Archer heralds new chapter in local racing next month.

Published 7 March 2023

Archer heralds new chapter in local racing next month.

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Rockhampton racing history which dates back 155 years will herald a new chapter next month with the city’s first $1M race day.

To be exact the Rocky Amateurs, formerly the Central Queensland Amateur Race Club will offer a staggering $1,104,500 in prizemoney, bonuses and trophies on Sunday, April 30.

The centre piece of the historic occasion will be Queensland’s richest regional provincial race – the $775K The WFA The Archer (1300m) which is expected to draw leading Australian horses, jockeys and trainers.

“When you consider it all and take it into perspective it is quite staggering. Who would believe Rocky could schedule such a momentous race meeting”? Rocky Amateurs chairman Bill Reid posed.

Then Reid in a rather pensive mood answered his own question by adding – “I suppose we (Rocky Amateurs) did. We dreamed, the committee worked hard and it will come to be on that Sunday”. 

When the CQARC was registered as an amateur race club in August 1921 under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Lukin, how could it have ever been envisaged that 102 years later it would race for over 500,000 pounds in prize money.

(Horse racing in Rockhampton actually commenced in 1868 with a two-day meeting July 25 and 26 which led to the formation of the Rockhampton Jockey Club). 

That aside, nor for that matter would anybody just 12 months ago in their wildest dreams believed that Sydney rails bookmaker Robbie Waterhouse would be on course fielding at Callaghan Park for this year’s The Archer. 

His wife, iconic trainer Gai Waterhouse will also attend with a likely runner keen to avenge on her third placing with Dawn Passage in last year’s inaugural The Archer ($440,000).  

Hark back to where it all began in 1921.

The two days of racing, the CQARC’s first on Friday, October 14 and Saturday, October 15, 1921 offered 500 pounds prizemoney and 500 pounds in trophies spread in total over six races each day.

While the meetings were strictly for amateur jockeys with races categorised separately for grass fed and corn-fed horses, participants and racegoers travelled from as far afield as Sydney.   

On Sunday, April 30, 2023 The Archer race meeting, a standalone TAB race card (no metropolitan clashes) will lure the best of the best in professional jockeys and trainers from throughout the country.

Run under a closed slot holders’ concept along similar lines to Sydney racing’s goliath the $15 million The Everest (1200m) at Randwick on October 14, The Archer has created its own intriguing hypothesis.

The 12 slot holders do a “deal” with owners of the top horses whereby they gain a spot and inclusion of their horse in The Archer field (limited to a dozen) with prize money shared.

“Naturally all the slot holders are after the best horse possible and everything is very hush, hush. Nobody is giving anything away in case for instance a rival slot holder hears and makes a more alluring offer. It creates so much intrigue and all are waiting as long as possible. It is a huge commitment to sign off on a runner with the race still eight weeks away. It will all come to life soon enough”, Rocky Amateurs committeeman Jonathon Offord said.

Leviathan former Sydney based racehorse’s owner and breeder, the slot holder Max Whitby jumped the gun getting in early some months ago and signing off on Queensland sprinter Weona Smartone.

It was an astute and wily move as Sunshine Coast trainer David Vandyke has been able to specifically set a mapped-out course and program to The Archer.

All other slot holders are involved in complex negotiations and as of yet have not declared a “done deal”.

It will all unfold in the weeks ahead leading up to the biggest race day in Rockhampton’s history.

EDITORS NOTE: I wish to acknowledge the research contributed by Mr John Day for this article into the early history of the Central Queensland Amateur Race Club (AKA – Rocky Amateurs). Rockhampton racing is indeed fortunate to have a passionate racing historian of John’s persuasion.      

Tony McMahon.

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