May 12, 2016
There is a plaque on a tree at Burrandowan opposite where shooters gun down make-believe pigeons at brunch time and jockeys crack their whips during the heat of the afternoon battle.
The inscription indicates that Donny Fleming, who lived from 1941 to 2008, was a good bloke.
The positioning is perfect.
Fleming was a watchful, caring shepherd for a flock of avid younger fans that included his presently Melbourne-based son Brendan.
The memorial looks over the annual camp that now embraces a second generation.
“I was at the Tabulam races and someone remarked that if I enjoyed that day I would love Burrandowan,” said Brendan, who has been attending the iconic South Burnett fixture for about two decades.
His dad Don transformed from being a reluctant maiden starter to an open class performer when it came to relishing his sojourns under the gums west of Kingaroy.
The numbers in the party and other associates have expanded enthusiastically over time, with around forty or so collecting around the fireplace on Saturday night.
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The sentiments of this snippet are repeated by a host of other long term devotees.
These folk arrive early, are organised and travel through the day like dyed-in-the-wool stayers.
Thankfully the Burrandowan Picnic Race Club has a free admission policy for all under-18s to ensure that families are welcome.
As a result, youngsters have happy race outings during their childhoods, and they keep coming back as adults, then bring their progeny along too.
Generation follows generation.
The Victorian trend to rush through races every half hour is also wisely ignored. This is an occasion to savour.
Patrons need time to muse over the wine list with its eight options or admire the treasured tea cups on active duty in the Hall.
The fashion contests are lucrative and lavish, too.
Meanwhile, serious punters have the all-important Skychannel showing the away-track action while the parade ring fence is always lined with experts of varying degrees.
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Burrandowan truly has something for racegoers of all ages, in all styles of attire and with every range of tastes and priorities. The ambience spans the world, from elegant traditional to the comfortably casual.
The most rousing cheer did not go to the rider who booted home a hot favourite.
No, it was heard after the fine pre-race fanfares by music teacher Matt Phillips.
He is based at Kingaroy High, the school whose band provided timely late afternoon entertainment.
The Burrandowan (and general country racing) experience is a total reversal of the social atmosphere engendered in an elevator full of strangers.
In that context, silence is maintained. accompanied by edgy fidgeting and blank staring at illuminated floor numbers.
On the other hand, interactions and conversations are palpably present at rural racetracks.
During the past week, a losing bookmaker telephoned Brendan McCormack, the race club’s president.
He passed on his congratulations on the wonderfully successful meeting, particularly in an era where most on-course attendance figures continue to decline.
If an astute satchel swinger does his dough but is complimentary about the affair, the praise carries plenty of weight.
No wonder some of Donny Fleming’s ashes rest at Burrandowan … it has a special soul.
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McCoy Hit The Right Note
Music Scene and the Bel Esprit gelding Cash’s Reject rewarded jockey Leeanne McCoy’s industry by taking out the Hot FM 89.1-O’Reilly Nunn Favier Surveyors Patrons Cup Handicap (Class B, 1000 metres) and the Clovely Estate Wines-Agforce/BGA QTIS Maiden Plate (1200m) last Saturday.
Their respective trainers – David Reynolds (Dalby) and Geoff Schrader (Jandowae) – did not have a long journey to Burrandowan.
The Reynolds-McCoy unit, despite having a small squad, have also scored this year with Platinum Gray and Pick Of The Pubs while Music Scene, a Kaphero three-year-old, also prevailed at Rockhampton last month.
Schrader won the QTIS Maiden at Burrandowan last year with Moss Tank.
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The Road Ahead
This weekend’s country racing is scheduled for Jandowae and Thangool (Saturday) and Beaudesert (Sunday), with Nanango chiming in on Saturday, May 28.
Saturday June 4 features the Oaks Day reopening of Eagle Farm and the Sustain Series program at Eidsvold.
Gayndah (June 11), Kilcoy (June 18), Gympie (June 25) and Esk (July 2) are also hosting forthcoming Non-TAB cards.
Hope to see you at one – or all – of these!