Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 13 December 2022

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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Rockhampton jockey Ash Butler has returned home “all the wiser” for his riding expedition to Darwin races last Friday. He had four rides for his trip sponsor, Darwin trainer Tommy Logan the partner of former Rocky jockey Sonja Wiseman currently recuperating from a wrist operation. No luck there for Butler with near last efforts ranging from 7.3 lengths to 20.7 lengths back from the race winners. However, Butler was placed third on former Thangool jockey turned leading Darwin trainer Garry Clarke trained Ice Baby, albeit 11.6 lengths back. “They ride completely differently up there on their track. It is a matter of the fastest and the fittest horse. The speed is on the same in a 1000 metres race as in a 1300 metres race – the speed never stops. It’s like the further they go the faster the leaders go. Felt I rode some good races as I am used to here (Rocky) but it is so different up there. I learnt that the track suits front runners and you need to be up there but those that do come from behind do so from out wide to avoid the kickback. It was a good experience and I enjoyed it and the connections have asked me to go back and I probably will go back’’, Ash said. Butler is a thinking jockey and for sure he will adapt to the Darwin way of race riding next outing. For the record the Fannie Bay track of almost 1800 metres in circumference has a type of oil-based sand surface and yes it does give kickback.

Spied where Gracemere’s Lyn Sullivan owned and currently Oakey trained Lynric Lass, a Texas (as in QLD) winner last Saturday is entered to race in Rocky on Friday. Good luck Lyn and I’ll bet you are itching to get back training the former “naughty girl” under your name again. Incidentally, Lyn was a prominent harness racing driver and trainer at Callaghan Park during the era of harness racing in Rockhampton. I was only asked last week when did the trots cease in Rockhampton? The Rockhampton Harness Racing Club held its final meeting on Wednesday, August 7, 2007 before, as I wrote at the time “1000 believers”. I also scribed in The Morning Bulletin seeing “grown men cry” such were the emotions of a sad day. At the opening meeting at Callaghan Park Paceway on May 18, 1974 a crowd of 6000 ushed harness racing into Rockhampton.

See where Graeme Green’s Master Jamie among the entries of eight for the $200K Lough Neagh Stakes (1400m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday. Tom Smith has his highly rated 3YO Better Rain entered for the quality $200,000 Gold Edition Plate (1200m) there as well. Last start Eagle Farm runner-up in July and recent Callaghan Park trial winner Better Rain is also entered Saturday for Mackay where it will cop plenty of pudding in the $29K QTIS 3YO (1200m) should Smith decide on going north instead of south. It’s akin to being “caught between a hard place and a rock”. Good problem to have many owners would say.
Massive family fun day, especially for the kids at Callaghan Park races on Friday. CEO Ian Mills also advises that excavation works required for the redevelopment of The Members will initiate replacement of the existing Memorial Garden and removal of two nearby trees adjacent to the track entrance. “The RJC gives an assurance The Memorial Garden will be respectfully restored and relocated to another location on the racecourse”, Mill said. Work on both projects was underway today (Tuesday, Dec 13).
Pleasing to see Callaghan Park trainers Ricky Vale and Clinton Taylor gaining well deserved recognition as August and October monthly winners of the TAB Wayne Wilson Medal which is decided on a points basis over 12 months of the racing season. Ricky won the Townsville and Cairns Cups with Namazu and Clinton’s feats of five successive wins from as many starts with Chinny Boom earned the winning points for the months stated.

Talking of Rocky trainers, two are figuring prominently in the list of the 20 top trainers in the current 2022-23 racing season on the Queensland wide premiership ladder. Clinton Taylor is currently seventh placed with 25 winners while Jared Wehlow is equal 15th through 20 winners. That’s no mean feat in anybody’s language. For instance, Taylor is equally placed alongside David Vandyke with Wehlow on the same line as Steven O’Dea and Matthew Hoysted. Chris Waller is in fourth spot with 28 wins behind tearaway leader Tony Gollan with 75 victories. Bunched behind Taylor and marginally ahead of Wehlow are higher profile trainers Annabel Neasham (22), Stewart Kendrick (21) and Kelly Schweida (21). The local Rocky lads are ahead of the powerful stables of Gold Coast’s Toby and Trent Edmunds and Murwillumbah and Warwick Farm’s Matthew Dunn both with 19 Queensland wins apiece. I have mentioned the comparative names to highlight the extent of Taylor and Wehlow’s efforts. In all fairness their feats on a State wide basis is a mighty back handed compliment for the Callaghan Park training facilities.

In keeping with the old saying “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, I best not forget the jockeys. Good on you heavyweight hoop Ash Butler being sixth placed in Queensland on 36 winners despite restricted opportunities. Regular Rocky FIFO jockeys Ryan Wiggins (2nd – 59 winners) and Nathan Day (5th-43.5) are also flying (excuse the pun) at present. Not forgetting the Gold Coast FIFO Jason Taylor somewhat, a “born again “jockey with 28 season winners so far. Former Rocky apprentice Alisha Donald, now Gympie based with trainer Glenn Richardson is to be highly commended being in the top 20 list on 17Th position through 24 winners. Tearaway leader is premier Brisbane hoop Jimmy Orman with 76 winners. Remember, Jimmy was a regular at Callaghan Park meetings in his apprenticeship days riding winners galore?
Leading Rocky apprentice Tahlia Fenlon out injured since breaking her right ankle after a horse bucked with her during a Twin
Hills race preliminary in late September is making steady progress. Tahlia was on crutches for six weeks and has been in a moon boot for over a fortnight. “I’m undergoing plenty of physio and go back to the doctor on December 21”, Tahlia told me last night. Naturally, she is hoping for good news while unsure just how much longer she will be out of the saddle.

Tony McMahon

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