By Andrew Adermann
The city of Townsville has claimed the inaugural Coral Coast Shield after wrapping up the series at Cluden Park on Saturday.
Going into the weekend’s Final with double points on offer, it was anyone’s title for the taking with Townsville holding a slender margin on the leaderboard over rivals Rockhampton, Cairns and Mackay.
In the first of the three finals, it was Mackay who hit the scoreboard early with Wayne Pomfrett’s star sprinter Moreno holding on for the slenderest of victories.
The ex-Chris Waller gelding went straight to the front in the 1000-metre affair, controlling the pace in the seven-horse field.
However, the race favourite tired late as a strong surge came from $19 outsider Casino Thoughts for Rockhampton trainer Kevin Hansen, with only a nose managing to separate the pair.
It was the four-year-old’s sixth start since making the move to Central Queensland, notching up five wins and a second.
Although a far cry from Rosehill in Sydney with Hugh Bowman aboard, the sprinter looks set for a stellar career in Queensland.
Rockhampton went from bridesmaid to bride in the Queen of the Coast Handicap, thanks to Jared Wehlow’s short-price favourite Bold Eos’ dominant display.
The four-year-old took full advantage of the inside gate, charging straight through to lead the 1400-metre trip.
The race was over at the top of the straight as the mare started to kick away, progressively extending her lead as the finishing post approached to record a thumping four-length victory.
With one race left in the series, Rockhampton had moved into a three-point lead with its hopes pinned on heavily supported race favourite Fly For Yulong in the concluding event.
Attempting to take advantage of the leader’s bias shown in the previous two races, Fly For Yulong signalled his intent to follow suit by bursting to the front early.
Jared Wehlow’s seven-year-old remained in control and looked the winner 200 metres out, before hometown hero Bullion Wolf, who had sat on the favourite’s back for the majority of the race, peeled off and took it to the leader.
The Leslie Gordy-trained gelding chipped away to grab the leader in the shadows of the post to claim the race and the series for Townsville.
In what was arguably the run of the race, it was another locally trained galloper in Fortification that caught the eye, coming from near last against the leader’s bias to sprout wings late and rattle home for second place, putting the cherry on top for Townsville’s Coral Coast triumph.
It was a case of home ground advantage throughout the series, with Rockhampton surging to an early lead after hosting three qualifiers, before Cairns and Mackay capitalised on the local tracks.
Townsville, who had fallen well behind prior to the hosting of their three qualifiers and subsequent finals, were able to capitalise on back-to-back meetings in storming their way to the top of the leaderboard.
In claiming the Series, the Townsville Turf Club have secured $25,000 to go towards improving their patron or racing facilities.
They also secured $10,000 for their nominated charity Riding for the Disabled; a group of volunteers who work locally to provide riding opportunities and connections for people who have disabilities.
A further $15,000 will be split amongst the charities nominated by each of the competing clubs; The Caves & District Lions Club (Rockhampton); Ronald McDonald Family Retreat (Palm Cove); and CQ Helicopter Service (Mackay).