Townsville’s Pietro Romeo To Saddle Up at Callaghan Park Thursday.

Published 16 August 2022

Townsville’s Pietro Romeo To Saddle Up at Callaghan Park Thursday.

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In the frenetic merry-go-round we call horse racing it is so easy to lose track of industry stakeholders that have gone missing in duty. Such has been the case of two regular fly-in jockeys Adam Sewell, 26 and Marnu Potgieter 30, who had become regulars at the Callaghan Park TAB meetings last season. Adam hasn’t been sighted up this way since July 1 when he rode at Mackay. Marnu has been off the scene since riding a winner during the Townsville card on May 20. Only one way to find out and that was to get on the Al Capone today. “I fractured my L2 (vertebrae) and have been wearing a back brace after a mishap at the Sunny Coast jump outs in early July. The horse I was riding didn’t want to go into the barriers and kept going backwards before rolling over on top of me. I go back to the doctor tomorrow (August 17) and hope the brace comes off. It has been six weeks now so I should find out more then”, Adam Sewell said. Marnu Potgieter broke his ankle and did a “fair bit of ligament damage” in his right leg when a horse he was race riding at Townsville later on May 20 broke down resulting in the jockey sustaining a heavy fall. “I am still in a moon boot but the physio is coming along well. I go back to the doctor on Thursday this week and hope to be back soon but then again, I haven’t been on a horse yet”, Marnu said in his customary joking manner. Best of luck to both popular hard-working jockeys and I’ll keep you all updated.

Having been actively engaged in the racing industry for over 55 years and for decades in the press, I am all too conscious of how continual publicity can work adversely on young people enjoying success when they kick off in the game. I have seen countless young jockeys over all those years let it “(publicity) “go to their head”. It is a factor in all walks of life, myself included as when I kicked off as a teenage race caller, I thought I was “crash hot” until I suffered what is known as “singers’ chords” (my case blood clots on the vocal cords) losing my voice and a permanent broadcasting position at the Gold Coast Turf Club. Then I had to be taught by a speech therapist to learn how to engage my voice properly to talk audibly again. No more race calling for years and years and that brought my ego back to earth. That’s why I am loathe to over publicise the outstanding feats of young jockeys – more so as an in-built protection mechanism but naturally they all don’t have egos like I had as a teenager. Anyhow, sincerest congratulations to Rockhampton’s new apprentice success story Brooke Johnson 19. Last Saturday at Gladstone, just a calendar month after her jockeying debut at Thangool on July 16, Brooke won the Cup and the Wayne Wilson Memorial. Brooke has ridden at five country Saturday meetings for a winner on day one at Thangool (16/7); double Emerald (23/7), double Middlemount (30/7), missed a winner Yeppoon (6/8) before last Saturday’s double. Seven winners – a mighty effort Brooke. The best advice you will ever be given from an old cove who has seen them all come and go is to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground and don’t fall for the old trick that I succumbed to in “believing in your own publicity”.  From what I know of you, seen of you and given the wonderful family support and that from your master Benny Crear, you are headed for a bright future young lady. Congratulations. 

Speaking of jockeys, what a line-up heading up to Callaghan Park on Thursday for a very busy eight race card with 90 starters. Some 16 jockeys will be riding. There are four locals (Butler, Barnham, Fenlon and Chambers), 11 SEQ FIFO (Fly-in-fly-out) and one DIDO (Drive in drive out). The drive-in jockey is Townsville’s Pietro Romeo, 38. You would go a long way to find a nicer guy than Pietro or for that matter a more travelled jockey. I remember in June 2018 when Pietro was based in Rocky, I penned a story on him carrying the heading in some publications along the famous lines from Shakespeare’s renown play Romeo and Juliet of “O’Romeo, Romeo where art thow Romeo”. It was very appropriate as Pietro born in England from Italian descent has ridden extensively. That is an understatement as according to my research aided by Racing and Sports, Pietro has ridden at an astounding 126 racecourses in Australia as well as 19 in the United Kingdom. I am confident that no other jockey presently race riding in Australia can match having ridden on 145 racetracks. Name one? After venturing to Sydney, about 18 months ago, P. Romeo mixed daily trackwork riding at Randwick with race riding for the likes of prominent trainers John Thompson, John Sargent, Anthony Cummings and David Payne and others. He moved back to NQ about four months ago to be closer to his sweetheart Mikhalia Brand, a former trackwork rider and now a trainer herself who is completing her law degree. In recent months Pietro has been in grand form with winners and doubles at Cairns, Townsville, Home Hill, Alpha, Ingham, Gordonvale and Innisfail. His “modus operandi” if I may align that term to his persuasion to want to ride winners where ever it may be, saw Romeo ride a winning double at Prairie races (four hours’ drive) west of Townsville last Saturday. A fortnight earlier in an occasion right out of the pages of Romeo and Juliet, the romantic Pietro and Mikhalia held a glorious engagement ceremony with their NQ friends at Alligator Creek. They plan to marry in the presence of Pietro’s family in France next year. Never afraid to travel down the highways and byways from wherever he may reside, Pietro rides Kukinta, Auric Gold and Tango Tino for trainer Mark Johnstone and Badge of Gameness and Prince Planet for Lisa McGee with both trainers from Charleville. On Thursday here. Naturally, Charleville is one of the 145 racecourses on which Pietro has ridden and better still he rode two winners there. All I can say is I have written about many travelling jockeys over the years but Pietro Romeo “that (you) takes the cake”. Good luck on Thursday at Callaghan Park where you have previously ridden eight winners. By the way the Charleville horses Pietro rides in Rocky will float by road some 755km while Romeo drives 720km from Townsville. Given those figures you would have to think the trainers and jock must believe there is a winner of two among them?

From on “highwayman” to another, Rocky’s Clinton Taylor’s Betterdeel may have only run second in Brisbane last Saturday but collected prize money of $24,850 for connections in the process. Given the trainer earns 10% that is a good earn for the 600km plus drive down the Bruce Highway (if you can call it that). They tell me delays from roadworks now really lengthen the trip. Sounds like nothing has changed. Betterdeel, fourth placed earlier in Brisbane in the LR Calaway Gal Stakes (1200m) looks a certain winner there soon. Taylor’s preview assessment that the 1500 metres would suit was spot on for the Magic Millions 3yo filly that has now accrued $109,075 in stakes. 

Huge night out at Moranbah on September 10 celebrating 40 years of racing at Treasure Park racecourse. Titled “Looking Back – Looking Forward” the leading act will be trainer Peter Moody. Moranbah local and top CQ jockey Ashley Butler will also make a guest appearance with a first-class line-up of entertainment planned. Log on to the Moranbah Race Club for all the details.

 

Tony McMahon

 

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