Racing AROUND Rocky: with Tony McMahon.

Published 28 November 2022

Racing AROUND Rocky: with Tony McMahon.

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The saying goes in racing “gone from the penthouse to the outhouse” (there is a more commonly used description) and it is so true. Ipswich apprentice jockey Olivia Kendall 24, (51 winners) the latest fly-in to make a name for herself of the northern provincial circuit has been going great guns this month. Olivia was really starting to get noticed after winning races at Rockhampton and Mackay for Callaghan Park trainers Jared Wehlow and Tom Smith. Then just last Friday at Mackay she was dislodged shortly after the start of a race when according to the stewards’ report Corabetty which she was riding for Rocky trainer Kevin Miller “bucked”. As result Olivia was admitted to Mackay Hospital. I spoke to her this afternoon (Monday, Nov 28) just after arriving back in Brisbane. “My left elbow is broken and I am getting more scans taken and will undergo surgery down here on Thursday”, Olivia said. It is shocking lucky for Olivia as she has encountered her share of injuries and was off the race riding scene from April 7 until a successful comeback on August 1. Trainer Kevin Miller is a wonderful advocate and supporter for apprentice jockeys and at the RJC Awards night recently premier apprentice Tahlia Fenlon acredited him for launching her career successfully and being a great supporter. Kevin would have been very upset by the Mackay incident and told stewards that he would retire Corabetty from his stables.

Speaking of injured jockeys, the Sunshine Coast’s very capable Adam Sewell returns to race riding at Callaghan Park on Saturday. Adam 26, had been out injured since the Mackay race meeting on July 1 and returned at Mt Perry on November 12. The following Saturday he trekked out to Clermont riding for Olivia Cairns. Very obliging and experienced, Sewell has ridden 266 winners and rides Callaghan Park well where he has netted 43 winners.

Also, won’t be surprised to see Marnu Potgieter 30, back up this way soon. Marnu was sidelined through injury from May 20 until October 29 when he reappeared at Eagle Farm. In just a handful of rides since he rode a winning double at Toowoomba on November 19 while celebrating his first winner back at Ipswich the previous day. Marnu, indentured to Mackay’s John Manzelmann before transferring to Brian Smith in Brisbane is well known on the Rocky, Mackay and Townsville circuits where in a relatively short time he rode 68 winners. 

Then there is former Rockhampton apprentice jockey Nicole Vuille 31 who was back in the winner’s circle at Kilcoy races last Saturday after a six years absence. Nicole sustained serious injuries in an incident at Dingo races in 2016. She is now apprenticed at Debra Corbett at Nanango. Nicole rode many winners in and around Rocky in the early to mid-nineties.

Last but not least, I have been asked what has become of talented former Rockhampton apprentice jockey Cody “Chip” Collis? The answer is I don’t know. Cody last rode at the Sunshine Coast on November 1 when he rode a winner. When I asked his listed master Tom Button about Cody’s whereabouts he replied “he is no longer with my stable”. 

Won’t be at all surprised if there is a shortage of jockeys at the Rockhampton Jockey Club’s last Saturday meeting for the year at Callaghan Park on the weekend. This is a constant problem when Saturday meetings are staged in Rockhampton when many of the regular FIFO out jockeys who service the midweek meetings here are unavailable. This is likely to be further exacerbated on Saturday with the Country Cups and Stampede Finals being run in Brisbane. For example, Nathan Day and Chris Whiteley who have serviced Rocky Saturday meetings in the past both have rides in those races at Doomben. Ryan Wiggins will be an absentee as well. I know for a fact trainers have been desperately trying to source jockeys virtually, here, there and everywhere. Why wouldn’t they as there are 18 horses entered for one race and 15 for another while the other races are light in noms. This is only a personal opinion and I believe I am qualified to make it given my past experience. I can’t for the life of me understand how some apprentice jockeys can ride at a Mackay TAB race meeting and then are not permitted to ride at Rockhampton TAB meetings. Just for example purposes only, Rocky apprentice Brooke Johnson (13 winners) was considered sufficiently competent to ride there (Mackay) last Friday against city and provincial class jockeys but she is not permitted to ride at a Rocky TAB meeting on Saturday. I know, I know the official reason is that such Mackay meetings are classed as “country” and Rockhampton provincial. What’s the difference?  Also, what’s the difference between 900 metres jump outs and 900 metres barrier trials? Nothing except the name. Yet the 900 metres jump outs don’t count as they are not deemed a barrier trial when apprentices are completing the mandatory trial numbers (I believe 20) required before they can ride in races. In both, the learner jockeys have to steer their mounts around a turn/corner. I can understand a straight 400m/500m jump out not being counted but not one around a turn. Makes no sense to me. However, if you are a trainer or owner reluctant to accept for Saturday’s Rocky races with your horse because of a likely shortage of jockeys or do so and then have to scratch, the Mackay country classification won’t provide you much comfort. Surely in such circumstances as this case mentioned, stewards should be able to grant a day licence for the likes of Brooke Johnson and  to ride. Worth investigating QRIC? I reiterate this is only a personal opinion but I believe worthy of discussion. I hope I am wrong about a likely jockey shortage but if so, it will emerge again a common-sense approach as I have suggested could assist. 

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