Jericho Cup expands to include New Zealand-trained horses

Racing Victoria
13 March 2019

Following the enormous success of December’s revival of century-old horse race, the Jericho Cup, Racing Victoria (RV) and New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing (NZTR) have today announced that the concept will be expanded to provide New Zealand-trained horses the chance to qualify for the 2019 edition. 

The Jericho Cup, which was first run on the desert sands of Palestine just outside the city of Jericho in 1918, commemorates Australia and New Zealand’s light-horse involvement in World War 1.

The flat race is run over 4600m at Victoria’s picturesque Warrnambool Racecourse and, in keeping with the tradition of the original Jericho Cup, is only open to horses which were conceived and born in Australia or New Zealand.

The $300,000 race, which is the brainchild of Victorian philanthropist and amateur war historian Bill Gibbins, is conducted on the same course as the Grand Annual Steeplechase under Benchmark 90 handicap conditions with jumps jockeys in the saddle. 

Thanks to the expansion announced today, New Zealand-trained horses will now have the opportunity to secure a berth in the 2019 Jericho Cup with a ‘guaranteed start’ race to be run at Taranaki Racecourse over 3210m on 28 September 2019. 

The winner of the Taranaki feature will be exempt from the Jericho Cup ballot, while the second and third placed horses will receive double qualifying points to assist their efforts to secure a start in the unique Australian race.

In addition to the guaranteed start race at Taranaki, the first three New Zealand or Australian-bred horses across the line in all flat races over 3000m or further in New Zealand will be awarded qualifying points on a 3-2-1 basis. 

The 130th Hospitality NZ Canterbury New Zealand Grand National Hurdle (4200m) at Riccarton Park racecourse in August will also be the only jumps race in New Zealand where horses can earn points towards the Jericho Cup.

This mirrors the current points earning process for Australian-based horses which commenced on 2 December 2018 with the running of the Jericho Cup Consolation Race where the Charlotte Littlefield-trained Hello My Friend claimed first place and a guaranteed start in this year’s Jericho Cup. 

With seven races – six Australian and one New Zealand – offering a guaranteed start in the 2019 Jericho Cup the balance of the field of 12 horses will be determined by the highest point scorers in staying races on both sides of the Tasman over the preceding 12 months.

Managing Director and Founder of the Jericho Cup, Bill Gibbins, said, “The race commemorates Australia and New Zealand’s light horse involvement in World War 1 so it is only fitting that the qualifying conditions be expanded to include New Zealand-based horses.

‘’Whilst Australia and New Zealand have always been the staunchest of rivals on the sporting field, it’s a different matter when the chips are down. The Anzac tradition is one of total solidarity. The very word Anzac spells it out, Australia New Zealand Army Corp.

“Their Light Horse equivalent was the New Zealand Mounted Rifles. These guys played a pivotal part in supporting the Australian Light Horse’s immortal charge at Beersheba. They took out, in advance, an entrenched Turkish armoured position on a hill overlooking Beersheba, that had the potential to rake the charging Australians with machine gun fire.

“In Australia, it has been an eye opener to discover how many descendants of the Light Horsemen are still horsemen, and deeply involved in today’s racing industry. I’m sure that will be mirrored over the Tasman as they delve further into, and celebrate, their own history. It’s great to welcome the Kiwis as part of the Jericho Cup. “

NZTR Chief Executive, Bernard Saundry, said, “The inclusion of New Zealand trained horses in the 2019 running of the Jericho Cup will reflect that rich comradery demonstrated by the Anzacs which has seen our two countries stand shoulder-to-shoulder in times of adversity.

“In World War One New Zealand took 10,000 horses to war and it is poignant that just four returned to these shores.  It is fitting that we are able to remember the equine contribution in a race devoted to their honour thanks to the passion and commitment of Bill Gibbins.”  

“Of course, the Kiwi contingent will also be embracing the usual trans-Tasman rivalry we see in every other sporting endeavour and will be doing their best to see the Jericho Cup joins the likes of the Bledisloe Cup in New Zealand’s trophy cabinet.”

RV Executive General Manager Racing and Participant Wellbeing, Greg Carpenter, said, “The revival of the Jericho Cup was a tremendous success last year and I am pleased we are able to extend this terrific concept to include New Zealand-trained horses for the running of this year’s race.

“I would like to commend Bill Gibbins for his continuous drive and passion to honour the efforts of Australian and New Zealand’s light horse involvement in World War 1 through this unique concept and thank NZTR for being so receptive to the expansion of this great race across the Tasman.”

The 2019 Jericho Cup is scheduled for Sunday, 1 December.

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