Battle of the young guns at Rocky race meeting
HORSE RACING: With Rockhampton's Capricornia Yearling Sale fast approaching in April, it seems appropriate that most interest at today's Callaghan Park races will centre around, for want of a better expression, "youth".
Equine youth that is, in the $30,000 QTIS 2YO CL 2 (1100M) and the $36,200 QTIS Jewel 3YO Qualifier (1100m).
Visiting Townsville trainer Bill Kenning and Mackay's Lyle Wright seemingly hold the keys to the outcome of the juvenile race.
Kenning will start his unbeaten (Falvelon-Flinders Command x Commands) filly, the aptly named Flinders Highway, to be ridden by 1.5kg claiming apprentice Rhiannon Payne.
Wright runs Cyclone Topgirl (Changeintheweather (USA) -Aleysa Khan x Kanoot), a two times winner and runner-up to Flinders Highway on debut at Townsville on October 28.
In a four-horse field the Capricornia Yearling Sales is represented by last year's graduate, the Tom Button and Al Grimshaw-owned Ruby Georgie (Sidereus-Little Pin Up Girl (NZ) x Pins).
Ruby Georgie impressively won the lucrative Rockhampton Breeder's Plate (1050m) at his first attempt on November 17 before resuming with a fighting second to Tambo's Vixen at Callaghan Park on January 25. The other starter is the Krystle Johnston-trained colt Craiglea Rubble which is anything but a slouch judging by a Mackay win on December 14.
It makes for an enthralling race, particularly so with senior jockeys Nathan Day aboard Cyclone Topgirl and Nigel Seymour riding Ruby Georgie.
Day is in superb form and has few peers in this neck of the woods on a two-year-old.
With his distinctive low crouch in the saddle in the barriers, Day has the happy knack of getting youngsters to jump brilliantly, thus positioning them in key roles in their races.
It will be crucial he does so with Cyclone Topgirl, who flashed home brilliantly in just going under to Flinders Highway by 1.5 lengths at their Townsville clash.
It's a fact the canny Kenning knows only too well as he commented on arrival in Rockhampton with Flinders Highway after traversing the Bruce Highway at 11am on Tuesday.
"My filly travelled well but it is I suppose a trial and error test for her in the Rocky race,'' he said.
"She hasn't been away from Cluden (Townsville) racing and she won't want to be a tearaway leader down the long run-in at Callaghan Park in Rockhampton.
"She has gotten away with that hit the ground and run style of racing at Cluden where you can do it. Not so here," Kenning said.
The 3YO QTIS Jewel Qualifier (1100m) is an even more intriguing race.
Among its five starters are the simply amazing record-breaking Rockhampton filly Paradis Imperial - only once out of the prize money in 18 starts, amassing $343,650 for a race average of just over $19,000.
Ever conservative, her trainer - this racing scribe - admits her task is arduous given she is handicapped on 64kg but will carry 61kg, but then again she is honesty personified.
However, Paradis Imperial hesitated at the start, bringing about her loss to Wicked Express here on January 11, and she should have definitely finished second at the Sunshine Coast at her subsequent defeat.
Brisbane trainer Paul Butterworth (Wonder Boom) is quoted in a Queensland Racing website article as saying "I can't see him getting beaten" which is a bold statement and an even bigger tip for punters.
Then there is Tom Button's Wicked Express, who under the light weight of 55.5kg has a huge advantage with Nigel Seymour aboard which is worth at least another three kilograms in value.
The knockout could be Ross Shannon's Astral Odyssey, who produced an amazing effort to come to from the clouds for a flashing third to Wicked Express on debut.
It was tantamount to a simply amazing feat rarely seen and if Astral Odyssey performs similarly today the race could be his as he will only carry 52.5kg, getting 8.5kg off Paradis Imperial, 6kg off Wonder Boom and 3kg from Wicked Express.
Remember, it is not always the best horse that wins the race but the best weighted.