By HARRY CLARKE
AN EMERGING talent and one of the sport’s most decorated competitors have both claimed victory in the prestigious Condamine Bell Campdraft, heralding an exciting start to the renowned Triple Crown series for 2021.
From Condamine’s largest ever prize pool (a staggering $170,000) the biggest slice went to champion campdrafter Ben Hall, who claims $50,000 for winning the Open Draft.
Hall, from Muttaburra in outback Queensland, has won at Condamine on six previous occasions and said he was thrilled to be taking home the iconic Condamine Bell trophy once again.
“I always like coming to Condamine, mainly because of the great surface they’ve got here, but there’s always quality cattle that they line up for us and good money,” Hall said.
“It helps pay the bills, that’s for sure.”
Hall was aboard “Jackson”, a 12-year-old gelding by the sire “Playrio” bred at he and wife Jaye Hall’s Bibil Station at Muttaburra. The pair scored 269.5 points.
In a show of dominance at Condamine, Hall also shared second place on “Classic Dove” with campdrafter Joe Payne on “Cole Black”, while Charters Towers rider Will Durkin took out fourth, fifth and sixth place.
Last year’s winning Ladies Draft duo Shari Knudsen on “Bella Mia” led the way for women’s competitors in this year’s open draft, taking home seventh place prize money.
“There’s a lot of great competitors and stiff competition the whole way through,” Hall said.
“It’s good to win on one that you’ve bred and trained. He (“Jackson”) is pretty casual, he does what you want to do, he’s pretty consistent and he turns up every weekend for you.”
This weekend’s Chinchilla Grandfather Clock Campdraft and next weekend’s Warwick Gold Cup make up the Triple Crown series.
No competitor has ever won all three events in a single year to claim a bonus $30,000 payout.
As well as his seven Condamine Bells, Hall has won three Grandfather Clocks and three Gold Cups, and is this year hoping to making campdrafting history by winning all three events in a row.
Condamine Bell Campdraft committee president Spencer Morgan said: “There was a stage where this probably should have been called the Ben Hall draft, he was winning it so often.”
“He hasn’t been quite as successful here in the last few years, so it was great to see Ben come back and show that he’s still at the top of his game.”
Julia Creek young gun Charli Curr took out the Joyce Campbell Memorial Ladies Draft on gelding “Spook” with 179 points, nudging out JJ Lamb on “Foster” and Rylee Turner on “Condalilly” who tied for second and third on 178 points.
Curr, who’s had plenty of success on “Spook” on the North Queensland campdrafting circuit, was competing at Condamine for the first time and will also go on to compete at Chinchilla and Warwick.
She said it was an honour to claim victory over strong competition on her maiden Triple Crown voyage.
“I’ve become a lot more interested in campdrafting over the last couple of years and I’ve heard this is a great draft,” Curr said.
“It’s been awesome. The cattle are really good and there’s such good competition here, so it’s really exciting.”
When she’s not travelling the countryside campdrafting, Curr works as a ringer on her family property, Arizona Station, at Julia Creek.
SLIDESHOW – Action shots from the 2021 Condamine Bell Campdraft
The Condamine Bell Campdraft committee invested in resurfacing its arena with crusher dust following significant damage caused by the 2011 floods.
The material is a favourite among riders. Spencer Morgan said that investment, as well as an increased effort by the committee in accumulating high prize pools, has helped to ensure the Condamine Bell event has gone from strength to strength.
“It all helps to keep encouraging the best in the business to come,” Morgan said.
“We enjoy having the really good drafters here, and we try to supply a weekend that they can enjoy.
“It may have taken us a year or so to work out how to prepare the crusher dust properly, but it’s a fantastic surface now. It’s good for the animals and good for the riders and it’s safe.”