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26/03/02 Heroes and Warriors - The Great Eastern Steeplechase

The famous three lap steeplechase course of the Great Eastern at Oakbank is arguably the toughest in the country. It's an incredible achievement for a horse to win the race once but some horses have made the course their own and these are their stories.

0326doiran.jpg (12103 bytes)Doiran was one of the greatest jumpers to even conquer Oakbank. His first victory came in September 1916 in a Hurdle at Mount Gambier. The following autumn he won a Naracoorte Hurdle before heading to Oakbank, making his debut in the Amateur Steeplechase in 1917 where he finished second to Terowie. Sired by the Adelaide Cup winner Sojourner, Doiran was raced by M Mullins and had his jumping origins in the hunting field turning to racing as an aged horse. Doiran then won a Steeple at Morphettville in May and another at Victoria Park a month later. The following February Doiran won a Steeplechase over 2 miles at Morphettville before returning to Oakbank for the 1918 Great Eastern Steeplechase ridden by JH Neale on April 1. Carrying the steadier of 10.6 (66kg) Doiran was one of three chances on the final lap. After jumping the original fallen log Doiran started to draw away in the lead in the downhill run to the home turn. Over the last fence Doiran was 15 lengths in front and on landing safely raced to an easy victory from Artillery Bill and Hawking.

A year later Doiran was back to defend his title with a new jockey, EJ Mooney. Despite rising to 11.4 (72kg) in weight Doiran repeated his effort of 1918 taking the lead after the log on the downhill run to the turn. Flying over the final fence Doiran raced to the post winning easily by seven lengths from Wyreena with Ferrignite third.

Doiran was missing from Oakbank in 1920 and 1921 as he took on the Melbourne racing scene. Racing successfully he was placed third in the 1920 Grand National Steeple while conceding weight to the winner Lolaus and repeated the placing in 1921. Doiran then won the August Steeple at Flemington by eight lengths carrying 10.12 and the Victoria Steeple over 3 miles and 1 furlong at the Melbourne Cup Carnival by 4 lengths carrying 11.3 before returning to South Australia.

In 1922 Doiran to the delight of fans returned to Oakbank to attempt a third win in the Great Eastern. Carrying 12.4 (78kg) and again ridden by EJ Mooney Doiran was again too strong. Over the final fence he passed Epictetus to race clear winning by 2 lengths. The following year Doiran was given 12.7 (79kg) in his attempt to create history. Ridden by HC Campbell Doiran put in another dashing display to be six lengths clear over the last and passed the post in front by 5 lengths from Coryota with 20 lengths to Manorway third. Doiran had bettered Vanguard's weight carrying record for the 20th Century and remains the highest weighted horse to win the Great Eastern. After his victory Doiran headed to Victoria for the Grand Annual at Warrnambool which he duly won by 7 lengths carrying 11.6.

In 1925 Doiran was due to try for his fifth attempt at the Great Eastern but a leg problem resulted in his scratching. To the joy of crowds Doiran made a guest appearance on raceday being led at a canter past the stands by a clerk of the course in his farewell to Oakbank. Overall Dorian had 56 race starts recording 2 wins and 2 placings over the hurdles before turning to steeplechasing for 10 wins and 11 placings.

0326thefeline.jpg (10495 bytes)The Feline captured the imagination of racegoers with his tiny stature but giant heart in taking on the huge solidly built steeplechase fences. Owned by W Graham and trained by W McKay, The Feline (by Solar Bear) came to prominence in 1948 when he first attempted the Great Eastern course. Carrying 11.0 (70kg) the small jumper flew around the course to win by 25 lengths from Biblical with Surefoot (best known as the horse that started the career of Colin Hayes) in third place 50 lengths away. The Feline recorded a record time of 6 min 9 seconds for the 3 mile trip.

After his Great Eastern victory The Feline went on to win the VRC Grand National Hurdle and was second in the AV Hiskens Steeplechase at Moonee Valley. He was again second in the AV Hiskens Steeplechase in 1949 and went to Warrnambool in 1950 to win the Grand Annual Steeplechase.

Returning to Oakbank in 1951, The Feline was asked to carry 11.7 (73kg) in his attempt for a second win. In sweltering conditions The Feline hit the first fence and all but fell resulting in cuts to his shins but he continued in the race. He made steady ground throughout to chase the leader Lupins on the final lap. With two fences left The Feline hit the lead and despite Lupins fighting back strongly eventually overcame his rival to win with the 1950 winner Parilla's Pride in third place. The Feline was featured jumping the fallen log on the cover of the Great Eastern Steeplechase meeting racebook in late 1970s.

0326koorashalli.jpg (11647 bytes)The New Zealand bred galloper Koorashalli (by Golovine) was owned by HL Cornell and was a member of the Colin Hayes stable. The best of his early form was a second over 10 furlongs (2000m) at Strathalbyn at his fourth start but it was over the fences where his future lay. Koorashalli had his first jumps start in a Trial Hurdle at Murray Bridge in March 1964 where he recorded his first race victory. It was then to Oakbank and the Mount Barker Hurdle but he made a mistake and fell as Harcourt went on to victory. Koorashalli then won a Trial Brush Hurdle at Balaklava, was placed in the Devon Hurdle at Cheltenham and returned to the winners list in the Gallipoli Hurdle at Morphettville on Anzac Day. After another second a fall seemed to dent his confidence as he finished fourth at his next two starts. A return to winning at Victoria Park in the Civic Hurdle and a placing at Morphettville paved the way for a trip to Melbourne where he was unplaced behind Harcourt at Moonee Valley. After a let up Koorashalli lost his rider in the Hampstead Hurdle and was unplaced in the Grand National Hurdle at Victoria Park. Spelled until the autumn of 1965 Koorashalli returned to form with a second in the Athenaeum Hurdle at Victoria Park and it was then back to Oakbank for the feature races. Koorashalli won the Von Doussa Steeple well but drifted in betting as the more seasoned jumpers firmed. Lack of experience made no difference as Koorashalli raced away to win the Great Eastern Steeplchase by eight lengths from the favourite First Shuffle with Grecian Valour third. After his two victories Koorashalli headed to Melbourne for an attempt at the Grand National Hurdle at Flemington. He was third in the Marlborough Hurdle at Flemington but was pulled up during the running of the Grand National and then went for a break.

He returned to Oakbank in 1966 and was assigned 10.10 (68kg) for the Great Eastern. Twelve fences from home he took the lead and drew away from the opposition to win by 15 lengths from Maple Star with Patriot third. In winning Koorashalli became the highest stakes earning jumper in South Australia. In 1967 Koorashalli was attempting to win his third successive Great Eastern Steeplechase. Sent out as the 2/1 favourite he was traveling well until he clipped the second fence and crashed to the turf with Con-Sol going on to victory. The fall is thought to have affected his confidence as Koorashalli was never as dominant again. He returned to Oakbank in 1968 but was never a threat in finishing well back in the field in his final season of racing.

Go to page two.

All three pics courtesy of Oakbank Racing Club.

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