Early 10.47am start for 6 race program at Callaghan Park tomorrow (31 May).

Published 30 May 2024

Early 10.47am start for 6 race program at Callaghan Park tomorrow (31 May).

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Best of luck at Callaghan Park TAB races tomorrow (FRIDAY) to former jockey turned trainer Michael John Stephens and his stable representative General Wolffe in the 0-55 (1600m), the last race on the six-race program at 1.36pm. John had his first starter as a trainer with the same horse (raced by family members)  there on April 18 (fourth) and again on May 2 (second). More commonly known as John Stephens or even “jockey John”, the 65yo has been off the jockeying scene since June 19, 2021. Actually, John’s last ride was on third placed Sturman at Callaghan Park that day. So ended a successful and colourful riding career for John who really carved out a name for himself in the nineties. For instance, he won the 1992 Rockhampton Cup on the Dave Badham trained Archer Road. Just 12 months earlier, Archer Road and Stephens had to be content with dead-heating for first with Major Edition in the Mackay Cup. Stephens and the leading Callaghan Park trainer at that time in Dave Badham were a formidable combination during the eighties and throughout the nineties. John also enjoyed big race successes with his father-in-law, the trainer Jack Garland. Who could ever forget when they won the LR Eye Liner Stakes (1200m) at Ipswich with “Pocket Hercules” Leroy’s Magic some 25 years ago (yep 1999)?  On the Jan Murray (USA) chestnut Leroy’s Magic, M.J. Stephens also won the 1998 Rockhampton Newmarket. Three years earlier jockey John and trainer Jack had won the 1995 Rocky Newmarket with that magnificent sprinter Boy Murphy. Back to “Leroy,” he John and Jack also won the Central Queensland Amateur Race Club (now Rocky Amateurs) Bracelet in the year 2000. As racing writer for The Morning Bulletin, I wrote reams of stories on Leroy’s Magic. However, the memories of race callers and racing writers tend to go into cognitive overload (CO) over the decades and self-erase. When I did my homework on John Stephens and Leroy’s Magic earlier today, I was absolutely blown away to rediscover that John Stephens rode Leroy’s Magic in 18 of his 19 race wins. That is a staggering statistic – many of those wins (15 to be precise) were at Callaghan Park with two others on Brisbane metropolitan courses as well as a Dalby Newmarket and Ipswich Eye Liner win as well. I can truthfully say that John Stephens was the toughest jockey I have ever witnessed during my career. For example, he rode racehorses again after a horrific horse-related accident which broke his back after which he had to wear a specially fitted body suit. He was a racing writer’s dream playing a starring role in many a story over the years, for one reason or another. How could I ever forget the day when I was broadcasting at Keppel Park racecourse Yeppoon, when a horse was found to have lost a plate when it arrived at the barriers for a race. John Stephens was riding in the race and at the request of the starter he dismounted, put on a farrier’s apron and in his silks reshod the horse. Only wish I had a video of it, but it is vivid in my mind. I reckon he was wearing lime green and white silks. Anyhow, I could write a book on John, but I haven’t even got enough time to pen my own autobiography which I have been sourced out to do. That’s another story and no doubt M.J. Stephens, an all-round horseman in every sense (yes, a farrier as well) will provide me with many more tales to pen. I would love it to be that General Wolfe provided him with his first winner as a trainer at Callaghan Park on Friday. I’ve got the pen ready John – sincerely, good luck. Go Wolffee Go!! 

Had quite a few inquiries over the last 24 hours as to why the early start (10.47am) and finish (1.36pm) for the six race TAB card at Callaghan Park on Friday. If you don’t know don’t guess but go “straight to the horse’s mouth” which in this case was RJC CEO David Aldred. So, I messaged David questioning the above and he duly explained. “It’s not a new thing. It happened last year, and I’m told the year before. The Sunshine Coast public holiday meeting, one of the biggest oncourse days for the SCTC, starts racing at 2.11pm, (Friday) so the local program here must be finished by then. Times are set by the broadcaster SKY Racing, and we cannot clash with the other QLD mid-week race meeting. The alternative would be for the RJC to not race on this day at all, as the Sunshine Coast is the main QLD meeting on Friday.”  There you have its folks – that simple.  

You couldn’t blame Rockhampton trainer Clinton Taylor if he felt Lady luck had deserted him of late in regards with his top mare Chinny Boom. As I have penned earlier, Clinton believes the rails barrier draw played against Chinny Boom when she last started on May 18 when finishing 5.03 lengths 11th/15 Aureus Angel in the LR Bright Shadow at Doomben. Chinny Boom failed to materalise on her seemingly ideal position during the race by failing to run on in what was regarded as the worst part of the track towards the inside rail down the straight. If you haven’t already seen the field for Saturday’s LR $160K MM Helen Coughlan Stakes (1200m) at Eagle Farm, guess where Chinny Boom drew?  Ouch – barrier 19. It’s a big ask for any horse, but even more so against such a good line-up of rivals. Let’s just hope it is a case of “hope springs eternal.”

Sorry to read on Racenet that “Mishani trainer” Les Ross will retire officially on July 31, the same day on which he undergoes surgery for prostate cancer in Brisbane.  Over the years Les has won many races at Callaghan Park and hundreds upon hundreds elsewhere. His retirement robs racing of another “character” which in this day and age are becoming as rare as hen’s teeth. On behalf of all racing folk up this way, good health in the future Les and keep on keeping on especially with your Karaoke and priceless (at times) jokes. Racing will be all the poorer for your retirement, but boy, haven’t you created some memories?

Pleased to report that Brisbane apprentice Olivia Kendall, and a regular at Rocky meetings is “coming along pretty well” after fracturing her collar bone in a race accident at Townsville’s Cluden Park on April 23. “I go back to the doctor on June 11, and I’ll know more then,” Liv told me today. Doing my medical “rounds,” I also sought an update on Adam Sewell who has been sidelined since a Callaghan Park race accident on April 18. “I’m feeling fine and I’m doing some light exercise. It’s basically six weeks but I can’t get back into the specialist until June 11 when I can find out where I stand,” Adam said. Adam fractured a collar bone, ribs and sternum. Let’s hope June 11 provides good reports for both FIFO jockeys Liv and Adam.

Happy Horses everyone – don’t forget to be early at Callaghan Park races on Friday and if you back a winner and fancy a drive, Thangool race on Monday. Tony McMahon.

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