The Sister Olive – The race that stops Yea.

 

by Shane Goss

If you fancy a game of golf at Yea, please wait for the running of the last. The last at Yea races that is. The course has holes both inside and around the racetrack. Buggies and three-woods were replaced by bookmakers and silks last Saturday however when the town held their pre-Christmas picnic meeting.

The crowd estimated at around 1,200 mingled between the bars and marquees on the front lawn. On a hot day the cold beer became a punter’s best friend. Groups had set up camps along the lawn, cracking champagne and tearing at chicken. The Mr. Whippy ice-cream van was keeping children busy with fast melting delights while the more dapper in the crowd dined along the balcony of the club overlooking the lawn.

The leafy surrounds at Yea racetrack provided protection from the sun. The bookies ring, although rectangular in shape, was kept busy with punters ‘getting on the local’. Following each race jockeys would grab their saddle and make the way from the track to the change rooms in the club. Striding spritely adjacent to oblivious revellers chatting and guzzling drinks, some a little lighter in the pocket and searching for a winner in the next while others spruik their good fortune from a mate’s tip and eye the queue at the betting windows in readiness to collect.

The car park overlooking the course was full. Buses had made the trip in from afar carry racegoers. Adjacent to one of the golf course greens were the stables. In the shape of an old aeroplane hangar it backed onto the mounting yard. The course itself is raced on only four times a year with the club’s biggest meeting, the Yea Cup, held around Australia Day each year.

The fields weren’t big on this occasion but that didn’t seem to worry anyone who was there. The major race of the day was the Sister Olive Handicap over the unusual distance of 3000 metres, just two hundred metres shy of the Melbourne Cup. It is named in honour of a former locally owned and bred filly that took out the race that stops a nation.

Sister Olive was a three-year-old filly when she won the Melbourne Cup back in 1921, her jockey Teddy O’Sullivan guiding her home in a time of three minutes 27.75 seconds.  Nine years later the Cup was won in exactly the same time, the horse – Phar Lap.

I could be sure there were no Phar Laps running around Yea, fairly sure there were no Sister Olives either. The feature race went to We Can Be Heroes, well ridden by Miss Rhonda Mangan and carrying sixty-four-and-a-half kilos around Yea racetrack was no mean feat.

A group of lads celebrating a buck’s party were rejoicing beside the bar. ‘Greeny’, on his last shindig before being married, was glad he had made it to Yea. They had even named a race after him. ‘Greeny’s Last Chance Maiden’. It was race three and Greeny would present the trophy to the winner.

After three races Greeny was happy he didn’t have to say much.

Punters gathered around TV screens for the next at Eagle Farm like seagulls to a chip. Kids with their faces painted darted in-an-out of the shade between trees on the lawn. Metropolitan trainer Pat Carey had saddled up the well fancied Kissy Lips in the fourth. It duly won.

The local football club, Yea Tigers, had set up their tent towards the back of the lawn within view of the finishing post – right in front of the bar. They were in for a big day.

At the completion of the last my mind turned to golf. I caught a glimpse of Greeny and his mates propped up at the bar. Maybe tomorrow, i thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Shane Goss

I am currently working as an assistant manager at the Kilmore Racetrack as well as freelancing in the media as a photographer and writer. I have been heavily involved in the cycling media for the past ten years before taking on a full-time position at the racetrack. My passion for sport and especially football keeps me busy with projects on weekends.

Comments

  1. John Butler says:

    Great shots Shane.

    Good to see certain cultural institutions remain intact. :)

  2. Thanks John, it was a good day. I don’t think there are too many places where you can get a can of Bundy rum for five bucks either!

  3. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Sounds like a typically wonderful day out at the country races. Fascinating to read about Sister Olive

  4. Great story and great pics The crowd looked bigger than at some Metrop meetings

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