Rac­ing on the Dar­ling Downs

Ladies in Racing - - Contents -

For many peo­ple the trip it­self to Roma is a big part of the rac­ing cel­e­bra­tion. With many who trav­elled from farms and sta­tions, near and far, jock­eys and horse train­ers that had driven for up to seven hours with a horse float and a few stops along the way. One of the largest re­gional cups, out­side of Bris­bane, with pos­si­bly one of the big­gest camp sites to match. Next door to the track is the Bas­sett Park Camp­ground that swelled be­yond ca­pac­ity the night be­fore the Roma Cup. Race day it­self be­gan with a rather ac­com­mo­dat­ing late start, no doubt ap­pre­ci­ated by all those who cel­e­brated long into the evening be­fore. The first race com­menced just af­ter 1pm, as part of an eight race pro­gramme, be­fore a track­side din­ner and a won­der­ful mu­si­cal cel­e­bra­tion fea­tur­ing no less than five bands and a bar that closed at two o’clock in the morn­ing! As this was my first trip to Roma, I un­der­es­ti­mated how much stamina was re­quired to keep up with the Roma reg­u­lars. With the 41 de­gree tem­per­a­ture fore­cast for the day, it made the roof of the race­course an even warmer place to be, where I spent much of my time with Roma’s race caller and lo­cal Peter Flynn. Bris­bane’s rac­ing ra­dio sta­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tive Tony Cle­ments had joked that you have to have red hair to call Roma, and it was both a plea­sure and a huge thrill to back up Tony’s the­ory. As the crowd be­gan to in­crease through­out the af­ter­noon, they prob­a­bly didn’t think about Peter’s re­mark­able com­po­sure and ar­tic­u­late de­liv­ery in rather try­ing con­di­tions. The broad­cast box was more like a rooftop style veranda, with the open front pro­vid­ing nat­u­ral re­lief with a breeze that only those of us up high could en­joy. The roof did how­ever of­fer a bird’s eye ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what Roma Cup day meant to a stead­fast com­mu­nity that didn’t worry about the heat; they sim­ply cher­ished the long-awaited op­por­tu­nity to be to­gether. Smiles and waves with a big Queens­land “Gid­day”, to those that had not seen each other in a cou­ple of years. Out of towner’s that had flown in, de­vel­oped an en­vi­able grin, at the wel­come that Roma be­stowed upon them. Peter had ar­ranged for me to call three races at Roma, and the op­por­tu­nity was an un­for­get­table ex­pe­ri­ence. Roma races right handed with a sand based track and I was sur­prised at the pace early, with many jock­eys try­ing to get their horses away from the “kick back” in the face. By the time race seven had rolled around the crowd sup­port was rather au­di­ble with some very loud cheer­ing af­ter ev­ery sin­gle horse I called for most of the event. I think it was fair to say that by late af­ter­noon in the lead up to the Roma Cup, the Dar­ling Downs na­tives had be­come rest­less. The fea­ture event of the day the XXXX Gold Roma Cup, the last race on the pro­gramme pro­vided a great out­come not just for the lo­cals, but also fur­ther fe­male in­put to the day’s events when ap­pren­tice rider Han­nah English rode the lo­cally trained Og­gie to vic­tory. Roma owner-trainer Scott Rodgers was ec­static and Peter Flynn noted that jockey Han­nah English was the fourth fe­male in the re­gion to win as many cups over the last few months. I must men­tion and ex­press my sin­cere grat­i­tude to all those at the Roma

JUST OVER 600 KILO­ME­TRES WEST OF BRIS­BANE IS THE OUT­LY­ING TOWN OF ROMA IN QUEENS­LAND’S

DAR­LING DOWNS, A FARM­ING RE­GION ON THE WESTERN SLOPES OF THE GREAT DI­VID­ING RANGE. IN RE­CENT TIMES ROMA HAS BEEN A PART OF BOTH THE MIN­ING BOOM AND ITS DE­CLINE, BUT YOU WOULD NEVER KNOW ABOUT A DE­CREASE IN POP­U­LA­TION GIVEN THE NEAR 7,000 RACE­GO­ERS

THAT FILED THROUGH THE GATES ON ROMA CUP DAY ON THE 21ST OF NOVEM­BER.

Turf Club in­clud­ing Ranald Fer­rier, Jackie Erick­son and Peter Flynn who did not in any way try to marginalise my op­por­tu­nity to broad­cast races with a fash­ions on the field ap­pear­ance. It was such a de­light to be treated as a woman with a job to do! How­ever, as a gen­eral ob­ser­va­tion the over­all stan­dard of fash­ion on the day was truly amaz­ing. A very well dressed crowd ir­re­spec­tive of the heat, with not just the won­der­ful colours and out­fits that were im­pres­sive, women’s hair and makeup re­mark­ably all in­tact, cre­at­ing an over­all im­pres­sion that it was a very pleas­ant 23 de­grees. The race club had gone to great lengths to en­sure pa­trons were well catered for with many air con­di­tioned mar­quees around the track. For­mer Roma school teacher Ryan Baines flew to Roma as a guest fash­ions on the field judge. With an as­tute eye for de­tail and flair, Ryan him­self dic­tated a fash­ion­able pace that would have made many women ner­vous. Not quite a “hang­ing judge” by his own ac­count, but Ryan’s sense of pol­ish and panache cer­tainly added great stylish­ness with im­pec­ca­ble charm that no doubt left many ladies want­ing. The Roma Cup meet­ing for 2015 was an out­stand­ing day, and more than a credit to the race club. It demon­strated the true char­ac­ter of the re­gion, peo­ple that over­come any ad­ver­sity, be­cause they pull to­gether as an en­gag­ing and wel­com­ing com­mu­nity – the real spirit of Aus­tralia.

Im­ages cour­tesy of Roma Turf Club

Story by Vic­to­ria Shaw

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