Cup returns to the Hawkesbury

Historic event:  Strappers help cool a horse after the first leg of the 2013 Tom Quilty Cup. Picture: Jason McCarthy, National Museum of Australia
Historic event: Strappers help cool a horse after the first leg of the 2013 Tom Quilty Cup. Picture: Jason McCarthy, National Museum of Australia

More than 400 horses and their riders set to tackle 160km in 24 hours will gather at Wisemans Ferry in June, marking 50 years since the inaugural Tom Quilty Gold Cup.

Known as ‘The Quilty’, the endurance ride which attracts competitors from across the country and internationally, will be back on local soil after organisers campaigned for its return this year. It was supposed to be held in Victoria.

It’s considered a premier ride on the Australian endurance calendar and the national championships for the NSW Endurance Riders Association (NSWERA). Del Rio Resort will be the camp base (start and finish) for the ride which will wind through national park trails, rural roads and private properties.

Horse and rider are required to complete the set course in 24 hours from June 6-7. The ride starts at midnight.

One of the organisers, Ron Males said the ride came about 50 years ago when R.M. Williams and his mate Tom Quilty from Western Australia debated whether people could still ride long distances in one day. Quilty offered $1000 to make the gold cup for the first rider to do this.

Mr Males said the Hawkesbury was selected as the most central location and that’s where it was hosted for 20 years before it was rotated through other states.

Fifty years ago the ride left the home base of Hawkesbury Racecourse.

‘‘They rode along The Driftway, over North Richmond Bridge, through Freemans Reach, Ebenezer, Tizzana Road, West Portland Road, Upper Colo Road, Mountain Lagoon, Bilpin, Bowen Mountain, Grose Wold, across the Nepean River, Agnes Banks and back to the racecourse,’’ Mr Males said.

The winning rider will receive a belt buckle in the event which has attracted entries from as far as Norway — there’s already a waiting list of 60, and there will be a vet team of 25 travelling from the US, New Zealand and Thailand. ‘‘It will be great for tourism in the Hawkesbury and our equine industry,’’ he said.

Charles Gauci from the NSWERA said more than 3000 spectators were expected and there will be a 40-metre screen with a live feed from professionals situated around the course — it will also be streamed around the world.

‘‘Over 400 horses circling under lights at midnight will be a sight to behold,’’ he said.

Hawkesbury Council will promote the event through inclusion in the mayoral column, on Council’s website, provide paper bags for pre-ride promotional bags as well as visitor information and provide star pickets, road barricades and orange safety mesh fence (subject to availability).

Council will also give $5000 in sponsorship after being suggested by Councillor Christine Paine at the March 31 meeting. ‘‘The amount of visitors this event would bring to the Hawkesbury is unreal,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s an amazing thing to have here.’’