Picnic In The Park won 21 races in a row, including two in one day, which Winx will never do

"Picnic in the park" with trainer Malcolm Raabe and jockey Chris Smith in Murgon. 13/11/1984

Picnic In The Park with trainer Malcolm Raabe and jockey Chris Smith at Raabe’s property in Murgon, Queensland, in 1984.

 

Story courtesy Robert Craddock – Brisbane Courier Mail

 

BEFORE mighty mare Winx can dine on Black Caviar there’s a small matter of a Picnic In The Park.

Winx has 21 wins in a row entering Saturday’s Cox Plate where, barring a nuclear attack from North Korea, she will take another step towards Black Caviar’s astonishing 25 consecutive wins.

The crowds, the expectation, the cheering, the pre-race nerves and post race relief … Wade Raabe saw it all as a nine-year when cult horse Picnic In The Park also assembled a 21-race winning streak in ultra-quick time for his father Malcolm.

They crisscrossed the state in 1984-85 to give Queensland racing one of its most enchanting stories, which often led to Channel 7 and Nine helicopters buzzing to the Raabe property at Murgon for the latest on the bush flyer.

Of course we are not comparing apples and apples, never mind caviar and caviar.

Picnic In The Park was a micro-version of the Winx story.

From Randwick, Eagle Farm to Flemington and Moonee Valley, Winx is mainly a big city girl while Picnic travelled more than a country covers band, from Thangool to Esk, Wondai, Nanango, Townsville, Gold Coast and Bundamba.

Prizemoney-wise, Winx’s $13,777,925 makes Picnic’s $32,580 seem like the coins you don’t bother collecting in the bottom of the drinks machine.

While Winx has Hugh Bowman aboard, Picnic had the affable, little-known heavyweight Chris Smith of Muttaburra, 100km outside Longreach, population 100.

But in a way this made it such a delicious tale. Once at Wondai, Picnic lugged a massive 67kg to victory – that’s an 18-year-old Allan Langer.

No matter what Winx achieves there is one thing that Picnic did that she will never do … win two races in one day like he did at the Gold Coast on November 10, 1984.

Raabe told his son the horse was more tired from the float trip than winning two races in four hours.

“It was amazing,’’ Wade Raabe said.

“You are not allowed to race twice in a day any more.

“He won the first race by three lengths hard-held and the second race he won by six lengths in driving rain and the horse he beat won in Sydney two races later.’’

Raabe purchased Picnic In The Park from Sydney from an Inglis dispersal sale after it had three starts.

“Dad paid $5000 but 30 years ago that probably equates to about $25,000. He had him picked out of a catalogue of hundreds of horses from an Inglis sale. He had bad feet and when he got home he could barely walk.

“He won his first 15 races in 13 weeks and had six weeks off. Some of the crowds at those country places were the biggest they have ever had,’’ Raabe said.

The saddest day was the final race at Rockhampton when, just as a southern trainer had slapped a $275,000 offer on the table for a 70 per cent share, the horse broke its leg.

The Raabes had seen Malcolm bumped and bruised in any number of farm accidents but never before cry. That day the tears fell.

Picnic was instantly retired but the Raabes refused to listen to advice to put him down and painstakingly nursed him back to full health before he died on their property at the age of 19.

The horse was never extended during its 21 wins, barely even nudged with the whip and never made it to Brisbane.

So the eternal question remains: How good was he?

“Dad always had the idea he was going to win the Stradbroke but he broke down just before the carnival,” Raabe said.

“I talked to Dad before he passed away.

“We watched Hay List race Black Caviar and I said to him: How do you think Picnic would have gone against Black Caviar?

“He said if he had been ahead of her like Hay List was she would not have caught him.’’

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