Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.
Published 18 December 2023
Gun Rockhampton colt Astapor will be in the hot seat at Eagle Farm on Saturday when he attempts to cement his position as “the real thing” for the $3M Star Magic Millions 2YO Classic (1200m) at the Gold Coast on January 13. The Clinton Taylor trained Rockhampton and Brisbane winner is among nine entries for the $300K B. J. McLachlan Stakes (1200m). He is due to clash with the ruling $4.00 Magic Millions favourite, Storm Boy from the Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott stable. Astapor is currently on the eighth line of MM betting at $28.00. Storm Boy, a son of Justify was a $460,000 MM Yearling Sale purchase whereas Chinchilla’s Rod Hay only paid $38K for Astapor at the same sale. Storm Boy made a highly impressive winning debut over 1100 metres at Rosehill on December 2 and was then set aside with the MM as his goal. Saturday’s clash between the pair will invoke massive interest.
Rockhampton interest won’t just centre around Astapor at Eagle Farm. Callaghan Park trained Master Jamie (Graeme Green), bordering on $1 million in prize money returns for another campaign in the $200K Falvelon (1200m). Alpine Edge (Toby and Trent Edmonds), the winner of $750,000 The Archer, which ignited excited emotions galore amongst its owners and slot holders at Callaghan Park during the autumn, also has been entered for the Falvelon. Another local, Acres Away from the Tom Smith stable is nommed for the QTIS 3YO Handicap (1000). They are among 158 entries for the mammoth 10 race card.
Speaking of which, what about the nominations for the RJC meeting at Callaghan Park on Thursday and the Mackay meeting the following day, Friday, December 22? Some 111 horses have been allocated weights for the eight race TAB card at Rockhampton. Mackay has drawn 121 horses on its entry card. It just doesn’t happen by chance. I know for a fact that a huge amount of time is allocated by the programmers to schedule races that vary as much as possible when both those clubs race on back-to-back and very close dates. It is an unenviable task with so many variables out of their control. It may not work all the time, but it certainly has this week. By the way, 46 of the 121 entries for Mackay on Friday are Rockhampton trained. That amounts to 38%.
I have been writing for years now how reliant the Mackay TAB meetings are on Rockhampton trained horses which always win the majority of the races on the card at Ooralea meetings. Well, the Rockhampton stakeholders went one better there last Saturday when the entire program of six races was won by Callaghan Park trained horses. Ricky Vale won with Kwowitall Jack (NZ) and Track Tale. Kevin Miller with Playful Kiss. Tim Cook with Deel With Me while Tom Bourke scored with Rubunkar and Jared Wehlow with Courtesy Bus. Not only did the Rocky mentors win the entire program but so did the Callaghan Park jockeys. Apprentice McKenzie Apel starred with a winning treble making it 26 wins in her brief career. Apprentice Erin Molloy notched winner number 29. Seniors, Ashley Butler and Raul Silvera Olivera each rode a winner as well. I believe last Saturday’s winning of the full card of races at a Mackay TAB meeting by Rockhampton trained horses and ridden by Rockhampton jockeys is unprecedented. For the statisticians, 25 of the 53 starters at Mackay last Saturday were Rockhampton trained. That equates to just over 47%. By the way, the Mackay stewards reports from last Saturday makes interesting reading.
These days at 71, after calling the races at Rockhampton and Mackay for Yonks, I only broadcast at some Capricornia country race meetings which I really enjoy. I’ve been at the caper on and off for over 54 years starting off in the Northern Rivers of NSW before commencing on-course at the Gold Coast Turf Club around 1971. Last Saturday I called at Gladstone where unfortunately only 25 horses competed. Regrettably, some trainers didn’t even accept with their horses to race at Ferguson Park because they could not get a jockey. As it was, only for veteran Toowoomba based jockey Dennis Baker answering and SOS, there would most likely have been more scratchings. Fortunately, Rocky apprentice Nikki Olzard and another veteran Colin Lennon who has relocated from Mackay rode at Gladstone. SEQ apprentice Broadie Moffat won three of the five races. Watch his winning ride on Beau Gorman trained Elka Eleven in the third race there. Go to Racing Queensland Non-TAB video replays. The saddle shifted up over Elka Eleven’s wither at some part and Brodie not only did a magnificent job of staying aboard but also rode the horse out to win by a long neck. I congratulated him post-race but modestly he said, “being alongside the running rail was a big help”. Brodie is a tall lad, but a natural horseman and he has now ridden 18 winners. Gemma Hogg, apprenticed to Aunty Glenda (Bell) at Emerald rode a winner as did Nikki Olzard. Both lasses have a future and Gemma, with just four winners from limited opportunities, is certainly improving with every ride.
You would think with just such small fields at Gladstone everything would run clockwise. Well, it didn’t which I have learned from a lifetime in racing is pretty true to form when it alludes to indicating that way on paper (small fields that is). With just five starters in the opening race the Maiden set for 1.15pm, you would not have guessed what was to unfold. I occupy the caller’s box above the judge’s box which also houses the photo finish operator. No sign of him, so concerned naturally, I notified officials of the day and then about 15 minutes before starting time, I told chief steward Hayden Gillett that the photo finish operator was not in his box- highly unusual to me as we converse regarding scratchings etc. much earlier on race days before the first. The operator, who is highly professional at his task, was contacted and arrived late so naturally the race was delayed. (In my day as a steward in NSW we had a check list of officials from which we ensured were on course well and truly before the first race). Then while the horses for the race were in the enclosure the bridle and blinkers on Our Gold Claim became detached. Another delay. To the barriers they eventually went. Later still. When loaded Radiant Romance broke through the barriers and went off for a little gallop by herself. The rider, Gemma Hogg, did a great job restraining her and bringing Radiant Romance back to the barriers. Another delay while inspected by the vet as the other four starters were loaded in the barriers. Then Our Gold Claim would not load before a scrum of attendants including the RJC and GTC Clerk Of the Course Mick Barnes packed a scrum and got Our Gold claim in. Mick Barnes is worth his weight in gold behind the barriers. That brought about a further delay. Starter, Bobby Lisle let them rip. Unfortunately, Radiant Romance missed the start hopelessly and tailed the field. Gemma Hogg requested stewards declare her (the horse that is) a non-runner. After a very, very lengthy inquiry into the matter that request was denied, and the correct weight was eventually declared. Stewards deemed Radiant Romance was a victim of her own woes and was not declared a non-runner and both she and Our Gold claim had “a warning” placed on their record. It was just one of those races but a good story to share with you. Delighted to see Gladstone’s president David Weinert and wife club treasurer Judy as owners eventually win the race in question with Lee Kiernan trained Molloy (Nikki Olzard). The selfless contributions of the Weinert’s and their close friends Sharon and David Thomson and a few others are the motivating forces which make the Gladstone Turf Club such a delight for racegoers, stake holders and this old race caller to attend.
Don’t forget the online entry forms for the 2024 Capricornia Yearling Sales are available on the RJC and Magic Millions website.
Happy Horses everyone and get to the Callaghan Park races on Thursday for what should be a beauty.