By Tony McMahon
The Gladstone Turf Club’s position as one of Queensland’s most popular country racing venues was further endorsed on Saturday when a crowd conservatively estimated as 2200 attended Ferguson Park races.
Furthermore, the GTC would be the envy of most, if not all of Queensland’s 118 race clubs including its big-brother provincial and city relatives, as seven individual bookmakers fielded in the packed betting ring.
At some provincial TAB race meetings, only one bookmaker operates!
Factor in also there was no jockey shortage as 11 serviced the meeting coming from as diverse locations such as Kingaroy; Roma; Mackay; Atherton and naturally Rockhampton.
The crowd was feted to highly competitive local racing on the Ferguson Park sand track which lends itself to spectator satisfaction given its elevated viewing vantage points close to the action.
The starring role on the track went to leading lady, the apprentice jockey Elyce Smith who produced a winning treble making it five winners in less than 24 hours after a Rockhampton TAB double on Friday.
Smith’s Gladstone winners were fairly popular with punters - Darryl Gardiner’s Bundaberg trained Tenor Lass ($5.00) and Big Shaka ($3.00) and Rockhampton’s Julieann Lancaster’s Plain ’N’ Simple ($3.00).
This elevated Elyce Smith to third position with 29 winners, some 12 behind leader Brisbane’s Jim Byrne, for the first three months of the current Queensland jockey’s premiership.
Tenor Lass, her first winner on Saturday came at the expense of favourite, the Barry Phillips’ Kingaroy trained Glam Rock ($2.60) ridden by his daughter Hannah and beaten just 0.75 lengths in the Maiden (850m).
“He (Glam Rock) didn’t have a lot of luck”, Hannah Phillips related.
However, the Kingaroy father and daughter combination atoned 45 minutes later when Duporth mare Stick With Me ($8.00) won the BM 55 (850m) from Emerald’s Hayyler’s Tary ($3.40).
Impeccably bred Big Shaka (b g 5 Big Brown (USA)-Shakira Morn (NZ) x More Than Ready) was the easiest winner on the five-race card running away to score in the Class B (1000m) by 2.25 lengths.
It was an impressive effort under the impost of 60.5kg and Big Shaka should repeat the dose again soon.
There was no happier trainer at Ferguson Park than Julieann Lancaster as she screamed her heart out in joy as old-timer Plain ’N’ Simple beat odd’s on pop Ladyada (Phillips, $1.60) in the BM 65 (1194m).
Capitalising on an inside run which eventuated on entering the straight, nine-years-old Plain ’N’ Simple defied the five years his younger Ladyada to pass him in the straight winning by a half-length.
“I just love him. He is so honest and always tries so hard and just loves his racing”, Julieann said while Plain ’N’ Simple paraded leisurely in the enclosure post-race.
Plain ‘N’ Simple’s bay coat was covered in dapples, which the race broadcaster informed racegoers before the race that he looked the part.
Former Darwin jockey Richie Oakford’s effort to do the hard yards and make the light weight of 55kg for Bundaberg trainer Bill Melvin’s Queen Consort ($3.50) was rewarded when the Americain (USA) mare won the Class B (1517m).
The GTC will run the local races in a morning session on Melbourne Cup Day allowing jockeys to ride at the big Rockhampton LJ Hooker Cup Day races that afternoon.
After Melbourne Cup Day races, the GTC’s next meeting is the Christmas occasion on Saturday December 14 promoted as a “Family Fun Day”.
A huge crowd is assured at this coming Saturday’s Yeppoon Turf Club races at Keppel Park.