Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
  1. Home
  2. News
  3. January 2021
  4. Club spotlight: Taroom

Club spotlight: Taroom

By Jordan Gerrans

As the only track in South East Queensland to run anti-clock wise, there is a sense of pride in the unique nature every time they race at Taroom.

As the locals explain it, a Victorian man came up in the 1850s to survey the potential track in the Eastern Downs region after previously working on Moonee Valley’s facilities in Melbourne.

As we know now, the vast majority of tracks in Queensland race clockwise, with only four going the other way, with Taroom the only one near Brisbane.

Dawson-Valley-Jockey-Club-president-Graham-Rewald.jpgTaroom has raced since 1859 and as former club president and local trainer Graham Rewald (right) explained, the locals like to race a little different to the rest of the tracks in the region.

“When the surveyor came to the track, he came up from Victoria and had just surveyed Moonee Valley…. in those days, we were one of the only tracks in Queensland,” Rewald said.

“Our track is similar to the old Moonee Valley track, it is circular, and the only straight part is the straight, all the rest of it is turning, it is only a short straight like Moonee Valley, too.

“This was built even before some of the Brisbane tracks.”

Taroom trainer Rodney Hay thinks horses quickly adapt to the different way of racing at the local track and he will often purchase tried Victorian horses who are used to going that way around.

“It is fairly unique, it does not impact the racing it is no different to a Sydney horse going to Melbourne,” Hay said.

“Most horses adapt too it.”

Other Queensland tracks such as Birdsville and Betoota also race the same pattern as Victoria and Western Australia – alongside Taroom.

There were conversations, around 30 years ago, for Taroom to switch it up and race like the majority of other clubs in the state, but they stood firm.

Dawson-Taroom-03-RQ.jpg“There was a discussion among the committee, that was the only time we thought about changing it,” Rewald said.

“It did not go any further than that, it did not get off the ground.”

The Taroom-based Dawson Jockey Club, which was officially formed in 1890, will hold their first of two meetings for 2021 this Saturday afternoon with a five-event non-TAB program.

The race day this week is a replacement meeting after their Boxing Day races were washed out.

Despite only racing twice a year, the club’s committee says they keep it in great condition all year, racing on a dirt surface.

“Racing has played a significant role in the social, sporting and economic life of the community,” the club’s committee declares on their website.

“The races are well attended with between 600 and 1000 people and there is a good variety of entertainment for the whole family.”

Hay, who is the reigning winner of the local Cup, is the only trainer based around the town these days.

As Rewald noted, just over 30 years ago, it was a busy facility for bush trainers, jockeys and horses.

But, now at the start of 2021, Hay only has a handful in his stable and trains on his own property, not the Taroom track itself.

“Back in the 1980s, racing was really strong here in Taroom,” Rewald said.

“We probably had seven or eight trainers and half a dozen jockeys back then, maybe 50 odd horses.”

Despite having just, a population of 869, Taroom, which is split between the Shire of Banana and the Western Downs region, has a rich history in racing.

Dawson-Taroom-04-RQ.JPG

A horse by the name of Heelaman, which was owned and bred by a Taroom man, Mr. A. J. Williams, ran in the 1952 Melbourne Cup, which was taken out by Dalray.

Heelaman was trained in Brisbane by Arthur Noud before heading to Victoria for the race that stops the nation.

Another piece of Taroom racing folklore is old warhorse Storm Breaker.

Around 20 years ago, the bay gelding won a remarkable 54 races from 112 starts and was trained by Taroom local Billy Cogoll.

As well as being president for many a year, Rewald also trained in his own right, with all five of his sons going on to become jockeys.

On the other side of 80, Rewald has been involved with the club in some capacity since 1973, spending 14 years as the president, and has recently stepped down and is just helping on the committee these days.

Ironically, local cattle farmer and trainer Hay (pictured below) will not have a starter from his own stable at Taroom’s races this Saturday.

Taroom-trainer-Rodney-Hay.jpg

When the December 26 races were washed out, so was that racing program for the five-event card, with this Saturday’s racing program not being suitable for any in his yard.

Instead, Hay will look to Gatton on Sunday where he will start stayer Bonville.

Hay has been training for over 20 years, is a two-time winner of the Taroom Cup, the first being in 2011 as well as last year’s triumph, which sadly for his friends and family was run behind closed doors to the virus restrictions.

He constantly has two or three horses in work, including Galapagos, who went around in the 2020 Country Cups Challenge final at Doomben.

Handed a wide gate, Galapagos finished 12th of 15, but that did not matter for Hay and his followers back in the Shire of Banana and the Western Downs region, they were just proud to see Taroom represented on the big stage.

 “It was a thrill, the horse did not figure in the finish, but it was still great to race the horse there,” Hay said.

“I had raced a horse in Brisbane before, many years ago, but this was just as good.”

Club spotlight will be a regular feature that shines a light on the unique and individual racing clubs across Queensland.