Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon

Published 23 October 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon

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Delighted to hear nothing but positive reports about the success of the last Saturday’s Caulfield Cup race day at Callaghan Park. I did the rounds of my contacts from all sections of racing stakeholders. The commonality was a “huge gathering” – in other words a massive crowd. The reason being that I was way out around “Muckadilla” (I kid you not) on Saturday and could not be present at Callaghan Park. That didn’t stop my phone ringing to tell me how good a day it was there.  Can’t remember the last Caulfield Cup meeting I missed at Callaghan Park, but I well remember the first way back in 1988. Considering how much I partied that day and night 35 years ago it is a wonder I can remember anything. Back to 2023 and the man to get the official word from last Saturday was RJC CEO David Aldred who I caught up with at the “mini race meeting’’ (barrier trials) there this morning. “The day seemed to go off very well and yes there was a big crowd in attendance. I can tell you the official figures as security had a click-on device counting patrons as they came through the entrance gates. There were 3500 people in attendance” David told me. That is certainly a massive figure and suffice to say the biggest for an RJC race date that I can call in many, many a long year. Well done to all concerned.

The meeting coincided with the official opening of the RJC’s new “state of the art” extension which incorporates a viewing deck which allows patrons a head on view of the horses as they gallop down the 6000 metres straight. The new block will also double as a magnificent functions room at Callaghan Park racecourse while the RJC offices will move from the present ground level position to be top deck of the new block. It was officially opened on Saturday by Member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke. It all came about through a $2 million plus package through Racing Queensland’s Infrastructure Project Scheme and the Queensland Government. An expanded female jockey’s room was also part of the package. For patrons the new open air viewing deck which overlooks the parade yard where the jockeys mount their horse’s pre-race will be a big winner. I asked David Aldred if members of the public attending race meetings could utilise the facilities which naturally club members can do without saying. “Yes, all they have to do is contact us at Callaghan Park and arrange to purchase admission tickets to the new facilities”. That’s great news and I feel it is going to be a wonderful addition to the RJC’s concerted effort to raise attendance figures on race days. However, for mine what a magnificent setting to host a function – party, wedding or receptions of any sorts. Nothing like it in Rockhampton that’s for sure and there are no problems with the parking whatsoever. I’ll bet it will be high on the list for Christmas parties etc. this season. Book early and if you miss out in 2023 and book ahead for 2024.

Out on the Callaghan Park racetrack, which does look superb after its recent annual refurbishing, racing was first class last Saturday. It seems that jockey Justin Stanley who had a “quite season” in his terms in 2022/23 even though he rode 89.5 winners, was back to his brilliant best. Stanley landed a winning treble courtesy of Nick Walsh trained Fine Shot, Clinton Taylor’s Amrap (NZ) and Liam Birchley’s Parisian Lady. Justin has been enjoying a winning October with individual winners at Ipswich and Gatton early in the month. He followed that up with four Callaghan Park winners on October 8 before a double at Mackay on October 19 before his treble two days later on Saturday here. If that wasn’t enough, he was back on the plane before a drive to the Sunshine Coast for a win on Fighting Ido the next day Sunday. That made six winners in four days and 12 for the first three weeks of October. Guess where Justin Stanley was today (Monday) October 23 – that’s right back at Callaghan Park where he rode in seven barrier trials and brought home three winners. After the trials there were six jump outs scheduled and whilst I do not have the listings of competing jockeys, it a safe bet Justin Stanley took part in them. Justin Stanley has admirable work ethics and is a “giver” to Rockhampton racing in that he puts his time and energies into providing unselfish service to his trainers that support him by coming from Brisbane or just staying on in Rockhampton overnight to ride their horses in the barrier trials usually run the day after a race meeting. Justin Stanley deserves every success he achieves. This season in Queensland he has achieved 24 winners and sits with Ryan Wiggins on that number as equal seventh in Queensland. Local apprentice Brooke Johnson is in the top 10 in Queensland with 21 winners which is an outstanding feat. The other notable feat at the Caulfield Cup meeting at Callaghan Park on Saturday was Dale Evans’ breakthrough winner on John Manzelmann’s Mister Larabee in the Open Handicap (1050m). Good for Dale and thanks to John Manzelmann who started five of the six race runners. Without Manzelmann’s support the race would have been abandoned. 

Some 16 2-Y-O’s trialed this morning (another six in a jump out) at Callaghan Park. Clinton Taylor’s air of Astapor (br c Tassort-Black Mink) (Stanley) and Valorous Performer (b f Heroic Valour-Sop) (Johnson) quinellaed their 900 metres heat. It was almost a dead-heat. Both trialed well and looked like early season winners. I was rather taken by Colin Bell owned trial winner the Better Than Ready colt, the Kevin Hansen trained Ask Me Mate (Stanley) that won it’s heat rather easily from another of the breed John Wigginton’s filly More Stylish (Nikki Olzard). More Stylish gave me the impression though she will derive considerable benefit from the trial. Graeme Green’s Cosmic Force colt Astra Star (Warwick Satherley) scored a 1.22l win over Clinton Taylor’s I’lltellyougo (Ashley Butler), a Wanted filly in the other 900 metres trial. The runner-up will improve considerably come race day. That race day, Breeder’s Plate day on Friday, November 10 will come soon enough. It will be the beginning of the season for the 2YO’s in Rockhampton with a $47K 1050m race for colts and geldings and a $53K corresponding event for the fillies. Townsville’s equivalent the divisions of the Pallarenda Stakes (1000m) are staged on Saturday next. The only Rockhampton entrant is Kris Hansen, Graceville Thoroughbreds owned Only One General.

Wonderful to see the continued support for the Carly-Mae Pye Memorial race at Callaghan Park each Caulfield Cup Day race meeting there. It is hard to believe that nine years have elapsed since Carly-Mae Pye, a lovely young lady and gifted young jockey left us after losing her life from injuries sustained in a Callaghan Park jump out. Her partner and jockeying mentor Tim Cook was on hand to make the presentation to the connections of the Clinton Taylor trained Amrap (NZ) who won the Carly-Mae Pye Memorial Class 1 (1050m). 

And finally what good numbers of nominations have come in for the RJC’s TAB meeting at Callaghan Park this Friday. In total 94 horses have been entered for the eight-race program. That’s the biggest list for quite sometime for a run of the mill RJC meeting. It seems it is onwards and upwards for some great racing at Callaghan Park ahead of us. The signs are good as the grass track has never been better nor have the amenities for race goers. It’s all positive and the vibes were good out there this morning. See you there on Friday. Happy Horses -Tony McMahon.

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