Bigger things in store for Scone
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