3 August, 2020
Return to racing proves popular with punters
PATRONS returned to the Longreach race track in huge numbers last Saturday, albeit under Covid-19 restrictions, and once again that magic sound of raucous race-goers cheering home a winner was heard loud and clear for the first time since the March shutdown.
That more than 400 patrons booked online again signalled that the
country racetrack has a magnetic affect of encouraging residents to get
together, to enjoy themselves while witnessing top class country racing, with
exciting finishes the order of the day.
The Longreach Jockey Club went to great lengths to provide a safe environment, for patrons with additional security, seating spread across the entire venue, an orderly bar service ensuring social distancing and, most importantly, temperature testing of everyone entering the precinct.
Patrons conducted themselves in a manner that drew praise from authorities and showed that awareness of social distancing is the new normal, thus ensuring the ability to have crowds at the races if the current Covid-19 conditions remain the same.
The racing did not let the crowd down on the day, with the two Open Handicap races providing thrilling finishes for the crowd lining the fence.
The Ringrose and Button Appreciation Open Handicap 1400 metres had odds-on favourite Bollente aiming for its sixth straight win, but strong opposition was expected from proven gallopers Eschiele and Hunter Island.
Bollente had the run of the race off the pace coming to the turn with Eschiele and Hunter Island close behind.
Once heads were turned for home, Bollente momentarily hit the lead but the usual sprint of late was missing and Eschiele and Mishnah took the lead with 100 metres to go and appeared set to fight out the finish but from the clouds Hunter Island burst down the centre of the track to snatch victory in a photo from Eschiele with Mishnah a quarter length away in third and Bollente a further length away in fourth.
The feature win was a welcome return to the Longreach track for jockey Josh King who has only recently returned to riding following an injury and he judged the finishing burst perfectly on the Patrick O’Toole-trained gelding.
Racegoers were then treated to a thrilling finish in the “Mighty Mort” Appreciation Open Handicap 1000 metres when crowd favourite Kakakenny and Media Vita fought out the finish after a length of the straight battle with Matthew Gray getting Media Vita up in the last few bounds to snatch victory from Kakakenny with early leader Boot Shaker almost four lengths away third.
The Todd Austin-trained gelding has now chalked up two wins and seven minor placings from only eight runs for the stable and in winning denied Kakakenny its third win in a row.
When the country premiership trainer comes to town with an in form stable jockey to ride for the team it is a good sign for punters to follow but on Saturday the Billy Johnson/Dakota Graham double started at lucrative odds of $5 and $11 respectively.
Johnson has been in a close battle with North West trainer, Tanya Parry, for this year’s Country Premiership title, but the wins by Buwan and Sidetrip clinched the title for Johnson, giving him a five win margin. Buwan proved too strong for Phoenix Shadow and Sassy Style in the Brown Brothers Appreciation QTIS Maiden Plate 1200 metres, whilst Sidetrip was aided by a rails-hugging ride by Graham to snatch victory from Archade and Show ‘Em in the Watts and Cooper Catering Appreciation Class 6 Plate 1200 metres.
A trainer quinella and a sire quinella featured in two races on the day.
Trainer David Rewald provided the quinella in the Race Day Staff Appreciation Ratings Band 0-60 Handicap 1600 metres when Nothing to Dance outstayed stablemate You’re Not Wanted to win by a length after jockey Tessa Townsend stalked Rewald throughout the race before taking control in the straight. Froze, under a big weight, battled gamely for third.
In the Trainers and Jockeys Appreciation Benchmark 50 Handicap 1200 metres, sire Golden Archer provided the quinella when Boy Forster-trained For The Records ridden a treat by Ray Hancock proved a little too strong for the Clinton Austin-trained Golden Street with Snip ‘N’ Drift a close-up third.
Austin only had to wait until the following race to gain a stable victory when the ever consistent Serpenti (Dan McGillivray) raced away from Let’s Go Champ and Dragon In The North to record a convincing win. Apprentice McGillivray utilised Serpenti’s natural speed to be in a great position turning for home before releasing the brakes and racing away to score by over two lengths.
Racing returns to Barcaldine on Saturday, August 8, for a TAB/Sky Channel 2 meeting.