Jack's Quilty Adventure

The Tom Quilty Gold Cup, Boonah QLD, 2006

by Jo Brock

My Friend Jack and Jo Brock at the Quilty, freelegging it at
the 100km marker.        Photo: Narelle Wockner Photography


We are so in awe of My Friend Jack!

He is our standardbred Quilty horse who shouldn’t have been.

Firstly he shouldn’t even be alive – twice!  When he was a 2yo, he nearly bled to death after being gelded, and is in the Melbourne Uni Werribee Vet Hospital hall of fame as having survived the lowest blood count of any animal they have treated – not just equine!

Then after a career as a pacer, and being sold to myself as a riding horse, he was diagnosed as having an old OCD bone chip in his near hock, a procedure which the same hospital said they had never removed from an 8yo horse before, so the prognosis as a riding horse was completely unknown, let alone as an endurance horse. I had the choice of spending a lot of money on an unknown result, or putting him down.

I didn’t really get on with Jack in those early days, so only God knows why I spent my year’s endurance budget on getting the bone chip removed.

He then became Glen’s horse, and Glen patiently persisted in getting Jack around training rides, and eventually a first 80km ride for both of them at Stockyard Hill in February 2005, before Glen’s own knee problems forced Jack into the paddock a couple of months later.

In the meantime, I had been concentrating on riding my standardbred mare Lady, and trying unsuccessfully to qualify myself for a Quilty – a dream I’ve had for many years, but one that has always seem to come unstuck each year for various reasons.

Glen pulled Jack out of the paddock at the beginning of this year to have a go at a slow 40km at Elmhurst and then back into the paddock Jack went as Lady and I continued our quest for my Quilty qualification.

Lady and I were all set for the hundred miler at Blue Rock in March this year, but the week prior to the ride she injured her tendon sheath on her near foreleg as she chased our broodmare around the paddock.  Sadly, I was getting very used to my Quilty dreams being dashed yet again.

Glen turned to me and said "well you can ride Jack if you like" ...  meaning I could take him to a few trainers during the year. Thinking Glen meant to take Jack to the Quilty, I replied "well that's a lovely offer petal, but Jack ain't qualified and I ain't qualified, so there's not much hope of that eh?"

But the seeds of crazy thoughts were sown.

Wendy Bootle, on hearing about Lady, without hesitation offered me her precious Blue Bopp, to qualify myself on at the Mt Cole ride at Easter. What an offer – and one I really couldn’t refuse! If I succeeded, at least I could ride the Quilty if I managed to find a horse to ride.

Then those seeds sprouted. Well, even IF I could qualify myself on the Bopper, could Jack complete two 80kms rides in order to qualify himself? Remember this horse had been sitting in the paddock for the past 10 months with the exception of Elmhurst.

Oh well what the heck, gotta try. Nothing to lose.

So we pulled Jack out of the paddock, rode him once and took him to Blue Rock and entered him in the 80, expecting to vet out or retire at the first 50km gate into hold check due to unfitness.  80km later he was still bouncing off his nut, and completed easily.

Took us a few days to realise we were in with a chance here, so we started trying to find a rider who didn't have a bung knee to ride Jack around 80 at Mt Cole while I did the 160 on the Bopper. 

Someone even crazier than us asked why we didn't just take Jack to Waterloo, which was 2 weeks after Blue Rock and 2 weeks before Mt Cole. Answer was "don't be stupid"  because a) Jack is unfit and b) we had holidays booked in those 2 weeks.

Sure enough we went to Waterloo. And we went on holidays beforehand. And somehow Jack got around Waterloo too.  

Blue Bopp and Jo

Mt Cole 160km 


So now it was up to me at Mt Cole to complete the trifecta. Bopper had already done 7 hundred milers for 7 completions, so not much pressure there either!!  But we made it ... 8 out of 8!

A few weeks prior we had no horse and no rider, and suddenly now we were off to the Quilty. 

Oh yeah, we moved house 3 days prior to Mt Cole too, just to keep us on our toes.

Jack somehow seemed to know he was preparing for the big time. He stopped stuffing around in training, and completed the 80 at Grenville as a run up.

However we were well aware of the limited preparation this newly-out-of-novice ex-pacer had had, so we did not have unrealistic expectations. We left for Boonah, planning to enjoy the trip as a whole, and the experience of the ride start, and anything after that would be a bonus.

We set off for Boonah one week prior to the event, taking four days to travel there to then have three days to recover, acclimatise and prepare for the ride. Jack travelled perfectly, standing dead still in his half of the float, not eating the 6 bales of hay in the other half, and unloading every couple of hours to stretch his legs. I think he really enjoyed seeing all the towns across three states of Australia!

Jack and Glen, supervising the pacers at Wagga


We stayed at the showgrounds at Wagga Wagga, Dubbo and Goondiwindi, and met up each night with our friends Josette and Ken from Wagga, and the O’Leary’s from Coolamon. Jack also enjoyed watching the local pacers work out each morning before we left.

While Jack travelled superbly, we had three hiccups with the car. The first was 20km south of Goondiwindi, where we blew a heater hose. Being a member of RACV Total Care, we dialled the number and got put through to RACQ who upon discovering we weren’t quite in Qld yet, transferred us to NRMA, who wanted to send a truck from Moree. I spent quite some time trying to explain our situation until they eventually realised the stupidity of sending us 100km in the wrong direction with a horse when all they had to do was work with RACQ and send someone from Goondi. All this time Jack was fantastic, standing still in the float until we could get the car off the highway, then happily being walked up a station road while we waited for the tow truck. Then he loaded and stood still yet again for a hairy 20km ride as the float had been hitched to the back of the truck that was carrying our car. All this was without lights too as our cable didn’t match the plug of the tow truck, so the driver radioed all the semi drivers in the area and they took turns babysitting us into Goondi.

Wendy & Blue Bopp, Jo and Jack, Josette and

Sir Nemeth at Boonah


After getting the car fixed in Goondi we arrived in Boonah on the Tuesday afternoon, and Jack immediately settled into his regular yard and focussed really well on the task in hand of preparing for the Quilty. It was as if he knew he had a really big job to do!

The Quilty start was like all Quilty starts – a true spectacle. Three hundred beautiful and extremely fit horses warming up around the Boonah trotting track under the lights at midnight, with Trevor Knight’s emotive Tom Quilty ballad playing over the PA. Jack thought all his Christmases had come at once. He trotted around the track saying “look at me, I can pass all these arabs and I’m hardly trotting!”. 

I had asked Jack prior to the ride to be on his best behaviour at the start and he was. I had also asked him to walk carefully on the bitumen that was the first 2km of course through the township of Boonah, knowing full well the effect that 300 over-excited horses would have on each other, and he happily obliged. 

But I had forgotten to ask him to behave himself after that, so as soon as we got onto the grass verge, he took off pacing at full speed.  By the 10km marker I had resorted to briefly turning him back to a previous steward point so he could settle safely before crossing a narrow unsided bridge, but then along came Blue Bopp to save the day, letting Jack tuck his nose under the Bopper’s tail to give me a few kms rest. By the 21km checkpoint Jack walked properly for the first time.

Remember this was the horse who wasn’t supposed to even be at the Quilty as 10 weeks prior he had been pulled out of the paddock as a novice horse. I reminded myself that all I had wanted was a Quilty start, as I was pretty sure by this stage that any remote chance that we would get a Quilty buckle had gone as he surely had run his race in this first 21k.

So I sat back and enjoyed the ride. Everywhere we went, there were locals having Quilty parties on their front porches or lining the roadsides, cheering us all along. What an experience that was! Then there was the 490metre hill climb and we could see the lights of Boonah way below from the top. 

At the end of the first leg (42km) Jack was still bouncing off his nut but I didn’t expect the effects of the ride to come into play until the third leg or so. He vetted through and off we went to enjoy the second leg while we could – climbing the same mountain again and getting the view at sunrise this time.

Vetted through second leg easily and out the start gate to do the third leg. This one didn’t have the big hill but it included 20km of undulating farm track which would have been a racetrack if the weather had remained dry. But the constant rain had made this part of the course extremely slippery forcing horses to walk most of this section, and horses hind ends were going everywhere. Jack and I chose to dodge rocks and timber off to the side of the track instead of riding the track proper and I think this saved his muscles a bit. Back on the roads, Jack would pace from time to time in between his normal walk, trot and canter, and I think this “extra gear” also helped him get around as it uses different muscles.

He was still going strong at the end of the third leg but there was still 50km to go. Surely this horse must start getting tired soon. 

More slippery farm tracks on the fourth leg. But still he came in trotting proudly and strongly at the end of 145km. 

Only 15km to go, but I was conscious to never underestimate the destructive power of 15km at the end of a hundred miler. Jack and I kept our regular steady pace, not falling into the temptation to just walk this whole leg. 

The most emotional and awesome moment I have ever had in my endurance riding career was the moment I rode Jack back into base at the end of 160km. This horse trotted across the finish line in full swinging stride with his head high and eye bright, saying “okay that’s the fifth leg done, lets get ready for the sixth”. In the spirit of the sport, he was truly fit to continue. The logbook reflected this, with Jack finishing on all A’s and a heartrate of 48. Other riders had commented to me during the final leg that “gee you have a lot of horse left”. He made many onlookers laugh as he was so full of beans he pulled Glen around strongly as he insisted on checking out every other horse’s feed in the vetting/strapping area.

It was the proudest moment of my life, but also the most humbling, to have the honour of riding such a great horse who travelled so strongly and keenly throughout the ride and across the line. Not once did I have to ask this horse to go forward. 

And what made this feat even more special was that this horse should have tired mid-ride based on the lack of training he had had. We can only attribute this to Jack being so “very well legged up” with all the years of trotting then all the years of being the “training ride king”.

To cap off a brilliant weekend, Jack showed no signs of stiffness the following day, and no swelling on his legs either! (And for the record, Blue Bopp got his fourth Quilty buckle and 9th straight hundred mile completion.)

Before asking Jack to stand still on a float for 4 days again, we had been invited to use some quality agistment via the HarnessNet website, so Jack spent a few days with the Grimseys at Tambourine, supervising their training of their pacers each day.

We left for home and Jack was sprayed at Aratula for cattle tick, before the car overheated near the top of Cunningham’s Gap. But we made it into Goondiwindi this time without a tow truck!  The next day we had a tyre blow out near Moree. We figured that was our “three” car dramas now. 

The second-last night was spent at Dubbo again, and the final night we were treated to the warmest hospitality at Splitters Creek Arabian Sporthorse Stud (where there are a few really nice standardbred/arabian crosses).

Throughout the trip home, Glen and I did not tire of talking about how great a superstar Jack is. You’d think we could have found something else to talk about but we didn’t.

When we got back home, we had the honour of being invited to bring Jack to the Breeders Crown Final at Ballarat Raceway on August 20, to help the SPPHAV (Standardbred Performance Assoc) promote the standardbred performance horse in the sport of endurance, by leading out the races.

Now how do we tell Jack that he isn’t there to do a couple of hundred laps of the track in order to do this!

Jack did make it to Breeders Crown


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Copyright Jo Brock 2007
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