Top riders saddle up for Tom Quilty Gold Cup
THE Melbourne Cup of Australian endurance racing, The Tom Quilty Gold Cup, is rearing to go in Kilkivan tomorrow.
More than 250 of Australia's top riders will be saddled up to head out on the first leg of the annual Australian Endurance Riding Championships.
The Tom Quilty Gold Cup starts midnight tomorrow with Kenilworth's Brook Sample the favourite to take out the event.
Mr Sample will compete against the nation's best and a host of international riders from the United States, New Zealand, Japan and Europe.
The current Australian champion has won a record six Quiltys.
He arrived at the Kilkivan showground yesterday with his riding team and was quietly confident of a good showing.
The 38-year-old said he was excited to be racing so close to home.
"The horse is good and I'm feeling good," Mr Sample said.
"It's great, I'm excited and it is good to see everyone here."
The aim of the race is to complete the five legs of the 160km course within 24 hours and have your horse passed fit by a vet.
Riders who finish receive a silver Quilty Buckle considered by recipients to be equivalent to an Olympic gold medal in recognition of their skill as a horseman.
Secretary of the Kilkivan Endurance Club, Dee Berry, said the Quilty is a true test of genuine horsemanship.
She said a key skill for the competitors was to know how to ride fast while conserving the energy of the horses.
The club had put in a monster effort to get ready for the major event and expect close to 2000 people to camp the three days at Kilkivan.
They have a tent city erected to house the 80 officials, which includes 20 vets, and a massive tent for presentations.
Mrs Berry said the council had been a huge help getting the showgrounds ready for the national event.
During the Australia Day floods earlier in the year most of the site was under water.
Flash flooding destroyed a lot of infrastructure and badly eroded the surface of the main arena.
"We lost a toilet block, a kitchen area and the pavilion was moved on its stumps," Mrs Berry said.
"Council have been very good helping out," she said.
This year is the 48th Quilty and Mrs Berry urged everyone to come along.
The ride was started by R. M. Williams in 1966 and is hosted by a different state each year.
The race starts and finishes at the Kilkivan showground and the third leg of the rigorous track covers part of the Cobb & Co Heritage Trail.
Depending on weather and course conditions, the first riders will take between nine and 14 hours to complete the course.
They are expected to cross the finish line from around midday on Saturday.
The award presentations will be made mid morning, Sunday.
The Tom Quilty Gold Cup goes to the first heavyweight or middleweight division competitor to successfully complete the ride.