THE town of Longford has been put under the national spotlight in recent weeks courtesy of locally bred galloper The Cleaner’s quest to become the first Tasmanian to win a Cox Plate.
Today schoolchildren and most of the town folk gathered to line the streets to give their equine cult hero a grand send-off as he made his way to the Spirit of Tasmania for the overnight trip across Bass Strait.
Many school children were given permission to leave school early to take their place along Anstey Street which is the home of many of the trainers who carve a career out of training racehorses in Longford.
The Cleaner and his knockabout trainer Mick Burles are about to enter territory that is usually restricted to only the hierarchy of thoroughbred racehorses but should the seven-year-old Tasmanian-bred gelding emerge triumphant in the weight-for-age championship of Australasia on Saturday afternoon at Moonee Valley he will have achieved what no other Tasmanian horse has been able to achieve in the history if the race.
When he jumps from the outside barrier on Saturday he will become the only Tasmanian-trained and bred horse to contest a Cox Plate but winning would be the fairytale ending to one of the most incredible rags to riches racing stories in the history of the game.
Winning would realise the dream for Burles and the horse’s owners Paul Burt, Jim Lowish and Bill Fawdry.
The Spirit of Tasmania will dock at Port Melbourne Pier at 6.30 tomorrow morning amid a media frenzy which has been a part of the horse’s daily routine this past fortnight.
The Cleaner will be aboard Vern Poke’s truck that is the horse’s regular mode of transport when he travels interstate to race.
They will travel to Pine Lodge, near Tullamarine Airport, where he will be stabled until race day.
Every Tasmanian with even the slightest interest in racing will be supporting The Cleaner on Saturday when he lines up for his toughest assignment.
Tasmanian race goers will be able to watch The Cleaner’s race live at Tattersall’s Parkon Saturday at a Tasmanian Racing Club (TRC) race meeting.
The Hobart race meeting originally planned for 19 October was moved to Cox Plate day following negotiations with the TRC and Sky Channel to allow Tasmanians to watch the Cox Plate live in a racing atmosphere.
Photo courtesy of The Mercury.