By Duane Ranger
Just beyond the Queensland border at the Tweed Heads Pony Club, there’s a contingent of New South Welshmen who have set up camp and want nothing but success in the Sunshine State.
But unlike the ‘Blues’ supporters who have converged briefly to Brisbane for the first match of the ‘2019 State Of Origin Series’ at Suncorp Stadium tonight, this ‘Blue Army’ is here until September.
For the second year in a row several horsemen and about 40 horses will spend up to four months camped at the Pony Club.
“We are here primarily for the Queensland Winter Carnival. Some of us arrived last week and I think there’s a few more coming this week, and next week. Last year was the first time a few of us based ourselves here, and it worked well.
“I’ve cut back my team, and my horses are all here with me. Some of the trainers staying here started racing at Albion Park today (Tuesday),” said Gunning trainer, Dean Cernovskis.
Gunning, which is near Goulburn, is 260km from Sydney and 75km from Canberra. It is also 1,147km (12-plus hours) from Brisbane.
“It’s too bloody cold back home and the weather here is better for both us and the horses, There’s also plenty of racing and the stakes are good, especially during the Winter Carnival,” Cernovskis said.
He said about half a dozen trainers were camped up not far from the airport.
“We’ve put the yards all up and everything seems to be working okay. We appreciate what the people here do for us. It’s great to be able to work away from home and not too far from the racetracks,” Cernovskis said.
He said other New South Wales trainers camped at the Pony Club were Chris Frisby, Scott Hewitt, Dennis Picker and Grant Jones among others. More are expected.
Cernovskis actually picked up a couple of placings at Albion Park yesterday with Nadeen Franco and his stable star, The Announcer, in races three and seven respectively. He drove both pacers.
“The Announcer is the main reason I came here. He’s the best horse I’ve got. He's a 5-year-old Badlands Hanover brown gelding, who has won eight of his 26 starts, including a win two starts ago.
"I've brought up a couple of others but they are just average. I have high hopes for The Announcer. I'd like to start him at the Winter Carnival," said 35-year-old Cernovskis, who has been training since he was 16.
“Regardless I think all of my horses will thrive in the warmer weather,” he added.
He said the best horse that would be camped at Tweed Heads was the last start Group One winner, the Frisby trained, Our Uncle Sam.
The winner of 17 races and $242,500 nailed the Group One $100,000 Bohemia Crystal Free-For-All at Tabcorp Park Menangle on March 2.
“He’s a lovely pacer who will no doubt line up in the Blacks A Fake, but first he has to get the Len Smith Mile out of the way. Chris has got him going along real well at the moment,” Cernovskis said.
So what about tonight? Who does Cernovskis think will win the opening State Of Origin match in Brisbane?
“New South Wales of course, but Queensland do worry me at home. They have a knack of winning here. I reckon we will win by six tonight and the Series score will be 2-1...to us of course.”