But this tough galloper kept on winning

Warren Nunn

The wonderful achievements of the brilliant racehorse Winx was given an amusing twist recently when my former Courier-Mail colleague Rob Craddock wrote a lovely article that mentioned the achievements of the Queensland bush champion Picnic In The Park.

Bush galloper Bororen with jockey Ian Stenhouse in the saddle at Barcaldine in 1983.

The lovely hook that he wove into the piece was the fact that Picnic In The Park did something that Winx could never do. At the time of publication Winx had won 21 races in a row; and, back in the 1980s, Picnic In The Park likewise won 21 straight on various tracks around Queensland.

While in no way trying to compare the achievements, Rob pointed out that Winx could never do what Picnic In The Park did … and that was win two races on the same day! That’s because Australian racing rules now prohibit a horse from starting twice on the same day.

Picnic, as he was affectionately known to the Raabe family who owned and raced him, ended his racing days in Rockhampton when he broke down while headed for his 22nd consecutive win.

I was there that day and wrote the story that appeared on the front page of The Sunday Mail newspaper the following day.

It was a lovely trip down memory lane and I shared some of the memories with both Rob Craddock and Wade Raabe whose late dad Malcolm owned and trained Picnic.

And it reminded me of another interesting bush horse called Bororen who was racing at the same time Picnic was reeling off multiple victories across Queensland.

Bororen was not flashy nor a headliner but rather was a solid, dependable, tough-as-teak bush horse which did not have his first start until he turned four. Seven years later in 1983, as a rising 12-year-old, he won his second Mackay Cup, a race he contested six times.

Tom and Pat Broughton with Bororen after a win at Barcaldine in 1983.

Tom and Pat Broughton with Bororen after a win at Barcaldine in 1983. Image courtesy of Broughton family.

In July 1983, he was heading to Townsville for his seventh attempt at that race in which he had only one placing.

That might seem fairly mundane and unspectacular in the world of horse racing but one of the interesting things about Bororen and his connections was the extraordinary distances they travelled to these events.

Bororen’s owner-trainer Tom Broughton was a shearing contractor based in Barcaldine, western Queensland, about 700 km (420 miles) from Mackay and 880 km (540 miles) from Townsville.

Tom, his wife Pat, and their jockey Ian Stenhouse mostly raced around western Queensland at tracks such as Barcaldine (of course), Longreach, Blackall, Emerald, Isisford, Jericho and Aramac but also went south to Toowoomba which is 945 km (595 miles) away. As well, they also took a trip to Brisbane (1000 km/660 miles away) where he had two minor placings.

Bororen was gifted to Tom and Pat as a two-year-old but did not race until he was four and averaged about a dozen starts a year thereafter.

There was obviously no drop off in his abilities as he aged because when he won the 1900m Mackay Cup in 1983 as a rising  12-year-old, he ran the distance in almost the same time (1 minute 58.8 seconds) as he did in 1980 when he stopped the clock at 1 minutes 58.6 seconds. And in 1983 he was handicapped to carry 3.5kg more than three years earlier.

The Broughtons and jockeys such as Ian Stenhouse are representative of the great horsemanship that exists out in the bush away from the glare of publicity in the flashy metropolitan areas where all the glitz and glamour of the racing game is played out.

And in many ways the Picnic In The Park story is similar as Malcolm Raabe was based at Kingaroy which is 215 km (133 miles) from Queensland’s capital, Brisbane. So the Raabes were faced with long drives such as the 484 km (300 miles) to Rockhampton and also the 1200 km (745 miles) trek to Townsville, in the state’s far north. Picnic’s regular rider Chris Smith, like Ian Stenhouse, was from the far west at a place called Muttaburra only 153 km (95 miles) from Barcaldine when Ian was based.

As someone who no longer ‘follows’ racing but who spent almost a decade reporting and being involved with the sport, bush racing has always appealed. Not that I haven’t been to metropolitan racetracks, but the atmosphere is something else away from the ‘big smoke’.

So Bororen’s story (and Picnic In The Park’s) resonates as much with me now as it did 30-plus years ago when I first wrote about those gallopers.

I have a clipping of the article about Bororen which is accompanied by a photograph I took of him with Ian Stenhouse in the saddle. I feel good about that and still have a soft spot for racing.

UPDATE: On Saturday 28 October 2017, Winx took to 22 her number of consecutive wins when she won her third Cox Plate.

FAMILY PERSPECTIVE: Comments I’ve received from Tom’s children reinforce how passionate country people are about the racing game. I had guessed at the time that the Broughtons name Bororen after the town south of Gladstone but never actually asked the question at the time.