THE Upper Hunter will boast a strong link with the rebirth of one of the nation’s oldest races, the Jericho Cup, later this year.
With anticipation building for December’s revival of the century-old horserace, the meeting – at the Warrnambool Racecourse in Victoria – is set to commemorate Australia and New Zealand’s involvement in World War I.
It’s also scheduled 100 years after it was first run on the desert sands of Palestine, just outside the city of Jericho.
“We’re honouring the deeds of the Australian Light Horse in the Middle East during World War I,” Victorian philanthropist and founder of the event Bill Gibbins said.
“Every race on the program pays tribute to a person, horse or engagement in that conflict.
“One of them is named after Midnight, a magnificent mare bred on the Haydon property, Bloomfield, at Blandford, who gave her life in the historic charge of Beersheba in 1917.
“So, we have some unique trophies to be presented to the winning owners of the race honouring Midnight.
“Interestingly, the Haydon family still has the bullet that killed Midnight and severely wounded Guy Haydon, which he sent back to them from the Middle East more than 100 years ago.
“A silver replica of the bullet has been crafted by Danny’s Designer Jewellery in Tamworth.
“It explodes from the plaque, which will form part of the winning owners’ trophy along with a print of her painting.
“We have been working on this project of reviving the Jericho Cup for a long time.
“It’s incredibly exciting that we are now only two months away from the race day.”
To be staged on the flat across the Warrnambool course proper and picturesque Brierly Paddock on Sunday, December 2, the Jericho Cup will be run over 4600m – as close as possible to the original distance of 4800m while still utilising the Grand Annual circuit.
The Benchmark 90 carries prizemoney of $300,000 and is the brainchild of Gibbins, who is supporting the entire program through the Warrnambool Racing Club (WRC) with Australian company Haymes Paint to sponsor the main race.
In keeping with the tradition of the original Jericho Cup, eligible horses must have been conceived and born in Australia or New Zealand in order to compete.
A field of 12 starters and four emergencies will be declared.
And, Racing Victoria announced that a $40,000 Jericho Cup consolation over 4065m would be added to the Warrnambool meeting should a field of at least 10 starters be assembled.
“We’re delighted to join with the Warrnambool Racing Club and Bill Gibbins in celebrating the centenary of the Jericho Cup and delivering this unique staying contest with a rich $300,000 prize pool,” executive general manager – racing and participant wellbeing Greg Carpenter said.
“It’s a defining moment in the history of Australia.
“The contenders for the Jericho Cup are taking shape and with a number of qualifying races still to come there’s plenty of opportunities for Australasian-bred stayers to secure the points to push their way up the order of entry before nominations close on November 20.”