Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Country Spotlight: Rocky Amateurs

10 May 2022

By Jordan Gerrans

When people think about the “Amateurs” concept in regional Queensland racing, their mind immediately goes to the picturesque Cannon Park in FNQ every year.

While the Far North Queensland Amateur Turf Club and the annual Cairns Amateurs Carnival is one of the most popular events across the country, amateur clubs are also run out of Townsville, Mackay and Rockhampton in the Sunshine State. 

While Cairns’ carnival will remain historically as the most prominent amateur club in the north of the state – those in Rockhampton want their own slice of the pie.

Officially they are called the Central Queensland Amateur Racing Club but everyone involved with the club like to refer to themselves as the “Rocky Amateurs”.

IMG-8229.JPG

Through new initiatives like The Archer – a slot race that attracted big name gallopers from all around the country – which was run for the first time on Saturday, Rocky Amateurs want to be known as a club and committee on the rise.

“That is why we did this with The Archer, to think outside the square and take our club into the future with a lot of sustainability,” Rocky Amateurs Chairman Bill Reid said.

“With The Archer now behind as a club, I think we are going to stamp our mark as a very serious race club into the future.”

Just as is the case in the four northern Queensland cities, some racegoers and punters find it difficult to differentiate between their local amateur club – which races once a year – and their club that operates race days around the calendar.

Reid, and others who have been on the committee before him, have long battled to get cut through in their community around what makes the amateurs different to a normal race meeting they might attend.

The clubs started in the early days with amateur hoops, who mostly coming from stations in outback areas of the region, with much higher weights than what we see in racing in 2022 to allow for the amateurs.

As time went on, professional jockeys began to ride at the meetings as well and while this year and in recent decades, amateur riders no longer participate in the meetings, the club’s aim to still compete in the spirit of the amateurs.

“People definitely never really segregated the Rocky Amateurs from the local race club here, it has always been a battle,” Reid said.

“Everyone just thought we were the Rockhampton Jockey Club and we had trouble with memberships and that type of thing.

IMG-8247.JPG

“Amateur clubs have really struggled in recent years – yes Cairns is going great guns up there – but a lot of the clubs like Townsville and Mackay are not doing as well as what they would like.”

Many in the Central Queensland racing community have been entwined with the amateurs for generations through their families.

One of those is Mark Moller, who was a part of the Cupid Syndicate that purchased a slot in the inaugural edition of The Archer.

Moller’s late father is a life member of the club while on his mother’s side of the family, they were involved as jockeys and trainers in the earliest days of the club.

“They go back into the 1920s and 30s,” Moller said.

“The Archer being introduced, that just makes the day even more special to go to a Rocky Amateurs.”

As he has been on hand at the club for decades, Moller believes The Archer – as well as the consolation race The Fitzroy – will go along way to lifting the club’s profile back to their glory days.

“It is a great start,” Moller said.

Geoff Maynard, the leader of the Cupid Syndicate, says the Mollers are just one of several families in Central Queensland who have been there for generations with the amateurs.

IMG-8231.JPG

“I have had the pleasure of knowing Mark for a long time now, all his family and their knowledge of racing is tremendous,” Maynard said.

Reid runs the club in 2022 but as he is not originally from Rockhampton, he has learnt the history over the journey, but he has always had a deep passion for the sport.

He was invited to the club to infuse some new blood and ideas into the volunteer-led committee, before finding himself as the chairman.

The Central Queensland Amateur Racing Club celebrated their centenary in 2021 and now with The Archer firmly on the Australian racing community's radar going forward, Reid is hopeful they have set themselves up to prosper.

“There is a lot of tradition and a lot of history,” Reid said.

“You look through past chairmans and committee members, they are all famous old trainers and book makers in the area.

“It is a club that means a hell of a lot to the old amateur members, they are very with the direction now that the club is going in.”

While they are run by a volunteer-led committee, Reid singled out one of their members for specific praise - Jonathon Offord.

After the idea for The Archer was first brought up over a few beers by Offord, it was quickly shot down as impossible to make work by some, including Reid.

Reid is glad they pursed the concept now.

IMG-8248.JPG

And, so is leading Brisbane trainer Rob Heathcote, who won the inaugural edition of The Archer, as well as congratulating the club for their foresight.

“This is just brilliant. I am so happy,” the Group 1-winning trainer said.

“This race put on by the Rocky Amateurs is really something special for racing.

“It is huge for Rockhampton and you only have to see the sea of people here on course to feel that.”

 

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

Races

7
7

Rockhampton | Central Queensland Amateur Racing Club | 4:10 PM

PARADISE LAGOONS 2022 THE FITZROY OPEN