Community salutes characters
Monto Race Club celebrates 90 years of action on track
PUNTERS celebrated in style this year when Monto Race Club notched up its 90th annual carnival.
The club has created its fair share of history since the first amateur meet was held in 1928.
All those years ago, the races were run at what is now the airport.
They migrated down the road to the club’s current home in the 1930s, known then as Upper Burnett Amateur Racing Club, before adopting the Monto Race Club moniker in 1946.
The glory days were the 1970s – electricity was installed at the track, the price of admission was $1.50 and a schooner only set you back 30c.
Now, 90 years on, racing in the district is alive and kicking.
Famed trainer and local larrikin Ken Gleadhill has certainly added a few chapters to Monto racing folklore.
The self-proclaimed “bodgie basher, tool sharpener, tank salesman, wizard and bull s**t artist,” lists these former professions among the 34 qualifications on his business card.
The old timer’s love affair with racing began in Brisbane, when, as a nine-year-old, he got his start by wagging school to help clean stables.
Running with the wrong crowd in his teens landed him in strife and his father gave him a “kick up the arse”, banishing him to the bush.
The rest is history.
It began a 60-odd year, on-again, off-again career in racing, during which he trained over 100 winners at racing meets throughout outback Queensland.
His first was at the Camboon Cup. The horse, Kiown, was owned by his good mate Ces Murphy.
Gleadhill had worked with Kiown for just six weeks. His training licence arrived in the post two days later and he was hooked.
His crowning glory, he said, came in 1975 with a nine-year-old named Legendary.
“His owner reckoned he was finished,” Gleadhill recalled.
“He was chasing cows in the paddock and nobody else would take him. He was buggered and looked a mess.
“I fed him better than my wife and kids for two months.”
So confident was Gleadhill before Legendary’s first start at Gayndah, he warned the jockey not to win.
Third would suffice, he didn’t want to be burdened with extra weight too early on the comeback trail.
The instruction was the same a fortnight later at Eidsvold. Legendary ran third both times at a canter.
Three weeks later, Legendary blitzed the field at Monto, the first of 19 victories under Gleadhill, going on to win at every track in the North Burnett.
Gleadhill still rates the day as one of the happiest of his life.
And he still rates Legendary’s jockey that day as one of Australia’s all-time greats – Kenny Russell.
The man is immortalised in bronze at Monto’s Lions Park.
There are many names synonymous with racing in Monto – Goody, Hutton and Rideout, to name a few – but none more famous than Russell.
Russell was born and raised in Monto, a much-loved and revered jockey who dominated central Queensland racing in the 1970s, riding an estimated 500 winners.
After conquering the bush, he moved on to the bigger meets of the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Sydney where his success continued.
Russell was a favourite with owners and punters alike, riding a then-record 92 winners to the premiership in Brisbane during the 1986/87 season.
A fall at Rosehill in Sydney brought about his tragic and untimely death in October, 1993 - just four days after his 42nd birthday - but his legacy lives on in Monto.
This year’s anniversary event featured a memorabilia display that took racegoers for a trip down memory lane, paying tribute to the lasting legacy of Russell and the club’s other stalwarts.
MUCH-LOVED JOCKEY: Racing legend Kenny Russell’s statue sits proudly in Monto Lions Park.