Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 12 December 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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It’s well known that “positivity breeds positivity” and there is an abundance of that quality emanating from Callaghan Park racecourse after last Saturday’s highly successful RJC Family Christmas Race Day. The meeting certainly lived up to its hype with all ages catered for at Callaghan Park. RJC CEO David Aldred was elated at the success of the day. “It was certainly a good day, and I would say pretty much sensational. Everyone was having a good time as well. All up we had 14 groups celebrate Christmas parties with bookings at our venues. This was far more than in previous years. There were five big party bookings as well as nine smaller ones. It was a profitable day for the club and the new open deck area in The Members proved very popular,” David said. There is no doubt that the deck which overlooks the parade enclosure and allows for uninterrupted head-on views of the Callaghan Park straight is a huge plus for the racecourse. It certainly is the popular place to be. Throughout the afternoon people were migrating out onto the deck. It creates a very social atmosphere,” Aldred said. That certainly is a given and although I may be biased, the functions area that is The Members at Callaghan Park surely must be rated as the best or right up there with anything else in Rockhampton. With the racetrack floodlit at night it makes for a spectacular venue for any gathering. Pretty good place to watch races   as well. Brilliant really.

Out on the track last Saturday, trainer Clinton Taylor and jockey Ashley Butler, separately landed winning doubles. Taylor won with Janean (Brooke Johnson, $5.00) and Stavanger (Justin Stanley, $2.35). Stavanger brought up the 88th winner the pair have combined with together. The only surprise about the win of Janean was the generous price of $5.00 when the Spill The Beans mare completed her fifth successive victory. A perfect example of the racing catch cry “the more you win the better the price”. Trainer Jared Wehlow and jockey Ashley Butler combined with two smart winners in Rideau ($2.20) and Pepperdine ($2.50). The latter made it three wins on the trot. Both Jared’s horses are well above average with many more wins in store. Pepperdine (blk g Pierro-Our Miss Jones (NZ) x Darci Brahma (NZ) was passed in at the 2021 MM Yearling sale for $200K on a $250K reserve. It was subsequently sold for $17K at an online Inglis sale in May this year and is raced by Matt Gudinski, the CEO of the mammoth Mushroom Records Group and some partners. Great buy as Jared Wehlow has now trained it to earn $34,400 from three starts for three wins. Rideau (b g 4 I Am Invincible –Torvill x Not A Single Doubt) sold for $440K at the same MM 2021 sale and Jared Wehlow paid $62,500 for the gelding at the MM National Sales last Winter. Last Saturday’s other Rocky winner was the Graham Green trained Kotabharu (br m 6 Hallowed Crown-Olvine x Royal Academy). She has been a great money spinner for the “Master Jamie” ownership team of Graeme Green, Ron and Bev White and Maureen Olive (not in Master Jamie) winning over $186,850 off a $22K purchase at the MM 2019 sale from Oaklands Stud. Incidentally, Oaklands produced another Hallowed Crown winner at the Gold Coast in a very smart one named Hostwin Crown a daughter of Emma Kate a producer of CQ winners. Do yourselves a favour, google Queensland TAB race replays and watch Hostwin Crown win the first race at Aquis Park last Saturday. It looks extra smart. 

It is certainly testimony to the skills of a number of the above-mentioned stakeholders and indeed Rockhampton racing in general as to their individual prominence on the current 2023-24 QLD racing season’s current premiership standing. For instance, Brisbane’s regular FI/FO jockey Justin Stanley who is an adopted Rockhamptonite sits equal 4th with 40 wins on the QLD jockeys’ premiership. How good is this though, young apprentice Brooke Johnson is in eight possie with 33 winners. Ashley Butler whose rides are restricted by his stature, is in 11th position with 29 successes. On the trainer’s rankings, The Highwayman trainer Clinton Taylor is in 12th position with 24 winners. It was based on mileage (kilometres) travelled, Taylor would be well and truly on top of the list. Given that those four individuals don’t have the opportunities that their SEQ cousins have in servicing race meetings, their efforts are all the more meritorious. 

As David Aldred said the only disappointing factor of last Saturday’s Rocky races was the reduction of a planned six race local card to that of five races. This came about when the 2YO Handicap was abandoned following only three entries. The scarcity of juveniles racing currently is not just confined to Rockhampton, it is an Australia wide problem but seemingly worse in Queensland. For example, what about last Saturday at Eagle Farm when only four 2YO’s contested the $200K Phelan Ready 2YO (1000m). I have spoken in this column previously about my theory for smaller fields up this way so I will not go over old ground. There are theories galore about the reasonings for the problem so we can only hope a solution is forthcoming. I do believe though that the first season 2YO race in Rockhampton, the Breeders Plate (1050m) (run early November)  which traditionally has been run in two divisions based on sex – not that sex these two – the colts and gelding’s division and the fillies division should be combined making it a far more attractive race with collective prizemoney. Currently each division is set at $35K prize money plus QTIS bonuses. This year Astapor won the male’s division in a field of only six. Valorous Performer won the fillies Breeders in a field of five. Such small fields detract from interest and are detrimental to betting turnover and that is the lifeblood of racing. While I know some will raise the “old chestnut” of spreading the love around – in this case the prize money for more stakeholders, it is counter-productive and not a financially viable exercise. However, I believe a $70K Breeders 2YO Plate (1050m) for all comers with an allowance naturally for fillies, would likely attract a capacity entry. It is certainly worth looking at as an alternative as the traditional two divisions are not working nor on current trends won’t in the future either. I stress this is my opinion only and I offer it for debate which is very healthy.

Speaking of two-year-old racing, the yearling sales are sneaking up again. A box of catalogues for the Magic Millions January Sale arrived at the local post office for me last week and seriously I struggled to carry it. Little wonder as the catalogues contains listings for 1468 yearlings to be offered at the Gold Coast in seven sessions over a week from January 9 to January 16. It is the biggest catalogue on record, and it is a certainty that some of the yearlings will make their way up here. Of course, interest locally focuses on the 2024 Capricornia Yearling Sales to be conducted at the Rockhampton Showgrounds on Sunday, April 7 and it is intensifying. Entries for the CYS will close on January 31. “The online nominations forms for the Rocky Sale will be up by the end of the week on the Magic Millions website and the RJC website. All entries will be conducted online,” RJC CEO David Aldred said. Before you know it, the CYS will be breathing down our necks. 

Well folks that it’s from this edition of RAR, more later in the week.

Happy Horses – Tony McMahon.

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