle farm at Tarana, a small railway town in
the centre of the Lithgow, Bathurst,
Oberon triangle. The back road from Tarana finishes further west
near The Lagoon where the Turnbulls are situated.
At a dispersal sale of owner/trainer/driver Jim Caffyn at
Granville in 1966, Tony Turnbull purchased the New Zealand bred
mare Lola Grattan NZ, foaled in 1954 and with at least three
wins in Victoria (best rating 2:14). At the sale there was
nothing in the maternal family of any note for the auctioneer to
enthuse over and the mare was knocked down for 60 guineas.
Although promising earlier in her career and previously sold for
500 guineas, deteriorating form and a lowly maternal pedigree
meant the mare had trouble finding a buyer.
Tony Turnbull was interested because although he did not know
much about her sire, the Italian bred trotter Loreto, he knew
all about the sire of her dam Grattan Loyal USA. He was a noted
brood mare sire who sired Attain NZ, the dam of his earlier good
pacer and sire Loyal Raider, and five metropolitan winners of
Strangely, although the maternal family (Molly Reilly) of Lola
Grattan NZ was not of much account to that time the family
started to uplift in the 1960’s and by 2007 had over twenty five in
the 2.00 list including Nero’s Knight P.1:53.6.
Lola Grattan NZ was served firstly by Group Nine P.2:08.2ss, one
of the Turnbull owned pacers, and her foal was Lazy Two
P.2:07.2ss a one eyed winner of ten races.
Her second foal – Hondo Grattan - a brown colt to Hondo Hanover
USA, arrived on 6/9/1968 and Lola Grattan NZ went on to produce
seven foals in total, all of whom raced, six of them winning
races for the Webb Brothers. An excellent effort for an unwanted
Hondo Hanover USA P.1:59.4 owned by Martin Tananbaum Managing
Director of Yonkers Raceway and one of North America’s finest
harness racing entrepreneurs, was leased by brothers Tony and
Joe Turnbull in 1967. The stallion was by Adios which was the
main requirement of the Turnbulls, and his best attribute was as
an outcross sire for the Turnbulls’ and their clients’ mares
including Lola Grattan NZ.
Showing speed and good manners on breaking in as a yearling on
the home track at The Lagoon, Hondo Grattan won his first race
as a two year old at Penrith in May 1971, but in four subsequent
races at Harold Park he found the other colts far more
experienced. However, he ran second in a heat of the Challenge
Stakes to Tuapeka’s Garry, and finished up midfield in the Final
to the champion two year old Nicotine Prince who won in 2:00.4
and with whom Hondo Grattan had many clashes in the following
Resuming as a three year old in September 1971 Hondo Grattan
opened with eight straight wins including one at Harold Park,
plus a heat and final of the Dress Circle Pace at Bathurst and
Penrith respectively in 2:08ss over 12 furlongs. After a second
to Jason King at Harold Park, Hondo Hanover put together another
eight wins straight which included a heat and final of the Sires
Produce Stakes at Harold Park, the WDTA Cup at Bathurst, the
Hurricane Flying Mile at Hawkesbury, and the Western Districts
Derby at Canowindra.
For the balance of this season Hondo Grattan showed indifferent
form, winning a heat of the NSW Derby but going down in 6th
placing to Bold Biami in the final. He then won the Country
Three Year Old Championship at Harold Park. This season was not
easy for Hondo Grattan, always up against colts of the calibre
of Jason King, Adios Victor, Mitchell Victory and King Frost.
Nevertheless he had seventeen wins and one placing in twenty one
starts, and his best winning time was 2:02.6 over a mile.
Setting Hondo Grattan for the 1973 Inter Dominion Championship
in February/March at Harold Park as a four year old, Tony
Turnbull was ambitious according to the media as very few four
year olds had won the Grand Final. However, Tony and the Webb
Brothers were determined to give it a go.
Hondo Grattan’s formline leading up to the Championships had
patches of brilliance interspersed with more mediocre runs than
was usual. Included in his ordinary efforts were defeats by
Jason King, Tuapeka’s Garry, Local Ayr, Nicotine Prince, Bold
Biami and Adios Victor, all of whom had vied with him from his
two year old days. His record was five wins from thirteen starts
prior to the Championships and three of those wins were at
However, the Inter Dominion Championship was a different
proposition with Hondo Grattan’s form improving dramatically to
win three heats in 2:06.6ss, 2:06.6ss and 2:08.8ss over a week
of rainy weather that forced postponements. With barrier two in
the Final, Hondo Grattan started an 11/4 favourite
and was manouvered to race outside the leader Jason King until
the last 200 yards when Royal Ascot sprinted and went half a
length in front until Hondo Grattan fought back to win by a head
on the line.
It was this race and the courage he showed that triggered an
outburst of public sentimentality for Hondo Grattan now called
the “Bathurst Bulldog” or “Little Hondo” and for the rest of his
racing life the stallion was the hero of the harness racing
public everywhere he raced.
For the balance of the season Hondo Grattan confined his racing
to Harold Park, winning the 4YO Futurity plus a heat and final
of the Lord Mayor’s Cup from 12 yards. From 30 yards, tough
opposition found him fourth to Mitchell Victory in the 3 & 4YO
Super Stars Pace in his last race of the season on 4/5/73 in
which Paleface Adios was second.
From 22 starts Hondo Grattan had 12 wins and four placings for
$66,326, becoming the Leading Stakemoney earner for the season,
whilst his lifetime earnings had crept up to $81,562.
Hondo Grattan started the 1973-74 season with a win at Lithgow,
but took some time to get back to his high standard of racing,
probably because the handicapper was now placing the stallion on
20 metres behind in his racing at Harold Park. Breaking the ice
in November, Hondo Grattan won three races at Harold Park
including a FFA over 2350 metres in which he met and defeated
Paleface Adios into 6th place for the first time. In an
Invitation Pace at Harold Park a week later, Hondo Grattan, this
time from 15 metres, again defeated Paleface Adios over 2700
metres, with Paleface Adios closer in second place.
On 15/12/73 Hondo Grattan time trialled at Bathurst recording
1:59.5 and then headed to Melbourne for the Hunter Cup Carnival.
On the first night of the Carnival on 29/12/73 Hondo Grattan
finished third in a FFA won by Monara and then won a FFA on the
second night before finishing 5th to Monara in the Hunter Cup.
It was noted that for the first time Paleface Adios had finished
4th, just in front of Hondo Grattan.
The 1974 Inter Dominion Championship was held in Perth during
the harsh summer heat of February but this did not affect Hondo
Grattan who had been handicapped from 15 metres in all heats and
in the Grand Final providing he qualified. A first heat win over
2600 metres, an 8th in the second heat and then dead heat for
4th with Paleface Adios in the final heat meant qualifying by a
close half point. Hondo Grattan and Tony Turnbull had something
to prove to the local media who were severely critical of
Turnbull’s driving tactics, but fate and luck had a big say in
the running of the Grand Final.
Getting away brilliantly from 15 metres and out wide Hondo
Grattan avoided the biggest crash in Inter Dominion history -
Just Too Good galloped and fell with Paleface Adios colliding
and Welcome Advice, Local Product, Haddock and Royal Gaze
seemingly and hopelessly out of the race. Getting into a good
position after the melee, Hondo Grattan closed in on the front
markers and went on to win hard driven from Adios Victor and
Bret Armagh - the latter being deprived of his third placing
when a routine swab proved positive.
The stallion was given a hero’s reception by the local
Gloucester Park patrons who recognized an all time great that
had now won the Inter Dominion twice in a row and was poised to
become the greatest stakemoney winner in Australian harness
racing history being only $14,000 behind Welcome Advice’s record
His triumph was also celebrated with a civic reception on his return to hometown Bathurst, where a telegram from the then Premier, Sir Robert Askin, congratulated "a great champion from a champion city". In late 1974, further acknowledgement of their joint achievements came when the ABC Television Network featured Hondo Grattan and the Turnbull family in an episode of the popular TV series "A Big Country".
Returning to race in the 1974 Miracle Mile at Harold Park, both
Hondo Grattan and Paleface Adios had something to prove.
However, Hondo Grattan won a spine tingling contest in possibly
the greatest finish ever in Miracle Miles and further enhanced
his public recognition. His season tally was 13 wins and
placings from 31 starts, and lifetime earnings moved to
Resuming with a win at Bathurst on 16/11/74 Hondo Grattan took
another nine races before success at Dubbo in a FFA in January
1975. Next was New Zealand for the 1975 Inter Dominion
Championships in Auckland, where Young Quinn was invincible.
Hondo Grattan, handicapped off 25 metres, ran 5th, 3rd and 2nd
in his heats and finished 6th in the Grand Final.
Young Quinn continued his dominance, winning the Miracle Mile at
Harold Park where Hondo Grattan finished 4th and Paleface Adios
5th. For the remainder of the season Hondo Grattan had eleven
starts for seven wins and four placings from handicap marks of
25 and 30 metres to become the first pacer to pass $200,000 in
prizemoney in Australia.
As a seven year old in the 1975-76 season Hondo Grattan showed
signs of tendon trouble and after 14 starts for 6 wins and 6
placings the pacer was retired following his last start on
17/4/76 at Bathurst.
Recording 58 wins and 35 placings from 119 starts for $215,402,
Hondo Grattan retired with a long list of credits including two
Inter Dominion Grand Finals from four starts and a Miracle Mile,
plus numerous Cups, FFA’s and Invitation races. He was NSW Horse
of the Year in 1973 and 1974 in the years before the inaugural
Australian Horse of the Year and which he surely would have won.
Hondo Grattan had the better of most of his arch rivals but
Paleface Adios lasted longer and finished ahead 10/8 in their
clashes. In their last three contests at Harold Park at the end
of Hondo Grattan’s career, Paleface Adios, a year younger, had
the better of him winning their three races including a
revengeful 1976 Miracle Mile.
Sad to say Hondo Grattan, a staying type, did not receive the
stud patronage he deserved. He stood at Loyal Stud for eighteen
seasons for fifty six individual winners including two in 2:00,
but he did not sire anything anywhere near his own ability.
Long passed into history, Hondo Grattan was a true gritty
champion and a hero to the public throughout Australia.
won by HONDO GRATTAN NZ
||1971 Heat & Final Dress Circle
Pace Penrith NSW
|1971 Heat & Final Sires Produce
Stakes Harold Park NSW
|1972 WDTA Cup Bathurst NSW
|1972 Hurricane Flying Mile
1972 Western Districts Derby Canowindra NSW
|1972 Country 3yo Championship
Harold Park NSW
||1973 Heats (3) and Grand Final
Inter Dominion Pacing Championship Harold Park NSW
1973 4YO Futurity Harold Park NSW
|1973 Heat & Final Lord Mayors
Cup Harold Park NSW (Group 1)
||1973 TT1:59.5 Bathurst NSW
|1974 Heat & Grand Final Inter
Dominion Pacing Championship Gloucester Park WA (Group
|1974 Miracle Mile Harold Park NSW (Group 1)
||1975 Heat & Final Lord Mayors Cup Harold Park NSW
||1976 Hurricane Stakes Harold Park NSW
1974 Pacing Final
Race footage courtesy Mike Dickinson
||1973 Pacing Final
Race footage courtesy Mike Dickinson
Pedigree - Hondo Grattan