Close fin­ishes and win streaks at Monto Races

Central and North Burnett Times - - FRONT PAGE - Jack Lawrie

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.

LEFT: Red­mia across the line on Race Three, rid­den by Elyce Smith.

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