By Richard Turnbull
The inaugural twilight New Year's Eve race meeting at Pioneer Park has anchored itself into a permanent fixture on the Central Highland region’s social calendar.
The Emerald Jockey Club took their racing product to the next level and streamed the meeting with a full raceday coverage via Matty Peters' On the Bit Facebook page, which included a full raceday coverage from Leon Roberts and racecallers Scott Powers and Andrew Watts.
While some attended with the sole aim of backing a winner or two, most went along simply to soak up the festive New Years atmosphere.
It was a big day for Central Highlands trained horses.
Les Jamieson opened the account for the Highlands taking out the 1000 metre maiden handicap with his new stable addition Fiderius ($3.00) who was ridden to perfection by Scott Sheargold scorching to the line for a dominant win for the Dysart trained galloper.
Emma Bell chimed in for the Highlands jockey ranks taking out race 2 for Blackall trainer Dennis O'Brien with Rock on Skye ($3.50 )who took out the benchmark 50 handicap over 1000 metres.
The Bell and O'Brien combination has built up a formidable strike rate the pair have chalked up plenty of wins together in 2017 and took out the Alpha and Muttaburra cups with A Dependant.
Leading provincial Queensland fly in fly out hoop Nathan Day jetted in to Emerald to pilot a race to race double for Glenda Bell. The duo finished 2017 with a bang scoring firstly in Race 3 with Ossenhagen ($2.40 fav) who was crunched in the betting from $5.
In a masterfully-timed Day ride, Ossenhagen charged past the Peter Fleming trained Gower ($2.80) in the last 50 metres with the sprinter returning back to form.
The duo backed it up again in the next race - the Class 3 plate over 1200m - with The Baker ($2.80) who is raced by the Wilkinson family in Collinsville. It scored comfortably from Ross Vaggs' recent stable acquisition, well-performed Victorian Diamond District ($1.80 fav) ridden by Pietro Romeo.
The Bluff galloper done a lot of work early in the run and will also win races in the near future for the Vagg stable. The Baker is now headed for a spell and also has a very promising future ahead.
The last race on the program was taken out by 'Miss Craiglea' - Sunshine Coast trainer Krystle Johnston - who chalked up win number 100 since taking out a trainers licence as head trainer at her fathers Craiglea racing stables.
Johnston took out the Benchmark 50 hcp (1300m) with Craiglea Ceon, who led from the barriers after being set alight by jockey Jason Missen in a daring 'catch me if you can' display. They held off Olivia Cairns' runner Masons Chance ($6) by the barest of margins in the most thrilling finish of the day to round off the 5 event card.
On a sadder note, Yesterday in Capella, Emerald Jockey Club Patron, life member, race horse owner and racing fanatic, Deidre Milne, who served many years as the secretary of the Emerald Jockey Club, was laid to rest at 87 years of age.
Deidre was the matriarch of the Milne family who have had a long association with racing in the highlands.
Deidre's late husband Herb Milne served as the President of the Emerald Jockey Club for many years.
Deirdre kept a keen interest in racing right up to the last days and her last runner as an owner was the well performed Ninette Khan, which sadly broke down in late 2016.
Jockeys wore black armbands in her honour at Sunday's NYE meeting.
The Milne family were in attendance with a big contingent on hand doing what Deirdre would have liked - celebrating her life and having a drink and a punt at the races at Pioneer Park.
The next race meet in the Highlands is on February 17 at Pioneer Park.