It has been 20 years since jockey Cody Morgan won the Wallabadah Cup, but a false tooth is a constant reminder of the experience.
- Racing NSW says Wallabadah Cup track does not meet safety standards
- The first race took place in 1852
- Its organizing committee says the race will not be moved
“A rock flew up and hit me in the face and knocked out my front tooth in the middle of the day the first time I went,” he recalls.
Two decades later, the Cup, one of the state’s oldest racing meetings and a New Year’s picnic tradition, has come to an end.
With five weeks to go before the 170th Wallabadah Cup race, Racing NSW officials have recommended the races end for safety reasons.
Mr Morgan, now a coach, said the track, about 55 miles south of Tamworth, felt like a roller coaster.
The Cup has been an institution in the northern New South Wales city since 1852, but the location of the racetrack on a hill proved too difficult for authorities in 2021.
The local race committee accepted the decision at a meeting Wednesday night, but former president Bill Kelly said it wasn’t easy.
“There are very tender hearts in the city right now,” he said.
Track deemed to be at risk for the horse and rider
Racing NSW said the writing had been on the wall for some time.
“The NSW jockeys have been reluctant to continue racing there,” said Racing NSW general manager of industry and analysis Scott Kennedy.
Located on the hillside on the southern outskirts of the city of Wallabadah, the drop from the top of the track to the straight line is 18 meters.
“With our modern standards, this is probably not the safest track, and not the kind of track we want for horses and jockeys,” Kennedy said.
Mr Morgan said he was not surprised.
“The jockeys who have all ridden there over the years, that is to their credit. I can see how it could be classified as dangerous,” he said.
A Cup meeting was canceled in 2020 due to drought, and again this year due to COVID-19.
The locals knew his days were numbered.
The meeting will not be moved
At its peak, the Wallabadah Cup drew up to 5,000 people from across the country, hosting the New Year’s airside.
Its relaxed picnic setting was as much of an attraction as the race.
The committee said, however, that the race meeting would not be moved to another location.
“We always had the option of racing on another track like Quirindi or Tamworth, but the committee decided it was not viable to move,” said club secretary Peter Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins has been involved with the club for 48 years.
In 2018, he launched a book detailing the history of the Cup.
He didn’t know the story would end a few years later.
End of an era
The first race in 1852 did not take place at the present site – for 40 years the Cup was held on a track around the village itself, Mr Jenkins said.
The cup itself can be found behind the bar at the local Marshall McMahon hotel.
The last winner, Crinklewood, was coached by Craig Martin of Tamworth.
“We still have it, no one said take it anywhere. I hope it stays here on display,” said publican Glenn Pratt.
While there is no future for racing at the Wallabadah track, the committee will meet in the new year to consider what other uses could be made of the 24-hectare site.