By Tony McMahon
Amid a kaleidoscope of colour on a picture-perfect day, Gladstone’s Ferguson Park racecourse presented in pristine condition was literally packed to the rafters with racegoers for last Saturday’s Gladstone Cup race meeting.
While officially the crowd was estimated conservatively at 2200, Gladstone Turf Club president David Weinert’s conversation with bookmaker Paul Dowling put the on-course throng into perspective.
“Paul told me he has fielded as a bookmaker at the last 30 consecutive Gladstone Cups and this was the biggest crowd he has ever witnessed here. It was a massive crowd and we as a club are thrilled and after a few quite years we welcomed it”, Weinert said.
While only gifted with a handful of race meetings yearly, the Gladstone Turf Club must be one of the most professionally run in the country.
It ticks the boxes in every aspect of conducting and presenting the highest standard of race meetings for not only its patrons but all members of the various categories of racing industry stakeholders.
Such is the club’s popularity with trainers that Gladstone race meetings attract horses from throughout country Queensland as the result of the $12,000 Iron Jack Gladstone Cup (1608m) exemplified.
The Cup resulted in a runaway 5.75 lengths win for Bundaberg trainer Gary Clem’s Claim The Throne ($4.20 - Madeleine Wishart) over Mackay trainer John Manzelmann’s Far North ($4.00 - Elyce Smith).
A distant third placing was held down by Murphy’s Hustler ($4.00, Adin Thompson) from the Miles stable of Bevan Johnston.
Race favourite, the Lyle Rowe Rockhampton trained Legal Procedure ($2.20 - Nicole Seymour) was retired from the race on the home turn and pulled up in a distressed state requiring veterinary attention.
Originally trained by Bart and James Cummings at Randwick before transferring to Mack Griffith at Mudgee, the Street Cry gelding Claim The Throne clicked very quickly when Clem took him over in late winter 2016.
He won three consecutive races at Bundaberg and Rockhampton in September that year before his form waned somewhat with Saturday’s Cup win being his crowning glory.
The Gladstone Cup win was the first major Trophy race win for Brisbane based junior Madeline Wishart while bringing-up a double on Saturday bringing her tally to 21 winners.
Earlier the promising apprentice won the QTIS Maiden (1000m) aboard the Darryn Gardiner Bundaberg trained Red Element mare Miss Sabatini ($6.00).
Premiership winning Rockhampton apprentice Elyce Smith shared the riding laurels on Cup day by winning the $10,000 Newmarket on her father Frederick Smith trained Eljay Atom ($3.50) and the BM 55 (1517m) on Damien Rideout’s Shortspresso ($4.60).
Eljay Aton, a tenacious racer led throughout to record his 10th win from 51 starts at just his debut sand track outing.
Earlier the Clint Garland trained Ferguson Park sand track specialist Eldiym (Nicole Seymour) starting at the generous odds of $7.00 won his sixth race and most important the $8000 Wayne Wilson Memorial BM 60 (1000m).
Typifying the well-worn racing adage of “horses for courses” Eldiym has never been unplaced at Gladstone with his eight starts clocking-up four wins and four placings there.
Speedster, the Bill Melvin Bundaberg trained Need Finance ($4.00 – Pietro Romeo) also relishes he “Gladdy” sand as demonstrated by his second win there in the Class B (850m).
A real toff on the sand, trainer Melvin revealed Need Finance’s only work in the days leading up to his engagement had been on the beach outside of Bundaberg.
The Gladstone Turf Club is gearing for another huge crowd for what annually is one of its best race days, the upcoming Cox Plate races on Saturday, October 27.
Fittingly, racing next Saturday in Capricornia goes to the beachside track of Keppel Park, Yeppoon which boasts one of the best turf tracks in country Queensland.