Almanac Racing: Jump to The Bool

Jump To The Bool!

by Simon Hogan


There are a few weeks until the May Races in Warrnamboool will be on again. During the week you catch up with old friends from previous years or make new ones, possibly when talking in the pubs or maybe in the toilets! You also see once a year friends, even if they live in your hometown of Warrnambool! But I can tell you one thing, you get a little bit emotional going to the track when you realise some of the familiar faces have left us, especially not being able to see Gordon Ballis and his race books stall next to the stewards room! So when going to the May races this year, please pause a moment, breathe in the atmosphere and just say a quiet prayer to God. Thank you for letting jumps races continue and thank you for letting me and my friends be a part of this great carnival and finally God Bless Gordon!


I wrote this is in 2006 at school here it is.


My main puprose is to inform my audience, would be racegoers, about the atmosphere and the exitement that surrounds the May Race Carnival held on Warrnambool each year. There are horses, jockeys, trainers, punters and entertainment, which bring this world- reowned event to life.


Where can you go to see great entertainment, colour fashion, excitement, drama, terrfic food, big crowds and social activities? Where can you go to catch up with old friends, peronalities thorouhbred horses and even have a bet? NOWHERE else, but in the Warrnambool Three Day Carnival in May each year!



Since 1872, people from all over th district, the state, rest of Australia and even from oversease have flocked to the beachside city of Warrnambool to see the sights and experience the excitement of this unique carnival. The motto of this great race carnival “Where Heroes Are Created” is certainly appropriate.


There are many great races during the three day meeting, such as the Warrnambool Cup, the Brierly Steeplechase, the Galleywood Hurdle and the Wangoom Handicap but the one the people come and see is the Grand Annual Steeplechase. The Grand Annual Steeplechase. The Grand Annual Steeplechase is run over 5500 metres and is the the longest race in Australia. It includes thirty three fences, the most of any steeplechase in the world. This highlights the drama and the excitement of this racing extravaganza. The race traverers roads, up and down hills, over tricky steeples and includes racing in both clockwise and anti clockwise directions.



The defening roar of the crowd when the horses jump out of the barrier at the start of the steeplechase be heard for miles. The “oohs and aahs” when the horse hits the steeple or falls keeps everyone on the edge of their seats.


Horses are giving hero status when they run in the Grand Annual Steeplechase. All horses get a big mention before the race and the crowd cheer their apprecitation of the horses running in the long marathon. People love putting some money on a “roughie” that might just run a place. The winner of the race gets a roar when it comes back to the mounting yard. The horse and jockey are given a standing ovation.


There been some close finishes. One year a local jockey led almost for entire race only to get beaten with 100 metres to the finish line. In 1984 Grand Annual Steeplechase, local horse, Galleywood crashed a the last jump. A great hush went around the track. When the screen was put around the horse everyone thought he would be put down… Minutes later he rose to his feet. The crowd roared with excitement. Two years later the crowd again roared with excitement when he won The Grand Annual Steepechase.


In 1997, Foxboy, ridden by Brett Scott and trained by John Wheeler, triumphed with one of the best jumping displays seen at the “BOOL” in decades. In 1998, The Sundance Kid, again ridden by Brett Scott and trained by Wheeler went head to head with Usurper. When Usurper crashed at the last fence many people at feared the worst. During the presentation of the trophies there was an almighty roar from the crowd. Usurper had returned to his stall. People love winners but they also love courageous performances, win or lose.


Not only do the horses become heroes the jockeys and trainers do as well. Jockeys such as David “Butch” Londregan, Brett Scott and Craig Durden, who have each won this event four times have etched their names into this race’s history. John Wheeler, Jim Houlihan and local Kevin Lafferty have put their names on the honour board as winners of the feature races a the this great carnival. Trainers believe it is a great privilege to win a race at this meeting but there is bigger prize. If they can win four races including one of the majors, they can take a new Mercedes Benz car!


The jockeys love to ride in the three day race carnival at Warrnambool. If they ride a winner, there it is something special . The local jockeys , particularly the ones in Warrnambool, put riding a winner at the carnival as a highlight of their career.


What else makes this racing carnival so special? There are once-a-year punters who might pick a horse because of it’s name, it’s saddlecloth number or it’s colours. There are shouts of glee if the horse wins. The betting ring is a sea of activity. There are people studying form guides, getting tips from other punters, the bookmakers calling the odds and punters putting on bets.


The ladies dress for the occasion with their new outfits or recycled ones. Even though it is early May and the the weather is cooler, many wear summer outfits. By the end of the day they are shivering and trying to find a warm spot. The May Race Carnival is great place to catch up with people. They may be relatives, old friends or old neighbours whom you haven’t seen for months or years!


The best place to watch the Grand Annual Steeplechase is up on the hill. Around the course the marquees buzz with activity as punters jostle to get the vantage point. The view from the hill is magnificent as the crowd can see the entire course. Every year there are more and more marquees dotting the surrounds of the track. The three day meeting is getting bigger and better!


The race carnival is huge boost to the Warrnambool tourism industry. During the May Carnival week there is “NO Vacancy” sign displayed at every accommodation venue in Warrnambool. The surrounding towns of Koroit and Port Fairy also enjoy a “full house”. The central business district of Warrnambool comes alive for the entire week. Visitors arrive by train, plane and car. The pubs and restaurants are jumping with punters and personalities. Tony Leonard the man who travels my train, Robert DiPierdomenico “Dipper”, John Rothfield “Dr. Turf” and the late Roy Higgins are just a few to the names that have frequented the carnival. The visitors enjoy the excellent hospitality of Warrnambool and meet at the nightspots to swap tips and stories of the days events.


Wannon Greyhound Racing Club hold a race meeting on “Cup Eve.” They enjoy large crowds as punters, still looking for win, flock to Wannon Park to watch the dogs. By Friday is looking for a rest day to nurse their tired heads. People also head to the beach to watch horses doing their fine work and also popular during the week is a round of golf at the Home club of Marc Leishman or at Port Fairy or another course around the area.


After enjoying three days days of fun, food drinking and winning at the race carnival, Warrnambool definitely comes alive in the first week of May.


Hope to see you at the “Bool” in 2014 or in the years to come.


Ps. Please write your story or anything that I have missed. Keep Well and happy punting from Simon Leigh Hogan.





  1. You’ve whet the appetite (thirst!) for next week. Can’t wait. The ‘Bool never lets you down.

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