Racing on the Darling Downs
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.