The Weetwood Handicap is one of Australia’s oldest sprint handicaps, an event that is synonymous with Toowoomba.
Toowoomba’s infamous Weetwood Handicap is named in honour of Mr Richard William Scholefield, who had a prominent profile in Toowoomba and served as Justice of the Peace, as well as being a distinguished member of various local clubs.
He lived in “Weetwood House”, one of Toowoomba’s most impressive homes, located on Tor Street, adjoining the racecourse. Between 1878 and 1890, Mr Scholefield held four positions with the Toowoomba Turf Club which, in 1890, visualised the Weetwood Handicap to honour his work.
“Weetwood House” was designed by prominent Toowoomba architect James Marks and was built by Richard Godsall.
The first official Weetwood Handicap was won by Zulu in 1895 and, although the race is well over a century in age, only four horses have won the Weetwood Handicap on consecutive occasions.
The first three consecutive winners all won in a 10-year period from 1966 to 1975 inclusive. In 1966 and 1967, Red Shah won for the trainer and jockey combination of Ken Waterford and Frank Treen. In 1969 and 1970, the Jim Griffiths-trained Wine And Song won with Merv Wrigley in the saddle. Then, in 1974 and 1975, Combo was successful for Bill Neilsen. In 1974, Terry Tewes rode Combo, followed by Mel Schumacher the year after.
The latest consecutive winner was local mare Miss Imagica, trained by Michael Nolan, collecting the honours in 2012 and 2013. Toowoomba jockey Nori Yamada rode Miss Imagica for her first win, with Skye Bogenhuber first past the post in 2013.
The late Stathi Katsidis rode more Weetwood Handicap winners than any other jockey in the history of the race, with five Weetwood wins to his name: Vacen Lee (2000), Startell (2001), Devil (2004) and Tellem (2005 and 2007).
Toowoomba trainer Kevin Kemp has also been etched into the record books, equalling Bill Neilsen’s training feat of four Weetwood winners (Typhoon Red 2015, Startell 2001, Tellem 2005 & 2007).
The 2017 Weetwood Handicap made the history books with the first-ever dead heat race. Jumbo Prince, trained by Michael Nolan, and Col ‘N’ Lil, trained by Ben Currie, thrilled the crowd with the nail-biting finish.