Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 20 December 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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Good to see some former familiar older faces on the listings of the jockeys ranks riding at the Callaghan Park, Rockhampton meeting tomorrow (Thursday). Welcome back to the very accomplished Gold Coast jockey Chris Whiteley who has ridden around 2000 winners all over the place. Chris from my records hasn’t ridden at Callaghan Park since late August and has been concentrating more on the Toowoomba meetings at Clifford Park. He has ridden numerous winners at Callaghan Park well in excess of 100 and he has three rides there Thursday as well as others at Mackay on Friday. Brisbane’s Beau Appo is another going racing at Callaghan Park. Beau moved to Rockhampton for a period back in 2020 and enjoyed considerable success. Had no luck in contacting him before penning this article but noticed he has not ridden in races since last November. Beau-Dene Appo is the son of that likeable happy-go-lucky talented jockey from yesteryear in Lyall Appo who was a character extraordinaire. Lyall was well known at Callaghan Park where he won the 1986 Rockhampton Newmarket on the Robbie Peckett trained Ima Roman. Which reminds me Chris Whiteley rode the George Osborne trained Fastness to victory in the 2006 Rockhampton Cup. As intimated in a recent column, Brisbane’s Justin Huxtable has joined the list of FIFO jockeys riding at Rocky and Mackay. 

On the subject of jockeys, Tom Button informs me his apprentice Gabrielle Semmens has been granted a northern provincial licence which would incorporate Rockhampton. Makes sense to me as Gabby rode Ahwahneechee when third in the recent Stampede Final at Doomben. If she is good enough to ride in Brisbane on a Saturday she rightly deserves to be licenced to ride in Rockhampton and Townsville. G. Semmens has ridden 38 winners and goes around at Mackay races on Friday which carry a “country” status. Tahlia Fenlon rides at Callaghan Park on Thursday. Last Thursday and Friday Tahlia had a “blinder” (as in winners). She rode a winner at Bowen on the Thursday and a double at Ipswich on the Friday. That makes close to 130 winners for Tahlia. 

Promises to be extra competitive racing on Thursday. The Magic Millions Country Cup Qualifier (1200m) to be run at 4.15pm is a beauty. From where I sit the quality horse is the Craig Smith, Roma trained Art By Concorde who won’t carry surplus dead weight under versatile Sunshine Coast heavyweight jockey Paul Hamblin. Art By Concorde has 61.5kg and he comes off a third in the recent Country Cups Final in Brisbane. Before that he flew home to beat the Jared Wehlow trained Letmeletgo a nose in the Yeppoon Qualifier. Letmeletgo meets Art By Concore 1.5kg better at the weights in their Thursday clash. That could even blow out to more should Olivia Kendall claim a two kilograms allowance. Comparative weights are big determinators when they favour one horse over another. Makes for an interesting clash, doesn’t it? 

That “Highwayman”, the Rockhampton trainer Clinton Taylor leaves Rockhampton around midnight Thursday night for his umpteenth float drive down the 634km along the Bruce Highway, Brisbane bound. While Clinton has lost count of his trips up and down the Bruce, this one will undoubtedly be his most important. Astapor, which is creating as much hype as did former mayor Rex Pilbeam in his hay day, runs in the $300K B.J. McLachlan GR 3 (1200m) at Eagle Farm on Saturday. “He won’t disgrace himself; I can assure you of that”, Clinton told me on Wednesday. From barrier 1 up against a few Sydney horse toffs all of CQ is hoping Astapor kicks their butts. For me, Astapor is one right out of the box and I’d say after Saturday it is onwards and upwards towards the $3M MM Star Classic 2YO (1200m) at the Gold Coast on January 13. Great to see the loyalty between Taylor and his jockey Justin Stanley who have teamed for 88 winners. Loyalty in racing is a rarity in this era so it is something special when it surfaces. Good luck also to the Master Jamie and the Acres Away crews from Rocky in their Eagle Farm quests on Saturday. Graeme Green believes Master Jamie will run well. Graeme received great news today that Master Jamie has been awarded a slot in the $750,000 Mort & Co King Of The Mountain (1200m) at Toowoomba on Monday, January 1, 2024. Congratulations Mr Green and Master Jamie – great for a Rocky horse. 

Well folks, I trust you have enjoyed reading my columns on this site and the RJC website throughout 2023. I am a victim of my own passion for racing in that I, what is termed in newspaper journalism lingo in that I “overwrite”.  Writing racing is one of my joys and way back when newspapers were really firing and racing writers were prolific, winning a prestige Australian Racing Writers Award and being presented with it in Melbourne was one of my special moments. To do so, writing about our Rockhampton racing for the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin made the award even more special. As I say I hope you have enjoyed my columns and yarns throughout the year. It amazes me just how far these columns reach as through them I have had communications from racing people from Hong Kong, England, Macau, Arab Emirates, New Zealand and Ireland. It is a “racing certainty” that through technology it is a small, small world. It is strange writing on websites as you just don’t know how many people are reading the copy. In the newspaper game you had the circulation figures the papers sold but in the main they were only read in their regions. With websites it is the opposite. People all over the world can scroll through the sites and read what interests them. The thumbs up symbol for “a like” cannot be judged as the sole indicator for a yarn which catches attention. It’s all another world to this old scribe as I am a tech dinosaur. From what I can ascertain though, there are about 11,000 regular followers of this page alone. It is further shared on other sites and goes all over the globe. Intriguing really.  In signing off, may I wish everyone of you a joyous and Merry Christmas. Make sure it is a safe one so take care. To all my equine friends out there I cannot finally sign off without saying “Happy Horses” from Tony McMahon. 

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