Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 4 January 2024

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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With so many news items around local racing this week, I’ll submit the Racing Around Rockhampton Column in two issues – Thursday and Friday. 

Fantastic to see former leading Rockhampton apprentice Tahlia Fenlon ride her first metropolitan Brisbane winner at Eagle Farm on Wednesday. Arguably the easiest of Tahlia’s (Tails) 133 career winners at that. Trained by Michael Nolan in Toowoomba, Exotique Miss, her winner scored by 10.5 lengths. Full marks to Tahlia as she has “dug-in” to the Brisbane racing environment with trainer and her boss Chris Munce since moving there from her birthplace here last April. Hopefully, after Wednesday’s success many more opportunities will come Tahlia’s way leading up to her 21st birthday on March 31. Not forgetting either that on Tuesday, Tahlia won on the Sileas Green trained Dragon’s Snip at Callaghan Park. She had an engagement at Gatton races today (Thursday) as well as a number for John Manzelmann at Mackay races tomorrow (Friday). In July she created history by being the first female apprentice to win a Mackay Cup on the Manzelmann trained Savvy Legend (NZ). 

Another talented Rockhampton apprentice in Nikki Olzard has left Callaghan Park for a three-month loan period with trainer Jamie Bayliss on the Sunshine Coast. Nikki, 18, has ridden 30 winners on the country circuit in and around Capricornia and Mackay where she also has race rides on Friday. Nikki has a bright future ahead of her with a likeable persona  which will take her far. While she will be missed at Callaghan Park, there is nothing like “experience” of which the proverb relates “experience is the best teacher.” On that criteria, Nikki could not have gone to a better teacher that Jamie Bayliss, regarded as a renowned horseman in a variety of disciplines. He was a successful jockey earlier on winning an Ipswich Cup in 1989 on Dixie Kid. He turned his career to training in Victoria years later to establish the jockeying careers of his sons Regan and Jake. After a comeback to race riding there Jamie more recently returned to the Sunshine Coast to establish a stable.   

While the careers of Tahlia and Nikki are ticking along, another young lady the Ipswich based apprentice Olivia Kendall’s has been put on hold again. I am a fan of Olivia’s riding talent after first noticing her riding at the Middlemount Cup meeting on July 30, 2021, as a rookie apprentice so to speak. Olivia’s talent is undeniable and albeit a natural one at that. However, she has been dogged by bad luck not by her own instigation though. Back in November 2022 when her career was really taking off with provincial winners she was seriously injured (broken left elbow) when a horse “bucked’ just after the start of a Mackay race.  At the time Olivia had only been back riding for a short period after being sidelined for three months over another mishap. She returned to the saddle after seven months break on October 7 last year and has ridden seven winners since. If that wasn’t enough bad luck, I don’t know what is but low and behold Olivia was dislodged shortly after a race at Callaghan Park on December 21. Earlier that same day she had won the Magic Millions Country Cup Qualifier on Jared Wehlow’s Letmeletgo. While a tad sore after her tumble, Olivia, like so many of these fit jockeying athletes believed she was injury free. So much so that she rode on six subsequent consecutive race days from Warwick on December 28, Ipswich, Dec 30 and Darwin, Dec 31 (a winner). Back to the Sunshine Coast on Dec 30 while then riding winners at Toowoomba and Rockhampton on January 1 or 2. An Xray has revealed Olivia has a fracture at the base of her left thumb. It was just hurting a bit, but it will have to be placed in a splint and I’ll be out for six weeks only, I hope. Could have been worse”, she told me earlier this week. Incidentally, her Callaghan Park winner Fay Faye (trainer Kerrod Smyth) made it three in a row for owner Fred Noffke. Naturally, Olivia’s injury was the consequence of her tumble at Callaghan Park on December 21. Kendall had 26 subsequent race rides and really never missed a beat apart from a short upcoming spell for careless riding. I admire not only Olivia’s tenacity but her acceptance of her injuries without decreeing “oh why me”. Also, she has “never lost her nerve” after all her horse related accidents. Take it for me given a once of luck apprentice Olivia Kendall is a shining star on the horizon. 

Rocky Amateurs chairman and racing tragic (meant respectfully) Bill Reid had a vet’s certificate for his absence from celebrating the win of his horse the Jamie Mc McConachy trained Dollar Dollar (NZ) winning at Callaghan Park last Tuesday. Bill was only discharged from hospital the previous day after having undergone surgery. While he missed the win his fellow syndicate owners were cock a hoop in the winners’ stall. “I feel much better know”, Bill told me after I telephoned him minutes after the last-to- first-like win. 

Thrilled to see Callaghan Park trainer John O’Sing of Our Boy Malachi and Marway fame back a winner there on Tuesday with Azure De Lago (Chris Whiteley). The winner was bred by part-owners Elaine and Greg Sturgiss by their sire Hemingway. Drinks all round as a few races later Elaine and Greg’s Hidden Dragon gelding Dragon’s Snip which is out of a Hemingway mare also won for them and trainer Sileas Green. Surmise, John O’Sing would have joined in the double celebrations with a few lemonades.

Trainer Ricky Vale’s Tuesday winner Fighting Commando (Ryan Wiggins) looked good in his second-up win in the Open (1200m). Jared Wehlow’s Pepperdine (Ashley Butler) made it four white picket fences in a row (four consecutive wins) through winning the BM 60 (1500m). Indeed, Ash Butler has few peers in the jockeying ranks on front runners. 

The fortnightly Callaghan Park starters migration to Mackay’s Tab races rolls on up the Bruce Highway for the TAB races there tomorrow (Friday). They (27 horses) will come home with many winners from the ranks. Mackay’s Manzelmann family – John, Josh and Tracey Simmons (nee Manzelmann) have accepted with 24 horses between them as well at the meeting. The role of Rockhampton’s Callaghan Park racecourse as a training centre must never be underestimated by the authorities as it feeds Mackay racing and other country clubs in Capricornia. The Rockhampton and Mackay race programs play in tandem, and it is just a given albeit unfortunate that there are insufficient horses trained at Mackay to feed Rockhampton Jockey Club races. The Rocky-Mackay circuit is vital for this city’s racing stakeholders – always has been that way and always will be!

Fluked what I feel is an unusual photograph at Callaghan Park races last Tuesday. It is of Olivia Kendall swinging up on to her mount Fay Faye. Minutes later she was all smiles in the winning enclosure. 

HAPPY HORSES EVERYONE – Hopefully, we will go racing around on the computer again on Friday. 

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