By Glenn Davis
Image: Taron Clarke (Return To Scale)
The inaugural Queensland Northern Crown series for stayers could be the launchpad to a life-long ambition for Rockhampton trainer Jamie McConachy with his up and coming Chivadahlii.
McConachy, 57, was born in Toowoomba before moving to central Queensland 15 years ago where he starting working in the mines.
While working in the coal fields at Blackwater, McConachy dabbled in training a handful of racehorses.
It might sound odd for a miner to take on training but for McConachy it was in his blood.
McConachy comes from a famous family steeped in training.
His father, the late Jim McConachy and his grandfather Jim senior, were both highly successful trainers at Toowoomba on Queensland’s famous Darling Downs.
McConachy’s father trained many winners during his career highlighted by the 1983 Toowoomba Cup win from stable favourite Sherona.
His grandfather also won the Toowoomba Cup in 1951 with Daasrae, who also claimed the Ipswich Cup the same year.
It’s the family tradition of training a Toowoomba Cup winner which drove McConachy to attempt to win this year’s Toowoomba Cup in March with his talented stayer Chivadahlii.
However, after looming as a strong challenger at the top of the straight, the six-year-old faded to finish eighth.
McConachy has laid out a long-term plan to target next year’s Toowoomba Cup with Chivadahlii but in the meantime the Northern Crown series for stayers will be his focus.
“I’ve been around horses all my life and I worked with Dad when I was 18,” McConachy said.
“I was born in Toowoomba and both Dad and my grandfather were both very successful trainers there.
“I worked in the mines for about 10 years at Blackwater after I left Toowoomba and I started training five horses while still working in the mines.
“I was only a hobbyist then but training has always been in the blood so I eventually took it up fulltime in Rockhampton.
“I’d love to follow in my father’s footsteps and win a Toowoomba Cup. I tried this year with Chivadahlii but we’ll be back next year if all goes well in the Northern Crown series.”
The Northern Crown for stayers is a new initiative from Racing Queensland and carries a $150,000 bonus to connections if their horse wins three of the five-race series.
The series begins with the Rockhampton Cup on July 7 followed by the Mackay Cup (July 14), Townsville Cup (July 18), Cairns Cup (August 11) and Cairns Amateur Cup (September 8).
McConachy believes Chivadahlii could be the right horse to claim the Northern Crown series following last year’s Townsville Cup victory.
Chivadahlii has only been in McConachy’s stable for a little over a year after starting his career with NSW trainer Greg Bennett.
Chivadahlii never raced until he was a three-year-old and had only 12 starts for Bennett for four wins and four placings before he moved on to Victorian trainer Darren Weir.
However, Weir had little success with the son of Nothin’ Leica Dane, registering just one win and four minor placings from eight starts on the Victorian provincial circuit in 2016.
After a six-month break Chivadahlii’s future looked better suited in Queensland which saw yet another move to Eagle Farm trainer Brian Smith.
Smith, who has trained some great stayers during his career including the great Balmerino, had Chivadahlii for only five starts which included three placings before he was sent to McConachy for last year’s Tattersall’s Cup at Rockhampton.
“I knew when I got him off Brian (Smith) that he’d be in good order and he arrived about five days before the Tatt’s Cup,” McConachy said.
“He gave away too much of a start in the Tatt’s Cup and that’s when I first thought this horse just wanted to stay.
“He hadn’t been past 1700 metres when I got him and his owners wanted to run him in the Rocky Cup over the mile but I suggested the Mackay Cup was a better option.”
The Mackay Cup was over 1800 metres and was Chivadahlii’s first big test which he almost passed when runner-up to Fastnet Flyer.
“I could see this horse just wanted to stay and I thought all along the Townsville Cup was his go,” McConachy said.
“There was some doubt he’d make the field for the Townsville Cup so I put him in a lead-up race at Mackay which he won over 2000 metres.”
McConachy’s decision to target the Townsville Cup was vindicated when Chivadahlii got up by a half neck over fellow Rockhampton galloper Legal Procedure.
The north Queensland Cups mission wasn’t over yet after a late decision by McConachy to run Chivadahlii in the Cairns Cup over 2100 metres two weeks later.
“The Cairns Cup wasn’t in our plan but he pulled up so well after winning the Townsville Cup that we had to give it a go,” he said.
“We waited a couple of days in Townsville with him and we decided to push ahead after I rang Robert Thompson to see if he would ride him.”
With Thompson taking over from his Townsville Cup rider Bobby El-Issa, Chivadahlii added another country Cups win with a dominant victory in Cairns.
So far this campaign, Chivadahlii hasn’t reached the same heights as last winter, going winless in seven runs back from a spell but only two races have been over a suitable trip.
“I took him to Brisbane and he finished sixth at Caloundra and last at Doomben,” McConachy said.
“Every start he’s had at Doomben he’s raced poorly and he pulled hard the day he ran last.
“I had a blood test taken on him after he ran last in the Gold Coast Stakes next start and it showed up that he had been suffering from a virus down there.
“It upset his campaign a little for the Toowoomba Cup as he had to have three weeks off before it.”
Chivadahlii returned home after failing at the Sunshine Coast in April but after a month freshen-up he showed he was back on track to defend his Townsville Cup crown.
“After the Toowoomba Cup run we backed him up at Caloundra and he never copped it so I put him in the paddock for 10 days,” McConachy said.
“He then ran second in the Mackay Amateur Cup behind Fastnet Flyer who beat him in the Mackay Cup last year.”
McConachy’s biggest win of his career was with Vandalised in the 2014 Rockhampton Cup but he has no plans to target this year’s race with Chivadahlii.
“Vandalised was a very good horse who won 11 straight but they’d go too fast for Chivadahlii if he ran in the Rocky Cup,” he said.
McConachy only started training fulltime four years ago and hopes the Northern Crown series can be the pathway towards his dream of winning next year’s Toowoomba Cup with Chivadahlii.