Bigger things in store for Scone

The Sportsman Weekend - - News - with Neil Evans Fol­low me on Twit­ter @NeilE­van­sMail

ACROSS the next 48 hours around tran­quil NSW Up­per Hunter you will strug­gle to find any­one with as much pa­tient am­bi­tion as new Scone Rac­ing Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Heath Court­ney.

Let’s face it, he’s a proud Queens­lan­der who moved down from the bigger Toowoomba club to ply his ad­min­is­tra­tive trade in an area steeped in breed­ing and blood­line beauty, but still se­cretly yearn­ing to be­come a bigger rac­ing player.

A lit­tle over 100 horses on av­er­age are put through their work at Scone each week, and the club has less than 20 meet­ings a year.

Many will sug­gest that’s the pay­off for be­ing home to South­ern Hemi­sphere’s breed­ing cap­i­tal, and now boast­ing a stand-alone Satur­day metro meet­ing in a town that, ac­cord­ing to re­cent Cen­sus, is home to less than 5000 peo­ple.

“I would love to dou­ble the sta­bling (ca­pac­ity) here in next 18 to 24 months,” Court­ney says.

“We only have 16 or 17 meet­ings a year and we will work­ing very hard to in­crease that num­ber be­cause as we know horses do very well here and this is a real com­mu­nity club.”

Cer­tainly, you sense the winds of change are start­ing to blow.

The ar­rival of train­ers like Stephen Jones from the Gold Coast, and re­cently Brett Ca­vanough from Al­bury, is a tremen­dous boost along­side es­tab­lished lo­cals like Rod Northam and af­ter the de­par­ture of pop­u­lar long-time horse­man Greg Ben­nett.

And aside from that rich equine his­tory, Court­ney knows too well the seem­ingly end­less bat­tle to pre­serve the re­gion against un­wanted in­vaders.

Not for one minute am I turn­ing two cher­ished days of ru­ral thor­ough­bred rac­ing into a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball, but when it comes to the pro­tec­tive pride of some of Aus­tralia’s most beau­ti­ful and pro­duc­tive land sweeps, this is two days im­mense im­por­tance.

Okay, I’m a bit like a kid with a new toy, but on track for my first Scone Cup carnival will be as much wide- eyed re­minder of how pre­cious our land is – re­gard­less of who writes the cheques – as much as try­ing to find win­ners to­day and tomorrow.

That pri­vate com­mer­cial tug of war be­tween land own­ers and lovers against those de­part­ments prop­a­gat­ing the New Eng­land re­gion as “green­fields” for CSG min­ing. T oday’s Listed Cup and tomorrow’s Group 3 Dark Jewel card are not just a won­der­ful stand­alone ad­ver­tise­ment for non-metro rac­ing where many lead­ing sta­bles use this carnival as a pitch­fork into the Qld Win­ter, it’s also uni­fied cel­e­bra­tion of coun­try and city un­der one roof.

The wider Scone Fes­ti­val takes in tours and open days at some of Aus­trala­sia’s finest thor­ough­bred studs; wine tours, a rodeo, and course, the oblig­a­tory Black-Tie Ball.

Just con­sider what you can take in across our rac­ing her­itage:

The mighty Ar­row­field – home to the pro­lific sprinting sire Snitzel, ever­green Red­oute’s Choice, Not A Sin­gle Doubt, and emerg­ing stud star Smart Mis­sile, not to men­tion in­ter­na­tional ar­rives An­i­mal King­dom (US) and Mau­rice (Ja­pan).

Just down the road is Yar­ra­man Park – home to the high­lyrated I Am Invincible & still ris­ing Hinch­in­brook.

Vin­ery is home to the great More Than Ready and al­most age­less Testa Rossa; while Star Turn has joined its younger sires’ list head­lined by All Too Hard and Casino Prince, al­ready a cham­pion first-sea­son sire.

Then there’s Se­gen­hoe, the post­card-like stud farm and brood­mare home to such names as Hur­tle Myr­tle, Sis­ter Madly Set For Fame.

I’ve never bought into the old ch­est­nut whinge that rac­ing life is all about breed­ers and high-priced own­ers.

Of course, the great owner in­cen­tives start with these places be­cause they have rac­ing fu­ture firmly in the palm of their hands.

But I equally en­joy an in­trigu­ing con­ver­sa­tion with a multi-mil­lion­aire breeder as much as with a punter down to his last few sheck­les, of­ten within a stone’s throw of each other.

Remember, the Sport Kings is still game where a pair of twos can very oc­ca­sion­ally beat straight flush.

Remember a bat­tling cab­bie from Quean­beyan and his half bro­ken down sprinter; $1200 wasn’t it for old Takeover Tar­get and he duly con­quered the world.

Only a few thou­sand for Ql­drea­red flyer Our Maiz­cay who set both NZ and Aus­tralia alight as a two-year-old three-year-old, and then as a pro­lific sire be­fore his sad pass­ing in 2010.

Even just few months back – $20K “Cin­derella” pur­chase She Will Reign who won the $3.5 mil­lion Golden Slip­per.

And let’s not for­get bat­tling old Tassie trainer Mick Burles, mi­nus a lung and with barely a rock­ing horse to sit on, who scraped to­gether $10K

buy The Cleaner – and the Lion of Long­ford was born.

With gen­er­ally good weather fore­cast – and the rail mov­ing from true to 3m tomorrow – the sweep­ing Scone track should play fairly even, and with bigger than nor­mal fields, that’s vi­tal for pun­ters of all shapes, sizes & banks.

I wish Heath Court­ney and his staff two glo­ri­ous days.

My SCONE CUP Tips (Fri): 1. DUCA VALENTINOIS; 2. Mo­her ; 3. Fabrizio. My DARK JEWEL Tips (Sat): 1. DAYSEE DOOM; 2. Ar tistr y; 3. Shil­le­lagh. The Scone two-day car ni­val brings to­gether city and countr y rac­ing this weekend

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