Bumper race meeting at Callaghan Park Friday Feb 16.

Published 14 February 2024

Bumper race meeting at Callaghan Park Friday Feb 16.

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The Rockhampton Jockey Club this Friday, through a set of mitigating circumstances, may stage its busiest race meeting in 155 years of operation. With 141 horses entered to race there is a very real possibility that a bumper 11 race TAB race program could unfold which would be unprecedented at Callaghan Park racecourse. The record nominations unfolded after the Mackay Turf Club’s seven race program  set for tomorrow (February 13) was abandoned last week when the track there was not ready to race after recent maintenance renovations. As such, Racing Queensland added an additional two races to the original eight races for Friday’s RJC card, expanding it to a 10-race schedule. However, with no fewer than 28 horses entered for the $33K Maiden Plate (1100m) which was on the original RJC program, if acceptances are sufficient there is a likely possibility that the race would be divided. Granted it is hypothetical synopsis at this time, but it well may come to fruition. Watch this space for the final acceptances for the Callaghan Park meeting which are due tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10am. Regardless of the outcome, the certainty is that Friday’s meeting will be a bonanza for the RJC which has been plagued by small fields in recent times in some ways attributed to Rockhampton horses racing en masse at Mackay TAB race meetings.  

I’d like to have a dollar for every individual jockey that has ridden at Callaghan Park over my time as racing writer which commenced here in1989. Where have those 35 years gone as well as many of the jockeys who I have scribbled about over three and a half decades? I clearly remember that racing marvel, Queensland trainer Pat Duff introducing me to his “new apprentice” Jim Byrne at the 1989  Winter Carnival that year. So many apprentice jockeys have in part honed their skills at Callaghan Park. Tim and space, the enemy of racing writers restricts me from naming so many, but some talents have lobbed here riding at Callaghan Park down through the years. I have heard nothing but compliments and positives about the latest addition to the fly-in ranks, be it temporary or semi-permanent with the lady in question being Brisbane apprentice Yvette Lewis who rode at last Friday’s Callaghan Park races where I was not in attendance.  Doný worry about my not being there, I have always said you “don’t have to witness a murder” (sorry to be so macabre) to be able to write about it. Yvette won on the Kerrod Smyth trained Devil Kick and I saw enough on the SKY coverage to realise “she could ride.” That is a broadly used racing expression which in jargon translates to being talented  in an upper echelon. Not long after I had dispatched my original story to this site, Yvette went within a whisker (nose -0.01l) of landing a double for Smyth on Fay Faye behind its stable mate in the last event of the day. Granted she did get mentioned in the stewards’ report in relation to her use of the whip, which makes interesting reading. By the way, that aside, Yvette will be an asset to the upcoming meetings where she plans to ride at Rockhampton, Mackay and Thangool over the next few weeks. For the record Yvette has ridden 121 winners including four in Brisbane.

Speaking of jockeys, I always remember what a wise old racing owl once told me. “Tony, jockeying is the only profession that I know of where it costs you exactly the same amount to engage a champion jockey – leading jockey or a very ordinary one”. Think about it as in all professions I know the best in the field is always more expensive. Food for thought.

Managed to point you in the direction of a few winners and horses to follow from Callaghan Park barrier trials of late. Well get out your pen and pencils and jot these down from Monday’s session. Clinton Taylor’s well above average mare Princess Tenko looked every bit an upcoming winner by defeating Ricky Vale’s stablemates Track Tale and Namazu in the fastest 900 metres heat. She ran 53.81 seconds coming home the last 600 metres in a low flying 32.72 seconds. Not having raced since third over 1350 metres at Doomben last August, the Real Impact mare is a class act and should fire earlier on during her upcoming campaign. Ricky Vale produced two home bred trial winners for local and city racing devotees Bill and Di Ouston. The first was the juvenile Sooboog filly Cinema Magic a daughter of Futereal with whom the same connections enjoyed success. The other was the older horse Goldschlager, a daughter of Deep Field and the well performed Goldstick. Both those trial winners should be in the money this campaign. Rather taken by the manner in which Goldschlager got to the line. Great to see Thangool’s Jamie-Lee Devine riding in barrier trials. The daughter of Thangool Race Club secretary Edwina Devine and husband the now trainer and former jockey Jason Devine, just seems like yesterday when Jamie-Lee was a young girl and regular feature with her parents at Thangool race meetings. Time fly’s but remember “Never Let The Old Man/Woman In.” 

How life and racing changes. Isn’t it fabulous to see the young children of trainers, jockeys and owners being now so involved in racing on race days? Just love seeing them in pictures celebrating the wins of horses with whom their parents, relations or family friends are involved. You just have to see the excellent pics posted on this site taken by Caught In The Act Photography to see what I mean. Even at the metropolitan race meetings children now celebrate the wins of family horses. You see it regularly on the television racing coverage. Once it was a “no no “for children to be in the official enclosures. It is a do-good feeling now to see the next generation of racing stakeholders engaging in a passion for the industry. How archaic it was when racing was ruled and administered by the so-called gentry. It was hypocrisy at its worse form as how women had to fight to become jockeys and horse trainers. Don’t get me started – the biggest certainly in racing is not “that there is no such thing as a certainty “but is that racing would not survive without the females” particularly in the jockeys ranks. They are magic and in many ways from what I can attest much more resilient than many males and the ladies seem to exhibit and attach so much passion to the beloved thoroughbreds. Confession – call me a self-confessed hypocrite from the seventies as I did have doubts about the entry of females into the jockeying ranks. Now I am a lifelong fan and advocate for their gender in the racing ranks. 

Moving on, this is one of my favourite times of the racing year with yearling sales with importance to Rocky racing just around the corner. Starting off of course with Magic Millions March Sale at the Gold Coast on Monday, March 11 and 12. Briefly, thrilled to see that Dolly (AKA) Mamselle Corday has a yearling colt by Love Conquers All in at that sale on the Monday. I was reminded of that by MM consultant James Dawson at a function attended by RJC hierarchy, some vendors and established buying clients at the Red Lion Hotel in Rockhampton last Friday night. James and the MM folk were on a high after three MM March sale graduates won at Callaghan Park races that afternoon – More Stylish, Fine Shot and Shamedy were the horses in question. I did a bit of calculating and Mamselle Corday (Rocky Centenary Cup winner 2018, 11 wins); Paradis Imperial QTIS QLD champion 2YO (10 wins); Better Reflection (4 wins and a LR included) and the champ Master Jamie (18 wins) all came from MM March Sales and collectively the four cost $44K. Guess what? They won over $1.9M in stakes between them. You don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good horse at a yearling sale, but you do have to have luck on your side. It will be the same at Rockhampton’s Capricornia Yearling Sales on Sunday, April 7. You get some great winners from there. I got Shrouded from the Capricornia YS in 2014 and for memory paid 10 grand for her. Lucky enough to win seven Callaghan Park races with Shrouded. You could say she was a handful but that isn’t unusual for highly strung fillies, is it? Won around $110K during her career. Around 110 yearlings will go to the CYS this April. I suspect catalogues will be out soon and online as well. For more information contact the RJC. The two preceding days before the CYS sees some magic racing at Callaghan Park with the CYS related races. It will be humongous and just keep reading this site and the RJC website for more details.

Of course, the country racing circuit in Capricornia and nearby areas is about to get back into full swing after the summer recess. Thangool kicks off on Monday, February 26 with a seven race TAB card. Then the 70th (for memory) Springsure St Patrick’s Day Race Club annual races on Saturday, March 9. Never know who gets out there for that colossal meeting. Champion Brisbane jockey Jim Byrne attended last year – he certainly did. Of course, Rockhampton has a rich QTIS Jewel Qualifier Race Day on Saturday, February 24. One of the few Saturday dates at Callaghan Park these days. Hard to believe there was racing in Rockhampton every Saturday until ending in the nineties. Racing again at Callaghan Park on Friday, March 8, and of course the big, big Saint Patrick’s Day Races bash there on Saturday, March 16. The big news is that CocoBrew, Rockhampton is the major sponsor of Fashions on the Field at St Pat’s Day. Word on the street around William Street, Rocky is that there could be a surprise entry in the FOTF in the form of none other than host (CocoBrew) Robin Adams dressed in “drag”.  I’m serious. Robin is a brilliant promoter and what a way to advertise CocoBrew and draw in publicity galore. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the big man dolled up in drag. It wouldn’t be the first time a prominent male local racing identity went racing at Callaghan Park disguised as a woman, would it? That’s one for the historians. Robin Adams is renowned for his pranks and sense of humor. Wonder what colour ensemble he will wear? That’s got you thinking, hasn’t it? These days it is hard to decipher the truth from fiction. One thing I have learned from a lifetime in racing “nothing surprises me.”

Happy Horses Tony McMahon. 



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