The stage is set for a memorable contest with 14 of Australia and New Zealand’s toughest stayers ready to tackle the sixth edition of Australia’s most unique flat race, the Haymes Paint Jericho Cup, this Sunday, 3 December.
The 4600m race, held at the Warrnambool Racing Club, honours the Australian Light Horsemen and their World War One (WW1) heroics.
Australia’s longest flat race, the $304,000 Jericho Cup is run annually on the fourth Sunday after the Melbourne Cup and celebrates the role that horses have played in our nation’s rich history.
Open only to Australian and New Zealand-bred horses, entry to the Jericho Cup is secured via designated ‘guaranteed start’ races and points accrued in staying races, over 3000m or further, throughout the previous year.
Among those vying for top honours on Sunday include Mr Fabulous, prepared by Melbourne Cup-winning trainer and Warrnambool alumni Ciaron Maher who, along with his training partner David Eustace, has won the unique race twice before with Ablaze (2019) and Wil John (2021).
In a truly Australasian affair, Mr Fabulous and his Victorian compatriots will face rivals from Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and two New Zealand-trained competitors in Nassak Diamond and Prismatic.
Nassak Diamond, who secured her trip to Warrnambool after winning the New Plymouth guaranteed start race in September, is co-trained by Shaun Ritchie, son of Frank who trained 10-time Group 1 winner Bonecrusher.
Prismatic, who has been assigned topweight of 70kg, is prepared by Mark Walker and makes his Australian debut fresh off a fifth placing in the New Zealand Cup at Riccarton.
Among those hoping to keep the Cup within Victoria are 2020 winner Symon Wilde who has Sunday Buzz engaged, Group 1-winning trainer Mitch Freedman’s Guido, who won by eight lengths at The Valley on 17 November to secure his spot, and the David Noonan-trained Da Deputy who lines up in his third Jericho Cup.
For horses that were balloted out of the final field, Racing Victoria has again programmed a $60,000 consolation race (4065m) on Jericho Cup day with acceptances closing tomorrow (Thursday, 30 November).
The Dane Smith trained There For You from Stawell, who won the consolation race in 2022, will this year participate in the Jericho Cup for a chance at back-to-back success on the significant day.
Aside from an action packed nine-race card, a feature of the day on course will be an incredible recreation of the Australian Light Horse Association charging down the straight before the running of the Charge of Bersheba Sprint.
In addition, the 30 minutes prior to the Jericho Cup, Warrnambool will pay homage to service men and women and will feature the national anthems of both Australia and New Zealand, along with The Last Post.
The modern-day Jericho Cup was brought to life by philanthropist Bill Gibbins and was first run in 2018 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the original Jericho Cup run in the desert sands outside Palestine.
Gibbins’ aim was reviving the race to honour the bravery of the Australian Light Horsemen and their mounts in WW1. The Jericho Cup now follows the path of the Grand Annual Steeplechase through the paddocks at Warrnambool with registered jumps jockeys in the saddle.
“This event is so special because it means something to a great number of today’s racing industry. Bringing the race into existence six years ago, I was struck by the number of trainers with family tracing back to the Light Horse. It seemed far disproportionate to the number of original Light Horsemen. Then the pennies dropped – they were horsemen 100 years ago and still horsemen today,” Gibbins said.
“This year’s Jericho Cup field is certainly the strongest and most even in ability and they come from all over Australasia which is just so exciting.
“In addition, every other race on the program celebrates a person, horse or battle involving the Australian Light Horse in the Middle East in WW1.
“From 16-year-old Harry Bell who fell in the legendary charge at Beersheba to Harry Chauvel who commanded the entire Light Horse. Then there was Michael Shanahan, the carpenter from Roma, Queensland who won the affections of Bill the Bastard - the winner of the first Jericho Cup 106 years ago. His great grandson Michael Otago is travelling down from Moranbah in North Queensland to present the trophy, which really shows just how significant the race has become.
“To understand the emotion, the sentiment and the feel of the whole day you have just got to be there. To quote one previous winning trainer ‘it’s not a pop-up race with some fancy name, it’s part of our history’.”
Tickets to Jericho Cup Day can be purchased here
Veterans can enter the race meeting free of charge by showing their Veteran’s Card.