The top 10 moments in Rockhampton racing
WITH the curtain coming down on 2018, let's look back at my top 10 Rockhampton racing moments of the year.
10. When Rockhampton trainer Zoe Hohn paid $500 for Macho Tycoon as a tried horse, she never could have imagined the galloper would go on to win seven races and more than $100,000 in earnings.
The biggest of those wins came in May at Callaghan Park when the six-year-old gelding took out the $30,000 Bentleys Rocky Amateurs Cup Open Handicap (1600m).
For 28-year-old Hohn, who had nine horses in work, it was the highlight of her training career.
9. Sometimes it's not all about what happens on the track. The Kids Day Out At The Races at Callaghan Park just before Christmas has become my favourite race day of the year, without exception.
Seeing the smiles on the children's faces this year was something else. I'm sure the man who came up with the idea of the kids' running races on the day, Patrick Paterson, will agree with me.
8. Tom Button won his third straight Rockhampton trainer premiership in July and given the fact he is just 39 years of age and seemingly has a mortgage on a fourth title this season, I reckon it could be the beginning of a dynasty for local racing.
7. Rising talent Elyce Smith was crowned Rockhampton's leading apprentice jockey after her stirring premiership battle with Lachlan Dodds went down to the last meeting of the season in July.
Dodds ensured a climactic finish when he won the final race of the season on Malkara which tied him on 22 wins with Smith and forced a countback on a number of second place-getters to decide the title.
Smith, with 26 seconds over Dodds' 14, claimed the title in her first season of race riding on the provincial circuit before a nasty pre-race fall at the Thangool races in September sidelined her for the year.
6. Justin Stanley had a stellar season capturing his maiden Rockhampton jockey title. He also won the Australia-wide provincial title for riding a staggering 104 provincial winners for the 2017-18 season.
A Rocky highlight for him was winning the Newmarket in July on the Diane Murphy-trained Peacock, a gelding formerly raced by the Godolphin operation.
5. In December it was announced that the Capricornia Yearling Sale 2YO Classic (1200m) race would get a $25,000 lift in prize money, taking it to a $155,000 feature.
The Capricornia Yearling Sale 3 & 4YO Championship (1300m), to be a combined-age race for the first time in 2019, would also get a $25,000 boost and move to a $105,000 race.
This announcement was a game-changer for local racing and its participants.
4. In October, following widely-publicised talks between the Queensland Government and an alliance representing trainers, jockeys, owners and breeders, a deal was struck which saw $26 million injected into race prize money from the Point of Consumption tax.
That saw individual races at Rockhampton mid-week TAB meetings rise from $14,000 prize money to $16,500 and runners finishing in the top 10 collect cheques for the first time.
3. Cyclone Topgirl was the QTIS pin-up horse locally, finishing the year with eight wins from 10 starts and a tick over $250,000 in prize money.
Bred and owned by Rockhampton's Milner family, her race track feats also highlighted the ability of her trainer Lyle Wright who has enjoyed great success with the progeny of American sire Changeintheweather - perhaps more than any other trainer in the country.
2. In December Rockhampton trainer John Wigginton achieved Listed success at Doomben with his promising two-year-old filly Better Reflection at her second race start.
Her story is only just beginning and a start in January's $2m Magic Millions 2YO Classic on the Gold Coast beckons.
1. As 65-year-old horse trainer Tony McMahon held the 100th Rockhampton Cup in one hand and his wife Jean's hand with the other, the picture told 1000 words when only seven were required.
Tough times don't last - tough people do.
Not even McMahon, a racing writer, could have scripted the events of July 7 better himself.
His bonny mare Mamselle Corday, one of the outsiders in the Triple M Rockhampton Cup field, fought off 12 rivals courtesy of a dashing front-running ride from jockey Les Tilley and then had to survive a protest from the fourth-placed Cantbuybetter to etch her name into the history books.
McMahon and his wife Jean could easily have walked away from racing after devastating floodwaters washed away their livelihood at Stanwell, on Rockhampton's outskirts, in early 2013.
They didn't give up. A great lesson and an even better racing story.