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Wizard of the West to descend on central Queensland

182765168-4246319118720878-6058995245244456491-n.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

Sitting at home on a Tuesday afternoon watching the races on Sky Thoroughbred Central, West Australian superstar William Pike was always intrigued by the Rockhampton track.

The Callaghan Park Racecourse is one of the more unique tracks you will see in Australia, with a 580-metre long straight.  

So, when officials from the Rockhampton Jockey Club contacted the “Wizard of the West” about potentially riding at the club’s feature days this year, the multiple Group 1-winner was more than happy to go on a new riding adventure.

On Friday morning, The Rockhampton Jockey Club announced Pike as their 2021 Winter Racing Carnival Ambassador, with the popular hoop to be riding on both feature days - the Newmarket Race Day on Friday July 9, as well as the Rockhampton Cup the following day.

According to Rockhampton Jockey Club CEO Tony Fenlon, Pike has long been a fan of the lengthy Rocky straight, and jumped at the chance to head to the beef capital of Australia.

“He has always wanted to do it; he loves the look of our track here, the first comment he made to me was that he was always wanted to ride our track,” Fenlon said.

“We were halfway home in getting him to our Club as soon as we made the phone call, which is great.

“He told me when we first spoke that he loved the big run home at our track, the big long straight, that was appealing to him.”

One of the more well-known jockeys in Australia, Pike made his Queensland riding debut on the Gold Coast last week, picking up a winner at his first opportunity for champion trainer Chris Waller.

Like he did on the Gold Coast earlier this month, the 35-year-old will use the trip to central Queensland as a working holiday, taking his wife and children to Rockhampton with him to explore the region, as well as aiming to ride a winner or two.

Pike, who grew up in country Western Australia and owns farms in the bush, will also spend time looking into the cattle industry and local properties while in Rockhampton during his few days in town.

“It is massive for the club and something that has been three years in the making,” Fenlon said.

“We have reached out over the years and for various reasons he couldn’t make it, with COVID stopping him last year, but true to his word he has made a commitment and will be in Rockhampton for the carnival.

“It is a coup for racing in Rockhampton and also Queensland as a whole, seeing as he was on the Gold Coast earlier this year as well.

“It is great to have him riding twice across four months in our state.”

Fenlon says he and CQ race caller Russell Leonard have worked collectively together over the past few years in sourcing jockeys for RJC racing carnivals.

Pike will also be the guest speaker at the clubs Calcutta Luncheon this year with full details on all social and race day packages to be released next week by the Rockhampton Jockey Club.

Pike‘s manager Dale Verhagen said the gun jockey was looking forward to getting over to Rockhampton later this year. 

Fenlon is expecting 30% more on-course punters this year at their feature meetings with Pike riding.

Races

1

Rockhampton | Rockhampton Jockey Club Inc | 12:00 AM

ROCKHAMPTON CUP

Prize money

$150,000