Gulgong Punters Club In Kosciuszko Mix

Over a century after A B Paterson’s ‘The Man From Snowy River’ was written into Australian folklore, the name Kosciuszko has again drawn attention, this time under the guise of a $1.3 million horse race.

The third edition of the world’s richest race for country-trained horses, The Kosciuszko (1200m) will be staged at Randwick on Saturday October 17.

The buzz and hype for the country feature intensified this week when 14 sweepstake winners from around the state went about the frantic wheeling and dealing process of trying to procure the horse of their choice.

Each winning ticket owner is empowered to nominate a NSW country or Canberra-trained horse to be their representative, with a negotiated proportion of the prize money going to the slot holder.

This year’s winners include syndicates from the William Farrer Hotel at Wagga Wagga, the Goulburn Workers Club, the Tennyson Hotel at Mascot, the Centennial Hotel at Gulgong and the Heritage Hotel at Dorrigo, which managed to win a slot for the third year running.

By the end of the week, 12 of the 14 slots had been filled with early favourite Front Page, Two Big Fari, Man Of Peace, Fender and last year’s Kosciuszko victor Handle The Truth among the horses chosen.

With two vacant spots remaining, trainers still have until October 14 to promote and showcase their country stars and entice one of the remaining slot holders into offering them a coveted place in the field.

One lucky slot holder is the Super-Six punters club from the 148-year-old Centennial Hotel in the central districts town of Gulgong, which has a population of around 2000.

Gulgong is where poet and bush balladeer Henry Lawson, who was the literary nemesis of Banjo Paterson, spent much of his early years.

The original Aussie battler, Henry Lawson and Gulgong synonymously featured on the first ten dollar note but were later booted off and ironically replaced by Paterson, who was also a one-time editor of iconic racing publication the Sportsman.

Local stalwart Graham Hillis said 24 of their 48-strong punters club “chucked in a lazy twenty each last weekend” and they were ecstatic after discovering one of their tickets had been drawn from the 250,000 entries.

“Everybody’s stoked. It’s a huge thrill and it’s got the town buzzing,” Hillis said.

After much debate the syndicate approached trainer Brett Cavanough about securing the unbeaten Scone galloper Fender for the race.

“We initially went after a 50-50 deal but he knocked that back before agreeing to a 40-60 arrangement,” Hillis said.

“It’s wonderful to be part of something this big. Even if we run last we are guaranteed something and we’ll probably come back and throw it over the bar.”

Fender is an acceptor for the Group Two Theo Marks Stakes (1300m) at Rosehill on Saturday but after drawing wide Cavanough indicated the $21 outsider may be scratched.

Cavanough also has recent impressive Tab Highway winner It’s Me locked in for the Kosciuszko.