It has been a bucket list item for many a racing fan and the team involved at Punt Drunk embarked on the three-hour journey down the highway to live it up at all three days of the Warrnambool May Racing Carnival.
From arriving in Warrnambool in freezing cold conditions and sideways rain, to thunderstorms at 7am on Wangoom Handicap Day, to the 5000+ strong crowd on the hill to watch the Grand Annual Steeplechase, the ‘Bool had it all!
Before we get stuck in to the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes at Morphettville on Saturday and all the racing around the country, let us take you through the week that was at the ‘Bool.
Day 1 at the ‘Bool
Alarm goes off at 6am, get in the car before 7am and make your way down to Warrnambool to ensure you are there by 10am. First tip of the day, before you get too far out of Melbourne, make sure you get something to eat, because there is five eighth’s of bugger all when you need a feed the most.
Arriving in Warrnambool and the buzz hits ya, the ‘Bool, you could almost hear the dulcet tones of Rick McIntosh in Camperdown, you’re that eager to get stuck into the first.
The entry to Warrnambool Racecourse is like no other, it is a genuine postcard view as you enter the main gate.
Action gets underway with three hurdle events, the second of which warms the hearts of racing purists, with young Campbell Rawiller steering favourite backers to glory aboard Teofilo Star, with Group 1-winning dad Nash there to greet him in the mounting yard.
A key lesson learnt on Day 1, was that if the money comes for a locally-trained horse, it is for good reason. Rose Of Shalaa ($4) and Summit Queen ($5) proved just that to the delight of the locals.
Without a doubt though, the star performer of Day 1 of the Carnival was the Symon Wilde-trained Brittanicus. The eight-year-old gelding was able to right the wrongs of last year’s runner-up effort in the Brierly Chase and went one better this year under an expert ride from Aaron Kuru.
If you were lucky enough to be at the Irish pub across the road from the Whaler’s Hotel that night, you certainly could tell that the owners of Brittanicus were enjoying the win and would continue to do so throughout the week (albeit with a few sore heads).
Day 2 at the ‘Bool
It feels like you’ve been hit by a bus, but you dust yourself off and go again for yet another 10-race program on Wednesday for Wangoom Handicap Day.
With a 7am thunderstorm and up to 20mm of rain in town overnight, there was plenty of doubt surrounding Day 2, but the locals were not here to muck around. They had a show to put on and put on a show they did.
To say the day was character building, would do a discredit as to how tricky it was to find a winner.
Scentify ($12 with online bookies) knocked off the well-supported Loose On Gin ($3.50) in the opener, Sierre Da Gredos ($2.20) did absolutely nothing on debut in the following event and just as Pannier and Tolemac looked to have brought the day back in favour of the punters, Delcoff ($51) broke his maiden at start 31. You could have heard a pin drop on track — the result deadset sucked the life out of the joint.
Then Saunter Boy ($1.75) comes along, the big grey from Ciaron Maher & David Eustace’s barn showed all of his class in the Galleywood Hurdle, winning the race for a second straight year.
With Steven ‘Professor” Pateman and 71kg on his back, the odds-on favourite put in a perfect display of jumping to cement himself as one of the best horses to have ever graced the Carnival.
Outlaws Revenge found himself in the winner’s stall with a comprehensive win in the Listed Wangoom Handicap, following a perfect steer from Dean Yendall for local trainer Daniel Bowman. Despite race favourite It’sourtime being a pre-race scratching behind the barriers, the result was a popular one for those on track, with a genuine roar of delight sweeping the circuit.
With Sandy Prince ($5) getting favourite backers out in the last, it was off to the Kelly Hotel, where with an average age of 45, the joint was the place to be on Wednesday. Beers were flowing, the music was hitting the spot and before you knew it, it was 1am.
Day 3 at the ‘Bool
Nursing a fresh hangover on top of a two-day hangover, it’s time to butter up and go again.
The bacon and egg muffin and orange juice combo was back in full force as we trudged through the slop from the day prior.
Twenty to 30 races had been run and won and we still had the feature, the Grand Annual Steeplechase to sink our teeth into.
Rawiller Jnr gave Eric Musgrove his squillionth winner at the ‘Bool in the opener, Unseen Ruler ($9.50) and Home Rule ($2.15) continued the winning trend for local trainers, as did Lucas The Younger ($10) and Bold Bourbon ($2.80).
Then as the sixth race of the day concluded, it was up to the massive hill overlooking the track for the Grand Annual Steeplechase.
Thousands made the pilgrimage down to Warrnambool and every man and his dog was on that hill for the 5500m race.
It was dominated once again by Ciaron Maher & David Eustace, but not in the way many thought.
It was Rockstar Ronnie ($6.50), who showed a clean pair of heels out in front under a masterful ride by Chris McCarthy to hand Maher his 14th May Carnival winner.
As quickly as the hill filled up, the crowd scattered to find their bookie (or loved ones) before the next and then the Listed Warrnambool Cup, which was dominated by Rolls on the quick back-up having run on the Tuesday.
From there, it was off to the Whaler’s and somehow back to the hotel to prepare for the trip home and a Group 1 weekend of racing.
The ‘Bool lived up to all the expectations and with Rick McIntosh providing the perfect backdrop to each race and the locals making the out-of-towners feel welcomed, it is a must for all racing fans.
One thing to take out from the week is jumps racing is alive and well in Victoria. It may have its doubters, but the Carnival showed that racing purists and the town of Warrnambool embrace it like no other.
As McIntosh would say:
SERIOUSLY, how bloody good is the ‘Bool?!
About Punt Drunk
Welcome to Punt Drunk – our daily column covering all the latest horse racing and punting controversies, dramas and headline news. Have a story or gripe or issue that just grinds your gears? Just hit us up in the comments or contact us page and our jaded, punt hardened Punt Drunk staff will give it the Punt Drunk treatment it deserves. Don’t expect pleasantries or typical racing media fanboy gloss from Punt Drunk – we’re on the punt and we don’t have time to bullshit; the next is about to jump…