Horse Racing: Jockeys' titles, Derby winners, injuries and libel trials in long career of the man from Wagga Wagga.
Breasley rode the winners of more than 2,000 races in Britain after his arrival from Australia in 1950, including two Derbys on Santa Claus and Charlottown, and proved himself a jockey of the highest standard.
Arthur Edward Breasley, born at Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, on May 7, 1914, picked up the nickname 'Scobie' in his early days, when his obvious enthusiasm for racing caused a friend of his father's to liken the boy to the successful trainer James Scobie.
His father, Sidney, was a sheep drover who trained horses for the country meetings in New South Wales and, with elder brother Sidney jnr a successful jockey, it was almost inevitable Scobie would follow the same path.
At the age of 13, Breasley was apprenticed to the Melbourne trainer Pat Quinlan, and his first success in a proper race - he had taken part in some of the picnic (Flat-race point-to-points) meetings - came on Noogee at Werribee in 1928.
His first important success came on Cragford in the Sydney Metropolitan, but was followed immediately by a two-month suspension for crossing too sharply to the rails.
That suspension was the first of many that Breasley was to receive in his home country.
Eventually, he reached the conclusion that some officials were waging a vendetta against him, and this was partly responsible for his moving to Britain.
But before he did so, Breasley was champion in Victoria three times (1944-46). He never won the Melbourne Cup, but took the Caulfield Cup five times, the AJC Derby, AJC St Leger twice, VRC Oaks and St Leger three times, and the Victoria Derby twice.
In 1950, he arrived in Britain to ride as stable jockey to Noel Cannon at Druid's Lodge in Wiltshire, where James Rank was the chief owner. He won on his first two rides for the stable and the following year rode Ki Ming, trained by Michael Beary, to victory in the 2,000 Guineas.
Also in 1951, his wins for the Druid's Lodge team included the Richmond and Solario Stakes on Gay Time, but he had returned to Australia in 1952 when that horse, ridden by Lester Piggott, finished second to Tulyar in the Derby and the King George.
Breasley was back in Britain, at Cannon's insistent request, for the 1953 season.
Following Rank's death, Druid's Lodge had been bought by Arthur Dewar and it was for him that Breasley won the 1954 1,000 Guineas on Festoon.
Rather untypically of the style that was later to become Breasley's hallmark, Festoon made every yard of the running. Time after time in years to come the jockey was to demonstrate a conspicuous flair for coming as late as possible and winning by narrow margins without giving his horse a hard race.
Only three days after Festoon's triumph, a fall at Alexandra Park resulted in Breasley's eyes being paralysed and his losing his sense of balance.
This was in the pre-crash helmet days, but although Breasley was told he might not walk again, let alone ride, he was determined not to accept the diagnosis and, helped by many hours playing golf, was back in the saddle three months later.
That fall was the first of several serious accidents Breasley was to have during his career in Britain, but he proved remarkably resilient and a highly creditable score of 57 victories in 1954 was followed by his first century a year later.
In 1956, he replaced Jock Wilson as first jockey to Sir Gordon Richards, who was then in his second season as a trainer, and they remained a team until Breasley retired in 1968.
In that first season together they won the Middle Park Stakes with Pipe Of Peace, and although that top-class colt could finish only third to Crepello in the 2,000 Guineas and Derby in 1957, Breasley's total of 173 wins was enough to give him his first jockeys' championship in Britain.
In 1958, Breasley took over the ride on the previous year's Derby runner-up Ballymoss and enjoyed a marvellous run with consecutive victories in the Coronation Cup, Eclipse, King George and Arc de Triomphe, even if the campaign did end in anti-climax when Ballymoss could finish only third in the Washington DC International.
He was runner-up for the championship in the next three seasons, twice to Doug Smith and once to Piggott, but regained it in 1961 and held it for the following two years. BREASLEY was not always isolated from controversy. His favoured riding style of coming as late as possible was bound to lead to criticism if he arrived too late, and in his autobiography A Lifetime in Racing he observed:
"I've pulled the odd stroke, but then who hasn't?"
Within less than two months at the tail-end of the 1961 Flat campaign, two articles about Breasley so incensed the jockey that he took their authors, Tom Nickalls of The Sporting Life and Don Cox of the Daily Herald, to court for libel.
To by no means universal anticipation when the cases came to court two years later, Breasley was returned the winner by the jury in his case against Cox, but not so in the action against Nickalls.
He ended up losing about pounds 5,000 after paying at least some of the costs for all the parties involved, but still considered he had taken the right course.
Richards never trained a Classic winner, although he and Breasley enjoyed plenty of success with champion miler Reform (1967 St James's Palace, Sussex, Queen Elizabeth II and Champion Stakes), Court Harwell, London Cry, Induna, Firestreak, Greengage and Dart Board. In fact Breasley rode only four Classic winners in Britain, the other two being Santa Claus and Charlottown, the Derby winners of 1964 and 1966.
Although Santa Claus produced a strong late run at Epsom to master Indiana inside the final furlong and win by a length, there were some unsavoury stories about the race doing the rounds at the time and Breasley never rode the horse again - a decision that always rankled.
He got the ride on Charlottown two years later, after his compatriot Ron Hutchinson had incurred the displeasure of the colt's owners, Sir Harold and Lady Zia Wernher, by the way he rode the colt in the Lingfield Derby Trial.
This Classic saw Breasley at his opportunist best, switching Charlottown from outside just in time to catch Pretendre near the line and win by a neck.
Another bad fall, at Newbury, kept him out for the rest of 1966, and within six weeks of resuming the following campaign he broke a collarbone in a fall at Ascot.
The following year he was injured yet again, this time at Bath, and it was no surprise when he announced in August 1968 that he would retire at the end of that season.
Having ridden the winners of 2,161 races in Britain, to follow his estimated 1,090 in Australia, Breasley began training in 1969 at the South Hatch yard in Epsom from which Walter Nightingall had sent out many good winners.
For some reason best known to himself - he was often of a secretive nature - Breasley almost, although not quite, denied he was interested in the stable until the deal was completed.
He trained the winners of 187 races in Britain between 1969 and 1980, as well as taking the 1972 Irish Derby with Steel Pulse, but, like so many champion jockeys before him, he was not so successful in his second career.
Steel Pulse was owned by shipping tycoon Ravi Tikkoo, and Breasley trained other big winners in his blue-and-yellow colours, including Hittite Glory (1975 Flying Childers and Middle Park Stakes).
In addition, Jerry Sung's Yellow River won the Queen's Vase in 1970' Royben, owned by longtime South Hatch patron Angus Kennedy, brought off the Portland Handicap-Ayr Gold Cup double in 1971' and Lady Beaverbrook's Biskrah took the 1972 Doncaster Cup.
But the rest of Breasley's training career was almost totally linked to Tikkoo's movements. In a protest against VAT, the Tikkoo horses and his trainer moved to Chantilly in 1976 and, in that season, Kesar Queen came over to win the Coronation Stakes at Ascot.
If that was one of the best moments for the new operation, matters soon took on a much less happy aspect when Tikkoo's Java Rajah failed a drugs test after winning a handicap at Longchamp in September.
Javah Rajah was disqualified, Breasley was fined Ff20,000, and Tikkoo expressed the view, felt privately by others, that the French simply wanted revenge after Trepan had been disqualified for failing drugs tests after finishing first in the Prince of Wales's Stakes and the Eclipse. His horses were soon on the move again.
This time it was across the Atlantic, and Breasley arrived with 40 Tikkoo horses in New York in the winter of 1976-77.
Among them was Hunza Dancer, third to Grundy in the 1975 Derby and a big success in the States, where his wins included the 1977 Bowling Green Handicap.
But that move did not last long either, and by the late summer of 1978 Breasley was back in Britain. He decided to retire from training at the end of 1980 and become Tikkoo's racing manager.
It was never quite clear what was involved in this exercise, especially with an owner as mercurial as Tikkoo, and in 1983 Breasley left Britain to train in Barbados, where he had owned a house for 20 years. He eventually retired in 1993 and returned to Australia.
Breasley occasionally returned to see old friends in Britain and was guest of honour at the 2003 Derby, when the jockeys were introduced to him beforehand.
Back in 1935, Breasley had married May Fisher, and although the marriage went through its ups and downs - there was at least one period of separation - they celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary in 1995.
Their only child, Loretta, married the late Brian Swift, first a jockey and then a trainer, in 1960. That union produced three children, but the marriage was dissolved in the late 1970s.
Scobie Breasley was undoubtedly one of the finest jockeys of his era and his success was largely responsible for an influx of Australian riders of hugely varying ability in the 1950s and 1960s. Arguably, Bill Williamson was his superior, with Ron Hutchinson at a similar level, but most were nowhere near as good.
A quiet, almost secretive and invariably undemonstrative man, Breasley's favoured tactic of coming with a late run, timed, if possible, to the inch, was developed to the highest level.
Inevitably, it did not always work, but on most occasions it did and few, if any, riders have ever done it better.
This obituary was compiled by the late George Ennor, former chief reporter of the Racing Post.
Gateway to success: Scobie Breasley pictured outside his home in 1967. (Right, above) The jockey on Santa Claus after winning the Derby in 1964, and (right, below) two years later he powers to victory in the same race on Charlottown (far side) ahead of Pretendre
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|Publication:||The Racing Post (London, England)|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2006|
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