1999 Tom Quilty Gold Cup

Tasmania hosted the 34th National Championship 160km Endurance Ride on June 12, the third time the state has hosted the Tom Quilty 100 Mile Ride.
The town of Deloraine was transformed from sleepy hamlet to thriving tourist location for the weekend.

This year's Quilty was an FEI qualifying ride, which meant international status for the event.

Various groups of international visitors were present and four international riders on leased horses took part. They were, Midori Yasunaga of Japan, riding Bremervale Justice; Richard Cook of California, USA, riding Clarendon Dynska; Dato Kamaruddin of Malaysia riding Inshallah Select; and David Marshall of New Zealand riding St Albans Impressive.

The hospitality was second to none. Facilities included a bar with entertainment, soup kitchens, and "Deloraine culinary decadence" with strawberry crepes and cream. The food tent offered an array of hot dishes every day for the duration of the ride, which was catered by local clubs showing warm hospitality to the town's visitors. The administration office was nearly always open, offering the availability of veterinarian advice and accessibility of the ride organisers. This created a warm and friendly atmosphere.

As the camp fires were lit the Quilty family came together. Old friends were re-united and new ones where made -- the camaraderie that is unique to this sport was more than evident at this year's Quilty. The legendary identities were present and more than willing to help newcomers to the sport, being eager to see everybody who made the long trip start and complete the ride. Competitiveness was put aside and a feeling of understanding was created within the camp.

The course of 160km was broken into five legs of 34km, 36km, 37km, 33km and 20km. The course was said to be challenging and difficult -- maybe even the hardest some of these Quilty riders have ever had to face.

This, combined with the icy cold conditions, meant a Quilty record time this year was impossible. But the 122 starters included some of the best Australian endurance riders and horses, who proved they had true grit -- and proved they were among the best in the world.

The excitement of a Quilty start is indescribable and to have this many horses start without mishap is a credit to the organisers. The riders headed out onto a bitumen road for a couple of kilometres, then up towards Golden Valley, which is part of the Forestry of Tasmania's plantations. They disappeared into the dark leaving strappers and family in freezing conditions, unable to sleep, all waiting for the first announcement of who passed the first check point. This announcement did not come as early as most had anticipated. The front runners where not travelling as fast across the difficult bogs and muddy terrain as had been expected. Back at camp the "ride time shed" was abuzz with discussion and speculation.

With freezing conditions and the first riders coming in off the first leg, it became quite evident that the cold conditions where affecting some of the horses. Many with little or no gut sounds. The vetting team ran the "vet-gate-into-hold" system. There was an excellent vet hospital set up to care for horses (only four horses utilised this hospital -- two with wounds and two for metabolics). At the evening meeting prior to the ride start, it was decided to move the heart rate limit from 65 to 60. Dr Roger Blackwell from Tasmania was head vet with Dr Bill Harbinson of SA out on course. Twelve veterinarians attended to the ride's needs and the flow of horses through the vetting was smooth and without issue.

A very tough track on the first leg put some favoured combinations out of the ride. Brooke Sample (home on holidays from his second home in the UAE) riding Aloha Zariba vetted out lame with a pulled muscle. June Peterson riding her gelding Lentara Park Jobe, withdrew after a nasty accident brought on by a passing truck which brought a few horses to the ground and which left June with a broken arm. However there were more shocks to the camp as Bob Sample (risking frost bite to the shoulders wearing one of his famous T-shirts!) riding Jakassa Kamil, also suffered from the accident and after re-presenting after the second leg was out. Dale Cooper, the 1998 Quilty winner riding Innesview Desert Mhasa, went out lame after the second leg. It was starting to sound like "Legends of the Fall", with another favourite Peter Cole riding Crystal Fire, stalled out on track with a thrown shoe (it was said that Peter waited hours out on track for a lost farrier and when he did recommence the ride he found that being down the back of the field was a new experience that he enjoyed - completing the ride while helping those who where attempting their first Quilty).

But past Quilty champions where still out there in the lead. Terry Woods riding Peppersfield Nambucco (1997 Quilty winners) were leading into the second leg, hotly followed by Shannon Parker riding her gelding Stanpark Ginnis (this pair placed 10th in the World Championships in Dubai in December 1998. Ginnis has only been back on Australian shores since March and of course Shannon and Ginnis had line honours at the 1998 Quilty. They also placed 1st Lightweight. Midori Yasunaga (Japan) was not far behind, and these three set the pace for the remainder of the ride.

Ron Haigh riding Kynnum Park Sadia and Martin Parker (Shannon's father) riding Joseph, caught this group and the race was on with the front runners (Terry, Ron, Shannon and Midori) closing for the final legs. But always close behind Brian Keep riding Doran Park Zatory, Mark Johnson riding Piabun Budjar, and Paul Brown riding Cawarral Falcon threatened the leaders.

The eventual winners were Terry Wood and Ron Haigh who completed in a time of 11 hours, 11 minutes. Both held hands to cross the finish line in a relaxed fashion, rather than a gallop finish, which could have cost one or both their buckles as the final 500m consisted of a deep bog. Not something an experienced and serious rider would challenge at a fast pace and risk a win and/or completion. The minutes that passed before the horses were presented to the vets seemed to take ages but both horses where given the "thumbs up".

The Gold Cup came out - both men elated and very proud - sharing the win.

Terry was the first Middleweight home (it should also be noted that Terry finished this ride with broken ribs due to a fall on course). Ron was first Heavyweight home, making his 1999 a hat trick (he was Heavyweight division winner in 1997 and 1998).

As a spectator, the finish showed true sportsmanship and horsemanship. It is what makes Aussie endurance what it is. The field kept coming, and next home was Shannon Parker. 1999 saw Shannon ride as a Middleweight and take out third position overall and second Middleweight, in a time of 11 hours, 45 minutes. Shannon is one of our youngest riders in Australia. She has represented her country in three international competitions - not only placing 10th in the 1998 World Championships but 4th in the 1999 World's Most Preferred Endurance ride in Dubai. She was followed by Victorian rider Brian Keep in a time of 12 hours, 12 minutes and then came Midori Yasunaga of Japan. Midori also represented her country at the 1998 World Championships in Dubai. She was the first Lightweight home and in fifth place at this Quilty in a time of 12 hours 25 minutes. Her horse looked terrific.

The top 10 horses across the line are listed below. Another accomplishment made on the day was Ron Males' attainment of his 18th Quilty buckle -- the highest number attained by any one person. Ron rode Ralvon Zoom who also completed the 1998 Quilty. Ron has attained these buckles without one vet-out. This surely is a show of true horsemanship by this "father of endurance". This was Zoom's second Quilty and she looked fabulous at the end of the ride.

For those who like to analyse the results - Queensland dominated the top 10 riders with five places, followed by Tasmania with two and one rider from NSW. The remaining top ten places were filled by a Victorian and one international rider. The top 10 horses where all geldings except for one mare, Warrondi Marissa, ridden by Tasmanian, Claude Filleul.

Overall there was a very good representation from all states, including Western Australia. The majority of riders came from Tasmania. They had a very good completion rate for the Tassie entries - also winning the Team award.

Three, out of the four international riders completed and this is a credit to them. Leasing a horse and riding it for the first time (some just the day before the ride) is no mean feat.

Four junior riders entered and all completed. The lovely twins, Kristie and Naomi McGaffin finished in an excellent competitive time of 13 hours 3 minutes, riding as part of the Castlebar team - who, by the way, should win the award for the best presented team, all dressed in white jodhpurs and black jackets with the maroon Castlebar Stud logo. The other two juniors were Steven Gooch in a time of 17 hours 39 minutes, followed by Adam Vassailo in a time of 17 hours 42 minutes.

Of the horses entered there were a total of nine stallions (five vet outs, four out lame, one on heart) and one having the honour of last horse across the line. Gaire Blunt rode Terry Woods' partbred stallion, Romeo, to a ride completion time of 20 hours 36 minutes, thus giving Terry ownership of the first and last horse across the line. Of the total entry number of 122 horses, 52 did not complete. Of these, eight where withdrawn - one before the ride and the majority of the remaining went out lame. A 50-60% completion rate is normal for the Quilty and to have a large field of over 100 to start in Tasmania is a terrific number.

All horses entered were swabbed after completion or vet-out, and the ride committee took delight in announcing that this was a "drug free" ride.

As the rain started to come down, the fittest horse presentation went ahead. We saw Terry Woods and Peppersfield Nambucco take out fittest horse for the Middleweight division and Ron Haigh and Kynnum Park Sadia were fittest horse for the Heavyweight division. Midori and Bremervale Justice (looking absolutely fabulous) took out fittest horse for Lightweight division and these fittest horse awards are a credit to riders, trainers and horses. Rarely do we see the first placed horses take out fittest horse. With the presentations completed, only the Quilty party was left to follow. And party the Quilty family did! With a well stocked bar and excellent food (including cuts of venison and wallaby meat balls) the band played into the wee hours of the morning.

The ride commentator and buckle presenter, Barbara Timms, was seen to sip, sip, sip champagne (we recognised those earings from either side of the cup). There was much skylarking - Ron Males and Keith Sutton where a dangerous pair with their cattle prods ready for any lass that passed by.

This caused quite a commotion throughout the evening. Midori was overcome - receiving numerous trophies including a beautiful framed print and very large wooden backed clock, and a nest of blackwood tables. The cost of air freight to get her trophies home would have been more than her Quilty entry fee!

We could call Deloraine "the town with no Jim Beam", as this was obviously the favourite drink of an endurance rider. One pub having to re-stock three times during the week and still to be found dry on the evening of the 13th. Many of the ride committee and organisers were partying with relief that it was all over, and that it did not rain (Laurie Nichol was seen praying). If the river had swelled the committee had an evacuation plan. Even the Kosovars would have found it challenging. The showground was situated on very low lying land.

With 400 guests for dinner, the final party goers where mainly the Tasmanians. They danced till they dropped. Many mainlanders left early in the evening to load their horses and start for the ferry trip home. As horses changed hands, and old and new friends parted company, all were now talking of Boonah, QLD and the year 2000 Quilty, where it is said that "the Olympic torch will come to the Quilty". What a ride this will be - the beginnings of a new millennium, the buckle, the torch, the 35th, the Y2K Quilty!

New Zealand's representative David Marshall from Holly Farm, South Island completed 143km of the course on the ten year old leased stallion 'St Albans Impressive', offered to him the day before the ride due to his original mount being lame. But as had been evident from the start of the ride something was not quite right with Impressive, who is a well campaigned horse and past Quilty and Shahzada competitor with completions. He could not continue to complete the final 17km. Although disappointed David valued his experience and has been offered various opportunities to represent New Zealand at Australian rides during the 1999 endurance season and we may even see him compete on a homebred horse in the year 2000 Quilty in Boonah QLD, Australia.