By Tony McMahon
Rockhampton’s Capricornia Yearling Sale Racing Carnival gets off to a dream start at Callaghan Park racecourse on Friday with a massively expanded nine-race TAB program.
By sheer weight of declarations when 122 were penned-in for the original eight-race card, officials had no choice but to willingly expand the program to nine races.
This came into fruition when 22 horses from as far afield as Warwick, Taroom, Brisbane, Springsure, Bundaberg and Wondai accepted to race in the $18,000 1200-metre 0-58 Ratings Band Handicap.
Originally a whooping 145 horses were entered to race on Friday by trainers, with the acceptance rate collating to just over 81%.
“Friday’s huge fields are a fitting start to our three-day extravaganza of racing and yearling sales,” Rockhampton Jockey Club CEO Tony Fenlon said.
“The club could not have hoped for a better start to the racing associated festivities.”
Friday’s feature race - the 1600-metre $25,000 Hygain 2021 BM65 Country Cup - has achieved exactly what it was designed for in attracting 10 country-trained horses in the 13-horse field.
The country neddies and their connections are coming from Dalby, Longreach, Barcaldine, Emerald, Toowoomba, Taroom, Eidsvold and Wondai to join the three horses from Mackay and Rockhampton that qualify.
The special conditions of the Country Cup stipulate that should the race winner have won a non-TAB race since March 1, 2021 the winning prizemoney of $14,000 will be doubled.
Four horses qualify under this condition – David Reynolds’ Rather Salubrious from Dalby; Tod Austin’s Sizzalating (Barcaldine); Glenda Bell’s Demurral (Emerald) and Kym Alford’s Modern Family (Wondai).
The jockey’s rooms will be burgeoning on Friday, as 26 hoops will be riding at the meeting with newcomers to Callaghan Park including Baylee Nothdurft, Kyle Wilson-Taylor, Wendy Peel, Adam Spinks and Chris Caserta.
Friday’s meeting is the forerunner to the crescendo of the carnival, being Saturday’s $143,000 Capricornia Yearling Sale 2YO Classic (1200m) and the $93,000 CYS 3&4YO Championship (1300m).
Almost $510,000 in prize money – a record amount for the two days – will be distributed at Callaghan Park on Friday and Saturday.
Saturday’s two CYS races are restricted to graduates from previous Capricornia Yearling Sales, which this year will be held on Sunday, April 11 at the Rockhampton Showgrounds.
To be conducted by Magic Millions, the CYS convened by the Rockhampton Jockey Club has attracted a quality catalogue of 101 yearlings.
“This is definitely the classiest catalogue assembled in Rocky during its 25 years or so of running,” Fenlon said.
“To have the likes of yearlings by sires such as Better Than Ready, Deep Field, Hallowed Crown, Heroic Valour, Manhattan Rain, Power, Spill The Beans, Whittington and Winning Rupert is a real coup - that is just to name a few.
“In all, the CYS has yearlings to be sold by 44 individual stallions.”
Among the leading Queensland Studs represented are Lyndhurst, Oaklands, Raheen, Kenmore Lodge, Lucas Bloodstock and Grandview.
Over the three days and in the lead up, a number of social functions will be held including the Rum City Foods Classic Calcutta at Callaghan Park on Thursday night from 6pm.
Fenlon advised that those attending the races and all functions - including the sales - would have to abide by COVID-19 protocols and the wearing of masks was mandatory.
In an enterprising twist, the club is conducting a competition “Masks of the Field” as part of the Fashions of the Field on Saturday.
Categories include most co-ordinated and most creative, but all mask must be COVID-safe.
Fenlon said the influx of racing and thoroughbred breeding stakeholders to Rockhampton this week would provide a massive spike for the local economy.