Emotions were running high as Sunday’s inaugural Jericho Cup brought large crowds to Warrnambool racecourse and a winner with links to the Australian Light Horse.
The race was a tribute to the WWI light horsemen and their mounts and was won by High Mode in front of about 5000.
For part-owner Damian Costigan, of Sydney, the win was a fitting tribute to his great uncle, Thomas Bradley, who served with the light horse in WWI. “It’s very special. I was in tears,” he said.
He said he didn’t know his family had a connection to the Light Horse until he mentioned to his mum, also a part-owner, why they were headed to Warrnanbool.
The original six-race Jericho Cup meeting on September 18, 1918, was devised as a ruse to fool the Turks about the likely location of a major offensive by the Allies in the closing stages of the war in Palestine.
Race organiser Melbourne racing enthusiast and philanthropist Bill Gibbins said the day had far exceeded expectations.
“How do you follow this?” he said. “It’s just a unique day. The spectacle has been sensational.
“The vibe is a real buzz.”
He said he got teary just thinking about the event which pays tribute to the sacrifice of so many in WWI.
“We owe these blokes a debt of gratitude that we couldn’t repay in a million years,” he said.
“What we can do for them is just remember.”
He said he hope the men of the Light Horse could now say “maybe we didn’t die in vain, maybe we didn’t get our legs blown off, or lose our sight or sanity or our youth for nothing. Somebody remembered”.
Mr Gibbins said he had made a four-year commitment to the race. “The road to Jericho has been a long and windy one,” he said.
“I’ll do it for four years and if the racing public, the racing industry don’t wake up that this is a good idea after that then I say I did my best and that’s it.”