Friday morning, the big drive commenced. Simon, Bobby, and I headed off from North Fitzroy, the home of the mighty Royal Oak Hotel. Up the Hume we headed to cross the border. Like Dan Morgan in reverse, though with hopefully more luck.
We were going to Ardlethan, many hundes of K’s from Melbourne, nestled between Narrandera and Wagga. It was Ardlethan races, nay, Cup, for 2014. Once a year they hold their big meeting, and for the second year in a row us chaps were headed there. On the journey up we popped into a few diverse watering holes. Amongst them was the Royal Hotel in Grong Grong. The publican is Tadusz (Ted) Obudzynski. In his younger day he’d been a good full forward for Wagga Tigers, and was lured down to South Melbourne in 1973. His debut was against Carlton, with champion full back, Geof Southby, holding Ted goalless. The folowing week South Melbourne played Fitzroy, who had a top full back in Harvey Merrigan. Again Ted couldn’t trouble the scorers; then hs VFL career was over. Another interesting fact about the Royal Hotel is the intriging painting of ‘Chloe of the West’. Her origins are somewht of a mystery. Can any Almanckrs give us some more details on her?
From Grong Grong the heavens opened. Lots of rain on the Friday night, but the Saturday dawned fine and sunny. A six race card greeted us, with the first being run at 1-55. The track was agood 3, the weather lovely, the drinks were cold, and the hospitality warm. Last year’s winner Distinctly Sport , and runner up Bayonet Charge were not present, actually none of the 2013 Cup field were present. Nor was last year’s winning trainer, Narrandera based Peter Bloomfield, father of the jockey, Andy. 2013’s winning jockey Rebekkah Prest returned to the field of her triumph. This year she rode the Wantabadgery trained Exchancellor. A small field of five runners paraded for the cup, and again Rebekkah saluted. Great ride. Gave me two winners for the day.
One interesting runner in the Cup was the Peter Clancy trained, My Southern Slew. It had ran the previous day, Friday , in Wagga, finishing last in a field of eight. Next day it backed up to run second in a Cup field of five. Interesting. Peter also brought down the eight year old Soward, a horse who in previous years had ran some good races in Sydney. Here in his first race since October last year, he ran a servicable third. Is there more to come from this sterling eight year old?
One interesting sight on track were two young ladies, consuming their alcoholic drinks through items (straws?),which were the shape and texture of male genitals. Just when you think you’ve seen it all!!!
We left Ardlethan Sunday morning, for a big drive back. Along the way back we made a number of pit – is that the right word – stops. The Federal Hotel in Berrigan holds a special place in our family folklore. Way back in 1959, before I was born, my grand uncle , Bill Conrick, finished work for the day – he was a labourer on the irrigation channels. He popped in to quench a hard earned first, though after drinking his schooner he had a heart attack, dying at the bar. A sad story, but if you have to die, it’s not a bad way to depart. The Federal is also full of many photos of of Bert Honeychurch, the wonderful trainer. Bert is now 94, and a racing legend .
We also popped into Tungamah, where former Corowa, and North Melbourne, premiership player Peter Chisnall is the publican. It has become a popular place to attend, with a big crowd there on Sunday. Always good to chat with Peter . We talk about our families & Corowa, footy, and what ever else is topical in Tungamah.
From there it was back to the big smoke. We’d had a great weekend enjoying the races and hospitality. Simon in paticular did well on the tote, though it’s worth adding all three of us picked the Cup winner, Exchancellor. Will we go back again in 2015 for the third consecutive year? As they say, “the future is unwritten”.