Bat­tle for Jeri­cho to re­sume 100 years on

Sunday Herald Sun - - Racing - MICHAEL MAN­LEY JERI­CHO CUP

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.

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