It’s now thirty years ago that the Toowoomba Turf Club etched its place in Australian racing history by hosting the first race run under lights in the country … and that prestigious achievement will be one of the points of celebration at the Toowoomba meeting tonight.
The first race under lights … in 1992 … was no less a contest than the Toowoomba Cup which was won by the Sandy Lennox trained Waigani Drive, ridden by Phillip Wolfgram, who was still apprentice at the time.
“I think they had three races under lights that day … and the Cup was the first one under lights,” said Wolfgram.
‘It was obviously a bit different, but we had done a trial under lights before just to make sure it was safe and everything. We had to experience it before raceday.
“I do remember we were worried because there was a slight shadow on the inside of the running rail, but it didn’t turn out to be a problem. The lighting was obviously nothing like as good as we race under these days.
“It was a big deal at the time. They did make a lot of it in the newspapers. Even when we had the lead-up to the trial the media gave big coverage to everything … the build-up to the trial, the trial itself, the build-up to the race, the race … yes, it was a big deal back then.
“It was pretty exciting.”
And the race itself?
“It was an amazing experience … particularly with me being a young apprentice. When I won the race I think Darryl Gollan, who was my master, was as excited as I was. We’d mainly had two-year-olds, so it was exciting it was a Cup race.
“He (Waigani Drive) beat a good horse called Full Suit who had been racing in Listed races everywhere. I had run something like four seconds on Waigani Drive before that … and then he finally won that race in Toowoomba in the Cup. He had a light weight. He just bowled along in front, and he just kept going.
“He was trained out at Kingaroy by Sandy Lennox. The horse will always be remembered for that win.”
Like all racing stories, there was a couple of twists and turns in Waigani Drive’s road to Cup success.
He was initially trained by Michael Flanagan, but he was a problem horse of sorts with soreness troubles, and he spent more time out in the paddock than in action, and that led to Sandy Lennox buying Waigani Drive, reportedly for $100.
The next twist was when Waigani Drive won the Cup. The horse he beat, Full Suit, was trained by Michael Flanagan.
Flanagan though, did win two Toowoomba Cups, bouncing back the following year (1993) to win it with the self-same Full Suit, who went one better that time, and Flanagan also won the Cup with Rue the Sa
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