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Next Race Day: Saturday August 8 Gladstone Cup Day

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If last Saturday’s “turnout” at Gladstone’s Ferguson Park racecourse was any guide, the club’s next meeting – Gladstone Cup Day on August 8 is a going to quiet simply be a beauty.

Before a crackerjack crowd of colourful and appreciative racegoers, the Gladstone Turf Club produced and conducted a top class day of racing with horses aplenty.

It featured 49 horses including capacity fields in four of the five races while also producing a first in the club’s long history regarding jockeys.

 In all 15 jockeys rode at Ferguson Park but wait for this – nine of those were females making their small jockey’s change room completely inadequate.

“Over the years men always dominated the ranks here with male jockeys being in the majority. On Saturday the men had to use the female jockeys’ room and we swapped the girls over to theirs. I must admit I never thought that day would come”, a chuffed club president David Weinert said.

Nor for that matter no doubt would have pioneering Queensland female jockey Pam O’Neill when she became the first to ride against men on May 19, 1979 at Southport while landing a treble of winners to boot.

Weinert went on to rightly say – “Now without the girls race riding, country race clubs would be in serious trouble. We are reliant on them and very thankful as well”, Weinert said.

While the girls – jockeys Nicole Vuille (Pretty Kitty); Alannah Badger (Al’s Briefs) and Kelly Gates (Javelentia) won three races, it was a male counterpart who took riding honours.

Rockhampton senior apprentice, the very capable and under-rated Darren Evans broke a run of outs to land a winning double on John O’Sing’s War Noise (Maiden) and Ross Vagg’s Clasped (BM 65).

Very much a horseman-jockey, the talented and lightweight Evans has endured a frustrating run including multiple suspensions since his previous win on Tennessee Woman in Rockhampton on April 11.

Darren’s invaluable claiming allowance is seemingly being mistakenly overlooked by many Capricornia trainers but his well judged winning rides at Gladstone on Saturday should be a timely wake-up call for them.

Fitting the mode of a journeyman jockey of “have saddle – will travel” Darren rides this week at Mackay (Thursday); Oak Park (Friday) and Stamford (Saturday).

While Mackay is just 334km from Darren’s home base, Oak Park at Georgetown is 1246km away while Stamford near Hughenden is 1048km away.

Speaking of which, veteran owner and former trainer Brian Challacombe admits he won’t miss the pre-dawn wake-up calls after bowing out of racing a winner on Saturday.

At Gladstone, Brian celebrated his 75th birthday appropriately through a winning farewell for him and trainer son Lindsay’s last runner Pretty Kitty.

“The wife and I would like to see more of Australia and do some travelling. I loved the racing which has taken up most of my life in some ways but now it’s time to journey around a bit’’, Brian said.

Advertised for sale by the race caller in a catchy manner during his broadcast, Pretty Kitty saluted first in the BM 60 (850m) and was snapped-up by a trainer not long later.  

There were also plenty of “snaps” (photographs) being taken of Rockhampton school girl, the teenage apprentice jockey Zoe White before, during and after her first race ride on Nobody’s Boy in the BM 65 (1517m).

While it was no fairytale result with awkwardly drawn outsider Nobody’s Boy finishing fifth, for Zoe White it was the forerunner to what looms as a successful career.