Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.
Published 17 July 2023
Another chapter in a book that could be titled “Namazu” was written at Mackay races last Friday when the giant horse provided rookie apprentice jockey McKenzie Apel with her first winner. However, it went much deeper than that as McKenzie, indentured to Callaghan Park’s Ricky Vale, the trainer of Namazu was only having her fourth race ride. The race was the time-honoured H.L. Black Memorial (1800m), the lead up to Saturday’s $150K Mackay Cup (2000m). Namazu is arguably the biggest horse racing in Queensland weighing-in at around 600kg and standing 17.1hh. He was handicapped at 65kg, but Ricky Vale had no hesitation in nominating McKenzie for the ride. She did not let her boss down navigating Namazu across from a wide barrier before the turn out of the straight to third position before sooling him past the two leaders not long after. From there it was a procession as the pair led by as much as eight to ten lengths in the middle stages before going on to win by 3.5 lengths. If you missed viewing the exciting race, watch a replay on the options available including Racing Queensland’s TAB Race Replays as it is well worth the look. Under Ricky Vale’s training, “bred in the purple’’ Namazu (b g 5 Medaglia DÓro (USA)-Earthquake) has been a revelation. Managing owner Pav Cheimardinov and his partners purchased Namazu for $40K at a MM Gold Coast Racehorse Sale in 2021. Since then, mainly under Vale’s tutorage Namazu has repaid the purchase price more than 10-fold winning eight times. No ordinary win’s mind you as last year he won the series on $50K MM Guineas races at Rocky, Mackay and Townsville as well as the Cairns and Townsville Cups. During a stint with the O’Dea and Hoysted stable in Brisbane, the big boy won at Eagle Farm as well as finishing fourth in the $775K The Archer (1300m) her in April. Judging on last Friday’s Mackay demolition, the Northern Cups Carnival are again on the immediate horizon for Namazu. Run under Quality Handicap conditions whereby the maximum topweight is 61kg, Namazu, is going to prove one hell of a formidable foe in the upcoming Cup races. Congratulations to all concerned and particularly McKenzie Apel who backed up at Thangool races on Saturday with another winner Sturdy Time for trainer Glenda Bell, a great sticker for apprentices. By the way Namazu is brilliantly named. The legend in Japan is that a gigantic namazu (catfish) either lives inside or beneath the earth (or in the mud) which causes earthquakes. Do you twig (follow)? – Namazu, the horse is gigantic and his dam’s name is Earthquake.
Well done also to another Rockhampton apprentice in Nikki Olzard with her Thangool double on Dale Whyte’s Telmesomethin’girl and Damien Rideout’s Native Bee on Saturday. It was Nikki’s eighth winner and second double (Barcaldine) since her debut at Gladstone on May 27 and she has a very bright future. Meanwhile, on Saturday over 800km north at Ingham races, Tim Cook’s apprentice Erin Molloy rode her 13th winner on Arrogant Heart. Another Callaghan Park apprentice jockey Brooke Johnson is currently convalescing after sustaining a broken nose when struck by a horse’s head when riding it trackwork. Brooke underwent surgery for the injury and is uncertain when she will return to riding. Let’s hope it is sooner than later as Brooke, with 37 winners in just short of 12 months riding, is a talent. Rockhampton racing is indeed fortunate to have so many promising apprentice jockeys in the riding ranks.
Huge nominations for the Rockhampton Jockey Club’s TAB meeting this coming Thursday, July 20 with 103 horses entered. Making a rare flying visit back to his old stomping ground will be premier Brisbane jockey James Orman who is anxious to establish record winning figures for the current racing season which ends on July 31. Currently on the Australian premiership table, Orman on 184 winners leads Newcastle’s Aaron Bullock (183.5) with William Pike third on 180 wins. Last season’s premier Rocky jockey, Brisbane based Ryan Wiggins to his credit is sixth placed nationally on 131 winners. The tall Orman was always a talent commencing race riding in May 2013 and riding a winner that day at Nanango. He was a regular at Callaghan Park in his formative racing years and has ridden 36 winners on the track according to Racing and Sports. As an apprentice in 2015 he won the Rockhampton Cup on Bundaberg trainer Darryl Gardiner’s Victory Hotel. All up he has ridden 1063 winners.
The local Rockhampton premierships will be decided at the conclusion of next Thursday’s races. Ryan Wiggins on 51 winners todate will clearly win the jockeys table from second placed Justin Stanley on 26. Tahlia Fenlon leads the apprentice’s version with 11 wins from Brisbane’s Melea Castle on 10. Both have not been riding here regularly of late. The trainer’s premiership is going right down to the wire. Currently, Nick Walsh with 24 wins leads Ricky Vale by a single winner with last season’s premier trainer Clinton Taylor third on 21 wins. Ricky Vale has eight horses nommed for Thursday while Walsh has two and Taylor four. Makes for a very competitive day’s racing especially with visiting horses from the Sunshine Coast and Toowoomba running.
Congratulations to retired champion apprentice jockey Elyce Beak (nee Smith) and husband Jesse on the birth of their first child Dominic on July 7. Elyce took racing by storm in Rockhampton after commencing in March 2017 and retiring unexpectedly in September 2021 to take up a career in teaching. Elyce, daughter of trainer Fred Smith and wife Karen rode 88 winners at Callaghan Park among her 211 in such a short period. Jesse is the grandson of the late passionate CQ racing man Ron Beak and wife Val. At Mackay races on Friday, Val and Jesse enjoyed a winner with the Nick Walsh trained Valtino. Expect to see young Dominic at the races soon with his proud parents.
Rockhampton trainer John Poots has undergone multiple surgery in the Royal Brisbane Hospital to relieve pressure on his brain after a horse related injury at his property last Wednesday. He was flown to Brisbane that night. On Sunday his wife Louise said the latest scans were very promising and positive. On behalf of your myriad of friends in racing John, you are in our thoughts and prayers, and we wish you a complete recovery. Take care Louise.
Not surprisingly, international Irish jockey Martin Harley rode a winning double at Eagle Farm on Saturday. The likeable Irishman starred at the RJC Winter Carnival with eight wins. He rode five on Tatts Day, Sunday, June 26. Last Wednesday after three winners at Rocky the previous Thursday and Friday, Harley won the rich Ramornie Handicap at Grafton. Martin has now ridden 13 winners in the last 19 days up to last Saturday. Not bad considering he can’t ride light. Brisbane racing has a new star.