Legendary bush racehorse immortalised

Timber sculpture to Miss Petty unveiled at Better in Blackall festival


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Federal Member for Maranoa David Littleproud and legendary racehorse trainer Charlie Prow, together with Tambo sculptor Pip Fearon and Red Ridge chairman Andrew Martin unveiled the sculpture of Miss Petty. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

Federal Member for Maranoa David Littleproud and legendary racehorse trainer Charlie Prow, together with Tambo sculptor Pip Fearon and Red Ridge chairman Andrew Martin unveiled the sculpture of Miss Petty. Pictures - Sally Cripps.

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One of the greatest racehorses the bush, and Australia, has ever seen has now been recognised with a sculpture in her hometown of Blackall.

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One of the greatest racehorses the bush, and Australia, has ever seen has now been recognised with a statue in her hometown of Blackall.

Although the chestnut mare with the baldy face set a national record on a cold day in Longreach in 1989 that was only broken by Black Caviar and then Winx, the name of Miss Petty has until now been known mostly in the bush.

Thanks to the Barcoo Amateur Race Club and Red Ridge Interior Queensland, a life-sized gidyea sculpture titled Miss Petty: The Bush Salute was unveiled in Blackall yesterday at the start of the annual Better in Blackall Festival.

Federal Water Resources, Drought, Rural Finance, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister, David Littleproud, also the Member for Maranoa, said hers was a story that deserved national attention.

"It's so important that this story be told, not just for Blackall but for the nation to know," he said. "Congratulations for bringing this to life."

Together with her trainer and jockey Charlie Prow, Red Ridge chairman Andrew Martin and Tambo timber sculptor Pip Fearon, they unveiled a sculpture that has immortalised the legendary racehorse in gidyea logs.

Creating it from timber was acknowledged as a perfect material for a legend from the Australian bush.

Miss Petty, raced by Dick Banks of Blackall and Fred and Rita Giltrow of Goondiwindi, created history in 1989 when she set a new Australasian record for 22 consecutive wins on the racetrack.

It was a record held until it was broken by Black Caviar in 2012, which in turn was eclipsed by Winx in 2018.

The lead-up to the day history was created in Longreach was shared by Paul Banks, the son of Dick Banks and the current president of the Barcoo Amateur Race Club.

Barcoo Amateur Race Club president Paul Banks retells the story of Miss Petty, with Maranoa MP David Littleproud watching on.

Barcoo Amateur Race Club president Paul Banks retells the story of Miss Petty, with Maranoa MP David Littleproud watching on.

He remembered how she spent time at their Blackall property to recover from injuries when she was sent up for racing after posting a class record in her first race, a maiden at Goondiwindi.

"Dad kept her in a little yard at home for a fair while - he was good with that sort of thing; he got her going and sent her in to Charlie (Prow).

"Charlie took over the whole show from there. She was already a top mare but he got her going even better."

A newspaper photograph of Charlie Prow and Miss Petty after their record-breaking feat in Longreach in 1989.

A newspaper photograph of Charlie Prow and Miss Petty after their record-breaking feat in Longreach in 1989.

So began a remarkable relationship between the pair, and one that touched the lives of many in western Queensland.

A video archive of the record-breaking race in Longreach was played at the unveiling, sending goosebumps down the spines of a whole new generation watching the beautiful hands and heels riding of Charlie Prow as he took the mare to legendary status.

It was also an emotional moment for Charlie, seeing their achievement finally recognised.

Mr Banks told the crowd that Brisbane trainer Vic Rail, who later died of Hendra virus, owned probably the best horse in Queensland at the time, Vo Rogue, and challenged Miss Petty to a match race on a Brisbane track.

"Dad and Charlie thought about it but they'd already done what they wanted to do and they decided against it," he said.

"The QTC invited Charlie to Brisbane to take her for a track gallop down the straight at a big race day.

"It was a really proud day for all the connections, including Charlie.

"He had her looking magnificent, the big chestnut mare with the baldy face, and he rode her down the straight."

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While that was the end of Miss Petty's racing career, it wasn't the end of the story.

It doesn't happen very often in the racing world but she bred some brilliant progeny and grand-progeny, including her first foal Golden Assay.

Then came two special horses, Celestial Miss and Acceleratic, which Mr Banks described as two of the fastest horses ever to race in the bush.

"I remember breaking Acceleratic in and I pushed him along one day and thought, holy hell, this thing can go.

"He was probably the fastest horse I've ever seen."

Even the next generation were as good on the track, including Like a Sequalo and Gidyea Coals, the latter raced by Paul and Charlie.

"It's a pretty amazing story that a mare can come from humble beginnings on the Darling Downs to become a bush champion, break an Australian record, and touch so many lives," Mr Banks said. "I think it's a remarkable story and on behalf of the race club, I'm very proud to have the statue of Miss Petty here today to be unveiled."

The sculpture stands proudly at the entrance to the Blackall racecourse.

The sculpture stands proudly at the entrance to the Blackall racecourse.

Pip Fearon, outback artist

Tambo artist Pip Fearon was the person charged with celebrating the cultural significance horse racing has had within our region, bringing the timber sculpture to life.

Since 2014 she has created 12 other timber horses, all made from gidyea logs picked up on water runs around her property.

She said this latest had taken her over 100 hours to make.

"I was super excited to do it," she said. "It was everything I thought it would be, replicating that power she had."

Ms Fearon used a reinforced frame, bracing and tieing the timber against that and building the puzzle outward.

Her skill in helping to immortalise Miss Petty was acknowledged at the unveiling, which was followed by a Troy Cassar-Daly concert.

Red Ridge spokeswoman Jamie-Lee Prow said she was now keen to rescue all the old VCR archives of central west racing, and speak to the identities involved through the years.

The story Legendary bush racehorse immortalised first appeared on Queensland Country Life.

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