The Wagga Wagga Gold Cup is one of the nation’s iconic races and its 150-year history is being celebrated with the unveiling of a spectacular statue standing proudly among the roses at the entrance to the Murrumbidgee Turf Club.
Club president Geoff Harrison and Federal Member for Riverina Michael McCormack did the honours, pulling back the blue silk to reveal an unnamed horse and jockey in motion.
“Who do you pick?” asked Mr McCormack, explaining the decision not to identify the pair.
“Do you pick Mountaineer, who won the first cup in 1873? Do you pick The Diver, which was the conqueror of the Melbourne Cup winner in 1874? Do you pick Flash Gem, which won two Wagga Cups and then was runner-up in two more Wagga Cups? Do you pick Amounis, the double champion with Phar Lap?
“There are so many great Wagga Wagga Cup winners, you can’t just pick one.
“The Wagga Wagga Gold Cup is the race that stops the region.”
Mr Harrison agreed that it was fitting to celebrate 150 years of winners rather than choosing one in particular, and said that all their names would be displayed on a plaque.
“The board of directors wanted to do something very special to mark this commemorative year,” he said.
“I’m sure that it will still be here 150 years from now. When we are all long gone, the cup will be still run.”
Mr McCormack said the pair had kept the monument’s design a secret, transporting it themselves from the Southern Highlands in June last year.
“We got some wonderful looks along the way down the Hume Highway back to Wagga Wagga when we had the horse on the back of his truck,” he laughed, explaining that it had been kept out of sight at Harrisons Joinery before being installed at the turf club under cover of darkness.
“I think a lot of people cottoned on to the fact that we had a horse statue, but not a lot of people realised there was a jockey on top, and of course, it’s not just about the horses.”
Wagga hoop Danny Beasley won the cup in 2001 on Regal Touch and was on hand for the unveiling.
“For it to be a statue to represent the whole turf club and the whole history of the horses that have come through and graced this track is very fitting,” he said.
“I was never going to be anything else but a jockey and all my dreams growing up were to win a Wagga Cup.
“So when I was able to do that in 2001, it was like, everything’s complete.”
With a host of events planned for the coming months, Mr Harrison expects this year’s sesquicentenary event to be the biggest yet and said the track was coming along well.
“It has been very slow because of the cold weather. As we all know, it’s only been the last 10 days that we’ve had hot weather and without the hot weather the kikuyu doesn’t grow,” he explained.
“It is really coming across now and as usual the track will be 110 per cent for the running of the cup!”
The Wagga Wagga Gold Cup Carnival will be held on 4 and 5 May and you can find more details of all the coming events here.