Molly Choice enjoying her weekend out at Imbil for Tom Quilty Gold Cup.
Molly Choice enjoying her weekend out at Imbil for Tom Quilty Gold Cup. Troy Jegers

PHOTOS: Tom Quilty underway as hundreds ride out

HORSE RIDING: Organisers, riders and horses remained in the "lull before the storm" yesterday afternoon during the final countdown before the start of the record-breaking 2019 Tom Quilty Gold Cup.

All 300 horses, including a record number belonging to junior competitors, were going through the process of veterinary examinations and final strapping sessions as their mounts readied for an icy, gruelling 160km trek through the Imbil State Forest tracks which began at midnight.

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Facing temperatures as low as 5C throughout the night after unexpected warmth yesterday afternoon, the riders will have most likely had clear skies on their side in the small hours.

And by as early as 1pm this afternoon, the winner could be crossing the finish line.

Stirling's Crossing Endurance Club president Kim Moir described the unusual atmosphere in the last hours before the spectacular event began.

"All the horses have been passed to start, and there was quite a bit of competition to get first access to strapping before the ride," Moir said.

"At about 5pm (yesterday afternoon) we have our pre-ride talk, where we go over what the riders can expect across the course and the conditions.

"There's a bit of exhaustion and a lot of excitement, there are very competitive riders here and it's all highly charged. It's the lull before the storm at the moment.

"If you came out at 8pm you'd wonder why nothing was happening, because the riders are getting their few hours of sleep before they start getting their horses ready."

Tom Quilty veterinarian Dr Matthew Walker said he had been involved with endurance riding since 1986, and was "particularly impressed" with the quality of the horses.

"The Quilty is a premier event, so you tend to get premier horses competing," Walker said.

More than 2000 people will remain at Stirling's Crossing today as the great ride ramps up.

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