Over the course of a year a plethora of interesting emails come into this website. To that end, an email with an accompanying newspaper article came in last week and I found it both amusing and very interesting. The man who sent it in to me advised that it had come down through his family and as he’d seen historical articles put up on the website in the past, he wondered if it interested me. The newspaper that the article appeared in is unknown, as is the date it appeared, as just the clipping with no other identifying notations has come down his family tree.

To set the scene, the two key players in the story are a legendary Western Queensland trainer C. W. “Cocky” Easton and a now long retired jockey Peter Gumbleton. For his part Peter Gumbelton was a natural lightweight jockey who rode all over the place. He was obviously originally an apprentice in Western Queensland, but in later life I remember him riding in Melbourne permanently and he’d come to Brisbane, generally accompanying Victorian trained horses, to ride at Brisbane Winter Carnivals against some of Australia’s great jockeys – the likes of Moore, Mulley, Thompson, Higgins, Sellwood and co. Gumbleton riding feats including winning such top Brisbane Winter Carnival races as the 1963 Brisbane Cup aboard Campo (7 stone 5 pounds or 46.5kgs) and 1966 Doomben 10,000 winner Pterylaw, which had 7 stone 12 pounds (50.0kgs). In later life he even got to ride in Hong Kong, finishing as high up as third there in the overall jockey premiership in 1972. In 1973 he was rubbed out for six months by Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club stewards over his handling of the mare Sportsmanship. He was charged “with intent to prevent her running on her merit”.

For his part C. W. Cocky Easton wrote his name into Australian racing history by once training seven winners in a day at a Cunnamulla meeting in Western Queensland on 6 May, 1961. Noel Thompson who later became a Queensland Turf Club steward rode the seven winners.

Unedited, the original newspaper article entitled “The Night They Moved The Three-Furlong Post” (pictured) reads:

Former jockey Peter Gumbleton was a better-than-average rider. And when it came to spinning yarns, there were few who could equal him.

Gumbleton makes a public confession concerning an act of incredible chicanery in which he was involved in his youth.

“I plead guilty to taking part in the most unusual misdemeanour in Australian racing history,” says Gumbleton. “I helped to move the three-furlong post at the Charleville annual picnic race meeting in 1957. “I don’t suppose it ranks with England’s Great Train Robbery as the crime of the century, but I can assure you I was scared trouserless of what might have happened if I’d got caught”.

At the time, Gumbleton was apprenticed to colourful trainer C.W. Easton – Cocky Easton to the Queensland racing fraternity. In 1957, Cocky had a good mare called Rosinate which he had set to win the main sprint at Charleville.

He reckoned he would get odds of about 10-1. Cocky, Gumbleton and another apprentice arrived on Wednesday, a few days before the Saturday races.

They parked the float in the centre of the track and set up a tent which was to be their home for the next few days. When Cocky went into town for a drink at the pub later that day, he found the mail on Rosinate had preceded them and he would be lucky to get evens.

He was furious! In the middle of the night, Gumbleton and the other apprentice were woken from a deep sleep and ordered to dig up the three-furlong post and move it 40 metres nearer the winning post.

When they questioned Cocky, the only answer was “Do what you’re told and shut up”.

That morning at track-work, Rosinate was given only a two-furlong gallop, with the heavy shoes and about 15kg in the leadbag.

“When she clocked only 25-1/2 seconds, I knew she wouldn’t have made much of an impression on the other trainers,” Gumbleton recalls.

Then the other gallopers worked over three furlongs. The other eight trainers incredulously saw their charges each clock two seconds faster than they had expected.

In the early hours of Friday morning, Gumbleton and his colleague were woken again and ordered to dig up the three-furlong post and replace it in its original position.

Come race day and all the other trainers, buoyed by the knowledge of the good times in trackwork, invested huge sums on their horses. Rosinate drifted in the betting.

Just moments before the start of the race, Cocky managed to plonk £600 ($1200) on at 5-1.

“The race was almost an anti-climax” Gumbleton said.

“She (Rosinate) won by six lengths with her head on her chest and her ears pricked. It was a breeze”.

But Cocky had one last card up his sleeve. As the trainers were shaking their heads over a beer after the race, he explained: “It’s the electro-magnetic field under the track. Didn’t you know? It plays hell with all stopwatches.

“I timed my horse on Thursday and I reckon my watch made it run a good two seconds faster than it actually did.

“Either it was that, or some really smart bastard moved the three-furlong post closer to the winning post to make a pack of idiots out of the lot of ya”.

The other trainers doubled up laughing: “Move the three furlong post? Ha, ha. Pull the other one Cocky!”

Today on is the second montage of photos from Doomben last Saturday. On there’s an interesting story on a bush jockey that got too heavy, yet as a trainer he’s never had a runner miss a place, whilst on Matt Nicholls looks at Victorian racing.

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