The Cessnock Racecourse will again host their most popular race day of the year on Anzac Day, a meeting which has become a significant annual tradition for the Hunter Valley racing venue.
This year’s Anzac meeting will comprise an additional sixth race, as the Newcastle Jockey Club is funding a special 2700 metre stayer’s race for the first time.
The 2700 metre event will be called the “Jericho Cup”, named after the famous World War I staying race conducted near the Jordan River in 1918 and run over 4800m.
This war-time contest was clearly out of character for the battle-weary allied troops and cavalry in this location, but cunningly acted as a diversion for the opposing Turkish defences.
It was famously won by the legendary warhorse ‘Bill the Bastard’, who convincingly beat 14 the other starters over the three miles.
Cessnock’s 2018 version of the race, a Benchmark 50 Handicap, will have the field jump from the 900- metre mark and then complete another lap around the course. A replica cup will be awarded to the winning connections.
Last year on Anzac day, a special memorial to the “Walers”, ridden by the light horseman in the World War I, was unveiled. A life-size statue of ‘Bill the Bastard’ stands inside the main entrance to the racetrack and celebrates the incredible achievements of both man and beast during the middle east campaigns.
Nearly one hundred years later on Anzac day 2018, the family of the late Major Michael Shanahan will be guests of the Newcastle Jockey Club at Cessnock Racecourse.
Shanahan was Bill the Bastard’s only rider and closest companion during the War, an honour the inimitable equine famously acknowledged by saving Shanahan’s life after he was critically wounded in combat.
Anzac day activities at the racecourse will include Two-Up, the Last-Post Anzac Day memorial ceremony, a band and free kids’ entertainment throughout the day.
The cost of admission is $10, however by going to the Newcastle Racecourse website, racegoers can secure two admission tickets for the price of one.
Cessnock trainers Jeremy Sylvester and John Bannister who have saddled up winners in recent weeks are primed for the day.
Sylvester’s four-year- old Settlers won his second race when successful at Tamworth on March 26.
Last Sunday Jackknife trained by Bannister won his third race at Wellington.