Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 10 March 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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The $150K Capricornia Yearling Sales 2YO Classic (1200m) received a well-timed “booster injection” filled with interest when Jamie McConachy trained Sunnycoast (Ash Butler, $3.30) scored an “upset” win over Ricky Vale’s Track Tale (Les Tilley, $1.28) in the 2YO (1100m) at Callaghan Park on Tuesday. It is easy to be smart after a race but Track Tale not having raced for 25 days was probably at silly prohibitive odds. Sunnycoast on the other hand had a first-up testing run at Mackay just 10 days earlier. Don’t write off Track Tale in the Classic. Both carried 58kg on Tuesday. TT will drop 3kg in weigh to 55kg while Sunnycoast goes down 1kg to 57kg. Brilliant tactical ride by Butler on the winner rating him in front in an unchallenged lead. From my observation, Track Tale was a little unsettled early in the race and will derive the most improvement. That’s in no means to be interpreted as a knock on Sunnycoast but I doubt very much if he will be able to get his own way in front in the pressure packed CYS 2YO Classic.

The win was a real shot in the arm for local racing/breeding enthusiasts Bryan and Lorraine Hall, of Graceville Thoroughbreds who race Sunnycoast. The pair were all smiles post-race and are naturally looking forward to the Classic and the CYS the following day. There the Morinish based couple will offer a half-sister to Sunnycoast and his close relatives Phenom and Air Blue by the sire Kobayashi. Once again through the benefit of hindsight no wonder SC can gallop as his family includes the star sprinters Scarlet Bisque and Absolutelyfabulous. I’ll bet this 2023 CYS filly fetches more than SC did last year when stolen for $7000.

Then out came Clinton Taylor trained Alan and Jennifer Acton’s Bush Diamond (b c 2 Spirit of Boom-Don’t Doubt Da Wife) a $50K CYS purchase last year which effortlessly won a Callaghan Park trial (900m) this morning (8/3). He hasn’t raced since a debut win at Mackay on December 6. By the way Taylor’s star 3YO Divine Purpose won her 900 metres trial under Justin Stanley at the same session with absolute arrogance. Divine Purpose runs first-up in the $100k 3&4YO Classic (1300m) on April 1. Her clash with Nick Walsh’s Sunshine Coast winner last Sunday in Just Super should be a beauty. Bush Diamond trials again in a few weeks and will go into the CYS 2YO fresh. Yep, some great racing coming up that’s for sure. Don’t know if you missed it but David Vandyke trained Weona Smartone (NZ), the Max Whitby slot holders’ candidate for the $775K The Archer (1300m) on April 30 won the first of 20 barrier trials at the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday. He was under a “full Nelson hold” from Ryan Maloney and I’ll bet Max over in Kuala Lumpur was elated. Can’t wait for The Archer on Sunday, April 30.

Banjo Paterson (1864-1941) the famous bush poet, horseman and amateur jockey who rode in races at Randwick and Rosehill wrote a classic with “Riders In The Stand”. Punters, owners, trainers, racing writers and almost everyone who views racing has at one time or another been critical of a jockey’s ride. On many an occasion during four decades of training I have given a jockey “life” for what I judged a very bad ride. More often than not that ban only lasted a short duration but for one or two others it will never be lifted. I got that impression also from the comments from an owner I literally bumped into at a recent race meeting of “that jockey will never ride one of my horses again even if the jockey is the only one available”. Personally, I gave a jockey “life once” to which he replied “racing is like a merry-go- round it keeps on going round and coming back’’. The jockey was right and was back on at a relatively young age for a “lifer”. These days the riders (jockeys) on the merry-go-rounds aren’t as prolific as previously which means sometimes people have to “eat their words”. If you haven’t read “Riders in the Stand” please do so as being a jockey Banjo knew what he was writing about.


Sad to hear of the passing on that iconic Townsville racing identity Terry Butts. I would have been well down the very long queue in the line-up of Terry’s countless friends but we were that – friends. You name it and Buttsy did it in racing. Apart from training our common thread was being racing writers and shall we say “standing up for the little people in racing and to quote the late Don Chipp trying to ‘keep the bastards honest’. Terry was a champion in both categories and it is fair to say it cost us both dearly over the years as we often confided. However, Terry and I shared a common philosophy – “it is better to die standing than to live on your knees”. Terry Butts certainly died standing. Nice gesture by the Townsville Turf Club to name the second race there today (Thursday 9/3) the Vale Terry Butts Class 6 Plate (1000m). John Lingard in his racing website “letsgohorseracing” has written a wonderful tribute to Buttsy and I recommend it to all and sundry to read. They were close friends and of the same ilk.

By the way FIFO jockey, the Rocky premiership winner Ryan Wiggins will return to race riding at Doomben in 10 days’ time. “I’ll only take the one ride”, Ryan told me this arvo (8/3), “Probably on In Evidence in the QTIS Jewel ($500k)”. “I’m coming along good”, Wiggins a tough cove said

Ryan won on In Evidence in the Jewel Qualifier at Mackay for John Wigginton on February 25, but was involved in a fall past the post and fractured ribs. I’d be out for life – not that term again!

Congratulations to rookie apprentice jockey Erin Molloy on riding her first winner Augustawynd for trainer Tim Cook at her eighth race ride at Bowen last Saturday. Tim is the “Theo Green” of CQ when it comes to apprentice jockeys. He has tutored some very good apprentices in the past including Donna Carrigg, Zoe White, Alisha Donald and the late Carly-Mae Pye. “Erin is the first one of those apprentices to ride her first winner on a horse trained by me”, Tim said. Erin, who has great jockey heritage, rides at Bundaberg on Saturday and Mackay next Monday.

Barring bad luck, Milo Man will win his sixth race from as many starts for owner Geoff Elliott and trainer Nick Walsh at Mackay’s TAB meeting on Monday. After that a few weeks R & R on a water walker down south while spelling and back to Rocky for the Winter Carnival races.

Tony McMahon





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