Racing AROUND Capricornia with Tony McMahon.

Published 7 September 2023

Racing AROUND Capricornia with Tony McMahon.

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It has been ages since Rockhampton boasted such a talented array of apprentice jockeys that presently are based in the city. I speak of Brooke Johnson, Nikki Olzard, Erin Molloy and McKenzie Apel who will be kept busy at the Thangool Cup meeting on Saturday. Olzard has a full book of six rides. Brooke Johnson has five rides while the two ladies have four rides each on the six-race program. Senior Rocky based female riders Natalea Summers and Tasha Chambers will also be in action out at the Callide Valley track. This means the females will outnumber the male jockeys Adam Spinks and Rocky’s Chris McIver six to two which is proportionately the norm at country race meetings these days. Capricornia racing would indeed be in dire straits without the four abovementioned apprentices. It is most likely that one runner in the nine horse Thangool Maiden Plate (800m) in Gladstone trainer Lee Kiernan’s Molloy, may have to be scratched as by jockey declaration deadline today (Thursday) only eight hoops would be available out there on Saturday. 

Nicki Olzard 18, presently indentured to former premier jockey the trainer Adrian Coome brought up 19 winners in her three months riding career winning on Callaghan Park’s Krystie-Clark Peoples’ with Persevere and Rodney Hay’s Stoical out at Birdsville last week.  As well, Nikki rode three placegetters and a fourth (Centaur – Cup) over the two days of Birdsville racing. So, in six rides she was never out of the prize money. With a riding weight of 53kg, Nikki has really hit the tracks running and looks likely to enjoy further success on Saturday.

Clinton Taylor has a very high opinion of his apprentice Brooke Johnson, 20. She has ridden 49 winners since her first on Grand de Lago at Thangool in July last year. Brooke was seen at her best at Mackay last Tuesday with a clever front running ride on Taylor trained Russian Whisper. A natural lightweight at an enviable 49kg, it won’t be too long before Brooke will be seen in action at the northern provincials at Rockhampton and Townsville. “Brooke is a very good listener and learner. We are not rushing her to get the provincial license. A lot of work is being done with her and she keeps on improving”, Taylor said not long after Russian Whisper’s win. He also emphasised that Brooke was a very good worker around the stables.  Many may not realise that Clinton Taylor, 38 was more than a handy jockey himself. He was greatly restricted by weight but managed to ride well in excess of 100 winners. His last race ride was in June 2002 at Callaghan Park when placed third on the late Tony Button’s wonderful sprinter Yallah Stinger. Taylor enjoyed success with Yallah Stinger earlier-on at Callaghan Park.

Erin Molloy, 23, has ridden 18 winners and kicked off earlier this year. Weighing-in at around 50kg, Erin is apprenticed to Tm Cook at Callaghan Park and has mainly been seen in action around the country tracks. I’ve witnessed Erin riding at some of the Capricornia race meetings I broadcast, and I have been impressed with what I have seen. She too has enjoyed success at Mackay which is classified as “country”. As more opportunities come her way so will the winners flow-in for Erin.

McKenzie Apel, 22 is the least experienced of the foursome having only commenced riding in July. At just her fifth race ride her master Ricky Vale had no worries about throwing McKenzie in at the “deep end” booking her for stable star Namazu in the $35K Black Memorial (1800m) at Mackay on July 14. McKenzie vindicated Vale’s faith in her with a brilliant front running winning ride on Namazu. Like the other three apprentices McKenzie, with a riding weight of 54kg, is going places that will be taking her into the first placegetters stall.

I reiterate, racing in this region is blessed to have such a competent group of apprentice jockeys and I would hate to think what would happen if racing in Capricornia did not have their services to call upon.

You have to spare a thought for Callaghan Park trainer Kristie-Clark Peoples when a defiant stable runner Not Another refused to load into the barriers and was scratched as favourite for the $22K Class 2 (1200m) way out at Birdsville last Saturday. It’s bad enough anywhere having to watch on when your horse is scratched from the barriers let alone one that has been transported 1380km from Rocky to Birdsville to race. “Look it was pretty devastating Tony. I felt so sorry for the owners who drove out from Mackay. “What can you do – it is what it is I suppose”, Krystie said. Krystie had to watch on from Rockhampton while husband David and their sons were in charge of the Birdsville team. “All in all, it was good, especially Friday when Persevere won and Future Idea was placed second when I thought it might have been a dead heat for first. Then Saturday came and after Not Another was scratched, Centaur struck trouble in running and came in fourth (3.55l) in the Birdsville Cup ($50k)’, Krystie relived. This Saturday, David Peoples will saddle up Dispute in the big Maiden Handicap at Bedourie, the last leg of the Simpson Desert Carnival. 

I know all about horses that on occasions refuse to load in the barriers with the one that comes to mind the good mare Shrouded. I trained her to win seven races at Callaghan Park but as my wife Jean was the managing owner at the time, I feel safe to say that I can relate the mare Shrouded was at times a “bitch”. Retired trainer John Pointon put in considerable work re-educating Shrouded to go into the barriers after she was barred once or maybe twice. The trick to her in the end was something that still amazes me. The jockey would go to the barriers first on Shrouded before the other horses in the race arrived there. Then she would without any trouble whatsoever walk straight into the barriers alone Sometimes the jockey (Nathan Day comes to mind) would just sit on her in the stalls for up to five minutes or longer before the other horses arrived and were subsequently loaded. So much for the rule of thumb that if horses stand in the stalls too long, they will be slow to jump. Not so Shrouded, she would jump out on most occasions as fast as a bullet out of a gun. Later in her career Shrouded mended her ways but I would love to have one as good as her now. I also remember floating Mamselle Corday the subsequent Centenary Rockhampton Cup winner of 2018 (Oh what a night that was at the Red Lion) out to Emerald the start after her debut and a winning one at Callaghan Park for an easy kill. She blatantly refused to load, was barred, then walked straight in at the barrier trials and never played up again at the barriers in a long career. “Horses, they will drive you stone raving mad”, a great old mentor trainer of mine told me decades ago. You were right on the money Albert!

Maybe I am wrong, but I have a recollection of a horse from the United Kingdom being flown to Singapore for the rich Kranji International Sprint (now Kris Flyer) some years ago. It refused to load and was scratched at the barriers for the Singapore feature. Hope that helps relieve the pain and is some consolation Krystie-Clark Peoples. As is said you can lead a horse to water but not make it drink”. 

Rockhampton’s Jared Wehlow is the only such trainer from Callaghan Park with representatives as far as I can ascertain at the Cairns Amateurs Carnival races on Friday and Saturday. He has imported a little-known Irish jockey in this neck of the woods in Victoria’s Robbie Downey 26, to ride his runners. Downey according to Dr Google has ridded 68 winners in Australia in just on two years of race riding here. I sensed there was a story there and I was correct. “I was after a jockey and one of the horses I train is owned by an Irishman. The Irish jockey is a mate of his so that’s how it came about. I suppose it’s a little left field but he has ridden winners in Melbourne so that is good enough for me”, Jared Mc Wehlow said. While it is not quite as far as a long way from Tipperary, Downey is coming a long way from Melbourne to Cairns (2818km) and I’m imagining not just for the fun of it. Anyhow, I reckon it is worth a punt to have a little each way on the combination’s starters. Cairns on Friday, Rideau (Race 3 – TAB 3) and Skymaster (R 8 – TAB 2). Cairns on Saturday, the Wehlow-Downie team combine with Ready by Design (R 5 – TAB 1 or R 6 -TAB 19) and O’Mudgee (R 8 -TAB 11). 

Catch you next in Racing Around Rockhampton – HAPPY HORSES – Tony McMahon.

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