Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

Published 9 August 2023

Racing AROUND Rocky with Tony McMahon.

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As expected, Rockhampton’s St Joseph’s Cathedral was packed on Wednesday morning (9/8) for the celebration of the life of Ray “Feno” Fenlon”. Presider, Father Bill Senn conducted a glowing service which would have made Feno proud. His three sons Tony, Paul and Brendan delivered their emotional eulogies while lifelong friend John Shaw led the “Words of Remembrance”. Ray and wife Dawn Fenlon’s grandchildren Rohan, Tahlia, Mitchell, Bella, Nelson and Jordi were all very actively and beautifully involved in the service. A number of symbols of Ray’s life were placed during the celebration. These included Fenlon Family Rosary Beads; a Butcher’s Apron; Brothers Club Foundation Badge; Akubra Hat and Ray’s Racing Silks, not forgetting of course a Cambridge Hotel Stein. The “colours’’ were presented by granddaughter Tahlia Fenlon, the champion Rockhampton apprentice jockey. It was a moving ceremony attended by a huge percentage of the Rockhampton racing fraternity both young and young at heart. For example, the pallbearers included trainer Fred Smith, administrator Rob Carr and former well-known local racing identity Ken McCaffrey. Jockeys, owners and trainers both past and present were in attendance. With the upmost respect “Raymondo” one of the many titles of endearment for Ray and my personal favourite, would have been chuffed.  I must make mention of Bella Fenlon’s magnificent rendition of the final Hymm Ämazing Grace”.  That is a VOICE. The Fenlon family should be proud of orchestrating such a magnificent celebration of Ray’s life. Congratulations.

Mention the name Tahlia Fenlon and what a remarkable and resilient young lady she is. Very early on Monday, Tahlia took ill in Brisbane and subsequently had to forfeit a winning ride at Mackay races on Tuesday afternoon. On Monday night when admitted to hospital with appendicitis, Tahlia told the doctors she had to go to her grandfather’s funeral on Wednesday and would come back to hospital on Friday. What an attitude! Naturally, given the seriousness of the diagnosis, that could not be allowed. However, the surgeon said to Tahlia “I will have you to your grandfather’s funeral in Rockhampton on Wednesday”. On Tuesday, Tahlia was operated on for appendicitis, which is major surgery. She flew to Rocky on Wednesday morning under strict conditions. However, much to her major disappointment, Tahlia won’t be able to fulfil her engagement on Savvy Legend, one of the favorites for Saturday’s Townsville Cup. Thanks to those above-mentioned Rosary Beads and many a prayer, Tahlia not only got to the funeral but played an active role. She displayed no visible signs of her surgery and I had no idea until told and then still doubted what I had been told. I checked – spot on. Incredible. It is a crying shame for Tahlia to miss the ride on Savvy Legend as she won the recent Mackay Cup (much to Ray’s delight) and the big lead-up at Cluden to the Townsville Cup last Saturday. By all reports Savvy Legennd is very, very difficult horse to ride and Tahlia and the gelding get on famously. Late on Wednesday, trainer John Manzelmann was searching for a suitable replacement jockey for Savvy Legend which won’t be easy to find.

Really you have to take your hats or caps off to the female jockeys. Take Sonja Wiseman bashed shockingly with a rock injuring her face just last week outside her home in Darwin. Low and behold the former Rockhampton based lass rode at the Darwin Cup meeting last Monday. What about Jade Doolan? She was kicked in the leg by a horse and hospitalised last Wednesday week and had to forfeit winners at Callaghan Park last Thursday. Believe me it hurts like hell. Low and behold Jade trekked from her Mackay base and rode a winner umpteen kilometres away at Richmond last Saturday and another at Mackay on Tuesday. Jade told me she copped an eight days suspension at Mackay which comes into effect on August 17. “I’ll rest the leg then”, Jade said.  Another tough lady. What a trifecta – Tahlia Fenlon., Sonja Wiseman and Jade Doolan.  

Rockhampton jockeys had a field day at the Mackay TAB races on Tuesday, winning six of the seven races programmed. Ash Butler commenced the new season in sparkling form with a treble there courtesy of Jamie McConachy’s Uno Artie, Emerald trainer Glenda Bell’s Diamond Hands and Tim Cook’s Dr Neigh. Taking into account Butler’s win on top Townsville trainer Georgie Holt’s Miss Seattle there last Saturday, Butler has won four races in the first week or so of the new season. Brooke Johnson, after consecutive winning trebles the previous week at Bundaberg and Yeppoon only had two engagements at Mackay. She won on Kerrod Smyth’s Fay Faye ($3.40) and then finished second on $31.00 pop Flying Shamus. Apprentice Nikki Olzard saluted on Motamayiz (GB) ($3.90) while Warwick Satherley scored on Anselmo ($15.00). Big effort all round.

Large and very engaging crowd literally packed Keppel Park racecourse at Yeppoon last Saturday. Actually, one of the best crowds I have seen there in ages so well done to the YTC. Patrons lined the enclosure fence as the horses paraded for each race and then strung out along the outside rail of the track watching the races. I am not sure how many owners the Damien Rideout Jellishot ($3.00) winner for Nikki Olzard in the BM 55 (1200m) has. There was sustained and vocal cheering urging Jellishot on from the 150 metres mark. It didn’t need their encouragement running away to win by 2.5 lengths. The official race book listed two owners but from the noise filtering into my broadcasting box position it sounded like 200! 

There has been steady improvement in the condition of Rockhampton horse trainer John Poots who has been taken out of ICU and now into a ward in a Brisbane hospital. His doting wife Louise told me from beside John’s hospital bedside on Tuesday night that he was to be transferred to another Brisbane hospital on Thursday into a facility which specialises in treatment for brain injury rehabilitation. “” John has a long road ahead, but the signs are positive. He can hear and is talking a little”, Louise said. “Pootsie”, as he is affectionately named suffered serious head injuries from a horse mishap at his Rockhampton training property some weeks ago. The accident happened without any witnesses, and it is unclear exactly how and what took place. 

Take the tip I feel, I called a few near future race winners at the Keppel Park barrier trials last Monday. Clinton Taylor’s pair Papasito and Stavanger look the goods. Ricky Vale has a very smart horse in winner Freckle Rock, a big gross cove who may need a start or two while runner-up in the same trial Track Tale, has come back in fine fettle and is ready to fire. 

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