3000-plus enjoy big day at races at Yeppoon on Saturday
YEPPOON Turf Club (YTP) president Greg Simpson is not one to exaggerate so when he said last Saturday's Derby Day races at Keppel Park were the biggest on record, no one argued.
"It was quite simply amazing. We had just over 3000 racegoers on course. The biggest ever in my time. Quiet truthfully, I can't get over it," Simpson said.
That was at around 4pm yesterday when Simpson and his voluntary YTC committee members and supporters had just finished the arduous clean-up of Keppel Park racecourse.
While voluntary but highly professional, the group realised that to cater for the ever-increasing crowds who frequent the sparsely scheduled race meetings there, they would have to transform the grounds into a tent city.
That's what they did on Saturday, the club purchasing 60 tents, or marquees, which sounds much better, to shade the throng of racegoers seeking shelter, seating and tables for food and beverage.
"It was such a successful day the marquees would have paid for themselves in one go," Simpson enthused.
With the packed grounds resembling a musical festival out on the turf of the racecourse, competition was intense.
Actually it didn't commence that way with Mackay couple John and Colleen Hunter's cheeky, albeit precocious, All Bar One gelding Eljay Atom ($2.50) romping home by 3.5 lengths in the opener.
Fast into stride, Eljay Atom furthered his lead in the straight to win the $8000 Maiden Plate (900m) by 3.5 lengths from Bulletin Belle (Shane McGovern, $7.00).
"I bred him and he was a real handful earlier on. He broke a trackwork rider's leg up north and I was recommended to send him down to Fred Smith as they told me if he can't fix him, nobody can," John Hunter said.
Smith, a former renowned horse breaker who when required still jumps in the saddle to tame little bosses like Eljay Atom, has done a masterly job with the galloper who looks like racing on to many wins.
Owner Les Boyce and trainer Kevin Hansen were pleasantly surprised when their Caught Courting gelding Midnight Stalker (Chris McIver, $17.00) stalked his 10 rivals from well back before charging home to win the $8000 Class B (900m).
Later, McIver, now back to full fitness after a shoulder operation, perfectly timed his ride to win on Phillip Pengelly's Usurper ($2.40) in the Class 3 (1400m).
"The shoulder is feeling quite good again now and my timing and everything else is working out well. I just hope the winners keep coming," McIver said.
Winning trainer Pat Brennan donated his trainers' percentage of $455 to the Carly-Mae Pye appeal just seconds after Say My Name (Coome, $2.40) won the 3YO Maiden (1100m).
Say My Name was ridden a treat by Coome who urged him through a run between horses to claim victory from late comer Hot Plate (Scott Sheargold, $10.00).
Hot Plate, a cleverly named son of Red Element trained by Michael and Christine Dore, turned in a hot run, burning home from near last on the turn.
Resident Keppel Park trainer Allan Jenkinson's sole starter in Stay The Night (Dale Evans, $3.20) led throughout to provide the mentor with his third success in the Yeppoon Newmarket (1300m).
Allan and wife Christine purchased Stay The Night recently from John Millroy and Saturday's triumph was the second for the couple since the paperwork was signed.
"I've won the Newmarket here before with Lyncay and Mega Jet. I only had the one runner today as the program just didn't work out for me," Jenkinson said.
It certainly did for Stay The Night which was topical as hundreds of racegoers did just that at Yeppoon's night spots after Saturday's races.
They'll have a long time to recover as the YTC don't race again until May, 2015.