Just eight days after the southern Darling Downs town of Stanthorpe had experienced snow, the weather gods were kind for the annual Stanthorpe Cup spring race meeting last Saturday.
The mercury headed towards 30 degrees to turn on more of a summer than springtime day.
Stanthorpe Jockey Club president of 25 years, Neil ‘Çhips’ Brunckhorst, said the 2400 strong crowd wasn’t a record but nevertheless very pleasing to his committee.
"Once again our marquees were popular and we take the opportunity to spread them out so everybody has a comfortable spot to enjoy the day,’’ Brunckhorst said.
Twelve bookmakers, from south-east Queensland and over the nearby border into New South Wales, fielded at the meeting.
Racegoers were able to view the Caulfield Cup and all televised races on three large flat screen sets installed in the Geoff Bradley memorial bar, adjacent to the outdoors bookmakers’ ring.
There was a large field of entrants into the four categories of Fashions on the Field (pictured), conducted between the Caulfield and Stanthorpe Cups.
There were no doubles on the day, with the five races being won by five individual trainers and jockeys.
The grass course proper was rated a good 3. Apart from a minor hiccup with a drainage crossing near the 800 metres, which required some minor repair after race one, the surface received a ‘’thumbs up’’ from competitors.
RACE 1: MJ CLEANERS – STANTHORPE PAINTING SERVICES MAIDEN PLATE, 1000 metres
$8 chance Charming Ally raced with the leaders all the way to the home turn before taking over as heads were turned for the judge. Malibu Belle loomed strongly as they started the downhill run from the 200 metres mark and the pair had a great battle to the finish. Charming Ally kicked on courageously to score by a neck, with the same margin to the topweight Crafty’s Last in third spot. Nathan Evans handled Charming Ally for trainer Shane Iverson of Oakey. A few runners, in particular Sweet Sweet Love, shied at a drainage crossing near the 800 metres mark. Stewards and riders inspected the area and quickly determined that a covering of grass clippings would solve the problem.
RACE 2: KD A BUILDING QTIS CLASS 2 HANDICAP 1000 metres
Cecily Eaton brought he $2.50 chance Street Sister around the leaders at the home turn to go on and score a comfortable win for Warwick trainer Len Bryant who has three horses in work.
‘’Mr. Bryant was confident this mare could win so I didn’t have any real concerns with coming wide at the home turn,’’ Eaton said. ‘’She wanted to lay in a bit but nevertheless dug in deep in the run to the line.’’
Riviera Moss claimed second spot, narrowly ahead of early leader Silverberg.
RACE 3: COUNTRY CLUB HOTEL/LIQUOR LEGENDS CLASS B HANDICAP 1200 metres
$4 chance Good Four Shoes gave widely travelled rider John Kehoe victory here for Warwick trained Gary Schwenke. The seven years old Zaha mare kicked on strongly when another $4 chance Butch loomed large down the home straight dip. $2.20 favourite Carry The Swag finished third.
RACE 4: CENTRAL MOTORS HOLDEN STANTHORPE CUP OPEN HANDICAP 1200 metres
The Mark Webb trained Savage scored a gutsy win, defying the finishing effort of gallant topweight and country Cups star Ima Joker to score by a short neck. Melody O’Brien handled the winner carrying 55 kgms, with Cecily Eaton on Ima Joker who had the topweight impost of 61 kgms. Release Me finished third.
Toowoomba based Webb describes Savage as ‘’no champion but more than handy and very honest.’’
‘’I think he could win a 0MW race in town,’’ Webb said of the four years old grey son of Ferocity. ‘’He ran fourth in one of those a while back, it was a really strong field for that type of race and he was beaten only one length.’’
‘’Of course I’m going to say it was a top ride because our horse won but, truly, Melody did everything right. And a winning trainer is always going to be happy with the track. It’s in A1 condition, a credit to all concerned,’’ Webb added.
Neil Brunckhorst said during the trophy presentation that Webb deserved this Cup victory. ‘’Mark brought a team of horses here last year but the meeting got washed out after race one. We appreciate his support.’’
RQL chairman Kevin Dixon assisted with the cup presentation, the trophy being provided by SJC vice president Robert Reeves’ company Central Motors Holden in Stanthorpe.
RACE 5: JIM’S MOWING MERMAID BEACH/E E MUIR & SON PTY. LTD. BENCHMARK 65 HANDICAP 1400 metres
The topweight Piper’s Point scored for trainer Barry King of Texas, about 100 kilometres to the south-west of Stanthorpe. Handicapped on 61.5 kgms, King engaged the services of four kilograms claiming apprentice Brendon Newport. The youngster took Piper’s Point to the front nearing the downhill run from the 200 metres and scored by the biggest winning margin of the day – three lengths. Newport commenced riding in July of this year at Wondai and had three placings from his four rides that day. His first winner was Challoman at Gladstone on August 11. His second was Flying Pennant at Tara on October 6, then he scored on Special Dragon at Gayndah the following Saturday, October 13. This Stanthorpe win means Newport has ridden career winners number two, three and four on consecutive Saturdays, a great confidence booster no doubt.
The $2.50 favourite Bernadecio finished second, with Major Cash third. The winner was simply too good. The tiny town of Texas will come alive with its annual Cup meeting on Saturday, December 8. The Texas Cup is an open handicap of $8,000 to be run over 1200 metres. Obviously, being an open handicap, Piper’s Point is eligible for his hometown Cup.
Visitors from near and far helped make up the 2400 crowd at Stanthorpe. Among them were scribes Bart Sinclair and Bernie Pramberg from Brisbane.
Pramberg described the meeting as ‘’a little different because there aren’t a lot of horses trained here and there aren’t any major training centres nearby. So you get a real mix of horses and people and bookmakers from a wide area coming here for the once a year races.’’
Sinclair wrote in the Sunday Mail the next day: ‘’ Chips and his band of volunteer workers deserved the good weather after two rotten years. Armstrong Park is quaint with the climb from the 700 metres and then a further incline in the early part of the home straight. The incline is steeper than the famous ‘’rise’’ at Randwick.’’
Sinclair added that ‘’Stanthorpe is like so many country tracks. The atmosphere and spirit for racing is infectious.’’
The Stanthorpe Jockey Club next races on Caulfield Cup day in October, 2013.
The club has an informative website which is: www.wineracing.org
Story and photo by Paul Dolan