Gertie Brooks & Popeye, few in recent generations may have heard of her, but they all have now. Kerry Turner & Hingus (by Hazelwood Conman) won the 2019 Warwick Gold Cup. Kerry is the 2nd woman to have done so ever, and the 1st in 68 years. She is a Champion…and so was Gertie.
This a beautiful story recounting the day she made history and paved the way for generations to come.
Thank you to Equestrian Memories Australia, it’s so important this information is archived.
We have barely touched on campdrafting yet, but here’s one of the best from the 1950s – ‘Popeye’, a black gelding born in 1937, and his female rider who broke a 22 year hoodoo to win the Warwick Campdrafting Gold Cup (Queensland) ahead of mostly male riders.
We think Gertrude Brook may be still the only woman to have done so; certainly the only one to have won Gold Cup and Women’s Campdraft title the same year.
This event, which thrilled the crowds at the Warwick Jubilee Rodeo in 1951, is described below (excerpts from two newspapers) in colourful prose you just don’t see the likes of anymore.
‘Popeye Thrills Warwick Gold Cup Crowd’
The crowd thrilled to the sight of the spectacularly-thrown roughrider, the fascinating understanding between rider and mount, spectators fleeing the wrath of a loose bullock and scores of feats of astounding skill and stamina. A highlight was the Warwick Campdrafting Gold Cup.
Woman, horse and steer thrilled even seasoned cattlemen in a 40-seconds tabloid of Australiana when Miss Gertrude Brook and Popeye won the Australian Jubilee Campdrafting Championship at Warwick, breaking a 22 year ‘hoodoo’ for women winning the event.
The 115 competitors for the £150 Championship and £120 Warwick Gold Cup were reduced to seven semi-finalists who gave a display of campdrafting at its best.
Len Ballard and Gertrude Brook’s Popeye, from Argents Hill, NSW, won the event by one point in a run-off after dead-heating in the finals with J. E. and M. M. Cooper’s Zane ridden by Jack Cooper, of Avon Hills, Warwick.
Popeye had needed 91 to equal Zane’s score. Popeye selected a big bustling beast, but this made no difference. With the exceptional understanding that has characterised all L. Ballard and G. Brooks’ entries, Popeye negotiated all four markers to tally 91 points and make a run-off necessary if the following horses did not score well over the 90.
The crowd sat back for a final that will go down in Warwick records as one of the greatest ever. Zane cut out well and stylishly shouldered a fast-running beast around both sets of posts. In the hush came the announcer’s voice: “24 for cut out, 63 for horsemanship and four for course, a total of 91 points.” Until the last echo the applause of the crowd was sincere.
It was obvious that Popeye would need a superlative round to take the Cup. Miss Brooks proved herself one of Australia’s most accomplished riders when she directed the gallant and gay Popeye through a run which gave the entry the championship of Australia.
Waves of thunderous applause rolled out over the ground, rodeo-lovers sat back amazed, and hardened cowboys cheered, for Popeye covered the course for a remarkable 92 points, grasping victory in a memorable last ditch bid.
That year Popeye and Gert completed the double – the Gold Cup and the Ladies’ Camp Drafting Championship. Miss Brook and Popeye also won the Ladies’ Campdraft world championship at Sydney Royal in 1950, 1951 and 1953.
Popeye was also said to be an outstanding hunter (jumper).
Photo Credit: Hoofs and Horns (Gert and Popeye competing at Grafton, 1950. We have since learned she is flipping the right rein off the steer’s horn!) , excerpts from Trove Online Newspapers, Queensland Country Life Nov 1, 1951 and the Warwick Daily News Oct 30, 1951.