By Duane Ranger
Racing Queensland’s inaugural ‘Grassroots Showcase Series’ is more than just a $20,000 grand Final at Redcliffe Paceway come 2020 Winter Carnival time.
The Country Shows Championship will introduce new people into the harness racing industry, and will also bring trainers back into the game.
That’s the opinion of Hatton Vale horseman, Trent Hodges, who has five of the 16 pacers nominated for the first of eight Country Shows – starting at the Clifton Showgrounds tomorrow (Saturday).
The Clifton programme will comprise four 1,609m non-TAB pacing events, and a $700 grand final for the four winners of the four races at 6pm.
Racing Queensland’s Harness Development Strategy Manager, David Brick, said Show Racing plays an important role in the Queensland harness racing industry headlined by the annual races conducted at the Ekka
“The concept mirrors the highly successful TAB Battle of the Bush for thoroughbreds. The Showcase will see horses qualify via the show circuit from February to May before contesting the $20,000 Final at the Redcliffe feature night in June.
“The ‘Garrard’s Showcase’ is an exciting addition to the Winter Carnival and will provide participants with the added incentive to win their way into a feature event on a Group 1 night,” Brick said.
He also believed as well as serving grassroot participants, the concept extended the racing life of many standardbreds and ‘showcased’ the sport to new audiences.
Hodges agreed. “I grew up going to Shows and watching harness racing. I had my first pony trotter when I was two, and got into mini-trot driving when I was six.
“It’s in my blood and I know there are many other horsemen and women out there who have horses only good enough for Shows.
“I’m working a team of 12 and five of them are show horses. This is a great concept because industry participants bring their friends who are introduced to the game. I’m definitely a grassroots horseman,” Hodges said.
“I remember those buttered corn cob Shows back in the day,” he added.
Hodges said he would travel to most of the shows this season.
“This will be my first time at Clifton. It would be great to win the $20,000 final, but for me its more about the comradery and the atmosphere of the Shows. I love the racing. If you have a good horse in front, it can be hard to get past him,” Hodges said.
The ‘Garrard’s Showcase’ qualifiers are: February 15: Clifton; March 20-22: Warwick; March 26-28: RASQ Toowoomba; April 18: Nanango; May 2-3: Kingaroy (TBC); May 8-9: Marburg; May 14-16: Gympie; May 29-30: Boonah.
Meanwhile, the Ekka ‘Show Queen’, Lola Weidemann, will be again be Hodge’s toughest rival. The New South Wales trainer/driver has eight pacers engaged, leaving just one other horsemen competing at Clifton – aka Mal Charlton, who has three horses nominated.
Hodges, who has four drives, commented about each of his five pacers in the Garrard-sponsored meeting. Here’s what he had to say about the quintet (with form and draw):
Race 1: 38231 ITS YOU NOT ME (2) 10m: “Thirteen-year-old gelding, who with Writeaboutchelsea, is best Show horse in our stable. He absolutely loves the Show, and if he steps he will be right in it. That’s an “if”, but I’d say 85 to 90 per cent chance of stepping away. He usually steps well for my Uncle Noel (Parish), who works with me in my stable. One of our best winning chances.
Race 2: 43425 - DARTESIAN (4) 10m: “He’s going well, and if he steps he could land in front. But 90 per cent of Show races are won in front. He can only come from behind if the pace is solid and the leaders lose their legs but if they walk in front – no.
Race 3: 67985 - MANOFLISA (3) 10m: “Brown Modern Art gelding, who is also a good chance if he steps because he can lead. All my horses are in a similar situation really. If they can get to the top they are a real winning show, and the same applies here. He’s been a bit off the boil in his last couple of races, but he was going good before that, and if he can bounce back to form, he can win here. Hopefully he has pulled his socks up.”
Race 4: SPEEDOFKNIGHT (1) fr: “Chestnut having his first start. Steven Doherty will drive him. My wife and I own this fella. He can step and he has competed in New South Wales Shows in the past. If he leads we could struggle to run him down. But to be honest I’m not sure what he will do. He can run the times. It just depends on what the stronger horses do.
Race 4: 23164 - WRITEABOUTCHELSEA (2) 10m: “Nine-year-old Sportswriter mare who is right on her game at moment. She’s going real well and she can run some quarters here. This is her first standing start race thought, but if she steps and can lead I don’t think anything can run her down – not on ability anyway. Probably our best winning chance at Clifton.”
Race 5: $700 Grand Final - 6pm.