I'm a freelance journalist and writer who has lived in the Northern Territory and western Victoria, now residing in Yankalilla; a lover of music, gardening, golf, the Australian bush and all things historical. See www.freestylepublications.com.au
Remember Comic Court?
A historic photographic exhibition to encourage interest and awareness in establishing the Comic Court Lodge Racing and Equine Museum is being held at the Normanville Hotel throughout the month of May, as part of the local History Month celebrations.
The record-breaking 1950 Melbourne Cup winning horse, Comic Court, and legendary trainer, the late Bart Cummings, are to be remembered in a museum proposed to be established at Normanville, where Comic Court was born.
Comic Court winning the 1950 Melbourne Cup by three lengths
Comic Court spent his first couple of formative years at the Bowyer brothers' Beau Neire Stud at Normanville. He was stabled, along with other horses, in a building which forms part of the heritage-listed Fergusson's Mill / Cornish's Mill / Gorge Mill, a steam-powered flour mill originally built in 1856.
Albert Bowyer, a champion hay stacker and thatcher, bought the property in 1918 where he ran a dairy farm. Three of his sons Hiram, Melville and David, established Beau Neire Stud, from where they bred, trained and raced horses.
Melville Bowyer as a teenager in 1934 bought his first horse – Anton Belle – from pocket money he had saved. Melville and his father visited Jim Cummings' North Glenelg stables, and his father helped Melville select the filly, for which he paid 35 guineas, and wiped out his savings. Anton Belle was first sent to Jim Cummings' property at North Glenelg and returned home in foal to Powerscourt but part-way through the pregnancy, an incident upset the mare and the following day twin foals were aborted. Again in foal to Powerscourt, in 1942 Anton Belle produced the filly Belle Star.
From 1 March 1942, there was a ban on horse racing because of the Second World War and no races were held in South Australia in 1942 and 1943. Bart Cummings' father James 'Jim' Cummings was forced to sell some of his horses.
So, in January 1944, Melville Bowyer had the opportunity to buy Jim Cummings' mare Witty Maid (by Anton King from Miss Comedy), in foal to Powerscourt, for 50 guineas. Witty Maid had won several races in the late 1930s. Then, a month later, Melville bought the stallion Powerscourt (by The Night Patrol from Traquette) for 70 guineas.
Powerscourt and Witty Maid were taken to open country paddocks at Normanville. The foal born in 1944 was the colt Comedy Prince. The following year, Powerscourt and Witty Maid produced a bay colt, Comic Court, which went on to win his first race start two years later. The Bowyers then sold him to the Lee brothers of Adelaide who gave him to Jim Cummings to train. Bart Cummings, then in his early 20s, was assigned as the horse's strapper.
The story of Beau Neire Stud, the Bowyer brothers and Comic Court can be found in the booklet Remembering Comic Court, available for purchase at the Normanville Hotel and the Yankalilla Visitor Information Centre.