The Headless Horse.
Published 6 December 2022
Once again when going through my racing memorabilia, I came across the accompanying unique photograph that just screamed out at me to share.
It has not been photo-shopped being the official race photo of the winner of the Tom and Val Acton Memorial Rose Bowl Open Handicap (1200m) at Wilpeena in September 11, 2004.
The horse in question was a mare named Daring Miss (Monongahela- Game Gal) which I trained and was raced by my wife Jean and a group of friends.
She was a bonny albeit tough mare winning 16 races – eight of those for Pat Farrell from Muswellbrook and eight under may training at Callaghan Park, Rockhampton.
In the Rose Bowl, jockey Geoffrey Booth took Daring Miss wide believing that to be the best going on the dirt track and he was proved to be correct.
She finished so close to the outside rail where the official race photographer was positioned that this was the picture he got as Daring Miss flashed on by.
Daring Miss won from Let’s Go Ray (Shalya Evans) with first prize money of $4875 which was a sizeable stake 18 years ago at a once-a-year race meeting.
Wilpeena, as it was commonly known raced annually under the banner of the McKenzie River Amateur Race Club.
The first meeting was held there on the cattle property of the Acton family in 1964 with the last in 2008.
For many years it held picnic Race Club status and was for paddocked grass-fed horses and amateur riders before later becoming a professional entity.
Crowds in the low thousands flocked to Wilpeena Station north of Dingo in Spring each year to enjoy the unique atmosphere it provided and to camp over on the property after the races on the Saturday night.
Alan Acton, son of the founders of the club along with wife Jennifer hosted the race meeting on the family property at Wilpeena for many years until it became just too much.
“We kept it (races) going for as long as possible. It took a good month out of each year to prepare the track and getting the grounds and amenities in good shape. In the end when our sons weren’t really racing minded, it just became too big a task. There was always plenty of volunteers on the race day though and we were very grateful”, Alan told me this week
Funds raised from Wilpeena races went to charities such as in later years the Royal Flying Doctor, Endeavour Foundation and the Capricorn Helicopter Rescue Service.
“I’d say overall about $400,000 would have been raised to benefit Charities from the Wilpeena races”, Alan said.
The old racetrack is still on the property at Wilpeena which itself celebrated the 100 years anniversary in 2017.
“Often I drive past it and think to myself they were good times”, Alan reminisced.
Indeed, so Alan and I’ll bet some good stories emanated from Wilpeena races and around the camps there on those Saturday nights.
I hope this yarn and the attached photo of Daring Miss lights up memories for those of you who sampled Wilpeena races.
They were very good times!
HOOFNOTE: Jean and her friends have a granddaughter of Daring Miss a Carrara filly named Chloella Bella which goes into training this week with John Wigginton.
The filly is named after our granddaughters Chloe, Ella and Ayrabella so it’s a case of granddaughters all round.