Craig Williams on Vow An Declare crossing the finish line to win the 2019 Melbourne Cup.
When Vow And Declare crossed the finish line in his thrilling victory in the 2019 Lexus Melbourne Cup, it was a win for every hobby-breeder and small-time owner in the country. It was also a dream come true for regional Australia, particularly one called Gympie in Queensland.
When Noosa local Paul Lanskey chose to syndicate a chestnut gelding that was passed in for $45,000 at the 2017 Inglis Yearling Sale without attracting a single bid, he might have thought it would just be a bit of fun. Little did he know the horse would go on to make history. Born and raised at Kitchwin Hills Stud in the Hunter Valley, Vow And Declare was the result of a union between the mare Geblitzt and Coolmore stallion Declaration Of War. After the unsuccessful Inglis auction, Lanskey decided to send Vow And Declare to Danny O’Brien. “I spoke to Danny and we worked out we’d take him home, and I got some friends and family together to race him,” said construction company boss, Lanskey
Those friends and family formed a syndicate of which many were from the small Queensland community of Gympie. The group from Gympie were all first-time racehorse owners, and achieved a feat that even the world’s racing elite who have spent millions of dollars trying, are unable to do. Part-owner Geoiff Corrigan, a former NSW MP who owns half of Vow And Declare and was no stranger to the more disappointing sides of horse ownership, joked, “The Gympie people are all first-time owners. They think it’s normal.”
As well as Corrigan and two other owners from Melbourne, the Gympie contingent in the syndicate was a strong one, and included Paul Lanskey’s nephew Anthony, the Gympie State High School principal, and Cr Bob Leitch, the town’s Deputy Mayor. Paul Lanskey’s sons and wife were also involved, as were Anthony Lanskey’s sons. It was a family and friends affair that made the win even sweeter. Featured in numerous interviews following the win, both Gympie men expressed immense joy, commenting that it was not just a euphoria enjoyed by them and fellow owners, but the whole town and community.
With a population numbering over 21,000, the town of Gympie in regional Queensland is famous for its gold fields. It is said to have saved Queensland from bankruptcy when James Nash first discovered gold. The many heritage buildings in town draw visitors to the community, with some still trying their luck panning for gold in the Mary River. The region is also reliant on significant agricultural industries, which have been under threat with the area in drought for some time. Thus Vow And Declare’s win was a welcome and uplifting distraction from the problems plaguing the local community.
Crowds gathered on Melbourne Cup Day at the Gympie Turf Club’s annual Melbourne Cup meeting, with the locals cheering home the chestnut gelding almost as loudly as those at Flemington. The sentiment after the win was overwhelming: that is that this Australian-bred, Australian-trained and Australian-owned champion wrote an exhilarating chapter in the history books, flying the flag for regional Australia and bringing joy to so many.