Tom Quilty Gold Cup held this weekend
Imbil plays host to the ultimate test of endurance
AUSTRALIA’S most prestigious endurance horse event, so tough it carries the motto “to complete is to win”, is about to gallop into the Sunshine Coast’s backyard.
The Tom Quilty Gold Cup, an epic 24-hour challenge that covers 160km, is steeped in history, established in 1966 by Erica and RM Williams, who loved long-distance riding and Arabian horses.
It returns to Queensland for the first time in six years and will be run in the Mary Valley at Imbil, starting midnight Friday.
More than 310 riders and 2000 supporters will attend, some from as far away as the US, Canada, Estonia and Japan.
The headquarters for the event will be Stirling’s Crossing Equestrian Complex, where owner Matthew Sample is a regular entrant and won the event in 2009.
The family has an impressive history in endurance events, with Matthew, his brother Brook and their father Bob, having collected 30 “buckles” between them for successfully completing the Tom Quilty.
This year’s event will be extra special with Brook’s sons Matthew, 15, and Zac, 12, taking part for the first time.
Zac will be the youngest heading into the Imbil State Forest at midnight with his headlight and horse.
The oldest will be Simon Bain, 77, of Murrumbateman, NSW.
Riders get 24 hours to complete the 160km (100 miles when it began), with the winners expected to cover it in about 10 hours.
The welfare of horses is a priority and more than 20 vets check the runners before, during and after the challenge.
Matthew Sample said the event was steeped in history and recognised internationally.
Mr Sample said it would be a coup for the region and Queensland to host what would be one of the biggest Tom Quiltys held to date.
“Endurance riding creates the most incredible bond between horse and rider and when participants set off into the forest in the middle of the night, the energy and excitement is palpable,” he said.
The original Gold Cup, the funds for which were donated by RM William’s friend Tom Quilty, has pride of place in the Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach.
Endurance riding in
Australia dates back to the early-1900s when it was a test for cavalry mounts.
Kim Moir, secretary of the Australian Endurance Riders Association said endurance horses could sell for tens of thousands of dollars, but most riders would not sell them.
“Given the longevity of horses in the sport, they can compete on the same horse for upwards of 15 years,” she said.
“Winning a title like the Tom Quilty Gold Cup certainly puts the horse and the breeder’s stable on the international stage. The horse’s lineage and track record contribute to how much a horse would be worth.
“But for most of our riders, it’s about the satisfaction of winning the most prestigious award in endurance.”
SAMPLING THE EVENT: Zac, 12, and Matthew Sample, 15, will try to emulate their father’s winning ways in the Tom Quilty Gold Cup this weekend.
The Tom Quilty Cup, named after R.M. William’s close friend Tom Quilty.
Jennifer Caslick of NSW.