Competitive five race card at Callaghan Park, Saturday

Published 17 February 2023

Jockey Justin Stanley should ride multiple winners at Callaghan Park. PICTURE: Tony McMahon.

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Despite the scheduling of six TAB race meetings within 17 days at Rockhampton, Mackay and Thangool this month, the RJC has done very well to get a competitive five race card at Callaghan Park racecourse this Saturday (18/2).

With horse pool numbers in Capricornia down significantly on what they were in previous years for a number of reasons, a timelier scheduling of race dates has become a contentious and crucial issue.

Six TAB meetings from February 10 to February 27 at the aforementioned three clubs, which in the main are reliant on a large percentage of the same pool of horses, is far from ideal while in fact being counterproductive.

Small fields at Callaghan Park have come about from a complex set of reasons, none more so that a transition period whereby so many senior trainers with their small string of horses in training have retired.

The “old chestnut” whereby race programming shoulders the blame has little credence and does not stack-up in reality as so many other contributing factors come into play.

The scheduling of race dates no doubt is high on the agenda of the RJC to address with Queensland Racing hopefully before they are set in stone for the 2023-24 racing season.

While it is regrettable that the BM 70 (1200m) was deleted from Saturday’s original six race card before weights were issued, it is not surprising whatsoever when analysed.

Rather than focus on the negatives which are doing the rounds among stakeholders and others in Rockhampton racing circles in relation to field sizes and race numbers, the reality is as said “it is what it is”.

Prizemoney for Rockhampton racing is at an all-time high.

Almost $110,000 will be distributed on Saturday where the connections of every one of the 40 horses in fields will benefit.

Yes, EVERYONE as prizemoney is paid down to 10th placing ranging from $350 to $400 at Callaghan Park.

Unlike decades ago, when owners and trainers had to “pay up-front” on race day for their horses to run for much less prizemoney, racing in that sense is free now.

Regrettably in too many instances racing stakeholders be it Rockhampton or Flemington are their own worse enemies when it comes to spreading negativity and criticism.

That includes myself but the reality is as far as prize money is concerned, we have never been in a better p[ace.

Rather that focus on comparisons lets address the contributing issues and among others focus on more timely race dates and addressing with RQ once and for all the scarcity of jockeys in Rockhampton and other centres.

Saturday’s fields would have been gutted if FIFO SEQ jockeys Justin Stanley, Adam Sewell, Chris Whiteley, Adam Spinks and Ryan Wiggins had decided to have a day off.

Their presence on Saturday has prevented this and is indeed a positive for Rockhampton racing and that in itself is a vote of confidence for the industry here.

As it stands however, it appears that two horses Royal Tonic (NZ) and Bettalatethannenever are declared runners in the 10 horse Maiden (1300m) without jockeys nominated.

The indications are that they may have to be regrettably scratched because of no jockeys being available.

While nine jockeys will ride at the Rocky card, heavyweight jockey Ashley Butler has taken rides at 58 and 59kg so he may be allowed  to ride Royal Tonic (57.5kg) overweight if stewards would permit a request from connections should they seek one.

However, there are positives on the horizon for Rockhampton racing as accomplished Rockhampton apprentice jockeys Liv O’Donnell and Brooke Johnson are waiting in the wings for a provincial jockey’s licence.

Rockhampton holds a provincial track licence.

Both rode winners at the Mackay TAB meeting last Tuesday which is rated “country” yet undoubtedly presently has the same standard of racing as Rockhampton

As well, both rode in Mackay races with larger field size numbers than at Callaghan Park on Saturday while riding there against metropolitan licenced jockeys as well.

Unquestionably this presents as an ambiguous situation but that’s another story for another day.

Racing commences at Callaghan Park at 1.18pm where Justin Stanley should ride multiple winners.

DISCLOSURES: The author Tony McMahon is presently the RJC programming delegate and convenor with Racing Queensland’s Colin Truscott who is tasked to set the race programs for Rockhampton, Mackay and other regional and country Queensland racing clubs. The author is also the Australian Trainers Association Central Queensland delegate.  His opinions in the above story are his own personal beliefs and are not necessarily shared by the Rockhampton Jockey Club for whom he is employed to write stories.




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