Battle for Jericho to resume 100 years on
ON the eve of the first Jericho Cup, the event’s founder Bill Gibbins still can’t quite get his head around that it’s actually happening.
“It started three years ago with an idea and I’m sitting here now thinking that it’s actually going to happen,” Gibbins said yesterday.
“To get everything done has been a big effort. I’m waiting patiently or impatiently for the day to come.”
The concept emanated from Gibbins reading a book called Bill The Bastard to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Australian Light Horse men racing over three miles at Jericho in Palestine in a spectacle to distract the soldiers from World War I.
Bill The Bastard, who won that Jericho Cup in 1918, was Australia’s greatest warhorse and Gibbins was determined to celebrate his memory.
The philanthropist took the idea to the Warrnambool Racing Club and it embraced it.
Gibbins and WRC representatives, including chief executive Peter Downs and former chairman Des Roberts, spent many hours in discussion with Racing Victoria officials. An early sticking point was Gibbins’ idea that it be restricted to Australian and New Zealand horses.
“The race had to have its own persona,” Gibbins said.
“It’s for horses who are never going to be champions. It’s about giving battlers the chance to have a go at a race with good prizemoney.
“You couldn’t have overseas horses contesting a race commemorating Australia and New Zealand involvement in the First World War.”
Another point of contention was that Gibbins and Warrnambool wanted to run the race over the three miles of the original Jericho Cup. They settled for the same distance — 4600m — and the same ground as the Grand Annual Steeple. That presented another set of problems as they had to take the jumps out of Brierly paddock and Tozer Rd.
Another stipulation from Gibbins was that it had to be a race restricted to jumps jockeys. “It has all worked out well,” he said.