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TOM QUILTY 2001 Mundijong Western Australia



Kristie McGaffin (Vic) on Provocative
Meg Wade (NSW) on Kelkette Park Fyre
=1st Middleweight and joint Cup winners

Wade claims back to back victories, shares line honours

Article by Luke Steele

It was an exceptional result for the Castlebar team at this year’s Quilty. Not only did Meg Wade, of New South Wales, win her second Tom Quilty Gold Cup; the three horses she campaigned took three of the top four positions in the event. In a display of exceptional horsemanship, Wade, and fellow team member Kristie McGaffin rode to the front and stayed there for the whole 160 km event.

The Quilty is a very special event on the Australian Endurance calendar, where riders gather together from all over the country, in an annual pilgrimage. It brings together those who want to ride carefully and complete, to earn the handsome silver and gold Quilty buckle, and those who ride for the Gold Cup, the prize for the winner.

Since 1986, the event has been doing the circuit of the six states where endurance rides are conducted and this year it was the turn of Western Australia to host the premier endurance ride. The WA Quilty is an even more interesting ride, as many competitors need to travel many thousands of kilometres to attend. The journey for those coming from Queensland is the longest of all, across the entire continent, a distance of some 5400 km for our campsite neighbours from central Queensland. Their epic journey started near the Tropic of Capricorn and took in the famous Birdsville Track, travelling through some of the most remote parts of Australia. Alwyn remarked "We only had four (tyre) blowouts on some of the stony parts of the Track, which we expected, but it was a pretty good trip". Competitors from New South Wales had the next greatest distance to travel, followed by the Tasmanians, Victorians and South Australians. All had to travel across the Nullarbor Plain, which is one of the great road journeys in Australia. The name "Nullarbor", from the Latin nullus arbor means "no trees", and the Eyre Highway crosses the southernmost part of this 250,000 square kilometre slab of limestone. The Plain is covered by little more than low scrub, and drops sheer into the Southern Ocean with cliffs of 40 to 90 metres in height. The tourist guide described the coastline, attractive beaches further west, but warned against swimming in the rolling surf because of the sharks!

Competitors began arriving in WA around mid-May, and continued to arrive until around end of the month, when the "locals" arrived from around the largest state in Australia. The campsite was a sight to behold with people camping with their horses in a large, green paddock. By the end of the week, around 130 horses from all over Australia had arrived.

The formalities began with ride entries on Thursday morning. That evening was the pre-ride briefing and the presentation of the national awards for horses achieving career distances of 5000 to 10,000 km. On Friday morning, the pre-ride vetting of horses was conducted, and saw 129 horses fit and ready to ride out at midnight. There were riders from all states of Australia, the UK, UAE, South Africa, New Zealand, and Japan.

At 11:30 pm, Friday 1 June, the horses were warmed up in the paddock. It was quite an inspiring sight to see 129 fit and energetic horses trotting around prior to the start. At midnight, a steady stream of horses passed under the start/finish banner, the second last being ridden by the author, and the last being led out quietly.

The first loop headed up the Darling Scarp, a climb of some 250 metres. Once upon the scarp, the course was fairly level, winding through the bush, with only minor undulations. The rain that had been threatening all night started about an hour later, cooling the steaming horses and riders. This loop was 37 km in length, and the first riders in were Cathy Griffin, Meg Wade, Kristie McGaffin, Penny Toft, Alan Lindsay, and Sorelle Anthony.

Loop two headed up the scarp again, and was 39 km in length. There were three valleys to negotiate, including the Wungong Gorge, which had quite a steep climb on the far side. The leaders continued at a cracking pace, with Wade, McGaffin, Toft and Anthony taking less than three hours for this loop.

Loop three went out up the scarp, and was 41 km in length. This loop was not so difficult, but rather long, and the horses were starting to spread out, with the fastest taking 2:58 and the slowest taking 7:21. Long stretches of gravel roads were starting to take their toll on footsore horses. This loop took riders into camp along a railway line and through some private properties. Grassy paddocks invited a canter home.

With the majority of the ride distance completed, the fourth loop was a pleasant 24 km. The scarp featured yet again, with the track going in and out via "that hill". Wade, McGaffin and Toft extended their lead.

The fifth and final loop went out across paddocks, along a railway line and up the scarp again. The track up into the forest was steep, rocky, boggy and slippery all at once, and it was a relief to get to the top. This loop was "only" 19 km, but seemed to go on forever. It appeared to go around in circles, but finally, a cheery sign advised us we had not far to go, and the familiar track down the scarp back into the ride camp came into view.

With over an hour separating the three front runners and the next rider, it was Meg Wade and Kristie McGaffin who crossed the finish line together to tie for first place. Their riding time was 11 hours exactly. Next in was Penny Toft, with a riding time of 11:11. Fourth was Alan Lindsay in 12:20, then Sorelle Anthony in 12:41, Cathy Griffen in 12:45, Jennifer Gilbertson 13:13, Bob Sample 13:23, Daniele O’Loughlin 13:23, Martin and Veronica Parker 13:48. Daisuke Yasunaga from Japan was next to finish, and first of the international riders, with a riding time of 14:15.

For last year’s Quilty winner Wade, this was an especially successful trip. She became only the fifth person to have won back-to-back Quilty Cups in the event’s 36 year history. Wade brought three horses to the Quilty, to have two place equal first and other fourth. The horse she rode, Kelkette Park Fyre won the Best Conditioned award, she shared line honours with McGaffin riding Provocative, Lindsay riding Hillbrook Kalib into fourth place, and her Castlebar Team winning the Teams competition.

From the UAE was Ali Al Amri, the other international rider to pass the test of 160 long hard kilometres. Al Amri found the weather conditions rather cooler than back home in Abu Dhabi. He was seen wearing a warm jacket, gloves and a balaklava for the whole ride, whilst those of us more acclimatised to the southern winter were more comfortable wearing little more than a polo shirt and jodhpurs!

One who must be counted amongst the legends of endurance riding in Australia is Ron Males. Well known as a long time breeder of Arabian horses, Ron and his wife of 47 years Val founded the famous Ralvon Arab Stud in New South Wales. They were involved with the Quilty from it’s conception back in the mid 1960s. Ron made it to the Super Legend class when he achieved his twentieth Quilty buckle, from twenty starts. He rode a horse of his own breeding, Ralvon Link.

1993 Quilty winner, Bob Sample from Queensland achieved his 15th buckle. 1997 and 1999 Quilty winner, Terry Wood from New South Wales also achieved his 15th buckle and Keryn Mahoney from Tasmania her 10th.

From 129 starters, 75 were successful. The winning time was 11 hours, and the last rider completed successfully in 20:58, just two minutes inside the cutoff time.

Next year, it is Victoria’s turn to host the Tom Quilty Gold Cup. The ride will be based at Landsborough, in central Victoria. The date has been moved to 18 October 2002, to take advantage of improved track and weather conditions.

Cathy Griffin (SA) with Chip Chase Knight (PA/G/13), 1st Lightweight and representative of Sponsor Iluka Resources

Sorelle Anthony (Qld) on Hirstglen Tommie (A/M/8), 1st Junior

Riding for Peter Toft:
144 Sorelle Anthony (1st Jnr), 1 Penny Toft (3rd Mwt), 71 Bob Sample (1st Hwt), 6 Jennifer Gilbertson (5th Mwt), 131 Daisuke Yasunaga (2nd Lwt)

Ron Males (NSW) and Ralvon Link (A/G/8) =17th Middleweight and Ron's twentieth buckle

Penny Toft (Qld) on Bremervale Justice (A/G/8), 3rd Middleweight

Amanda Colli (WA) and Robert (Standardbred), 4th Junior

Daisuke Yasunaga (Japan) on Rowallan Kassidy (A/G/8), 2nd Lightweight and 1st International

(l) AERA Registrar, Lyn Bailey, (r) Announcer Barbara Timms

Jennifer Gilbertson (NSW) on Delta Moon Shine, 5th Middleweight

Danielle O'Loughlin (SA) and Kelkette Park Silver Echo, 6th Middleweight

Ross McCamish (WA) on Paradise Valley Perfection, 3rd Heavyweight

Head Vet, Dr Anne Barnes (WA)

Wendy Bootle, Blue Bopp, Luke Steele (Vic), 6th Heavyweight

Dr Norbert Radny (WA) on Yarraview Amber
Anton Reid (WA) Tora Gem 10th Middleweight
Bill Dransfield (WA) Fawleys Indigo

Bob Sample and Zanthus (1st Hwt) work out in the rain to get Best Conditioned Heavyweight Horse

Meg Wade =1st
Laurie Nicolle AERA Chairman
Kristie McGaffin =1st