JUST as it was on all racecourses around the country on Saturday, a major talking point at the Mt Garnet meeting was the divorce of one of Far North Queensland’s best known sons, John O’Shea, from the Godolphin fiefdom.

There has been no official reason for the split but the news surprised few who know him well – and were aware of what pressure the trainer has been working under.

Surely it is hard enough satisfying the owner (and his stringent budgetary demands) without having to put up with an entourage of coat-tuggers and dart-throwers – not all of them Australian either.

Who said Winston Churchill was dead?  

That the Mareeba-born horseman – some might say bushie – lasted three years working for the Ruler of the lands it would be best for us to say nothing about, was the biggest surprise.

John O’Shea – a man’s man in an industry dominated by the so-called elite – can leave his post with a proud record of achievement.

Simply he doesn’t need Godolphin – and for that matter nor does this country.

Racing was thriving here long before they came ashore.



ROCKHAMPTON has boosted prizemoney and bonuses that includes a new car for leading trainer and a year’s supply of fuel for top jockey of this year’s carnival.

Total prizemoney for the Winter Carnival is almost $900,000.

New Cup sponsor, Tropical Auto Group, is providing a new Mitsubishi Mirage for the leading trainer over the Rocky Newmarket and Rocky Cup days (June 22 and 24).

It is a serious bid to lure high-profile southern trainers and their horses to the beef capital of CQ. Trainers will earn points in every race on these two days, on a 3-2-1 basis and the offer has already attracted interest from trainers north, south and west of the city.

The leading jockey over the two feature days will receive $1,200 (or $100 a month) of fuel.

The trainer and jockey bonuses are in addition to $855,000 in race prize money for the carnival which commences on June 9 with the running of the Tattersall’s Sprint that provides the winner with ballot-free entry into the $100,000 Newmarket on June 22.

Racing is set to return after the big flood on Saturday for the annual Rockhampton Grammar School Race Day



WHILE the expensive flood caused huge damage and disruption for many, particularly trainers, Shane Sigvart made the most of the forced evacuation from his Pink Lily stables by electing to temporarily base himself in Townsville.

In less than five weeks the young Rocky trainer won five races on three different tracks. He won a double at Townsville last week; next day went to Cairns with another winner; scored again at Home Hill last week; and then on Saturday he produced his Winter Carnival Cups hope Cleansing Ale to win first-up at Mackay.

It was an exceptional training feat for the grandson of the legendary Bing Crogh, a trainer of great renown for many years in his native Rockhampton.

Another training feat demanding mention is that of Samantha Molino who saddled up Bloukrans to win the Mt Garnet Cup on Saturday, a week after winning the Einasleigh Cup with the same horse.

It has been a meteoric rise for the young trainer-daughter of Alby, a former top Burdekin jockey and now prominent Townsville trainer.

Samantha, who is now in Atherton, has obviously caught the attention of big-time owner Tom Hedley for whom she trains Bloukrans and a few others in her small but select stable.

Talking of Cups – the Burdekin Cup this year (May 20) will be run as a BM70 Handicap which is an interesting change from tradition – it was always an Open. It clashes with Cairns and is also wedged between two TAB meetings at Townsville (May 18) and another at Cluden on May 25 that features a $20,000 BM70 over 1300m.

The Home Hill Cup (Burdekin) was once an automatic entry into the Townsville Cup and not that long ago it was standing room only at one of the best meetings on the coast. Remember the irrepressible Henry Petersen- entrepreneur extraordinaire?



THEY came in hoards from all over. Visitors from Victoria, New South Wales and even Western Australia turned up for the two-day Mt Garnet meeting over long weekend. Locals excitedly claim it is a return to the good ol’ days.

Campers lined the running rail from the top of the straight – with not a tent site to spare.

Garnet was once dubbed the mingling place of the mink and manure set where the city and country folk partied and punted over the marathon May Day weekend. It suddenly lost appeal for a couple of years – partly, it is claimed, due to an over-bearing police presence. But it was incident-free last weekend and is now well and truly back on the FNQ racing and social calendar.



THE doyen of Queensland country jockeys, Keith Ballard, is hopeful of returning for the Mt Isa Cup on June 3 after a serious incident at Winton two weeks ago.

The veteran jock was airlifted to Brisbane after a horse reared back behind the stalls and struck him in the head.

Keith underwent emergency surgery in Brisbane and took the bus back to Isa last Saturday (he couldn’t fly because of sinus complications).

But he is home and itching to be back where he belongs – in the saddle. Meanwhile, wife Denise and son Danny carried the flag at Gregory Downs where they won two races and now it’s off over the border to Tennant Creek in a fortnight.


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