This photo was taken by the late Gene Lett, official photographer for many years, at the defunct Harold Park Paceway.
Gene’s photo captures Avian Derby scoring a comfortable win in the 1952 Inter Dominion Grand Final - the first series ever held in Sydney.
Avian Derby, an aged bay stallion, was driven right through the series by Victorian Dave “Darkie” Wilson. He picked up the drive when trainer and regular driver Syl Bray, was suspended before opening night.
Handicapped on 24 yards for the series, the son of Lawn Derby won his first two heats in spectacular fashion, before coming down with a bout of colic. He was ruled out of the third heat, and required special dispensation from the stewards before being allowed to start in the final.
He was lucky to miss interference when Minor Derby broke in the final lap and was poised to challenge as the field neared the home turn. He easily accounted for top class opposition, vindicating his starting quote of 4/6.
To give you an idea of the drawing power of night trotting in Sydney in the early 50’s we’ve listed the Harold Park attendances for the four nights of the carnival.
Opening night 30,355.
Second night 24,564.
Third night 23,468.
Grand Final 38,090.
The Grand Final gave Avian Derby his twelfth straight win, and earned him an invitation to go against the clock at Harold Park. Soon after, with the aid of galloping “prompters” he paced the mile in exactly 2.00 - the first horse in Australia to achieve that magical mark.
On many of today’s lightning fast tracks, 2.00 wouldn’t win you a CO class race.