In the spirit of Banjo Paterson the North Gregory Turf Club races on Saturday, September 15 paid tribute to the knock- about legends (equine or otherwise) that bring so much life and character to bush racing.
All five races on the program commemorated a horse, person, pub or an event that have contributed to the bush, the picnics or the cups of outback racing.
The club and principal sponsor the North Gregory Hotel were rewarded with one of the biggest crowds in attendance and fittingly many family members and descendants of people honoured with race names on the day were in attendance and took part in post race presentations.
The crowd were treated to plenty of prizes to be won, Fashions of the Field, kids’ activities and fabulous racing.
The Elders Rural Services & Barcaldine Downs Merino JH Lindsay Maiden Plate 1000m honoured J.H. Lindsay who was responsible for bringing arguably the best stallion in the 60s and 70s, Spring Day, to the west.
Ironically the winner of the race, Nett is a filly by the leading stallion in Australia today, Fastnet Rock.
Trained by Todd Austin and owned by Ralph Russell, Nett mustered speed early to share the lead throughout with stablemate Ardini before asserting her superiority in the straight and winning by one and a quarter lengths from Ardini with Cognac Diamond over six lengths away in third place.
The North Gregory Hotel Auction Class 4 Handicap 1000m recognised the outstanding achievements of a great racehorse from Winton in Auction.
Auction won 21 races at Albion Park and once won with 79kg but the staggering thing about his 21 wins was that 19 of them were in open handicaps and in 1943 won the Newmarket later named the Doomben 10,000.
In a perfectly judged ride jockey Tim Brummell settled Puffed in fourth place behind the leaders until in the straight where he brought the mare down the centre of the track to collar leader Frangela and then held off the strong finish of Lucy Lou with Frangela holding on for third.
Puffed trained by Winton trainer Ray Hermann has been very consistent of late winning at Longreach and then racing well at Birdsville and Bedourie.
The North Gregory Hotel famous for being where Waltzing Matilda was first publically performed and celebrating its latest refurbishment sponsored the main race of the day the North Gregory Hotel Bracelet QTIS Class 1 Handicap 1200 metres.
Michael Cullen jumped Outback Elsa to the lead from the outset and had her travelling kindly down the back straight from favourite Lucky Us and Seagal with the other eight runners stringing out over many lengths.
The race turned into a two horse contest in the straight with the Shryn Gabriel-Royes trained Outback Elsa fighting off the challenge of Lucky Us to record a one and a quarter length win with Stars are Born rattling home into third just ahead of Old Rawhide and Seagal.
Being QTIS registered meant that Outback Elsa took out the total first prize of $7500 with her total earnings now almost $21000 from three wins out of 11 starts.
The Campbell Higginson Town Planning sponsored Harry Forster Memorial Weight For Age 1200 m paid tribute to Harry Forster a legend around Western Queensland tracks renowned for his riding, horse breeding and training feats.
In 1982 at Sedan Dip meeting Harry rode the card and at another meeting had the distinction of being one of the first father/son combinations to ride in the same race with his son Andrew while his daughter Sally was Clerk of the Course at the meeting.
On Saturday, father and son Keith and Dan Ballard competed against each other but were upstaged by the Charlie Prow trained Roy ‘Butch’ Mules ridden, Heza Flashman.
Montanus and Known Prospect went head for head until the straight where Montanus looked like he had gained a winning lead but Butch Mules angled Heza Flashman from behind the leader’s heels to have the final finishing burst and he was able to finish too strongly for Montanus and win by three quarters of a length. They streeted the opposition with Supertax four and three quarter lengths away third in front of Known Prospect.
Racing concluded with the WJ (Sandy) Whitehead Class 3 Plate 1400m sponsored by Grant’s Concrete Pty Ltd. Sandy Whitehead the current patron of the North Gregory Turf Club was in attendance and must have been delighted to see the use of the starting barrier stalls at the meeting as he was instrumental in organising their construction as a community project in 1966 and these 46 year old barriers are still used today at Corfield and Winton.
Similar to the previous race, Broke But Lucky and Craiglea Rawie got away in the lead from the rest of the field down the back straight and even though Broke But Lucky gained a break early in the straight Craiglea Rawie finished too powerfully under Dan Ballard’s riding to snatch the win by a long neck with two and a half lengths to third placegetter Vanguard.
The Wes Irwin trained winner appreciated being ridden on the speed and backed up from his narrow, recent defeat at Emerald. The first two horses can be followed with confidence in coming starts. The North Gregory Turf Club and North Gregory Hotel can be congratulated for hosting and outstanding days racing which will be recorded in history as one of their most successful.
Racing returns to Longreach this Saturday for the 125 Year Longreach Reunion raceday featuring a six event program the highlight being the G & D Ballard/Starlight’s Tavern Longreach Cup.
Story by Rob Luck