By Tony McMahon
Six-time Group 1 winning jockey Cyril Small was rewarded for his commitment to assist the Gladstone Turf Club when he led throughout on Liberty’s Gift to win the first race at Ferguson Park racecourse last Saturday.
Small, age 61, who is part of racing folklore after winning 22 races on Queensland frontrunning champion Vo Rogue, answered a late SOS call last Thursday from club officials and made the seven hours’ drive from Tallebudgera Valley to Gladstone.
“It was a much-appreciated effort by Cyril to make the long drive to help us out,” Gladstone Turf Club President David Weinert said.
“His appearance created tremendous interest, not only on race day but our office fielded calls from all over the place about his appearance at Gladstone races.
“He has to be applauded for coming up and it sets a fine example of what commitment and dedication to his profession is all about.”
Small, originally from Casino, NSW had his first race ride at Lismore in May, 1974 as he cherishes a desire to complete 50 years of race riding.
His passion for race riding - despite some horrific injuries during his career - has never waned and given his fitness level, Cyril ticks all the boxes to fulfil his half-century ambition.
It is certainly a feather in Small’s jockeying cap that he can achieve what many of his younger fellow riders cannot in being able to get his weight down to 52.5kg so as to ride at 54kg.
By coincidence, last Saturday was the Club’s Moonee Valley Cox Plate race day and exactly 33 years earlier in 1987, Cyril finished fourth on Vo Rogue to Rubiton in the great Weight For Age event.
“My wife and I were absolutely delighted to be part of the Gladstone meeting and it was wonderful to see so many young people in attendance,” Small said.
“They are the future of racing; I was also pleased to catch up again with jockey Natalea Summers riding there as she is a fine horsewoman and to meet some of the younger jockeys.
“It was a lovely day all round and the hospitality from the club and racing people was first class.”
The Gladstone Turf Club capped the crowd at 1,200 and it represented a sea of colour with an air of vibrancy, matched by the well-behaved shouts of revelry as racegoers were thrilled to be back trackside.
It was a matter of first out and first home when the Lee Kiernan-trained Liberty’s Gift scored by nearly four lengths to win the 850-metre 0-60 Band Handicap in the new track record time of 49.65 seconds.