In one sense, it felt as though the 2015 SA jumps racing season began almost as soon as 2014 ended. As last year’s racing came to a close with a successful Irish Jumps Day at the end of August, the South Australian Jockey Club declared that they wanted this to be the last meeting to feature jumps racing at Morphettville.
This seemed to many observers to be somewhat premature and not a little presumptuous, given the fact that it had been agreed in 2012 that there would be a consultation between Thoroughbred Racing SA and SAJC at the end of the 2014 season on the future of jumps at Morphettville, and that meeting had not yet taken place. Prompted by a series of unhelpful interventions by the Premier, the Racing Minister and the CEO of SAJC, the debate then spilled into the public forum and occupied much of the off-season.
However, the long-planned negotiations eventually took place, and in February of this year it was announced that a compromise agreement between TRSA and SAJC had been reached, and that in 2015 six races would be held across four race days at Morphettville (down from 9 races at 6 meetings in 2014).
The 2015 SA program was rounded out with 3 races (over 2 meetings) at Murray Bridge, 3 races (2 meetings) at Mt Gambier, 4 races (3 meetings) at Gawler, along with the renowned Oakbank Racing Carnival at Easter and an additional prelude meeting in March.
Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival
The Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival this year saw two enormously contrasting days. Easter Saturday was a splendid day for racing and the South Australian public duly responded, with over 34,000 people making their way to the famous Adelaide Hills course. They were treated to two cracking jumping races, with Zuhayr taking out the 2900m Restricted Hurdle, Thubiaan the Von Doussa Steeple and Lord of the Song, the 2014 Great Eastern again winning the Great Eastern.
Easter Monday could not have been more different, with torrential rain and gale force winds dampening the spirits (and the numbers), although the bleak conditions could not detract from the racing. In the feature hurdle race The Somerled Classic Hurdle, regular winner in SA Urban Explorer didn’t disappoint, saluting yet again for the Eric Musgrove – Steven Pateman combination. In the Great Eastern Steeplechase, this time it was the turn of Lord of the Song, whose second successive win in the race also gave Steven his second of the day, while Patrick Payne trained both the winner and second-placed Palemo.
Grand National Hurdle and Steeple
The highlights of the season at Morphettville were the Grand National Hurdle and Steeple (now held at the same meeting) in August. Both featured good, strong fields and were highly competitive races, while the jumping throughout was faultless. Once again it was Urban Explorer’s day, this time in the Gand National Steeple with Paul Gallagher aboard, when he scored a thrilling narrow win over Zataglio. However, the highlight for SA jumps fans was the win of locally-trained Bold Zamour, who took out the Kevern Klemich Grand National Hurdle for veteran Murray Bridge trainer John O’Connor, ridden by Richard Cully.
What Will 2016 Bring?
Happily, SA jumps enthusiasts will be able to look forward the same pattern of racing at the city track in 2016. It is also pleasing to note that the future of jumps racing in the state is set to stay in the hands of the governing body, Thoroughbred Racing South Australia.
A further positive development is that the extremely active and vocal campaign of jumps racing supporters to educate both decision makers and the general public about our sport has seen the SA Racing Minister receive only 785 letters expressing concern about jumps racing in the last 12 months, which represents a decrease of 78% from the preceding two years.
What this would seem to suggest is that the public and social media campaign in support of jumps racing that continues via Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, as well as the passionate (and entertaining!) online forums where jumps racing fans exchange news and share their enthusiasm for jumps, is impacting positively on the public perception of jumping in SA. Such dedication and passion should give us all hope that jumps racing can continue to play an integral part in the racing calendar in South Australia.
Long live jumps racing!