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Club Spotlight: Bowen

By Jordan GerransBowen-FB-04.jpg

At the historic Ben Bolt Park in Bowen, trainer Andrew Cameron has free reign.

The New Zealand native can work his horses whenever he feels fit and however, he likes.

That is because for the decade Cameron has been living at the Whitsunday region town, he has been the only trainer based at the facility.

Over the decades there has been many a trainer with stables at Bowen, as their first recorded race meeting was way back in 1846.

But there has not been any for the five years before Cameron arrived and for the 10 years he has been there.

For anyone dreaming of becoming a trainer around north Queensland, Bowen would be an excellent place to set up camp – being within easy driving distance to major provincial centres like Mackay and Townsville.

That is a road the Cameron stable see plenty of, regular racing their horses at Mackay and Townsville, as well as going as far north as Cairns’ Cannon Park.

With five non-TAB races on the program this Saturday, the only trainer who regularly uses the track says it is a track for all types of horses and was busy preparing the surface on Monday morning.  

“It is a very wide course, everything gets a chance here,” Cameron said.

Bowen-FB-13.jpg“Even from the 1000-metre before they get to the turn, if they cannot place themselves where they need to be, then they are in trouble.

“It is a very, very nice track.

“They can come from behind or lead.

“It has a beautiful cover of grass; it is looking really good at the moment.”

Being the north Queensland wet season, Bowen has received its fair share of rain over the last week, which Cameron feels will have the track in outstanding shape come Saturday.

The track is expected be rated a Soft 5 come Saturday afternoon.

When it is not raining, the track has irrigation all around.

This week it is a non-TAB race day, but the Bowen Turf Club committee are already looking forward to a TAB date later in the year.

Club president Stephen Daley, who was on the committee for five years before being elevated to president, says a Saturday TAB day is significant for the country club.

“It is the first TAB Saturday our club has had that I can remember,” Daley said.

In its heyday, Ben Bolt Park raced 26 times a year and will run three race days in the first half of 2021, with more likely to come in the back end of the year.

Bowen Turf Club’s home has undergone several face lifts and modernisation projects over the last few years, as the committee seeks to retain the club’s status as a premier race venue in Queensland.  

Races

1

Bowen | Bowen Turf Club | 1:39 PM

RTM ENGINEERING QTIS Maiden Plate

Prize money

$7,450
2

Bowen | Bowen Turf Club | 2:19 PM

S&W CRANE HIRE Class B Handicap

Prize money

$7,450
3

Bowen | Bowen Turf Club | 3:00 PM

HILLERY GROUP OPEN Handicap

Prize money

$7,450
4

Bowen | Bowen Turf Club | 3:39 PM

BURDEKIN VETERINARY SERVICE BENCHMARK 50 Handicap

Prize money

$7,450
5

Bowen | Bowen Turf Club | 4:22 PM

BOWEN TURF CLUB BENCHMARK 60 Handicap

Prize money

$7,450

Bowen-FB-11.jpgThe name for the club’s racing surface comes from a champion horse who won the Caulfield Cup way back in 1886.

Ben Bolt began his career in the north of Queensland at Bowen, eventually making his way down to Melbourne before winning the Caulfield Cup as the first horse from the Sunshine State to do so.

He went around in a Melbourne Cup as well as competing in several other major races.

They still celebrate his achievements to this day where Ben Bolt’s career started.

“We have a big memorabilia board all about Ben Bolt for people to read,” Daley said.

President Daley got his first taste of the racing industry through ownership and these days has one horse based at Tolga and another in Emerald.

Cameron approached Daley a few years ago about the Bowen club getting some young blood on their committee and the now president’s association with the club has grown from there.

When Townsville suffered their disastrous floods back in 2019, Bowen picked up a number of Cluden Park’s meetings that needed to be moved.

Those race days were the first time in six years Bowen’s Ben Bolt Park was showcased around the world on Sky Racing and it will be again front and centre in June of this year.

“The track handled it really good and if anything, I think it helped the track that it was raced on a little bit more,” Cameron said of the several TAB days in 2019.

“It went off without a hitch and we are well positioned being between Townsville and Mackay and we have even had trainers from Rockhampton to Cairns come to us, as well.”

For Kiwi Cameron, landing in Bowen happened by chance.

He trained in his own right in New Zealand earlier in his life, with a bigger team of horses than he currently has now, before moving to the Gold Coast.

At that time, he was not training but was eventually sucked back into the racing game.

“I ended up getting a job in livestock transport as a driver, I went driving the horse trucks and going to the races again and just got the bug for it again,” Cameron recalled.

“I got the urge to come over to Australia, try something different and then ended up in the horses again.”

With partner Lisa, who is also the stables track work rider, Cameron went on a tour around Australia in a caravan where he was told to visit Bowen in north Queensland.

Cameron and his team of 12 horses currently in work have remained since.

“It is a great little spot,” he said.

ElShaday.jpgBeing so close to the beach, walking horses in the ocean for fitness at Bowen is also an option.

Cameron is the only registered trainer in Bowen these days and is likely to have three from his yard at Saturday's races.

He would like to have more but the program of races do not suit his stable at this time and will instead race three chances, as well, the day before at Townsville's Cluden Park. 

Bob Purcell also had a stable of horses at Bowen for many years but has not raced a horse since 2013.

Purcell had great success in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, training almost 200 winners at tracks such as Townsville, Mackay, Bowen, and Home Hill, as well as having some luck at Eagle Farm also.