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Country greats honoured in Emerald

By Andrew Adermann

The second annual On The Bit Queensland Country Racing Gala Awards Night was held in Emerald on Saturday night, celebrating and honouring the successes of regional industry participants.

Jack Murray of the Eidsvold Race Club was crowned Club Person of the Year, a fine acknowledgement for more than 60 years of dedicated service to the regional industry. 

There was no surprise in Deadly Choices being named Horse of the Year, after a dominant 2019 where he won seven of nine starts – including a current six-win streak.  

The last of those victories came in the $105,000 TAB Country Cups Challenge Final at Doomben in November, where the Damien Finter trained gelding scored an impressive one length victory. 

It was fitting that Deadly Choices’ hoop Dan Ballard was subsequently named Jockey of the Year.

Ballard, one of Brisbane’s leading apprentice jockeys in the late 90s, made the move north to work in the mines but still maintains his passion for riding on the weekends. 

“It’s a great honour to have been thought worthy of this honour by the country representatives,” Ballard said.

“Working in the mines during the week actually helps me enjoy riding more as I get to turn up on Saturday knowing I have a good job with a healthy income and the results of Saturday, while still being competitive and trying to win, isn’t the difference between being able to provide for my family.”

Speaking on his relationship with the Horse of the Year winner, Ballard was glowing in his praise for the six-year-old.

“He’s a horse that I’m very proud of and he always had a great deal but he was probably a little bit immature and hot-headed,” Ballard said.

“Damien (Finter) and I have worked a lot with him over the last couple of years and I’m really proud to see that he’s developed into a really well-rounded professional race horse.”

Bevan Johnson rounded out the major awards, taking out Trainer of the Year following his third successive Country Queensland Trainers Premiership in season 2018/19.

Johnson, who again sits atop of the current standings, was quick to make mention of the effort that his family put in to make his stable so successful.

“Even though it’s my name on the trophy it’s really my daughter and wife there as well and that’s what makes Johnson Racing,” Johnson said. 

The night was further highlighted by Black Caviar trainer and Charleville boy Peter Moody who attended as a guest speaker, where he spoke about his ongoing passion for Queensland’s racing industry. 

“It was terrific for me to be involved, my heart lies in regional and rural racing Australia-wide and being a Queensland country boy,” Moody said.

“It’s important that we celebrate our country people, in all facets of life but obviously for our racing community.”

The ceremonies concluded with six inductees welcomed into the On The Bit Country Queensland Hall of Fame.

Trainers John Manzelmann, Neville Peoples and Les McLennan were honoured, as well as jockey Ken Waller and industry participant Jack Murray.

Miss Petty, winner of 22 consecutive bush races in the 80s, was also inducted. 


Full list of award winners:

  • Club person / Volunteer of the Year: Jack Murray
  • Non-TAB Race of the Year: Ewan Cup
  • TAB Meeting of the Year: Roma Cup
  • Non-TAB Meeting of the Year: Alpha Cup
  • Media Personality of the Year: Andrew Watts
  • Personality of the Year: Matt Peters
  • Newcomer of the Year: Jade Doolan
  • Apprentice of the Year: Emma Bell
  • Horse of the Year: Deadly Choices
  • Jockey of the Year: Dan Ballard
  • Trainer of the Year: Bevan Johnson
  • Hall of Fame Personality: Jack Murray
  • Hall of Fame Jockey: Ken Waller
  • Hall of Fame Horse: Miss Petty
  • Hall of Fame Trainer: John Manzelmann, Neville Peoples and Leslie McLellan