The Official Ambassador for the Warrnambool Racing Club this year was Bob Charley AO. Bob has spent a great portion of his life involved in the racing industry and we are very lucky at A Turf Fascination to have Bob share with us his experiences of the 2014 Warrnambool Carnival. A High Chaparral gelding named Chaparro won the infamous 5500m 33 fence Grand Annual Steeplechase this year, and Bob just happens to own a share in this horse. As a committed jumps racing supporter and founder of the Corrigan Club (www.corriganclub.com.au), Bob had always dreamt of winning Australia’s greatest steeplechase, as has any steeplechaser owner has since the races’ inception in 1970. Bob has now won the race that has eluded him for so long, and the former Chairman of the AJC details the thrill of such a win exclusively for Gai’s Gazette. The below article is compulsory reading for anyone with even a passing interest in jumps racing or any form of thoroughbred racing for that matter.
Bob is a former Chairman of the Australian Jockey Club and Australian Racing Board and is currently the Chairman of the Australian Racing Hall of Fame selection panel. As a passionate jumps racing supporter, he is very enthusiastic about Gai’s decision to train jumpers. For more information on Bob Charley or on the Warrnambool jumping carnival please contact Zeb Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org . Jumps racing is a great and very affordable way to be involved in the racing industry. With the likes of Bob, Gai, Darren Weir and Peter Moody all targeting not just jumpers but flat horses at the Warrnambool carnival every year, expect The ‘Bool to become an even more iconic festival of racing in the future.
COMMENTS ON WARRNAMBOOL 2014. Bob Charley.
I made my annual pilgrimage to the mecca of jumps racing in Australia… the three day Warrnambool Carnival. This meeting is the closest thing to the great Cheltenham Festival held each year in March in Gloucestershire, England. These are not what you would call “social” meetings as they are attended by thousands of knowledgeable racegoers who have a passion for jumping racing.
My motoring journey covers 1600 kilometres from my home in Port Macquarie, NSW which I undertake over three days. I approach the heart of Western Districts racing through such towns as Colac, Camperdown and Terang and reach my destination at Port Fairy, one of the most beautiful seaside towns in the land.
On Monday night, before the racing begins, there is a function at the most popular racing pub in town The Whalers at Warrnambool. The Australian Jumps Racing Association conducts this get-together which includes guest speakers, raffles and plenty of banter about the coming events.
Tuesday sees four jumps races, three maiden hurdles and the time-honoured Brierly Steeplechase. The day is overcast and the track has been affected by overnight rain. Gai trains the first winner to keep her jumping record intact at two winners from two starters. Tenby Lady leads all the way, at some stages being ten lengths in front. Although she appears to be tiring in the straight she has enough in reserve to hold off Urban Explorer who runs on bravely and will win soon. He is trained by Eric Musgrove This division is the fastest of the three hurdles and appears the strongest form.
He’s Hot To Trot came from last near the turn to win the second division, relishing the conditions. This son of Galileo was ridden by Trent Wells and trained by Fran Houlahan and Brian Johnston.
In the third of the Tuesday hurdle races, Steven Pateman was at his best on Elms to worry out favourite Thubian and then come away to score impressively. As most trainers want to win a race at this Carnival, the standard of the Maiden Hurdle races is strong and many of the beaten division in these races will succeed against weaker company. Add this to the fact that Racing Victoria provides a $10,000 bonus to the winners of Maiden Hurdles and it is easy to understand why there are more horses qualified to jump this year than in any recent year.
In between races Gai was interviewed at the traditional lunch attended by nearly 600 ladies. If she had suggested that she was syndicating shares in prospective jumpers at that lunch she would have filled her quota in no time. The Ladies Luncheon is a big event and as well as the 600 that attended, there was a waiting list of 50.
The highlight of the day is the Brierly Steeple and Palmero treated the crowd to a brilliant front-running display of chasing, winning by three lengths from a brave Cat’s Fun. His earlier win in the Von Doussa at Oakbank confirmed his place as the best chaser in the early part of the season although his stablemate Bashboy has not yet appeared over jumps this year as he is aimed at the later races.
A most enjoyable dinner with Gai and Co. at the Stag Inn in Port Fairy. As is her habit, the Lady Trainer made it a point of going around the tables talking to everyone in the room. She repeated the performance the following morning when we went to the beach at Warrnambool to watch the horses work on the sand, swim and water-walk. There is a café at the beach from which there is a view of the beach work and swimming and it is a haven for the hardy folk who attend each morning’s training.
The skies had cleared for Wednesday which features the Galleywood Hurdle (one of the top four Hurdle races on the calendar) and the Wangoom sprint over the 1200m. The Galleywood was won by Gotta Take Care who is a truly grand nine-year-old who mixes flat races and jumping. He had won over 2600 metres on the flat the previous Friday. Gai had Valediction in the race and Richard Cully took him to a clear lead which he held until near the turn and then Gotta Take Care swept past with second favourite Montgomery in pursuit but unable to match it with the winner. While Valediction faded to third, it must be remembered that this was a significant leap in class and he won’t find this opposition in a Restricted Hurdle in the near future.
The Wangoom was won by the Peter Moody trained Kneeling who held off a late challenge from Blackie, trained by Darren Weir who was shooting for a new Mercedes, the prize for any trainer who can win four races over the three days including a “major” (Brierly, Wangoom, Grand Annual or Cup). Weir achieved that the following day.
After the races Gai was the guest of honour at a The Premier’s cocktail party. It would be hard to imagine a politician who is a greater supporter of racing (particularly jumps racing) than Premier Napthine.
It is not hard to realise how important this Carnival is to the City of Warrnambool and surrounding districts. All the restaurants and pubs do a roaring trade while the many accommodation houses are booked well in advance. Racing people love this meeting and gather to enjoy the company of like-minded folk. Many attend by catching the train from Melbourne.
No doubt Thursday is the “Grand Final”. The day started with the Restricted Hurdle in which my friends and myself shared ownership of the favourite Monkey Briscoe who had run a creditable third on the flat on the Tuesday prior. Monkey led but was worried for the front for most of the trip until shaking off Regina Coeli in the straight. He went clear but was left a sitting shot for the Eric Musgrove trained Take Out who deserved a win as he has been most consistent. Monkey Briscoe fought on to the end and will soon step up to steeplechasing. While I love all jumps racing, it is chasing that is the highlight.
And so to the Annual. This race is the greatest race in Australian jumping and a spectacle which can compare favourably to any race in the world. Apart from the thirty three jumps over a gruelling 5500 metres, it is the layout of the course and the fact that they go both ways which adds to the excitement. Thousands of true believers make the trek to the top of the hill for the spectacular view over the racecourse as the field goes into the Brierly Paddock, over the Cox’s Road Double into Granter’s Paddock then downhill over the Al Garhood Jump to the Tozer Road Double where they turn left on the first occasion and then right in the run home!
No race means as much to me. Last year my old warrior Man of Class was in front as he passed me at the 250m but was caught near the line by Banna Strand….I was gutted! But, try again we must and this year I had high hopes of having three horses in the race, Man of Class (Ciaron Maher), Seeking The Silver (John Wheeler) and Chaparro (Patrick Payne). Unfortunately both Man of Class and Seeking the Silver sustained injuries and had to be spelled.
Of the seven runners in this year’s Grand Annual Steeplechase, the two favourites Lord of the Song (Patrick Payne) and Palmero (Ciaron Maher) were expected to dominate the race. I doubt if any of my part-owners in Chaparro had any confidence in him to win but we knew that he would run the distance and he loves heavy ground. I mentioned to Zeb Armstrong, Lea Stracey and Gai the night before the big race that I wanted a heavy 12 track (knowing full well that a heavy 10 is as bottomless as it gets in Australia). We had to settle on a heavy 10. Settling last and staying in that position until climbing the hill the second time, Richard Cully gave him a perfect patient ride. Although the leaders had at one stage been ten lengths clear of the chasers, by the time they negotiated the Tozer Road Double Chaparro had made ground and before the turn there were only two possible winning chances.
Palmero had raced clear and it proved to be the exact reverse of my experience the year before. When they passed me Palmero was holding a two length lead over Chaparro who was holding but not really making ground. However, in the last 100 metres the leader began to plug under his big weight and Chaparro ran him down to win going away.
Steven Pateman is my good friend having scored numerous times on my horses. He was unable to get down to Chaparro’s weight but I’m sure he would have chosen Palmero in any event. He said afterwards that he could hear a horse coming and he knew it was Chaparro because he makes a noise when he gallops, the legacy of a wind operation two years ago.
My emotions got the better of me and when Bruce Clark beckoned me to speak to him on TVN, I had to compose myself. The presentations and celebrations are still a bit of a blur but all the part-owners were thrilled and all gave the credit to Patrick Payne who has only been training a short time yet has won two Grand Annuals as well as other feature jumps races. Patrick Payne we must remember won a Cox Plate on Northerly.
I can assure you that jumps racing is a marvellous spectacle and I’m sure that Gai shares that view. Although only tackling this type of training in the past two years, she has tasted success and will become more involved in the future. Older flat racing horses need not be retired, many have a life in jumps racing and they love it!
We could not wished for Chaparro to have been better ridden. That said; I must pay tribute to Steven Pateman who rides and schools all Patrick’s horses as well as those of Ciaron Maher. Not only is he the leading rider but his opinion is highly regarded as to the prospects of jumping horses
Congratulations to Darren Weir on winning the Mercedes which is provided as a prize by Callaghan Motors, a long-time sponsor of the Warrnambool Racing Club. Weir currently leads the Victorian trainers premiership and enjoyed great success at this meeting, winning seven races over the three days including two of the features, the Galleywood Hurdle (Gotta Take Care) and the Warrnambool Cup (Akzar).
See you all at The ‘Bool in 2015!
Good luck and stay tuned