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The Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechase of 1902

On the 1st. May 1902 the crowd, of some 12,000, attending the days events had reached fever pitch by the running of the Steeplechase. When five of the eight starters fell within a short period of time, a "positive sense of relief" was experienced when the trying ordeal was over. The 52 year old John McCullough rode the winner "Tasman".  Mccullough, an eminent horseman in the district, was part owner of  "Tasman" along with his brother William. A lifelong ambition of the McCullough's was to win a Grand Annual Steeplechase. The crowd cheered loudly as "Tasman" jumped to the lead at the Tozer Road Double. A lifelong dream was becoming a reality. "Tasman", the 5 to 2 favourite, won the race by twelve lengths from "Rosshire" with "Postillion" 200 yards away in third place. John and William collected the the prize money of 180 Pounds.

Research by Steven Carroll, Historian of the Warrnambool Racing Club.

The above photograph shows "Rosshire" leading "Tasman", riden by John McCullough, over the double down the hill, during the running of the 1902 Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechase.

John McCullough 1851-1935  was the fifth son of James McCullough 1820-1910 and Elinor Moorhead. He arrived in Melbourne from Ireland with his parents and family on the Clipper "James Baines" in 1855. His brother William James McCullough 1861-1951 was born in Warrnambool.


John and William McCullough

John and William became co-proprietors of the Club Stables in Kelper Street, Warrnambool, in 1890, where they conducted a business of hired horse drawn vehicles of various types as required by the public.

Prior to this time they were well known on the horse racing scene. They raced a number of horses in partnership with John taking over the role as trainer and rider. He was regarded as one of the most fearless cross country horsemen of his time, and on many occasions he would appear at Gymkhanas as a Rough Rider. On the track he rode many winners, particularly thoughout the Western District of Victoria and South Australia. The Junior Steepleshase run at Warrnambool's Annual Winter Meeting brought John McCullough victory on two occasions, he rode "Feathernaught" in 1883 and "Ranger" in 1887.

In the 1883 race "Feathernaught" fell at the fence, a horse called "War Dance" passed the fallen McCullough and Feathernaught's chances of winning appeared zero, but McCullough remounted and gave chase and managed to get home a narrow but thrilling winner.  

Choosing a favourite from his own horses he selected his sweet tempered mare "Semaphore", she didn't reach the heights of others in the team but with John McCullough in the saddle "Semaphore" managed to finish third in the Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechase in 1887, and won the South Eastern Steeplechase at Mt.Gambier the following month.

Mr. R. Hustler from Penhurst District owned the Paris-Micha gelding-"Tasman", apparently this horse showed tons of ability but would sherk the task ahead of him. A deal transpired between Mr. Hustler and John and William McCullough and for the sum of Twenty Pounds the Brothers became the owners of "Tasman". John worked wonders with "Tasman" and with the Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechase as his target he took him to Camperdown where he won the Two Mile Steeplechase in the Grand Annual of 1902. And as recorded above won the Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeple Chase in the same year on "Tasman". [See "McCullough Photo Album 1" page for an additional photo of  John and "Tasman"]