WHEN parishioners at one country church take Holy Communion little do they realise the Sacrament of the Eucharist is being administered using a chalice originally presented as a horse racing trophy.
And this is not just any trophy, but the cup awarded to the winner of an Interdominion Championship – the Melbourne Cup of harness racing.
How the chalice found its way to the sacristy at Junee in southern NSW is a fascinating tale, the central figure being one of the fastest pacers in the land in his heyday.
The horse was Springfield Globe, bought for a song yet which won acclaim not only for his deeds on the racetrack but also at stud.
Springfield Globe’s legacy, and that of his owner, live on during each Mass at St Joseph’s Church, Junee, when the cup they won in the 1939 Interdominion is used.
Soon after Springfield Globe won the Interdominion, Junee’s parish priest, Fr Ken Suna, visited the district home of the pacer’s owner, Charles McCarthy.
Fr Suna was captivated by the cup. In fact, he was so impressed he asked Mr McCarthy if the gleaming goblet could be made into a chalice.
The owner politely declined, saying he wanted it as a keepsake.
After all, an Interdominion win is the dream of everyone involved in the sport, even though the race was only in its infancy back then.
Mr McCarthy died in October 1951 at the age of 57.
The cup remained on the mantelpiece at the McCarthy family home, gathering dust for four years after his death.
His niece, Angela McCarthy, then recalled the visit by the priest 16 years earlier.
She took the cup to Fr John Hanrahan at the church and asked for it to be used as a chalice in memory of her uncle.
The engravings concerning the trotting success were removed and replaced with the inscription: ‘Pray for the soul of Charles McCarthy’.
That same year Springfield Globe had to be put down, yet he had left an indelible mark on the sport both on the mainland, in Tasmania and even in New Zealand.
Apart from his marvellous efforts pulling a gig, Springfield Globe sired 299 foals – 291 pacers and eight trotters, of which 226 won races in Australia.
Springfield Globe convincingly won the Interdominion, only the fourth time the race had been contested, at Elphin, Launceston, by 12 yards despite an eventful lead up to the final.
Mr McCarthy, who had bought Springfield Globe as a yearling for 150 guineas from an advertisement, sight unseen, by telegram, from the colt’s Tasmanian breeder Edgar Tatlow, had fallen ill with a stomach ulcer.
To make matters worse, Springfield Globe’s regular trainer Jack O’Shea was campaigning across the Tasman with his stable star Lawn Derby at the time.
It was left to O’Shea’s son Peter to harness up Springfield Globe.
The winner’s task was made easier by the sensational disqualification of his older full brother, Our Globe, when that pacer failed in the third heat of the series after bolting away with his heats on the first two days.
Springfield Globe had not won a heat but took the Interdominion in record time before a record crowd.
He later became the first Interdominion winner to sire a winner of the big race when Tactician won in 1955.
Fr Hanrahan, Junee’s parish priest from 1953-71, was certainly pleased to take possession of the cup and, interestingly, his great nephew, Fr Matthew Austin, is now curate at St Joseph’s.
‘The parish has a wonderful history and the chalice is a part of that rich heritage,’ Fr Austin said.