Ken Cavanough and his grand old galloper, Cavlon, who has retired to Gilldora and turns 29 next week.
Ken Cavanough and his grand old galloper, Cavlon, who has retired to Gilldora and turns 29 next week. Renee Pilcher

The day they broke the TAB

ONE of the greatest partnerships to emerge from the Gympie racing industry got together again this week, reflecting on the lengthening shadows of their twilight years and the glory days that helped put the Gympie Turf Club on the map.

Grand old galloper Cavlon and the country butcher who bred, owned and trained him, Ken Cavanough, caught up at the property of Ken's daughter, where Cavlon is seeing out his final years in comfort, overlooking the river flats of Gilldora.

Cavlon will turn 29 on Wednesday, a ripe old age for any horse, and his mentor is now in his late 80s. The pair had a reputation back in the day for being "real gentlemen".

They knew each other so well Ken had to go to great lengths to outsmart the wily gelding that still enjoys running rings around the humans who love and spoil him.

As the Slim Dusty song goes, "he's looking kind of jaded, and his sight is not the best, and the hair around his muzzle's turning grey".

But just bring out the feed bucket and the old boy still gets pretty lively.

He looked every bit the champion this week, dressed in the red and white satin rug he earned the day he won the $40,000 Lord Mayor's Cup at Doomben.

It was his biggest triumph and one his mentor famously missed - Ken was busy fulfilling a promise he had made to help someone else.

But in Mitchell, where Ken lived for many years before Gympie, half the town went to the TAB to watch.

The electricity went out just as the horses were coming down the straight, Ken said.

The punters all threw themselves out the door to get it on a car radio and turned it on just in time to hear the announcer say "and Cavlon has won the Cup".

"That was the day they broke the TAB," he said.

That's no joke.

Cavlon won many races here and at Caloundra and Brisbane, with then apprentice jockey Marlene Grady steering him home.

Some would argue he was Gympie's most successful export on the track.

To this day he is the only Gympie horse to have won four open handicaps in the city.

Gympie Times


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