Tuesday, 17 July 2012
: Muswellbrook Race Club is preparing to celebrate its 150th year of racing in August.
A visit by the 2012 Melbourne Cup ambassadors will be a highlight of the celebrations on August 5 and 6.
Over the years horses trained on the Skellatar Park course at Muswellbrook have included many notable performers of national standard.
One particular horse worthy of recalling at the celebrations wil be Allunga, not only because he was twice in the shadows of Melbourne Cup glory but also because of his association with the Bowman family, Hunter Valley pioneers who made the Skellatar course possible.
Bred 80 years ago on Sir Sidney Kidman's Fulham Park Stud in what is now an Adelaide suburb, Allunga was sold at the Sydney yearling sale for 120 guineas to Harry Oakes, the father of Victor Oakes, the former Muswellbrook trainer who died in June at the age of 98.
A foreman on the Bowman's Skellatar pastoral holding on the outskirts of Muswellbrook, Harry Oakes initially leased Allunga to two Sydney men, Mark Mulligan and J.T. Williamson and saw him emerge as the best staying 3YO of his generation.
He was a dead heat winner of the AJC Derby), AJC St Leger and Victoria St Leger and finished a luckless second in the Victoria Derby before a tenth as second favourite in the Melbourne Cup of 1935.
Allunga's participation at three was the first of his four cracks at the Melbourne Cup, returning at four (14th), five (fourth) and six (again fourth).
Allunga ran in the Melbourne Cup at three for Mulligan and Williamson with G.P. Nailon as the trainer but in the next three appearances he raced in the ownership of E Hunter Bowman and H. Oakes.
Allunga was trained initially for Bowman and Oakes at Randwick by Les Haigh, a former Muswellbrook jockey who won fame at Newcastle as the owner and trainer of Rogilla, a national star revered as the Coalfields champion with 26 wins including the Caulfield Cup, Sydney Cup and Cox Plate.
For his two Melbourne Cup fourths, the trainer of Allunga was Hunter Bowman and presumably was prepared on the developing Skellatar Park racecourse at Muswellbrook.
In the Oakes-Bowman ownership, Allunga won good races in Sydney, Newcastle and country NSW.
Harry Oakes and his son Victor later became official trainers and between them prepared some very good horses on Skellatar Park, including the big striding Skellatar and Zozima, Friendly Joy and Friendly Boy.
Among the other good horses trained at Muswellbrook have been the Group One winner Romantic Dream (trained by Ron Englebrecht), and the Pat Farrell stars Food For Love and Proud Knight), winner AJC San Domenico Stakes and runner up in the AJC Challenge Stakes.
More recently Newton's Rings (Jeff Englebrecht) came from Muswellbrook to win 22 races and earn $795,280.
When Food For Love was second in the 1981 Golden Slipper, she was ridden by Pat Farrell's apprentice Wayne Harris, who grew up in Muswellbrook.
Harris became the first apprentice to win the Golden Slipper in 1979 on Century Miss for Bart Cummings and finished third the next year on Baglaga Miss for Colin Hayes.
Muswellbrook's two day celebration of its 150th anniversary opens with a family fun day at the racecourse which will include historic displays showing the history and importance of the thoroughbred industry in the Muswellbrook region.
The gold cup which is the trophy for the 2012 Melbourne Cup will be on display.
There will also be a presentation by Wayne Harris, winner of the 1994 Melbourne Cup on Jeune.