18 June 2024

Riverina Rewind: Wagga Wagga Gold Cup legend Frank Burt

| Michelle Maddison
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Frank Burt sets a cracking pace across a paddock at Borambola.

Frank Burt sets a cracking pace across a paddock at Borambola. Photo: SLNSW (coloured using Palette).

This week the Museum of the Riverina takes a peek into the collections of the State Library of NSW, and a photo captioned “Horse trainer F. Burt, 23 May 1949”.

In the photo, we see Frank Burt flying across a paddock at Borambola (between Wagga and Gundagai) on the back of one of the champion horses that he owned, trained and raced as an amateur rider.

The photo was one in a series taken by Robert Donaldson, a Sydney press photographer who worked for Fairfax, News Ltd and Consolidated Press on PIX magazine.

It may have appeared in PIX or a similar magazine alongside other images showing Frank and his horses on the property which are also part of this collection.

On Wednesday 11 May 1949, a couple of weeks before this photograph was taken, Frank had garnered success at a record-breaking Wagga Gold Cup.

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A record crowd of more than 7000 saw his horse Collisun, with odds of 12 to 1, come with a rattling run over the last three furlongs to win his second successive Wagga Cup.

For Frank, it was his third victory in a row at the big race and the first time an owner had won the event three years in succession.

As an amateur rider Frank had won considerable renown throughout the southern and western districts of NSW, and his success in the 1949 cup was seen as evidence that local trainers and their horses were as skilled and fit as those from metropolitan areas.

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Frank trained his horses on a public reserve at Borambola across from his 20-acre property, which became known to locals as ‘Racecourse Reserve’.

It was there that Frank erected a makeshift barrier from poles and hessian, which allowed his horses to get used to being in the gates for the start of a real race.

On 12 May 1949 The Daily Advertiser said: “His success is well earned, for few men have given so much to the ‘sport of kings’. The success of the Wagga Cup meeting is in no small way largely due to the support of trainers and owners, like Mr. Burt, who are in the sport for the pleasure horse racing gives them and not for any personal gains which might come to them through the success of their horses”.

Over the years, Frank owned a number of champion horses, including Grafter, Clyde, Collisun and Miss Wagga.

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