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Club Spotlight: Muttaburra

Muttaburra-Amateur-Turf-Club-01-facebook.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

For the around 70 people who reside in Muttaburra, they can boast about living in the town that is geographically the closest to the centre of Queensland.

And, central to the history of the town of Muttaburra is the racing industry, with a day at the races something that the people in the area have always cherished.

Long-time Muttaburra trainer Rodney Little, who relocated to Ilfracombe just under a decade ago, recalls the times when he was one of half a dozen trainers in the town.

Muttaburra would race two-day meetings around four times a year, Little remembers.

In 2021, the Muttaburra Amateur Turf Club races just once a season, with their $10,450 Cup to be run this Saturday.

Secretary Emma Price explained what having the distinction of being the town closest to the geographic centre of Queensland means to people in Muttuburra.

“They do take pride in that fact, the people in the town, and we had a new stature that was unveiled, a big centre of Queensland stature that was made and opened the same weekend as the centenary races,” Price said.

“That has a lot of pavers around it that people that live here or that have moved away, they could buy a paver with their names on it so they could be a part of the history.

“We celebrated our centenary in 2019 and we had a much larger race day than usual, with around 800 people, instead of the usual 400.

“We celebrated 100 years of the Muttaburra Amateur Turf Club, which is what the club is known as now, and 140 years of racing in Muttaburra in 2019.”

Price was nominated as one of Racing Queensland’s International Women’s Day representatives for her ongoing determination and resilience to better the Muttuburra club earlier this year.

For decades Little was the only trainer based at Muttaburra, after growing up in the town on a big property that used to breed thoroughbreds.

A former jockey, Little had his first picnic race ride when he was about 15 and has been training since he was 20, which was 40-odd years ago, he recalls.

Muttaburra-Amateur-Turf-Club-10-facebook.jpg“Muttaburra was always a hard track but over the years we put a lot of time into it, put new soil on it,” Little said.

“That made it a lot better.”

While Little has trained in the area for almost half a century, he is yet to add one title to his resume – being a Muttaburra Cup winner.

It has eluded him for all of his life but he believes in 2021, it might just be the year he finally breaks through.

He has a 15 % success rate at Muttaburra over the years, but is yet to win the big Cup.

“As a matter of fact, I was only speaking about this the other day, in all the years I have been racing, I have never won the Muttaburra Cup,” Little said.

“I have never had a good enough horse (laughs).

“It is a pretty tight track and I think I have got two that are good enough chances for this year, Boingo and Jarhead, I will hopefully get both in and they should be hard to beat.

“It is only just over 200 metres the straight so you need to be up on the pace.”

Muttaburra-Amateur-Turf-Club-16-facebook.jpgLittle, who became a life member of the Muttaburra Amateur Turf Club in 2019 alongside his wife, has 10 horses in work at Ilfracombe.

Price, who has been secretary at the club for the last six years, is excited to be able to showcase the new-look Muttaburra facilities this Saturday when the club hosts a five-event non-TAB program.

“We have recently had a power upgrade, which we received a grant for from the Country Racing Program, that has been a great help because the power in our kitchen has been very ordinary for as long as I can remember,” Price said.

“We also received a Gambling Community Benefit Fund grant for our jockeys bathrooms so they are more private for both the males and females.

“And, we have had both of our towers upgrades, as well, it has been busy.

“A float car park fence has also gone up recently since our last race day.”

Muttaburra Amateur Turf Club aims to provide a family day out with something for all ages to enjoy, as well as racing, the club have fashion parades, market day, jumping castle and lolly drops, show bags and novelty events for the children and adults.

Fashions of the Field play an important part of the day also.

Price first got introduced into the industry through the Dingo Race Club, where her parents were heavily involved at growing up.

With no permanent stables in Muttaburra, trainers and riders travel from Longreach, Barcaldine, Hughenden and Julia Creek for this week’s racing.

“We do not normally have trouble getting horses for our meeting,” Price said.

“In 2018 we put on an extra race as we had that much interest and we did the same in 2019 with our centenary.”

The five Muttaburra races this Saturday will contribute towards the Central West Jockey Premiership for 2021, an honour all clubs in the area have put money towards to crown the top local hoop.

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