Pleasant – though mixed – recollections of his best horse, Double Gin, are a welcome distraction for trainer Darryl Dodson, who suspects he’s one of Australia’s most COVID-tested people.
The veteran trainer lives in South Australia, calls Bordertown his home track, but has his stables just over the border, in Telopea Downs.
“I said to one of the testers that I reckon I’d be right up there for the most number of tests and crossings – it’s seven days a week, and sometimes twice a day,” Dodson said.
“I’m thinking I might even beat a few of the truckies.”
Dodson’s stable has enjoyed some success over the past few weeks, with Just Chipping Away winning a metropolitan race at Morphettville recently, and the stable landing a quinella at Naracoorte.
Dodson is happy to speak about his current team, but when a chance mention of Double Gin infiltrates the conversation, his enthusiasm level elevates, just a little.
Double Gin was an honorary South Australian middle distance/staying star of the early 1990s, perhaps most famous for running second to a certain SA-trained stayer.
“Yes, I suffered all those losses to Water Boatman,” Dodson said, referring to the 1990 Adelaide Cup winner and Caulfield Cup runner-up (behind Sydeston).
“But we certainly had some good battles with him.”
Portraying Double Gin as a perennial runner-up is selling the horse short, as he won 18 of his 92 starts and over $500,000 in 1990s-level prizemoney.
After saluting at his first two career starts, both in South Australia (Naracoorte and Morphettville), Double Gin border-hopped between SA and Victoria for the next five years, save for a quick trip to WA in 1993 for two runs, including the Perth Cup.
However, Double Gin is best remembered for his brave, narrow loss to the Hayes-trained Water Boatman in the 1990 Adelaide Cup as a three-year-old. The second placing was sandwiched among a cracking autumn campaign, which included a five-length victory in the Chairman’s Stakes at Victoria Park, a second in the VRC St Leger at Flemington, and a victory in the SA St Leger – just five days after the Adelaide Cup run.
“And Water Boatman actually beat us in the Oakbank Cup that year too, when I thought we were going all right,” Dodson recalled.
“I remember Tony McEvoy (Hayes’ then stable foreman) saying to me ‘You shouldn’t be too disappointed, we’ve got a pretty high opinion on this horse’.
“And of course he went on to run second in the Caulfield Cup, so he didn’t go that bad, did he?
“But we never beat him.”
In the spring of 1989, Double Gin – a fan favourite thanks to his bold, on-the-pace style – strung together four consecutive wins at Morphettville (ridden by Glen Darrington) and throughout his career ran some excellent races in Victoria. However, nothing surpassed his epic 1990 autumn, and leading up to the Adelaide Cup, the small-time training team from over the border – Darryl and his brother Geoff – were the feel-good story of SA’s biggest race.
“We had a camera crew following us around on Adelaide Cup day and back in those days, that was nerve-wracking,” Darryl recalled.
“We were up in the grandstand and when the horses got to the post, the cameraman backed up a little, and almost went a*** over head, over the top of the bloody grandstand. I think the sound bloke grabbed him
“At the time, Graham Fisher did a good little story on us too, about being from the ‘bush’. The attention was more nerve-wracking than the race itself.”
McEvoy also remembers import Water Boatman’s battles with Double Gin with fondness.
“Well, Double Gin was a star, he won a lot of races,” McEvoy said.
“But Water Boatman was a very good horse. The Adelaide Cup and the Caulfield Cup were his heights.
“He wasn’t the soundest of horses, but he had great courage and (jockey) Peter Hutchinson had a good rapport with him.”
In his 30-plus years as a trainer, Dodson has prepared plenty of other good horses, headed by 1993 Alister Clarks (Group 2) winner Sarason. However, Double Gin remains at the top of the tree.
“I think for consistency and the races he won, Double Gin’s our best,” he said.
“He only cost a thousand dollars. That looks pretty good now, doesn’t it?”
Before signing off, he adds one more comment, tongue-in-cheek, and with a laugh:
“But we would’ve been better off if Water Boatman never came out here.”
IMAGE: Water Boatman (outside), ridden by Peter Hutchinson, edges out Double Gin (rails) in the 1990 Adelaide Cup. PHOTO: Atkins Photography