An extraordinarily large crowd filled Lee Park on Saturday to enjoy the Nanango Race Club’s annual Easter race meeting in near-perfect Autumn weather.
The meeting’s fashion theme was “Easter Bonnets, Bowlers and Cottontails” and many patrons put in a big effort to parade unusual headwear, ranging from slip-on rabbit ears to more elaborate creations that must have taken many hours to put together.
Cyclone Debbie may have caused a few problems with flooding in other parts of the region when it passed through a fortnight ago, but race club officials were pleased with the way it had greened up the course for the meeting.
Punters were a little less pleased, however, when none of the day’s favourites managed to come first past the post, though two did manage to run close seconds.
Still, the main emphasis of the day was on socialising and patrons came from all over south-east Queensland to enjoy a day of country racing at the region’s busiest racecourse.
The Sunshine Coat MG Club, who visit Lee Park once or twice each year, brought along a solid contingent of members, while other guests travelled from Brisbane, Caboolture and the Gold Coast.
There were also a few trackside family reunions, including one family who travelled from Melbourne to spend Easter with their South Burnett grandparents.
Most of the meeting was incident free, but there were two close calls that caused some hearts to skip a beat.
In the first race of the day, the fancied Coalbank Caviar dislodged jockey Noriyuki Nishio shortly after leaving the barriers, then raced riderless around the track.
Ambulance personnel quickly attended to examine the fallen jockey, but happily found he was uninjured and cleared him to fulfil his later engagements.
Later that day, Eley became fractious in the mounting yard as riders were saddling up for the third race and dislodged jockey Jason Hoopert several times, at one point threatening to roll on him.
The horse had never run in a race before, and was subsequently scratched when it refused to enter the barriers.
It will now have to undergo an official trial to the satisfaction of stewards prior to racing again.
Beyond these minor incidents, though, race club officials said they were very pleased with the day, which saw a bumper turnover at the club’s canteen, barbecue and bars.
Nanango Race Club’s next fixture will be its Autumn Race Meeting on May 27.
[UPDATED with correction]
Race 1 – James Curtain Racing Class B Handicap (800m)
1. Toecanargie Man (2) – Sally Sweeney
2. Anxpense (3) – Nozi Tomizawa
3. In Taiwan (11) – Chelsea Jokic
Margins: 3 1/4 lengths x neck
Race 2 – Bechley’s Transport BenchMark 65 Handicap (1000m)
1. Hopetoun Street (4) – Hannah English
2. Turbo Teddy (2) – Montanna Savva
3. Man Of Law (5) – David Hayse
Margins: 1 1/4 lengths x 1 1/2 lengths
Race 3 – McDonalds Kingaroy QTIS Maiden Plate (1000m)
1. Mac’s Boy (4) – Pietro Romeo
2. Good Gracious Mae (5) – Alannah Badger
3. Skylar’s Star (6) – David Hayse
Margins: Short 1/2 neck x 1 1/2 lengths
Race 4 – Fiedler Brothers Plumbing BenchMark 55 Handicap (1200m)
1. Hightower (5) – Shannon Apthorpe
2. Night Wolf (1) – Alannah Badger
3. All Our Wives (10) – David Hayse
Margins: 1 3/4 lengths x short half head
Race 5 – Pursers Buses BenchMark 50 Handicap (1600m)
1. Hammerack (1) – Shannon Apthorpe
2. Marlahn (7) – Hannah Phillips
3. Onemore Twist (5) – Noriyuki Nishio
Margins: 2 1/2 lengths x 4 1/2 lengths