A WONDERFUL JOURNEY: Rockhampton Jockey Club historian John Day and operations manager Kelly Suli have put together a book to celebrate 150 years of racing in Rockhampton.
A WONDERFUL JOURNEY: Rockhampton Jockey Club historian John Day and operations manager Kelly Suli have put together a book to celebrate 150 years of racing in Rockhampton. Allan Reinikka ROK041018aracing2

Rocky duo takes riveting ride through horse racing history

HORSE RACING: The first-ever triple dead heat in a horse race, a showdown between a car and a monoplane, a Hollywood actress, and Melbourne Cup runners and riders.

The Rockhampton Jockey Club and its headquarters, Callaghan Park, have played host to a colourful and captivating array of events, many of which have been chronicled in a book released to celebrate 150 years of racing in the city.

The 120-page publication, a labour of love for RJC historian John Day and operations manager Kelly Suli, gives an insight into the integral role the club has played in the fabric of the Central Queensland community.

Thrilled with the finished product, Day said he had managed to unearth some stories he had never previously heard.

A photo showing an early strand start at Callaghan Park. The horse-drawn vehicle in the left of the photo ferried the starter and race day officials.
BACK IN THE DAY: An early start at Callaghan Park before the advent of barriers. The horse-drawn buggy in the left of the photo ferried the starter and race day officials. CONTRIBUTED

"I was doing some research and found out that 2018 was 150 years since the RJC came into being and also the centenary of the running of the Rockhampton Cup and the Rockhampton Newmarket,” he said.

"I approached the club to see if we could do something to celebrate this historic milestone.

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"They consented and I had the idea for a book, so Kelly and I started putting a few things together.

"We liked what we saw and we just kept adding and adding.

"It was a bit like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I had no experience in putting a book together but Kelly was excellent in bringing it to fruition.”

The duo completed the project in just six weeks, carefully compiling information from Day's own personal collection, the RJC archives and content supplied by interested parties.

Italian acress Gina Lollobrigida visited Callaghan Park in 1975.
STAR POWER: Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida visited Callaghan Park in 1975. CONTRIBUTED

Articles in older editions of The Morning Bulletin also proved invaluable.

"Other people tell me it's taken them six to 12 months to write a book so I think this must be some kind of record,” Day said.

Eric Anderson, from City Printing Works, printed the book, making it a totally local publication.

Involved in the racing industry since he was a child, Day said it had been a wonderful journey of discovery.

Some stories stood out - one of them from April 1938 when Call Away, Suntuana and Edon Bay dead-heated for first in the Labour Handicap (six furlongs, about 1200m).

"There's plenty of stories that people would not know about,” Day said.

"In the 1890s a lot of horses came to Rockhampton by ship. They were unloaded at the wharf and raced at the old West Rockhampton track and were put back on the boat and away they would go to Townsville or Brisbane.

"In those days, you led them, rode them or brought them by ship. They were the only ways to get them here.”

CQ jockey Fred Shean on Catalogue, which he rode to victory in the 1938 Melbourne Cup.
MASTERFUL RIDER: CQ jockey Fred Shean on Catalogue, which he rode to victory in the 1938 Melbourne Cup. CONTRIBUTED

Day said the naming of the course after the oldest member and then club patron, Dr William Callaghan, was also significant.

Sadly, Dr Callaghan died suddenly on April 1, 1912, just two months before the track was officially named Callaghan Park at a ceremony conducted by Mr Rees R. Jones.

Day said the racehorse Megaphone also held the special honour of going from winning a race in Rockhampton to finishing fourth in the 1891 Melbourne Cup, which was won by Malvolio.

Jockey Fred Shean was one of the industry's local success stories, going from an apprentice in Banana to recently being inducted into the Queensland Racing Hall of Fame.

In 1938, he won Sydney's Epsom Handicap on Kings Head, the Caulfield Cup on Buzalong, the Williamstown Cup on Manolive and the Melbourne Cup on Catalogue.

The Rocky racecourse also got a taste of celebrity when Gina Lollobrigida visited in 1975.

A crowd of 3500 packed in to rub shoulders with the Italian movie star, who came to the city as part of an Australia-wide visit to raise awareness of multiple sclerosis.

A.B. Stone's Bleriot monoplane which raced a car at Callaghan Park on 1912.
ONLY TWO STARTERS: AB Stone's Bleriot monoplane raced a car at Callaghan Park on 1912. CONTRIBUTED

Day said Callaghan Park was the venue for a race of a different kind in 1912 when visiting American airman AB Stone raced his Bleriot monoplane against a car driven by S Taylor.

On the fourth lap the plane had lapped the car, but the aircraft slowly began to lose altitude before veering off course and crash-landing on the nearby cricket grounds.

The monoplane was badly damaged but Mr Stone escaped unhurt.

Day is in his element as he flicks through the glossy pages to look for another interesting titbit.

"There's so many good stories and it's been great to be involved with this project,” he said.

The book costs $20 and is available at the Rockhampton Jockey Club.