Action packed weeks ahead at Callaghan Park

Published 21 February 2024

Action packed weeks ahead at Callaghan Park

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You have to give it to Oscar Wilde; he was “spot on” if you will excuse the modern vernacular. Wilde (1854-1900) a famed Irish playwright and poet most probably would be forgiving  as I commend him on his memorable quote on “memory”. He wrote – “Memory is the diary that we all carry with us.” My memory in part was stirred when today I contemplated what an amazing ride former Rockhampton Jockey Club chairman Dr Peter Dunbar is enjoying as a shareholder in the top-class racehorse King Of Sparta. Peter Dunbar was the RJC chairman from 1999 to 2005 taking over from Sandy Bredhauer and being followed in office by Justin Doyle.  Last Saturday, King Of Sparta (b g 5 I Am Invincible – Octavia x Holy Roman Emperor) so brilliantly named to be a top-class racehorse and so he is, won The Expressway Stakes at Randwick. Three times a winner of the Magic Millions big races each January winning the $1M MM Sprint twice and the $2M MM Guineas on one occasion, King Of Sparta cost $700,000 at the MM January Gold Coast Yearling Sale in 2020. He is raced by a large syndicate including quite a few well-known racing companies and has returned to them to date $3.390,050 prize money. Peter Dunbar’s name in the ownership appears as the manager of his racing entity of Bon Ami which translates in French in part to “good friend”. Indeed, the King Of Sparta has definitely been a good friend to all his ownership group. Following his win in the GR 2 Expressway Stakes (1200m) last Saturday, the widely travelled King Of Sparta will now be aimed for the $5M slot race The Quokka (1200m) at Ascot, Perth on April 20. Peter Dunbar was very pro-active as RJC chairman and in my opinion was instrumental for the success of the St Peter’s School Race Day at Callaghan Park run annually. Like all owners Peter has enjoyed his successes and disappointments in the ownership of horses. Now I am going down memory lane, as I trained a horse or two for Peter in the early to mid-nineties including the flying mare Van Maanen (1991 Proud Knight- Miniature Star) which won races at Callaghan Park, Middlemount and Mackay under Mark Lehmann. Peter then raced Presina (1992 Prego-Yeatsina) a very good mare and multiple city winner trained by the late Bruce McLachlan. Now, Peter Dunbar and co are enjoying their just desserts with King Of Sparta. Gee it’s a long way Peter from winning a $4495 Class 4 (830m) with Van Maanen at the Mackay Amateurs on May 19, 1995, to the $5M The Quokka in Perth. Good luck all concerned.

Mention of Slot Races and what comes to mind? Yes,    you are correct and no prizes for the answer as it is The Archer, Rockhampton racing’s pride and joy, the $750K WFA (1200m) Sprint, the brainchild of The Rocky Amateurs. It is just a few days short of 10 weeks away and the third running of Rockhampton’s richest race will be staged again at Callaghan Park on Sunday, April 28. This year prize money for the eight-race card surpasses $1M and could blow out to $1.1M if race bonuses go off. Inaugurated in 2022 when won by Emerald Kingdom which subsequently just went under when second to Alpine Edge last year, once again the 2024 concept will be a massive day. It is the day to be out going racing at Callaghan Park taking in the aura of the occasion. Last year was pure bliss for not only racing purists but also for once-a-year racegoers who got the opportunity to meet and mix with the likes of Gai Waterhouse and so many other racing celebrities who in most cases are very obliging and pretty much down-to-earth folk. Already behind closed doors, almost akin to cloak and dagger times, “jockeying” has commenced between slotholders and connections of some of Queensland’s and interstate owned elite racehorses negotiating to gain a berth in The Archer. Fear not, I’ll be doing my darndest to keep you updated about all the goings on relating to The Archer. First things first though, make arrangements and save the date – Sunday, April 28 at Callaghan Park. Keep up to date on the Rocky Amateurs website or Facebook page. I’ll almost bet that Rocky Amateurs chairman Bill Reid is setting his last start Callaghan Park winner Dollar Dollar (NZ) for the $35K Rocky Amateurs Cup (1600m) on Archer Day. From where I sit, mad if you don’t Bill as Dollar Dollar (NZ) relishes racing at Callaghan Park and has been middle distance placed in NZ before Bill and the boys bought him one memorable night on the lemonade drink. Remember Jamie?    

So much is happening in the Rockhampton racing region during in the coming weeks and months. Starts this Saturday, with a big six race card at Callaghan Park emanating from 54 entries. Full credit to Racing Queensland for the late substitution of a BM 72 (1200m) to replace the BM 70 (1600m) which only attracted five entries. Extended time was provided for trainers to nominate for the added race, and it worked out well. Saturday’s meeting will feature the $43K QTIS Jewel 2YO Qualifier (1100m) in which Brisbane trainer Liam Birchley’s has the winning hand with either What A Doozy or Crypostar. Notice, John Manzelmann has nominated five “Mishani’s” – exactly half of the 10 race entries. On Monday it is out to Thangool for a seven race TAB program. Thangool has come up with massive nominations 0f 104 horses of which 43 are trained at Callaghan Park, Rockhampton. Also of course the Mackay Turf Club has TAB races on Friday preceding Rocky this Saturday. Callaghan Park will provide 30 of the horses accepted to run out of 79 accepted for Mackay. These days, in my opinion Callaghan Park, under the auspices of the Rockhampton Jockey Club is a training centre for the likes of Mackay and Capricornia TAB race meetings. The figures support that theory. Naturally, once again my personal opinion only, the allocation of race dates by RQ whereby Rockhampton and Mackay are scheduled to race on such close dates is not for the betterment of racing. Unfortunately, I have voiced that opinion to the powers that be previously but seemingly nothing has come of it. Trust it will be seriously considered now as I know it is universally concerning to the majority of trainers. 

Start planning for the 2024 Capricornia Yearling Sale to be held Sunday 7 April at the Rockhampton Showgrounds, following a two day race carnival at Callaghan Park with over $600,000 prize money on offer. The Sale which is widely recognised as offering exceptional value and quality yearlings for a range of buyers, will present 108 lots. This year’s Capricornia Yearling Sales online catalogue is now available on the Callaghan Park website and HERE.. 

IN OTHER NEWS: Don’t forget the ST Patrick’s Day races at Callaghan Park on Saturday, March 16 and the Springsure St Patrick’s Day annual race meeting on Saturday, March 9. Check out both club’s Facebook pages for the relevant information. Injured jockey Raul Silvera Olivera was told by his doctor last Thursday that he could be cleared to resume race riding a fortnight after that visit. The $43K QTIS Jewel Qualifier 3YO Plate (1200m) at Mackay on Friday promises to be one hell of a race. The clash of Rockhampton’s Acre’s Away, Dragon’s Snip, Fine Shot, In Evidence and Tahkian Bubbles will be a beauty. They are all qualifying for a spot in the $150K Final (1400m) at the Gold Coast on Saturday, March 9 preceding the MM March Yearling Sales there on Monday, March 11 and Tuesday, March 12. That Gold Coast race meeting promises to be super with local stars Master Jamie and Chinny Boom set to run in feature races that day. Great to see former Rocky apprentice Alisha Donald getting among the winners and her winning rides on Matt Kropp’s pair of Callaghan Park winners last Friday was excellent. Nearly forgot, excellent communicator the trainer Kerrod Smyth advised that Caloundra apprentice jockey Heidi Gillie, indentured to Natalie McCall will be available for race rides at Thangool next Monday. Smyth has led by example by engaging Gillie for last start winner Devil’s Kick at Mackay on Friday. Former talented Rocky apprentice Nikki Olzard is starting to get a go on down south and I see she rode a winner last Saturday week for her boss the Sunshine Coast trainer and former talented jockey Jamie Bayliss. Nikki has a decent book of rides at Kilcoy on Thursday (tomorrow) and Mackay on Friday. She too will be in the saddle at Thangool on Monday. Great winning ride from Warwick Satherley winning on Aunty Glenda Bell’s Yubetido over the 1600 metres at Callaghan Park last Friday. Originally a $60K MM Yearling Sale purchase he later found his way to Bell’s Emerald stable after being snapped-up for $10K at an Online Sale. His two recent wins have repaid that sum. Brings back memories of the very talented Sydney sprinter from decades ago in Yubetido trained by the late Ray Guy. 

Happy Horses all – Tony Mc Mahon.

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