Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 27 April 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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Just while compiling today’s (27/4) Racing Around Rockhampton Column, I feel rather emotional after just watching Bush Diamond win the QTIS 2YO (1200m) at Mackay. Bush Diamond was purchased by Alan Acton (tragically killed in a helicopter crash a few weeks back) and wife Jennifer for $50,000 at the 2022 Capricornia Yearling Sales in Rockhampton. The Clinton Taylor trained gelding ridden by Justin Stanley won easily at Mackay. Bush Diamond (runner-up Townsville 12 days ago) is the first horse to sport the Acton’s green and white colours since Alan’s passing. Bush Diamond keeps alive Alan’s sentiment of Jennifer’s horses being named with the bush or outback theme in keeping with family tradition from Wilpeena. Certainly, hope Bush Diamond’s win is the forerunner to Alan and Jennifer’s slot Surf Dancer winning the $775,000 The Archer at Callaghan Park on Sunday for trainers Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott.  Go Surf Dancer!     

A vital component of the training of racehorses is placement. In other words, finding a suitable race (class/distance) in which to start your horse. It was drilled into me decades ago by a very astute trainer there are three key points in training a racehorse. “Feed them right, work them right and place them right and they should do alright”, he told me back in 1986. That doesn’t for a second mean the horse should win but simply do the best it can as there are countess variables that also come into play. He also told me “You can’t beat fitness”. Anyhow this leads me to Beaudesert races just last Tuesday where the Tom Button – Ryan Tyrell and much Rockhampton owned Jemeldi won. Unquestionably, 3YO Jemeldi, third placed behind Promitto in the GR 2 Skyline Stakes (1200m) at Randwick last February was the best “placed” horse I have seen for many a day. First-up from a spell after winning two trials and for the sake of this essay let’s say Tom Button entered him for the Set Weights Class 2 (1100m) at Beaudesert. That meant he was handicapped at 58kg but then Jemeldi’s track work rider since day dot, the now apprentice Gabrielle Semmens was engaged (2kg claim) and brought him in with the gift weight of 56kg. Now that is brilliant placement. Jemeldi won his first two starts beating of all horses Spiritualised at both the Sunshine Coast and Doomben. That meant he was a Class 2 horse. I hope all his owners (16 excluding the extra’s in the Livinadream Racing and Findyabookie Syndicates) won big on Jemeldi at for memory $3.40. Furthermore, if they did, I trust they did not forget to sling Tom (give a present) or just buy him a lemonade for his brilliant placement of Jemeldi.  Well done. 

Talking of slings which in racing days of old were common to a trainer or jockey when they won a race (especially if the trainer tipped the owner into backing the horse). Of course, in this day and age prize money is much greater while the cashed-up betting winnings from on course bookies has dried up through their demise and off course traceable TAB and online betting. This means that “cash in hand” from betting is a rarity while so are slings from owners. Of course, not all winning owners were punters as well. Anyhow, I remember receiving in the “days back when” a rather strange sling from a well-intended female owner after winning a race for her at Murwillumbah. She sent me (the trainer) and the winning jockey a beautiful bunch of flowers each. As the jockey (name withheld) who no longer rides said on receiving the bouquet from the florist “you can’t eat flowers”. Whatsmore the jockey said a lot more which to this day is still unprintable!  

Back to Beaudesert and apprentice Gabrielle Semmens, 23 a Sunshine Coast lass who graduated from the show jumping circuit to becoming a stable hand at 15 with Tom Bourke. “I started riding trackwork at Corbould Park with Paul Duncan when I was 17 and then was fine tuned in riding by trainer Tony Haydon. He was a great help to me finetuning me from an equestrian rider to a track work rider and he egged me on to becoming jockey’’, Gabby said. She said she and Tom Button have been partners for a couple of years and “I have learned so much about becoming a jockey through Tom. He inspired me to become a jockey and I took off 10kg to get down to my riding weight of 56kg”, Gabby disclosed. She told me at Keppel Park races last Saturday that “it will be so cool riding Jemeldi at Beaudesert as I have been his regular rider all the way on the tracks and even rode him work at Randwick last year”. I can only imagine how “cool” Gabby must have felt after winning on him at Beaudesert. She has now had nine race rides for three winners of which two occurred in Raymond Williams trained Johnny Deep and Super Bazooka at her debut race day at Emerald on Saturday, April 22. “That was special achieving it at Tommy’s home town of Emerald”, she told me. By the way, while you would never guess it now Tom Button was a top Brisbane apprentice during his heydays in the late nineties. He started off indentured to his late father Tony Button at Emerald and rode his first winner on Nelson Ohl’s Nevijaro at Dingo on April 8, 1995. A quick learner gifted with natural talent he rode 75 winners in the 1996/97 season and all told until weight got the better of him in 2000 rode 207 winners. These included, 27 at Eagle Farm, 63 at Corbould Park and 19 at Doomben. When I reminded him Tom at Keppel Park last Saturday he chided in with “look at me know”. Now training from a magnificent training facility in the Gold Coast Hinterland, Tom will ensure that Gabby Semmens is given every opportunity to ride winners in her weight scale. Lovely to hear a young person attribute their success or role or career in life to their parents which Gabby did with pride. “My mother Sue put everything into me earlier on when I wanted to ride”, Gabby said with affection. No doubt you are very proud Sue. 

Briefly: After a bad day at the office at Doomben last Saturday when stable stars Chinny Boom and Divine Purpose raced disappointingly (all fairness excuses for both) Rocky’s Clinton Taylor bobbed up at Wondai on Anzac Day. There he combined with stable apprentice Brooke Johnson to win the QTIS Maiden (1000m) with Rodney Hay’s filly So Odelia earning $12,050 first prize. Last Saturday at Yeppoon races Taylor won the QTIS Maiden with Oly Boom. Then it was three QTIS bonus races for the week with Bush Diamond at Mackay today (27/4). Well done QTIS King Clinton! Suggest trainers start sourcing jockeys for the RJC Saturday races at Callaghan Park on May 13. I know Adam Sewell and Jackson Murphy intend riding there on the day. Finally, I hear that affable cove, the former Rocky jockey Meggsie Hall is all the rage with offers for photographic assignments following his photo being published on the front cover of the RJC race book from last Thursday. Have a lot of time for Meggsie who is a real character and horse lover which shows in his kind demeanour with those horses that he leads up on race days. Good on you Meggsie. 

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