Penola race to honour wartime heroes

The Penola Racing Club will host a heat of a revived, historic wartime race to honour the bravery of Australian Light Horsemen and their World War I mounts next week.

The qualifying event will run at the Penola race course on Sunday, September 27, with the winner gaining direct entry to the $304,000 Jericho Cup at Warrnambool in late November.

The three-mile (4600m) race was reincarnated in 2018 to mark 100 years since the original Jericho Cup was run through desert sands near Palestine as a pre-offensive ruse to lull Turkish troops into believing nothing unusual was afoot.

The event – which has proven a hit in its first two years – has nine ‘guaranteed start’ races across Australia and New Zealand, with the latter’s war contribution also recognised via the initiative.

Penola’s 3150m qualifying race will be a highlight of the upcoming eight-race meeting and club secretary Belinda Holland said the unique event was a welcome addition.

“We are rapt to have a qualifying race for the Jericho Cup,” Holland said.

“It’s a concept that has a genuine point of difference, honouring the World War I soldiers and their horses, so it certainly adds more interest to the meeting.

“We also have an extra race added to the program, so that is even more good news.”

Holland said the club is now pushing hard to ensure strong nominations turnout for its Jericho Cup qualifier.

“We’d love trainers right around the Limestone Coast, but also outside the region, to support the race,” she said.

“It is for out and out stayers, so if anyone has a horse that loves a bit of distance, this is definitely a great option with some serious prizemoney up for grabs at the end of it.”

The revived Jericho Cup – the brainchild of founder, racing fan and philanthropist Bill Gibbins – is Australia’s longest flat race.

While crowds are likely to be absent from this year’s race to be run at Warrnambool on Sunday, November 29, Gibbins has confirmed the race will go ahead, as planned.

The 2019 winner was Ablaze, trained in Victoria by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace.

The winner of the original Jericho Cup was Bill the Bastard, acknowledged by historians as Australia’s greatest wartime horse.

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