WHEN former rogue Bragger triumphed for owner-trainer Tommy Smith on April 23 1942, no one assembled at the Murrumbidgee Turf Club could have dreamt what the horseman would go on to achieve in the sport - probably not even the man himself.
From humble beginnings at Goolgowi where a young Smith worked his father driving bullock teams and breaking in horses, he would rise to the top of the sport.
Smith won 33 successive Sydney premierships from 1953 to 1985, trained 279 group one winners including champions Tulloch, Kingston Town and Gunsynd, and has Legend status in the Racing Hall of Fame.
After an unsuccessful attmept to became a jockey in the 1930s, Smith gained his training license in 1941 and his first winner was with a reformed brumby - Bragger.
Two years before winning in 1942, Smith used Bragger as a delivery and errands horse, hoping it would teach him some manners and a little discipline.
It was reported in The Daily Advertiser that it "seemed a hopeless and tireless contract to get such an outlaw to shape up to anything like a racehorse" but Smith's perseverance paid off.
Bragger had won three successive races in Sydney and Newcastle before Smith brought him to Wagga as a way to honour for his former master Mack Sawyer, who Smith served his apprenticeship under.
Smith was gifted Bragger by Sawyer and the up-and-coming trainer wanted to win the cup in Sawyer's memory after his mentor had recently passed away.
Sawyer loved to bring horses for Wagga's carnival and Smith had enjoyed success at Wagga in the past with Sawyer on Mafoota.
Smith was also the strapper for Sawyer when he won the 1941 Wagga Gold Cup with Fearless.
Bragger was the hot favourite for the race firming from 4-1 into 5-2 as his main rival Pannett eased from 4-1 to 6-1.
Ridden by Sydney apprentice J Thompson, Bragger was well placed in the run at the front of the field following pace maker Many Ways before holding off Pannett and Footmark over the concluding stages.
Footmark was able to obtain an inside run and hit the front at one stage in the home straight but Thompson said that he was never had one anxious moment throughout the race and was always confident of the result.
Bragger soon had Footmark's measure and went on to win in dashing style to defeat Pannett by a half length with Footmark a further half length away.
Three-year-old filly Pannett owned by former Wagga businessman Sid Eyles and Miss C Kerney ran a strong race under 8.7 weight but her rider Ted McMenamin gave due credit to the winner who was simply too good on the day.
Bragger was unable to claim the Wagga Gold Cup as his own after the Murrumbidgee Turf Club decided to revoke its gold cup status that year because of the war.
Run in it's place was the Diggers Cup won by Bragger with many at the time not wanting to break down the traditions of the Murrumbidgee Turf Club since 1873, the MTC's orginal dates where quickly swooped upon to ensure the cup meeting was run.
Raced on a Wednesday and helped by having no racing in Sydney or Melbourne due to Anzac Day falling on the Saturday, a huge crowd turned out to what Bragger's win.
"The crowd which assembled on the historic Wagga Wagga racecourse to assist at the Cup meeting of the Wagga's Diggers Race Club was reminiscent of the palmy days of racing, when peace reigned in the land, and war and war alms were stilled," The Daily Advertiser reported in 1942.
"In other days there have been larger attendances at Cup meetings of the Murrumbidgee Turf Club, but an analysis of the how the attendance was made yesterday reveals the very interesting fact that the crowd was comparable in numbers with the best attendances in past years, notwithstanding that many hundreds of the young men of this district are now in uniform and at battle stations."
Bragger's Diggers Cup win was Smith's first feature win and was the first stepping stone to his record breaking career.
After winning the race as a five-year-old Bragger raced until he as ten when he had to be destroyed after becoming caught in a float fire coming back from a race in 1946.
Smith would return to win two more Wagga Gold Cups with Man About Town in 1966, owned by Sydney barrister William Deane who would become the Governor-General, and in 1974 with Broadway Hit.
Smith's daughter Gai Waterhouse would walk in her father's footsteps brining down Regal Touch to win the 2001 edition of the cup.