October 24, 2017
Saturday in the South Burnett started with a few sprinkles and gradually built up to a downpour … but that didn’t stop a large crowd turning out to Wondai’s race track despite the leaden skies.
They sheltered in the grandstand, the betting ring, the canteen, a long row of marquee tents on the lawns or at the Lady Luck Cocktail Bar, making quick dashes to the track’s fence when each race was run, then back to shelter just as quickly once the horses had passed the winning post.
On the field, the raceday crowd was enlivened by a large buck’s party who’d come to celebrate some nuptials planned for February, easily identified by their bright pink vests.
Many other patrons dressed to the “Flowers and Fascinators” fashion theme, which lent a festive atmosphere to the track despite the rainy weather.
As things turned out, it was too wet to hold the fashion parades next to the mounting yard, so Deputy Mayor Kathy Duff held them on a concrete footpath between the race club office and the jockey’s room, with spectators cheering entrants on from the betting ring.
Judges had a hard time picking winners amongst a large and colourful field of aspirants.
The wet weather was the first time it had rained on a Wondai race day for many years, and South Burnett Race Club officials took special steps to ensure the sand track surface was fit for purpose before racing got underway.
Some drainage improvements had been carried out late last week, and on race-day morning the track was carefully raked to let it dry if the sun came out.
But the sun stayed stubbornly hidden behind clouds that only grew darker as the afternoon wore on.
Officials and jockeys judged the surface safe for racing, though, at about 1:00pm.
And while parts of the track resembled a mud pit after the final race, the meeting was largely incident free.
The biggest hiccup came in the second race of the day, which had to be delayed for 10 minutes after Squeemi was incorrectly dressed with the wrong saddle cloth.
This error pushed all other races back and saw both the trainer and jockey fined $100 apiece for negligence.
But the race turned into a dead heat between Glenthorn Avenue and Fab’s Cowboy – something rarely seen on the region’s racetracks – with Squeemi running third to ease the pain of its fines.
In the fourth race of the day, jockey Gemma Steele had her heart in her mouth most of the race after she caught her outside leg stirrup on the starting gate and tore it off.
This caused her saddle to shift to the near-side soon after the start, and close to the 400m mark she was forced to remove her feet from the racing irons completely.
All the same, the plucky jockey guided her horse Star Of Bethlehem into third place, a remarkable effort given that Gemma had already won the first three races of the day.
Jockey Cecily Eaton also had a special reason to celebrate in the fifth and final race, the Roy and Glennis Radunz Wondai Cup.
Cecily not only won the feature race aboard Kuramos, but the win marked her 300th first placing since she began racing in 1998.
Race 1 – Generation Funerals Maiden Plate (1100m)
1. Smart Venture (8) – Gemma Steele
2. Danish Diction (1) – Hannah Phillips
3. Pipemajor (4) – Cecily Eaton
Margins: 3 1/4 lengths x 9 1/4 lengths
Race 2 – Seiler Earthmoving Open Handicap (1100m)
1. Glenthorn Avenue (2) – Gemma Steele
1. Fab’s Cowboy (1) – Hannah Phillips
3. Squeemi (6) – Nicole Lentini
Margins: Dead Heat x 2 1/2 lengths
Race 3 – The Monica Ryan QTIS BenchMark 55 Handicap (1100m)
1. Liverpool Jane (2) – Gemma Steele
2. Champagne Warrior (10) – Cecily Eaton
3. Lucks In (11e) – Leeanne McCoy
Margins: 2 lengths x 1/2 neck
Race 4 – Summit Financial Services Class B Handicap (1465m)
1. National Jewel (1) – Hannah Phillips
2. Ascot Bound (7) – Alannah Badger
3. Star Of Bethlehem (6) – Gemma Steele
Margins: 2 lengths x 6 3/4 lengths
Race 5 – Roy and Glennis Radunz Wondai Cup BenchMark 65 Handicap (1465m)
1. Kuramos (5) – Cecily Eaton
2. Ibelieveicanfly (2) – Nicole Lentini
3. Fasta Than Light (1) – Jason Missen
Margins: 1 1/2 lengths x 1/4 length