IN his popular column, ‘SILKS & SADDLES,’ published by the NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, respected racing writer TERRY BUTTS reports on a safety problem that has reached dangerous proportions in Cairns.

Wallabies have inundated the track and are causing concerns for racing and training activities at Cannon Park.

Butts also reports on a prominent owner’s concerns about the operation of barrier stalls in the north and the successful return north of apprentice jockey Ashley Butler who rode four winners at Moranbah on a hit-and-run visit from Brisbane.

Here is the Butts column – with our apologies for the delay this week:

 

WALLABIES BECOMING A MAJOR SAFETY CONCERN FOR RACING IN CAIRNS

IT is not the barrier stalls or the new track (though some will argue) that is the greatest concern for racing in Cairns.

It’s the wallabies that have made Cannon Park their home.

With so much development out in the Woree region, the native Wallabies have been forced out and converged on the Cannon Park midfield.

One source says there are dozens of them and they are causing mayhem during early hours of track work.

“Hopefully no one gets hurt because everyone knows it is a hazard and is an accident just waiting to happen,” she said.

And, of course, no one would want the Workplace, Health and Safety detectives to be snooping around.

Would they?

 

PROMINENT CAIRNS OWNER CALLS FOR STARTING STALLS OVERHAUL IN NORTH

ON the very same day that Ipswich announced the arrival of brand new ‘state of the art’ barriers to be used as SECONDARY starting gates at Bundamba meetings, a well-known Cairns owner has called for an overhaul of all the starting stalls in operation on country tracks up north.

This follows more troubles at Innisfail last Saturday and he claims there were problems with faulty gates at the recent Gordonvale meeting as well, where one race was abandoned because of the gates.

“So it might be time to have starting stalls in use at all clubs in our area checked out,” he said.

The new Steriline gates at Ipswich ‘incorporate the latest design features and will be used when field sizes are less than 14 – or when the rail is out,’ said the blurb from Racing Queensland.

GATES A MAJOR ASSET IN CITY – HERE’S HOPING THE NORTH GETS A SIMILAR DEAL

RQ Operations Manager Warren William’s said: “The gates will be a major asset to Ipswich,” and added, “We will look at purchasing additional sets in the future.”

Well, that’s good news. We can only hope the offer will be extended further north.

On Saturday apparently   there were a few instances where the starting gates held up the smooth loading and despatch of fields. One horse, Steig threw his rider and bolted way from the barriers - yet was passed fit to start by the vet and finished fourth.

In days of old it was common for horses to be re-loaded after they had got away, but in more recent times, rightly or wrongly, vets have been quick to withdraw horses after they have escaped.

The Innisfail Stewards’ Report also reveals that Rojo Buss was declared a non-runner in the Maiden after a complaint by his jockey Ian Toward found his stall was slow to open.

After Steig was captured and reloaded, two other runners broke through the stalls, which not only caused  delays and disruptions, but  one of the tearaways damaged his stall which required most of the field to be unloaded and then reloaded before a start was finally effected.

Yes, those Bundamba stalls are sure looking good!

 

HOW MUCH IS THE EXTENSIVE 4TAB RADIO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGN COSTING?

BY the way – a regular reader (with connections to the two Cairns race clubs) has questioned just how much the extensive 4TAB radio advertising campaign is costing.

”Wouldn’t the money be better spent on float rebates to get visiting horses to the meeting,” he asks?

Good point.

 

FORMER ATHERTON TRAINER A ‘BIG HIT’ ON THE SUNSHINE COAST

FORMER Atherton trainer Gary (Jack) Duncan has been a big hit since he packed up and headed to the Sunshine Coast 12 months ago.

He currently has 14 in work at Caloundra and seldom misses a pay day when he puts one down.

The popular but unassuming trainer has had an incredible run and is hopeful of having a stable runner in the Townsville Cup this year.

He plans to send former Sydneysider King of the Forest north to tackle the Winter Cup on June 29 at Cluden which would give the stayer right of entry into the Cup a month later if successful.

King of the Forest was the unlucky runner in last Saturday’s Provincial Cup at Ipswich and Jack reckons he would be an ideal Townsville Cup contender.

Also heading north is the Barry Baldwin-trained Flying Home which races in the famous colors of the Sheehan family of Ingham.

 

ASHLEY BUTLER RETURNS NORTH AND RIDES FOUR WINNERS AT MORANBAH

HOME town hero Ashley Butler was the toast of Moranbah last Saturday where he rode four winners on the five-race card.

He was also aboard plunge horse Teddy Bare ($6 to odds on) in the main race which was beaten in a hectic finish by one of the Manzelmann runners, Just a Tonic.

Butler, born and bred in the desolate but coal-rich highlands west of Mackay, answered a late call by the race club to ride at the meeting.

There was a shortage of jockeys (as is the case in all areas of  country Queensland) but an added incentive to make the trip from Brisbane was to ride two horses owned by his dad, and both trained by his original master Lyle Wright, himself a former Moranbah miner.

Both The Verve and Little Victory were successful so the trip was extra sweet for the pin-up local.

And yes, there was much celebration.

Ashley is currently apprenticed to John Meagher and his sons who have formed a training partnership in Brisbane.

He comes out of his time in October and plans to return to settle in Mackay and ride for the successful Wright stable. He has ridden over 300 winners and Saturday’s feat was his most successful day out ever.

 

FIELD DAYS RACE MEETING ITS TRADITIONAL ‘BEST IN THE WEST’ SUCCESS

MILES away at Richmond (though not so far for the crows) it was the Field Days race meeting and it lived up to its long held tradition of the ‘best in the west’.

Two $15,000 races attracted horses from the Tablelands, Townsville and of course all over the north-west.

The class 4 feature saw another brilliant win for Choirs which has now scored four of her last six wins in the region, with previous victories at Rockhampton (two) and Townsville in recent weeks.

Yet, incredibly it took the mare 20 odd starts to break her maiden.

She raced all over NSW on city and country tracks before finally breaking through at the Gold Coast last year. It truly has been amazing improvement.

Last Saturday she simply bolted in and upset a confident plunge on the former Victorian Stockton which looked certain to win half way up the straight.

The other feature was fought out by outsiders with Norma King’s Willwinya prevailing over Eskervinth (D.Ballard).

The smart Townville youngster Rhythm and Rap (Frank Edwards) finished midfield, but jockey Edwards’ long trek west was not in vain. He won the last on In A Jam for Athol Ryan over favorite All The Torque in a desperately close photo.

 

COLUMN COURTESY OF TERRY BUTTS AND THE NORTH QUEENSLAND REGISTER, one of Australia's leading rural newspapers.

TERRY BUTTS can be contacted by e-mailing: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.