One of the most successful Tasmanian racehorse owners of the 1940s and 50s was the controversial surgeon Dr. Victor Ratten. He was Surgeon Superintendent of the Royal Hobart Hospital for many years (1917-1936).
Dr. Ratten’s success on the track was despite the fact that in 1911 he had received a lifetime ban for trying to fix a race at Mowbray. How did he get that overturned? Hmm, well probably wise not to dig too deeply. 😎.
In 1947 Victor’s horse Wingfire won the Hobart Cup in great style at Elwick. The victory meant everything, as the name honoured the doctor’s eldest son John, a flying ace who died during WWII.
The following year it was Evade who streaked home two lengths ahead of the field, and then The Artist completed a trifecta in 1949.
The Artist went on to win the Launceston Gold Cup that year as favourite, and Dr Ratten gave some credit to the Tasmanian Governor;
The Tasmanian Amateur Jockey Club win in January 1947 had come after a long wait for the ‘racing’ surgeon.
Dr Ratten had visions of winning a remarkable four Hobart Cups in succession. When approached in the lead-up to the 1950 race he was only too happy to show off his collection of trophies. They were put on show in the fashion window of Fitzgerald’s department store in Collins Street.
As a pre-race attraction it was a great success, but the array of silver attracted some unwanted attention. Late on the night of Monday, January 23 a watchman heard an intruder and called the police. Someone had targeted the display and the 1949 cup won by The Artist was missing. To the relief of the poor watchman it was found at the bottom of a flight of steps in the basement. It had been abandoned at the last moment, as the would-be thief fled the scene.
Perhaps the attempted theft was a bad omen, because although Victor had three starters in the big race a few days later, namely Evade, The Artist and Petulance, all were unplaced. The dream Cup run was over.
THE FATE OF THE CUPS
Victor Ratten died in 1965. In 1985 the cups were included in an auction at his son Barney’s home in Sandy Bay
Most of the major cups and silver trophies won by Victor were listed for sale (excluding The Artist’s 1949 Launceston Cup). The Tasmanian Racing Club feared the cups in particular might be sold interstate, noting; ‘Some interstate firms buy cups, wipe the engraving off and sell them to other racing clubs. The club is also frightened the cups could be sold and melted down.’ Fortunately they were able to buy the majority of the trophies.
I am writing a biography of Victor Ratten and during a research trip to Tasmania my partner Rob and I went to the club’s home at Elwick racecourse hoping to find them.
No-one seemed to know anything about the trophies. We were feeling really disappointed until a young fellow came over and said, ‘I think I know where they might be.‘
We walked into a little storeroom and he managed to locate three of the cups……a bit tarnished, but not looking too bad. He sat them on the boardroom table so that I could take a photograph.
No doubt if Dr Ratten could send a message it would be a request to have his silver cups on permanent display somewhere. 😎
For information and past winners of the Hobart Cup, CLICK HERE.
THE STORY OF THE RACE THAT LED TO VICTOR RATTEN’S ‘LIFETIME’ BAN.