Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon

Published 30 September 2022

Chief Stipe Paul Gillard (hat and tie) all the way from Cairns, marshalling the troops in the parade yard at Gladstone racecourse last Saturday. Picture: Tony Mc Mahon

Back to News

Before I forget, don’t forget racing returns to Callaghan Park, Rockhampton on Tuesday with a seven race TAB card. Over the last month the grass track has had a complete refurbishing and plenty of TLC. RJC track manager Trent Williams went into great detail about the technical process involved, including a regimented agronomy program which had to be followed. The long and the short of it is Williams is very happy with the way the track has responded in every facet. “We have applied about 5mm of irrigation daily on the track and it has really done well. I suppose at the moment we don’t need any rain leading into Tuesday’s meeting”, Williams said. Tuesday’s program commences at 1.45pm. Trainer Ricky Vale will have a busy day saddling six starters.

Surprised to see former Rockhampton chief steward, the now Cairns based Paul Gillard “in the chair” running the Gladstone Turf Club race meeting last Saturday. I have always held the highest respect for Paul even though I tagged him “Gettem Gillard” during his tenure as Capricornia’s chief steward in Rockhampton from January 2006 to September 2008. That was during my period of around 27 years as racing writer for The Morning Bulletin.

I myself was tagged “Stirrer” by that unforgettable racing legend, the late Colin “Lizard” Lisle and in hindsight he was probably right. Anyhow, Paul now has 27 years as a steward to his credit, with stints in Brisbane, Rockhampton, Townsville, the Gold Coast and now up in Cairns. We go back a long way as for memory he was a stable hand in the Northern Rivers NSW way, way back when I was chief stipe there. I like the way Paul operates. He is a man’s man and doesn’t just sit in the stewards’ room but gets out and about as he did at Ferguson Park last Saturday. Just like the old coppers who walked and worked their beats, Gillard was seen marshalling the parade yard, keeping an eye on things in the betting ring, around the horse stalls and very proactive.

Whatsmore he is the best in QLD for posting his stewards reports promptly which in the main are on the sites within hours of a race meeting’s conclusion. Stewards’ reports are crucial reading. Mind you I had my clashes with Gillard during our various career paths but for mine Paul Gillard is good for Queensland racing and the methods he puts into practice are a shining example of how a chief steward should conduct a race meeting. The three key words here are “to be seen”. I am aware that QRIC is currently very short on the ground for racing stewards and this was highlighted by the fact it had to get travel Gillard some 1175km from Cairns to get to Gladstone last Saturday.

I imagine flights were involved so it must have proved a costly exercise for the organisation. Credit where credit is due, at least QRIC got one of the best stipes in QLD for the job in Paul Gillard. Afterall, he has had about 27 years stewarding experience as well as many years previously around racehorses. Let’s hope QRIC fill the voids in its stipes’ ranks asap. Scarcity of stewards, let alone. experienced ones is not just confined to QLD as I am aware it is similar, although not quite as bad in NSW. Oh well I may be 70 but I’m willing to hand in my trainer’s brief and help out if the call comes. Only joking of course because stewarding, more so in these days than ever before, is probably the most thankless job in racing.

IN BRIEF: (Yes, I do know what that word “brief” means).

Congratulations to Rocky trainer Krystie Clark-Peoples on winning her home town Longreach Cup last Saturday with Centaur. Pure joy winning a home town Cup. Better news still for Kristie and family that husband David has received very positive health reports. Former Rocky trackwork rider Sheridan Clarke, 28, really making a name for herself as an apprentice jockey with Victorian trainer Phillip Stokes. She rode a treble at Geelong yesterday (29/9) bringing up 46 winners in about 12 months of race riding. Helpful to many during her years at Callaghan Park – good on you Sheridan who dropped 10kg to become indentured. What’s the secret? Big future ahead and keep cracking that winning smile Sheridan. Former Rocky apprentice Alisha Donald getting right into winning races of late as well. Female jockeys abound all over the place even at Eidsvold where Callaghan Park mentor Tom Smith runs, I Am Clever under Rocky hoop Chris McIver in the $12K Cup on Saturday. The score there – females 8 – males 5.

All thanks of course to the one and only Pam O’Neill! For the life of me I can’t understand why SEQ jockey Adam Spinks is not in more demand. He rides at Eidsvold tomorrow but should be in much more demand up this way. Very happy for him to win on Springthorpe ($21.00) at Yeppoon last Tuesday. Adam 28, is a wasted talent as far as I am concerned. See he rode a winning double at Gympie a fortnight back. I am sure if on the right “cattle” in Rocky he could get the job done. The usual exodus from the Callaghan Park “training centre” feeds the Mackay Turf Club’s TAB meeting again tomorrow (1/10). Some 25 Rocky horses are among the 61 acceptors there. That represents about 41% contribution from Callaghan Park.

The percentage of Rockhampton horses engaging at Mackay meetings is consistently astounding. Good luck to the Mackay Turf Club as the track is brilliant as are the facilities. Who could blame the travelling trainers from Rocky picking the eyes out up there as their strike rate of winners is brilliant and on face value it is much easier to win at The Gardens (Mackay) that at Callaghan Park. All things being equal though, without those Rocky trained “neddies” an argument could be made some meetings would battle badly at Mackay. Regrettably, there are insufficient horses trained at Mackay to supplement RJC meetings at Callaghan Park. This should not be interpreted as a criticism but simply a fact. Conversely, the RJC 2YO fields in recent years have been all the poorer through the departure of Craiglea “Stan’s” support.

Stan Johnson handed over the reins to daughter Krystle almost 18 months ago and cut back considerably on their big team of mainly juvenile horses to get back into dairy cattle. Incidentally beaut to call their 3Y0 filly Craiglea Etna winning at Gladstone last week. “Got many 2YO’s in work”, I asked Krystle. “Have 10 horses working Tony but only one or two babies as I am still trying to get through the 3YO’s”, a smiling Krystle said. SOS to any southern trainers reading – get your 2YO’s ready for the float trip to Rocky for the two heats of the $50,500 QTIS Breeders 2YO Plates (1050m) on Friday, November 4. Once those races were “jam packed” with runners but then again “once I had hair”. Hope I am wrong as I was once.

The truth is the QTIS money is there all year around now and trainers are not pushing their yearling purchases to be get up and be running for the “one big go” – the Breeders Plate. Same everywhere really and that has to be good for racing and the young thoroughbreds themselves unless of course they are natural athletes. Patience is a virtue in all forms of life particularly horse racing. Remember Bart Cummings’ famous quote “Patience is the cheapest thing in racing and the least used”. What a truism and many trainers should remember that!

That’s it apart from a reminder of the gala Emerald 100 race meeting out there next Saturday and the St Peter’s School Carnivale of racing at Callaghan Park on Saturday, October 15. All the info on the relevant race club websites and Facebook Pages.

Oh, dear I was supposed to be brief but as I have said before try and tell that to my runaway computer key board.

HOOFNOTE: Horse racing is referred to as “The Racing Industry” but sometimes I believe the initials TRI would be more appropriately defined as “The Rumour Industry”. They were wrong at primary school teaching 1 plus 1 equal two. In this game, 1 plus 1 equal 11 especially so at the morning trackwork sessions throughout Australia where degrees in rumour mongering abound. Callaghan Park would be well and truly (sorry untruly as in rumours) in the top 10. Sad really but as Ned Kelly said to the hangman just before he was hanging around no more “Such is Life”?

One thing I do know from around six decades in racing “you have to have a sense of humour” so hope this read gave to a chuckle of two. It did to me when I read it but then again, I am biased.

Photo: Chief Stipe Paul Gillard (hat and tie) all the way from Cairns, marshalling the troops in the parade yard at Gladstone racecourse last Saturday. Picture: Tony Mc Mahon

Back to News

Back to Top