Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 1 November 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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Rockhampton racing stakeholders and indeed all associated with the Rockhampton Jockey Club as well as the people of this city, should be justifiably chuffed about the new facilities at Callaghan Park racecourse. Last Friday, I certainly was when attending the TAB race meeting there. The new elevated “deck” facility on the extended complex overlooking the saddling paddock (parade yard) is something else. The “open air” deck allows for a completely new concept of watching the Callaghan Park races. I could rave on for paragraph after paragraph praising the new set-up but that would pale into insignificance compared to experiencing it yourselves. It is fabulous to sit out on the deck and enjoy a lemonade and a meal while all the time watching the hive of activity below at close range. Seriously, get over to Callaghan Park for a race day asap and you won’t be disappointed. It is also a fantastic adjunct for the RJC in playing host for social functions. I dare say nothing in Rockhampton compares to it, especially of an evening when the racecourse is flood-lit. Well done all concerned.

Another pat on the back to the club for the implementation last Friday of a downstairs bar and lounge facility where trainers and owners can acquire a drink and refreshments. The RJC’s Heidi Butler hosted the facility where although not completely refurbished it went over as “a big hit”. Heidi a racing stakeholder as well as being on the club’s administration staff is very passionate about looking after owners and trainers during race day.” A complimentary drink is provided for the trainers as well as some food. They can enjoy the quietness of this new area while at the same time watching the racing on the big screen. It’s all about recognising the contribution the trainers and their owners make to racing at Callaghan Park”, Heide so rightly said. RJC CEO David Aldred is a big supporter of the new area based below the extended upstairs facility and deck. “Yes, it is something which is overdue, but we now have the facility and room to put this area in place”, David said. Throughout the afternoon I noticed David greeting the winning connections of each race in the winner’s stall area and then escorting and entertaining them in the downstairs lounge. It is an excellent Public Relations (PR) exercise which will go a long way to enhancing the image of racing in Rockhampton. With new upstairs lounges and function rooms as well as the deck yet to be officially named, I am not a fan of the trainers and owners lounge being tagged as “The Dungeon”. In my stewarding days, that’s what the wags termed the Stewards Rooms “Dungeons” in the Northern Rivers, NSW as they reasoned punishment was handed out in them. I think a much more complimentary title as opposed to “The Dungeon” should be bestowed upon the new facility. To my way of thinking, The Dungeon brings up all sorts of bizarre connotations. I’ll throw my two bobs worth in and suggest maybe “The Engine Room” or just plain and simple “Winners”. Please not The Dungeon. If you folk have any thoughts now’s your chance to comment on them. Don’t be shy.

Yes, I left Callaghan Park racecourse last Friday very proud and contented to be a small player in Rockhampton racing where a first-rate track and facilities can now stand proud. Ask yourself this question? How many racecourses in Australia if any, can boast a viewing area such as The Deck which allows race watchers to view the horses galloping down the 600 metres long straight almost head-on towards them. Another tick to the RJC. 

I thought I had heard it all in racing but never this before. Categorically, I have never heard a winning jockey come back on a horse and greet the joyous connections with an apology. Well, that’s exactly what took place last Friday when apprentice Tahlia Fenlon brought Dragon’s Snip back to the winners’ stall to delighted owners Greg and Elaine Sturgiss. “I’ll have to be honest it wasn’t a very good ride. It was a terrible ride – a wild ride”, Tahlia self-confessed as I almost couldn’t believe my ears. The stewards report subsequently read “Dragon’s Snip raced wide throughout the event. Commenced to hang out when rounding the bend near the 800 metres”. So don’t be too hard on yourself Tahlia as Dragon’s Snip had a treacherously wide draw to overcome from the 1100 metres starting point. It is the most testing for horses drawn out wide as they run quicky on to the first turn and are endangered of being caught wide as was the case with Dragon’s Snip. It is not uncommon practice, rightly or wrongly, for jockeys and trainers to call on the Book Of Excuses when their horses get beaten but winners are always awaiting plaudits. That’s what made Tahlia Fenlon’s refreshing brutal honesty worth recording. I’ll pose this question readers “Have you ever heard a winning jockey complain about the state of a track”? Of course not, that can come on occasions from The Book Of Excuses I was telling you about for the beaten brigade!

Have a good browse of the RJC Callaghan Park Facebook Page and Website as much is coming up out there this month. By the way the barrier trials scheduled for Keppel Park, Yeppoon next Monday have been transferred to Callaghan Park. More happy trainers following that announcement. 

Happy Horses – Tony McMahon.  

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