By HARRY CLARKE
FORM and experience are reigning supreme on the first leg of the campdrafting Triple Crown series, as veterans of the sport claim the big winning cheques on offer in the Condamine Bell open and ladies divisions.
Backing up from his victory at Condamine in 2021, Ben Hall took out the open draft Saturday night on 15-year-old mare Halls Eltorrio with a total of 266.5 points.
The score was just half a point higher than his father, Terry Hall on Hazelwood Composer, who shared second place with Condamine first timer Lachlan Thompson riding Hoody.
Along with the renowned cowbell trophy, Hall takes home a winning cheque for $60,000, which is up from the $50,000 cheque he won at the same event last year.
“It just seems to gel here at Condamine. It’s a good ground with a good setup and they always run good lines of cattle for us – that helps,” Hall said.
“The cutout yard here is much bigger than a lot of them and I think that sets you up for the outside. And it’s a good surface. The horses can gallop and the cattle travel well here too.”
With his noisy homestead in Muttaburra already chiming with eight Condamine Bells and three Chinchilla Grandfather Clocks (and glistening with three Warwick Gold Cups), Hall’s reign continues as one of campdrafting’s most decorated competitors ever.
Hall’s winning horse is by Playrio, the champion stallion owned by him and wife Jaye Hall, which also sired the gelding he rode to victory in Condamine last year.
On the marginal victory over his father, Terry, Hall said: “If you’re going to get beaten by someone I guess it’s better if they’re your family. Dad’s 72 and obviously still mixing it with us, so it’s a pretty big effort. That’s what makes this such a great family sport.”
It was sixteenth time lucky in the ladies draft for Capella competitor Louise Comiskey, whom the Condamine Bell had always eluded despite her years worth of other successes on the Australian campdrafting circuit.
With a blitzing finals run that ended with Comiskey whooping, hollering and giving the beast she chose a gratuitous slap on the rump, the Central Queensland drafting veteran, riding 12-year-old mare Zahara, amassed a winning total of 178 points.
“It felt really good. Everything just fell into place,” Comiskey said.
“I’ve always dreamt of winning one of these (Condamine Bells) so I’m very happy. I hadn’t had much of a weekend here in the open draft so it was good to do well in the ladies.
“I’ve got a beautiful mare. I purchased her as a three-year-old and I’ve been her only rider ever since. She’s by Sophisticated Cat. She’s won me a lot of ladies drafts and I’ve had lots and lots of fun on her. She’s pretty special.
“Myself and my husband (Steve Comiskey) have been married for sixteen years and I reckon I’ve been coming here ever since I’ve been married – so it’s been a while.
“It’s great coming down here for the three big ones (Condamine, Chinchilla and Warwick). It’s a great time to catch up with everybody – all the people that we don’t see all year round come.
“We all have a good time and show all of our best horses. We love it.”