Talent aplenty line up for racing tomorrow (Thurs 23 May) at Callaghan Park.

Published 22 May 2024

Talent aplenty line up for racing tomorrow (Thurs 23 May) at Callaghan Park.

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First and foremost, congratulations to Callaghan Park trainer Darryl Johnston and retired mentor Jack Garland. Darryl or “Dags” as he is known by, produced a winner at both Emerald and Home Hill last Saturday. Mr Tangles won his fifth race for the stable in the $10K BM 55 at Emerald while stablemate Fav’s Flyer was a close third. At Home Hill, stable star Aspen Lad won his ninth race when first-up from a seven-month break taking out the $12K Open (1000m). Darry Johnston has never let his physical injuries of becoming a paraplegic from a race fall in 2007, restrict his training career. He floated Aspen Lad and stablemate Miss Daurian (fourth placed) the 620km from Rocky to Home Hill. “I floated them up to Mackay the day before and stayed at the owner’s place, up to Home Hill on the Saturday and back there that night and back to Rocky on the Sunday morning,” Darryl said. To see Darryl leading the horses off his state-of-the art wheelchair and saddling them up from it when required is nothing short of astonishing and inspirational. To Darryl’s horses it is the norm – believe you me animals are smart and know when their handlers have physical restrictions. Most are kind. Since his first starter as a trainer in 2008, Darryl has trained 97 winners while only mainly having a couple of horses in work at any one time. As for Jack Garland, he celebrated his 91st birthday last week. I have it on good authority his bride Margaret allowed the great man and former top trainer “one beer.”  I love the pair of them but Margaret more so than you Jack, but she would have conveyed that sentiment.   

In the main, the calibre of jockeys riding at Rockhampton Jockey Club programs, at what is termed be it correctly or incorrectly “mid-week” TAB race meetings should never be downplayed. For instance, seven of the jockeys competing at Callaghan Park races tomorrow (Thursday) also have rides in the glamour 10 race Doomben Cup race day on Saturday. There they will be competing against the cream of the jockeying ranks from throughout Australia. The seven are – Justin Huxtable; Ryan Wiggins; Les Tilley; Tahlia Fenlon; Justin Stanley; Samantha Collett and Ron Stewart. It is a wonderful “feather in the “cap” for the RJC to claim bragging rights. All seven are from the ranks of Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) jockeys based in South-East Queensland. FIFO came into vogue decades ago to classify mine workers that “flew in” from their southern residences to work in the CQ mining industry and then “flew out” when their usual weekly shifts were completed at mining bases. It soon caught on in the racing industry, particularly in Rockhampton where the first of what was to become regular mid-week TAB meetings was conducted on a Friday in June 1994. Down the track 30 years and TAB racing in Rockhampton, Mackay and Townsville is completely dependent on FIFO jockeys. Just as it will be in less than two decades on FIFO female jockeys. If you haven’t ever experienced a racing certainly that will be one for certain.

Some very competitive races at Callaghan Park on Thursday, none more so that the first – the Milne Bros QTIS 3YO Handicap (1300m). All six starters are regarded by their connections as well above average. I really liked what I saw of Kelvin Sparrow’s Cherry Rose when she came home resolutely to beat the ultra-talented Doubting Eye and Hell at her last appearance. The win stamped Cherry Rose as a horse with a big future to which winning jockey Justin Stanley concurred. Anyone of the six starters Fine Shot (9 starts – four wins); Cherry Rose (3 starts – two wins); Hell (8 starts – two wins); Papasito (4 starts -two wins); The Blonde Goddess (5 starts – two wins) and Cryptic Prism (1 start-one win) could win the race. Between them they have won 13 races from very short careers while amassing $349,700 in prize money. Don’t miss watching the race in question, at 12.30pm.

Colossal interest for resident racing followers with the reappearance of Rockhampton stars from varying generations running at Doomben on Saturday. That inspirational thoroughbred Namazu is not only a colossus in size (too big for the scales but consistent estimates suggest weighs abt 650kg) but also with a motor to match steps out in the GR 3 $300K Ladbrokes BRC Sprint (1350m). The race is the last on the 10-race card and well worth waiting for at 4.30pm. Seriously, if you are a genuine racing follower and you have not heard of the Ricky Vale trained Namazu, I’m afraid you have been living under a rock. Callaghan Park trained Namazu projected Rockhampton racing into national prominence by winning the $775K The Archer (1300m) at Callaghan Park at his most recent start on April 28. “They” (you know them, Mr and Mrs. Negative who proliferate in all walks of life) said a local horse could never win Queensland’s richest regional race, but they were wrong. It was a fabulous all-the-way win from Namazu and now he is being given his well-earned chance in GROUP 3 company. Heavyweight jockey Ash Butler rode Namazu at his allotted 59kg in The Archer but Saturday’s 57kg is below his weight limitations. Ryan Wiggins, who has ridden Namazu on 15 occasions for six wins, two seconds, two fourths and five times unplaced takes over. Connections believe Namazu is best served when not drawn in close in his races so his nine gate on Saturday should prevent him being cluttered-up. Remember he drew 10 in The Archer. Managing owner Pav Cheimardinov said Namazu had settled in well after going south with trainer Vale last weekend. “He galloped well on the course proper at Doomben on Tuesday and Ryan Wiggins was very happy with his work,” Pav said.

Of course, the younger Rockhampton star on the stage at Doomben is the Clinton Taylor trained quality Brisbane and Rockhampton wining juvenile Astapor. As TAB 3, Astapor (Justin Stanley) barrier 5) contests the $1M MM National 2YO Classic (1050m) as Race 5. Raced by Rodney Hay, a wonderful racing supporter and supplier of starters here, there and just about everywhere, Astapor has been going sensationally in training for his big first-up assignment. Massive offers were talked about but rejected for Astapor last summer. The race is restricted to a dozen starters and pays down to $5050 for 12th. It is only for paid-up Magic Millions Yearling Sales graduates. Astapor derives its name from The Red City (Astapor) in the fictional Game of Thrones. 

The BRC Sprint will also see the appearance of Edwards Cummings trained Strait Acer, fourth placed in The Archer as well as Kris Lees fifth placed Ucalledit (NZ). In the sixth race at Doomben, the $160K Chief De Beers, Mishani Sniper, third placed in The Archer has drawn the rails barrier. Further south at Randwick, heavily backed last start The Archer 5.87 lengths ninth placed Super Helpful runs as TAB 6 in R 8 under Reece Jones in a $160K BM 94. The Barabara Joseph and Paul and Matt Jones, Canberra stable was gutted by the run of Super Helpful in The Archer when he got well back in running. Don’t be surprised if he atones on Saturday. Nikau Spur, 10th placed in The Archer ran a splendid third over a mile in top class at Doomben last Saturday. Already can’t wait for The Rocky Amateurs 2025 $1 Million – The Archer.

Happy Horses all and best of luck Namazu and Astapor – Tony McMahon.

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