Jericho Cup a reminder that ANZAC spirit is alive and well

By Dennis Ryan

30 Nov 2022

Jericho Cup a reminder that ANZAC spirit is alive and wellMick Ormond (right) and Nick Kneebone celebrate Bastida’s Jericho Cup victory

More than a century after Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought side-by-side on the cliffs of Gallipoli and in the trenches of Western Europe, the ANZAC spirit remains as strong as ever.
That was the resounding message taken away by Hawke’s Bay enthusiast Mick Ormond from his memorable weekend at Warrnambool, where Bastida, a horse he co-bred and part-owns, won the fifth edition of Australasia’s ultimate flat race. At a distance of 4650m, the Jericho Cup is only 850m shorter than Australia’s longest horse-race of any description, the 5500m, 33-jump Grand Annual Steeplechase, contested over the same undulating, twisting and turning course at the south-west Victorian venue.
Bastida, a four-year-old by Pierro from the Galileo mare Sirani, paid another huge compliment to the conditioning skills of expat trainer John Sargent when he bounced out of a 3400m qualifying win at Canberra two weeks earlier to easily beat his older and supposedly more seasoned Warrnambool opponents.
The day before, Sargent had sent his Rip Van Winkle mare Gin Martini south from his Sydney stable to win the 3200m Sandown Cup at Caulfield.
In the absence of Northern Hemisphere-bred imports, the A$290,000 Jericho Cup proved a triumph for horses bred on this side of The Ditch, with the first three all carrying the (NZ) suffix. Although conceived in Australia, Bastida was foaled and reared in New Zealand, as was the third placegetter, Epaulette gelding Epizeel. Splitting them in second place was the Kevin Myers-trained Jakkalberry gelding Botti, bred at Novara Park and raced by Wellington’s Muollo family.
Despite any transtasman imbalance in the origins of the main players, the Jericho Cup was a shared occasion, as recounted by Ormond after embracing the concept to re-enact the original Jericho Cup contested by members of the Australian Light Horse during World War l service in Palestine.
Ormond’s empathy with the concept was largely driven by the wartime exploits of two great uncles, John and Tim Ormond, who also served in the Middle East as members of New Zealand’s Mounted Rifles brigade. The brothers were part of the back-up force sent to Gallipoli in June 1915 and sadly John lost his life there.
“I’ve won a few races over the years, but none of them was like this, it was incomparable,” Ormond told RaceForm on his way back to Melbourne and then home on Monday.
“The welcome when I arrived, the hospitality and spirit of the occasion, and before the race to witness the mounted light horsemen ride past, then stand to attention when the last post and both our anthems were played.
“It sent a shiver down your spine and to end up winning the race, all in all it was the most emotional experience I’ve ever had on a racecourse.”
Ormond bred Bastida in partnership with a former Hawke’s Bay neighbour, Belinda Scott, who now lives in the United Kingdom. They purchased Sirani when she was a yearling, the relation to a horde of major winners that include her half-sister Black Mamba, whose career began in New Zealand before being sold to the United States where she became a Group One winner.
Sirani was trained by Sargent when he was based in Matamata, winning three races before embarking on her broodmare career. Bastida is her third and now most celebrated winner, while a Fastnet Rock half-sister, Unfasten, has been placed twice this season from Guy Lowry’s Hastings stable.
“Belinda has lived in the UK for years, which is the main reason that she decided to sell her share in Bastida, so we put him on Gavelhouse and Sarge and I joined forces to buy him for $41,000,” says Ormond. “He and I own most of the horse, along with John’s wife Susie, daughter Lucy and son Jack and others including his brother Guy. Alan Duff, who wrote Once Were Warriors, is also in the ownership.
“I was the only owner to make it to Warrnambool, so I get to bring home the trophy, a heavy bronze statue of the original Jericho Cup winner Bill the Bastard.”
Like so many others who have benefitted from the philanthropy of former trucking magnate Bill Gibbins, Ormond cannot speak highly enough of the man who instigated the Jericho Cup commemoration.
“He’s a wonderful person but unfortunately he hasn’t had the best of health lately and he couldn’t be there. His sons and other family members were marvellous hosts though, as was one of the race’s ambassadors, former cricketing great Dennis Lillee.
“They and everyone else at Warrnambool could not have made me feel more welcome.”
A compatriot who played an essential role in proceedings was Sargent employee Nick Kneebone, the son of NZ Bloodstock’s Sydney-based director of business development Mike Kneebone.
“Nick has worked for me for the past five years and does a great job travelling the horses interstate and what-not,” says Sargent taking up the story.
“I love training these Kiwi stayers, they suit my style, and besides I don’t have a clientele who can afford the expensive two-year-old and sprinting types.
“That works for me though, as I can still make the most of the stakes over here that are so lucrative across the board.”