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Dalon finds his slice of luck in the TAB Northern Queensland Winter Racing Carnival

3 August 2022

By Jordan Gerrans

As brilliant as former Townsville Horse of the Year Dalon can be, his sense of timing has been his downfall across his career.

The son of Falvelon has enjoyed an enigmatic tenure in North Queensland.

At his best – he is arguably in the top handful of horses north of Mackay – and when he is not at his peak, he is usually finishing well back in the field.

At one stage in his three-year-old campaign, he ran in the top two in eight consecutive races, which landed four victories.

But, whenever he has been racing in top form and a chance to snare an elusive feature race, he has run into a roadblock.

In that three-year-old season when Dalon was flying – he was first emergency for the time-honoured Cleveland Bay Handicap at Cluden Park.

Regular rider Bonnie Thomson still thinks Dalon would have given the winner of the 2019 Cleveland Bay Handicap – Mr Attitude – a fair shake if he had sneaked his way in.

Dalon won a lower graded race the week of the 2019 Cleveland Bay Handicap after missing out on the big one. 

History somewhat repeated itself for Thomson and the Coleman family that race Dalon this week. 

Now considered a middle-distance galloper that is being tried as a stayer, the now seven-year-old gelding ran in the top two last Saturday over a mile for the first time since January 2021, which is a key lead-in race for Saturday's Townsville Cup.

And, just as it did in the winter carnival of 2019, Dalon looked likely to miss out on a start in a feature Cluden Park race.

It has been a long-held ambition of the Coleman family – who live adjacent to the track in Townsville – to claim a big-time race with their treasured horse.

When the final acceptances were released for the Townsville Cup on Wednesday morning, he was the second emergency and was unlikely to force his way into the starting gates come Saturday. 

But, as of Thursday morning, following two scratchings, he has snuck his way in at the perfect possible time. 

Ian Coleman now trains the galloper after his father George had to call time on his training career following a battle with his health.

“We did not get a start in the Cleveland Bay that year and that was the year we really wanted a start as he was in form,” Ian remembers of 2019. 

“He was racing well back then.

“This is the first year I have got him back as fit and healthy as he was as a three-year-old.”

Racing mostly between 1200 and 1400 metres throughout his career, and recently struggling to figure in the finish, the stable had a throw at the stumps last month with a crack at a mile event against stayers heading towards the Cup.

In Thomson’s words, Dalon ran a “bottler”, finishing two lengths second to Sharlee Hoffman’s Maquereau – who will be a big player in the Cup.

The stable was confident of forcing its way into the Cup but after massive nominations, the plans were up in the air on Wednesday. 

With two more Cups to come in the 2022 TAB Northern Queensland Winter Racing Carnival, the team are also likely to look towards those at Cairns’ Cannon Park.

For former trainer George, the horse and his son’s small stable still provide him with endless joy as he recovers from extensive health troubles. 

The 79-year-old had to give away the training caper after managing heart issues, a minor stroke four years ago as well as enduring a few falls that led to a broken hip and knee issues.

“It is the biggest thrill of a lifetime watching these horses go well,” George said.

“Ian is doing a beautiful job with the horses.

“Dalon has been a very good horse to us.

“His last few runs have been really good.”

The Coleman family is steeped in racing history in North Queensland.

George’s late father owned 1974 Townsville Cup winner Kobe Park.

Thomson (pictured below) has ridden Dalon in more than half of his 44 career starts and describes the Coleman family as “super people”.

George likes having Thomson on his stable star.

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“Bonnie has a wonderful understanding of the horse,” George said.

Dalon has made it into two Cleveland Bays with a best effort of fifth last year.

After gaining a run in the Cup, it will be the galloper's first start up to 2000 metres, with trainer Ian referring to it as an experiment if his former gun sprinter could stay the trip.

“If he was to run well on Saturday and if he gets the 2000 metres, then we would have to consider going up to Cairns later in the carnival,” Ian said.

“The plan was to give him two weeks off after the Townsville Cup if he was to get a run.

“He is no longer a Cleveland Bay horse; he is looking for further.”

George believes Ian’s patience has got Dalon back near his best following his strong last start effort.

The stable also has Getiton – to be ridden by Thomson – in the Class 1 Handicap at Townsville on Thursday afternoon.

Staged from July 8 to September 10, the Northern Carnival includes five incredible cup races staged across Rockhampton, Mackay, Townsville, Cairns and FNQ Amateurs, with each carrying a purse of $150,000.