Small on size but big on quality at racetrack
RACING: Despite some difficulties leading up to the day, Monto's annual race meet exceeded expectations with some thrilling competition.
Originally scheduled to take place on April 1, flooding caused by ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie forced Monto Race Club to postpone the event, mere days ahead of its original run.
With its new date of June 17, the country race meet was sandwiched between several big events, with the Gayndah Races happening the week before and meets at Rockhampton, Kilcoy and Ipswich on the same day.
Monto Race Club secretary Kerri Williams said June 17 was the only day they had available before the end of June.
"Our first meeting had a lot of nominations, but this time because we clashed there were only five jockeys to go around on the day,” Williams said.
"The second time around is always harder, but there's no downside to it; it was still a good day and the money's gone back to the country-racing people, the owners and trainers that supported us.”
Last week, the race club learned it would benefit from $106,666 as part of a State Government injection into Queensland racing from the state budget.
Though the race club has yet to hold a planning meeting to work out the specifics, the current plan is to spend the money on replacing the tie-up stalls and towers on the track.
The race course's tie-up stalls are situated on the edge of the creek, putting them at risk of slanting as flood erosion has widened the river since they were first built.
The existing race tower has also seen better days, with a narrow interior staircase and loose boards.
Williams said the main priority would be the stalls, and getting a second tower put in at the end of the track.
"It's too early to say what will be done with the existing tower, but we still need another smaller tower on the corner so the steward can get a look straight up the track on race day,” Williams said.
As a side effect of the small number of jockeys and trainers out on the day, competition was small and a number of riders and trainers left the field with multiple wins.
The Eidsvold-based Murray family, who have been a part of country racing tradition for generations, trained four of the five winning horses: Flying Envy, Lucky Ticket, Flavian and Tiverton.
When Flying Envy crossed the finish line for the Benchmark 45 1000m Handicap on the first race of the day, it set the tone of the event for both trainer Bob Murray and jockey Lachlan Dodds.
Flying Envy was a new horse for Murray, who ran her in two previous races, which got her set for her big day at the Monto track.
"She had the right barrier, stayed on the fence and the jockey ran her well,” Murray said.
"She sparks up a bit at the races, but it saw us through.”
However, despite Murray's dominance in the winnings, the other racers put up a fight every step of the way.
Race one saw four horses riding almost abreast coming down the final straight, with Flying Envy managing to find an opening and flying in ahead at the last second.
It took a little time for the first result to be decided, as the stewards had not been prepared for a photo finish so early in the day.
The second race, a 1200m for the Patrons QTIS Maiden Plate continued the trend of close finishes, with Lucky Ticket running back to back before shooting past Shada Paree and Debbie's Dream in the final stretch.
It was the second win for Murray and Dodds, who would go on to claim his first treble, a third time with one of Murray's horses in the fifth race.
"I've ridden doubles before, so that's my first treble,” Dodds said.
Though it appeared the track would be wet when the races started, the sun came out right as the races were kicking off.
Dodds said he found the track firm, but not at all damp.
"It's nice, it's a good horse track, though a little bit tight in the home turn,” he said.
The third race for the Gordon and Evelyn Hutton Memorial saw a shake up of the results, with jockey Elyce Smith claiming a win with Redmia, owned by Luke Russell and trained by Raymond West from Rockhampton.
Smith said the horse was well trained and set up for the day.
"It felt really good underneath me,” Smith said.
"As the trainer said, she drifted back and when I asked her to go she just put the foot down and went.”
The Gordon and Evelyn Hutton Memorial trophy is an important part of the Monto Race Club history.
Gordon and Evelyn were linchpins of the club for a long time.
Gordon was president for 25 years, while Evelyn supported him and the club every step of the way.
The trophy has been running 15 years since Evelyn passed away, and it became a combined trophy two years later after Gordon died.
At the races, it was presented by their children, race club president Mark Hutton and secretary Kerri Williams.
Williams was proud to see people coming out to support the races.
"I know they'd be so proud to see where their club's come today and I'm sure they're with us and would be very excited to see where the club's gone,” she said.
"It's just a tribute to them for their dedication, and to keep their memory alive at the Monto race track.”
The fourth race also paid dedication with the Ken and Gordon Russell Memorial opening.
It was won yet again by a Murray, though this time the trainer was Dale Murray, with Flavian ridden by jockey Jason Missen.
Robyn Sinclair, who presented the trophy on behalf of her brother Ken and dad Gordon, said she was happy to see local trainers doing well.
"This was dad's second home, he had racehorses in the stables and spent most of his time down here,” Sinclair said.
Kerri Williams said the success of the Murrays was a good sign for the declining country racing industry.
"They're good supporters for all country races, and there's been a lot of trainers based in these areas that have given it away over the years,” she said.
"We have lost a lot of trainers, so it's great to see some local trainers still in the area.”
The next Monto Race Meeting is set next year for April 7.
With planning for the Queensland Race grant set to go ahead at a later date, Williams said the hope was one day they'd be able to increase the number of meets.
"If you have one or two race meetings a year, you'd have massive support because it's a day out,” she said.