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Darling Downs booming on the back of Incentivise's winning run

DSC-5617.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

Anthony Collins reckons he cannot move far these days on the Darling Downs without people declaring to him – “how good is Incentivise!”

The voice of racing at Clifford Park is seeing first hand just how captivated those around Toowoomba – and across Australia more broadly – are by the fairy-tale story of the Windemere Stud-bred stayer into the 2021 Melbourne Cup.

Collins was behind the microphone in two of Incentivise’s more significant races across his journey: his last defeat at Clifford Park in late March as well as his slashing seven-length victory at the same track in the middle of May.

In that triumph – the third in a row for Incentivise – Collins declared the five-year-old gelding was one to watch, believing he would go on to reach great heights.

On reflection, the respected caller thought Incentivise might be able to win a Toowoomba Cup in September of this year, or maybe a Listed Queensland Cup at Eagle Farm, not be a red-hot favourite for the race that stops the nation.

The buzz and excitement around Incentivise was at its highest following the dominant Caulfield Cup win, Collins says.

“It is as easy as walking around Clifford Park and everyone wants to talk about one word – Incentivise,” Collins said.

“The most common saying is 'how good is Incentivise' – that is what they say to me, everywhere I go.

“It is a very surreal feeling and it probably still hasn’t registered to the owners that they have such a good horse on their hands.

“To everyone here in Toowoomba, it is still surreal.”

Incentivise is as Toowoomba as it gets - bred at Steve Tregea’s Windermere Stud operation, stabled at Clifford Park for all of his early career before relocating to Victoria, as well as recording his third victory on the bounce at his home track in the middle of May.

Nine victories in a line and with the 2021 Melbourne Cup to come, Incentivise is being compared to another champion race horse from the Darling Downs.

Kevin Kemp has seen thousands of gallopers go around Clifford Park over the years and thinks the Tregea gelding is on the way to being spoken about in the same breathe as the great Bernborough.

Bernborough was foaled near Oakey on the Darling Downs – just a short drive from Clifford Park – with a statue in the town to this day recognising his outstanding career in the 1940s.

“I was not around when Bernborough was racing, but I can imagine what it was like then when he went to Sydney and won all those races like he did,” veteran trainer Kemp said.

“Since Bernborough, there would not have been a horse like Incentivise on the Downs.”

Incentivise

D4C-7876.jpgCollins, who is from down the road in Warwick, also likened Incentivise to Bernborough in regards to his significance to the area of the Darling Downs.

Collins is quite happy to go a step further in his assessment.

“I will make a prediction – in my time as being a race caller, we have seen two notable champions in Black Caviar and Winx, and I believe that Incentivise will join them in that high level of company,” Collins said.

“He is not proven there yet; he has a few hurdles to jump just yet but he is on that way.”

Toowoomba and the Darling Downs are steeped in racing history and Toowoomba Regional Council Mayor Paul Antonio recognises the impact the sport has in his area.

“The horse industry in Toowoomba is quite big and very broad, but the racing industry is something we focus on with a great deal of pride,” Antonio said.

“Horses and racing provides the town with a great deal of employment, which is good for our economy.

“And of course, Clifford Park is something special in the hearts of everyone in Toowoomba.”

Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell noted the significance of Incentivise's achievements. 

"How good has it been for Queensland racing and breeding to have Incentivise flying our flag," Parnell said.

"He is just the second Queenslander to win the Caulfield Cup in half a century.

"We wish the team behind Incentivise all the best for the first Tuesday in November as plenty in the Sunshine State will be cheering him on."

Antonio has been Mayor of the region since 2012 and is a proud man to see a stayer bred on the Darling Downs being the shortest priced favourite in the Melbourne Cup since the legend Phar Lap all those generations ago.

“Any kind of exposure like this does Toowoomba very good,” Antonio said.

“We are living in an environment now where people are not travelling overseas, they may now want to come and see Australia’s Garden City following watching Incentivise.

“They might want to come here and get an understanding of what horse racing means in this community.”

A multiple winner of Toowoomba’s most famous race – the Weetwood Handicap – Kemp thinks Incentivise’s rise to fame is impacting the entire Darling Downs region.

“It lifts everybody, there is no doubt,” Kemp said.

“This horse has now won nine straight with them being around the country.

“You cannot beat that sort of excitement for our area and town – a race horse like him it is special.”