Watching the Yalumba Classic Hurdle at Oakbank (SA), on Easter Monday, while doing a shift on Racing Radio, I thought for one moment we were going to experience a Devon Loch moment.
The appropriately named, Gotta Take Care, almost failed to take enough care when six lengths clear coming to the last jump of the 3600m race.
Whether through tiredness or neglect the jumper simply crashed through the obstacle, almost falling.
Jockey John Allen went rightwards and resembled the Leaning Tower of Pisa before regaining control rather than crashing to the turf-but it was a close run thing.
Yamanura which momentarily seemed likely to gain a surprise victory had to be content with closing the gap to a length and a half on a shaken Allen and Gotta Take Care.
I thought it was worth mentioning, to listeners, that at least getting a scare is better than blowing the race like Devon Loch did in the 1956 Grand National Steeplechase (I think at the time I may have said 1953 but, unlike Pope Frankie, I am not infallible, just very close).
Devon Loch was the Queen Mother’s horse and was ridden by top jumps jockey Dick Francis (1920-2010) who later became a best selling writer of some 40, page-turner, racing mystery thrillers.
Devon Loch had the 1956 classic race shot to pieces but having negotiated the last jump easily inexplicably fell on the flat within the shadows of the post.
Currently, only two Australian states, SA and Victoria, have jumps races which is a pity because they add another dimension to racing.
In WA very few current racing patrons would remember the last jumps meeting on New Year’s Day 1941.
In his 2012 book, Over the Hurdles, author John Adams (no, not the second president of the United States) records that Rollovant (T.Outram) was the final jumps winner at Ascot, which had a purse of $350 (then 175 pounds).
The Second World War effectively killed off the sport along with rampant race fixing. Prior to 1941 jumps racing had been a regular fixture of racing in the West, although declining in the 1930s.
It was a generation earlier than that that saw the finish of jumps racing in the Goldfields with the Boulder Hurdle being run, in September 1918, with just five starters, This was the last one there after such races had become increasingly uncompetitive due to lack of numbers.
The old Helena Vale racecourse, at the foot of Greenmount, (which I remember going to as a child with my grandfather but not for jumps racing) was the scene of a remarkable hurdle race in 1935. Featuring just two starters, Antissa and Black Clasp, both fell at the first hurdle. However, jockey Tom Chandler was able to remount Antissa and they went on to complete the course.
Incidentally, Racing Radio is never dull. On the same day that Gotta Take Care didn’t at Oakbank, there was, in the sixth race at Muswellbrook (NSW), a winner called My Man of War. In the same race Guderian ran fifth!
Heinz Guderian, the father of Blizkrieg tactics, and a top German armoured commander of WW2 was certainly the Fuhrer’s man of war when the two were not at war with each other!
Don’t you just love Racing and History…….my listeners do.
They have to.