‘Field of Dreams’ gala Emerald 100 race meeting: By Tony McMahon
Published 6 October 2022
The horses are going, the trainers are going, the jockeys are going and so too will the crowd be going to Emerald’s Pioneer Park racecourse on Saturday for the gala Emerald 100 race meeting.
In the 1989 movie Fields of Dreams those famous words of “build it and they will come” could be aligned to the Emerald 100 which was founded in 1965 offering a prize in pounds equalling the race’s name.
Ever since the foundations of the Emerald 100 were built then 57 years ago the race day has continued to build and build to become an events icon in the Central Highlands district.
In fact, the well-appointed Pioneer Park racecourse alongside the Gregory Highway just a few kilometres from Emerald’s main business centre is looking the most spruced up it has ever been,
“The track and grounds truly look a picture. I am so lucky that the committee and our voluntary helpers have put in such a tremendous effort to have the grounds and amenities looking so good”, Emerald Jockey Club secretary Leigh-Ann Shields said on Thursday.
Preparing a racecourse such as Pioneer Park to cater for an anticipated crowd of over 2000 requires hundreds of hours of work through additional temporary requirements including marquees, table and seating arrangements.
“It should all be well in place by Friday afternoon which is a huge relief given that in past years we have been still getting things ready on race morning. The track itself looks beautiful”, Leigh said.
Emerald’s racing and much respected senior ambassador, the former jockey, trainer and retired Pioneer Park curator Noel Coyle, also spoke in glowing terms about the racecourse.
Nobody knows Pioneer Park racecourse like Noel Coyne as after all he rode Tin Horn to victory in the second running of the Emerald 100 in 1966.
Noel’s valued opinion is like gold.
“’I’ve had a close look at the track and it is looking beautiful and everything is really looking good for Saturday. The grass coverage is very good and with the use of the sprinklers that they now have it really looks the part”, Coyne said.
Noel’s endorsement is icing on the cake for the new look Emerald Jockey Club hierarchy who have banded together attempting to restore the profile of the grass circuit to its former status of recognition as the best in country Queensland.
Among the jockeys riding on Saturday are Rockhampton’s Ashley Butler and Brisbane’s Nathan Day.
Both in peak form, Day is currently sitting on equal third position on the Queensland Jockey’s premiership table with 24 winners behind leader James Orman 32.
Butler is in fifth possie with 18 victories this season.
Ash is no stranger to winning around the Pioneer Park circuit where he rode a winning double on Ahwahneechee and Murganella at the last meeting there on September 3.
Butler teams up again with local trainer Raymond’s Williams’ Ahwahneechee in Saturday’s $13K Outback Flooring Emerald Lightning (1000m) in which the mentor has three starters.
Day holds four engagements on the five-race card with three of those being for leading Emerald trainer Glenda Bell including Demurral the likely favourite in the Emerald 100 (1850m).
Rockhampton racing is well represented at Emerald with support from trainers Clinton Taylor, Ricky Vale, Fred Smith, Tom Smith, Michael and Christine Dore, Jared Wehlow and Graeme Green.
As well as Ash Butler, Rocky jockeys Colin Lennon, Tash Chambers and Chris McIver will make the 271km drive to ride there.
Racing commences locally at 1.20pm with the Emerald 100 the final event at 4pm.
Gates at Pioneer Park racecourse will open hours earlier and live entertainment will follow on after the last race.