Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 11 July 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Back to News

Seriously, it never ceases to amaze me how jockeys “get around” so much these days. They bob up “here, there and everywhere” so to speak. Les “Bubba” Tilley, 28 is a prime example. Last Friday and Saturday he rode at Callaghan Park, Rockhampton winning his third Rockhampton Cup on Master Jamie among his wining treble on Saturday. Come Sunday, Bubba rode a winning double about 950km away at Grafton. He will ride at the Ramornie and Grafton Cup meeting there on Wednesday and Thursday before driving back 314km to his Brisbane base that night. Then Friday will see him fly north to ride at the Mackay Newmarket meeting before reversing the process to ride at Grafton on Sunday.

I was privy to seeing Les doing it tough at Callaghan Park during Friday’s Newmarket meeting in I believe the “hot tub” at times getting his weight down a tad. What many people may not be aware of is that currently he wears a hand brace the consequence of dislocating a thump and tearing a tendon resulting from a race fall at Townsville on May 19 just a day after he rode a winner at Moree some 1442km away!  It’s simply amazing. That kept him out of the saddle for a month hence the poundage increased. The right-hand injury requires surgery but for the moment Bubba has deferred it and hopes his specialist will agree so as he can continue north onto the Townsville $100K Cleveland Bay Handicap (1300m) on Saturday, August 12. There Tilley will be reunited with Master Jamie which is being set for the race after a freshen-up from his Rocky Cup success. Master Jamie won the 2021 Cleveland Bay for now retired jockey Brad Pengelly.

While on the subject of Master Jamie, last year when asked post-race after his Rocky Cup success as to when he thought he had the Cup won, Tilley replied “’on the way to the barriers”. When posed the same question after the Cup win last Saturday, the jockey offered in an about way a similar explanation. “During his preliminary at the top of the straight he kicked-up and I had to hold on for dear life, so I knew then he was on his game. When he is playful like that you know he is right, and I reckoned he would win the Cup then”.

By the way when I rang Bubba Tilley on Tuesday morning, I assumed he was in Brisbane. Wrong again.  He was at Toowoomba’s Clifford Park racecourse preparing to ride in 10 barrier trials. He and his ilk deserve all the success they achieve.

Finally, on to my old mate Master Jamie on whom I feel I am always deservedly reporting about. His amazing win in the Rocky Cup under 59.5kg from an outside barrier was made all the more meritorious after reading the stewards report. Master Jamie – “after beginning well dipped shortly after the start”. In other words, blundered and cost himself momentum. Not many horses recover in a race to turn in a winning effort like that. But then again not many horses are like Master Jamie.


Jockey-trainer Tasha Chambers dislocated a finger in her left hand when injured in a freak accident as she was mounting Joan’s Joy in last Friday’s first race. It cost her dearly having to forfeit five rides. Tasha is hopeful of being back riding within three weeks. Jockeys are tough athletes!

The Gary Clem trained King Klaus staged a gutsy win under 63kg in Saturday’s Open (1050m) from a wide gate. He led, was headed twice in the straight but wouldn’t concede before going on to win by a half-length. No wonder his winning Irish jockey Martin Harley said “” he is a warrior and outfoxed them”. Harley, who also won the $75K Magic Millions Capricorn Guineas (1500m) on Graeme Green’s Top Spy is a delight to watch. In the early and middle part of his race rides Harley has a higher stance in the saddle than most of his rival jocks. In riding his mounts out in the straight he crouches very low like most European jockeys. John Wigginton summed it up well after Harley won on Sidearm on Friday. “He didn’t know the horse, but it was as if he had always ridden him. His timing was precise in getting Sidearm out in the straight to win”, Wigginton said. Harley like so many top jockeys have that uncanny knack of getting it right most of the time.

As I predicted, New Zealander Warwick Satherley, who now calls Rockhampton home is making quite an impression. Similar to Harley horses “travel” for Satherley and he has great hands on a horse. His rides on runners-up Honkytonk Diva and Sunfall in the MM Guineas and TAB Rocky Cup were gems. Satherley resumed race riding after more than a decade’s hiatus on May 9 and in the nine weeks since has ridden 16 winners. That speaks volumes that Warwick is a gun jockey. To achieve that after such an extended absence is all the more noteworthy as many jockeys will tell you even being out of the saddle for just months it can take quite a few rides to get their “timing “right in races. No so Satherley. He won on Gilbert’s Gold at his second day back jockeying on May 18. Some 25% of those 16 winners have been for senior Rocky trainer Kerrod Smyth. After they combined to win with Shadow Project at Callaghan Park last Friday, I commented to Kerrod in the winner’s enclosure “Warwick is the best horse you have in your stable”. Racing wise, the astute Kerrod gave a smug grin thereby acknowledging the gist of what I meant.

Mackay Newmarket races Saturday and then back to Callaghan Park, Rockhampton, Thursday July 20.

Happy Horses – Tony McMahon.

Back to News

Back to Top