BROOK Sample retained his title as national champion when he was first home to win his seventh Tom Quilty Gold Cup at Kilkivan on Saturday.
Brook, 38, of Kenilworth, completed the five legs of the 160km course in nine hours and 14 minutes.
This is Brook's third Quilty win on Brookleigh Excalibur, a horse he bred himself.
He won by completing the rigorous ride along bush tracks though privately owned pastoral properties.
He also won best conditioned horse and his 13th Quilty Buckle.
In a fast-paced final leg with a galloping finish, Brook and Brookleigh Excalibur crossed the finish line just one-and-a-half lengths ahead of Akhmed Pshunov on Tarrangower Crecendo.
Akhmed, of Imbil, had put in everything, asking his horse to match Brook's over the 18km of the final leg. But, disappointingly, Akhmed's horse was vetted out as lame.
This meant second place went to Brisbane's Stephen Gray on Kasbah Kid, in 10 hours and 17 minutes.
Brook's first endurance ride was in 1986, at the age of 12, when he rode in the Quilty in South Australia and won the junior division.
Since then he has ridden in the Quilty 13 times and has always finished in the Top 10.
There were 245 starters this year and the overall aim of the Quilty is to finish the ride within 24 hours, qualifying to receive an esteemed Quilty belt buckle for the many
hours riders spent in the saddle and careful tending of their tiring horses. This year 110 Quilty Buckles were awarded. President of the Kilkivan Endurance Riders Club, which hosted the Quilty this year, Vern Berry, said he was impressed with the way Brook celebrated his horse at the end of the ride.
"He held up the gold cup and bellowed his horse's name out loud in an emotional appreciation of what Brookleigh Excalibur had done for him," Vern said.
"His horse put everything on the line for him, keeping him at the top of his sport - they work as a good team together."
Head vet Jon Fearnley said the track and the heat of the day made this year's Quilty ride a lot harder than normal.
"It was disappointing so many horses vetted out, especially as we had such a wonderful lead-up ride in the state championships on the same track in July last year," Jon said.
"It's been a tough ride all the way through because the riders were trying harder and the track needed caution because it was a bit drier and a bit stonier than last year.
"But endurance riders have a wonderful ability to cope with tough decisions that may not go their way because they genuinely have the interest of their horses at heart.
"And it's heartbreaking for the riders at the end of the race, when they are waiting on a 'yes' or 'no' answer about their fitness to continue."
This has been an exciting race as last year's Quilty winner, Brook, tussled it out with Akhmed and another local, Johann Willemse.
The trio battled for the lead for the first three quarters of the race (120km), and when Johann was vetted out after the third leg, it became a battle between rival camps, Brook and Akhmed, with Brook claiming victory.
The 48th Quilty ended in a gallop, which highlighted the pair's rivalry and what is thought to be the smallest margin of any Quilty. Next year the Tom Quilty Gold Cup will be held at Wagin in Western Australia in June.
- First Heavyweight Rider and Best Conditioned Heavyweight Horse: Daniel Williams and Edenfels Pegasus (time: 12 hours, 20mins);
- First Middleweight Rider and Best Conditioned Middleweight Horse: Brook Sample and Brookleigh Excalibur (time: 9 hrs 14 mins);
- First Lightweight Rider: Kaylea Maher and Angelsea Tasman (time: 11 hrs 23 mins);
- Best Conditioned Lightweight Horse: Sue Jones and Hinterland Hellfire (time: 12hrs 6mins);
- First Junior Rider and Best Conditioned Junior Horse: Colleen Krahnen and Kalladoon Viva (time: 10 hrs 43 mins);
- Pat Slater Cup Winner: Brook Sample and Brookleigh Excalibur;
- Shareym Award Winner: Kalkadoon Zorro ridden by Simone Krahnen.
The Shareym Award is a memorial prize awarded to the owner of the first middleweight or heavyweight horse to successfully complete the Tom Quilty Gold Cup event with the most Quilty buckles to its credit up to and including the 2013 Tom Quilty Gold Cup.
Presented by Ron and Val Males of Ralvon Arab Stud in memory of their purebred Arabian stallion, Shareym (Shafreyn x Ruheym), who successfully completed six Quilty events in 1966, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1972, 1973, and is the only stallion to do so.