THE Rockhampton Jockey Club's week-long Festival of Racing galloped off to a magnificent start last Saturday night when over 300 people attended the spectacular Gala Racing Ball.
Sponsored by The Capricornian and held on the lawns of Callaghan Park under a starry sky painting the ideal canopy for idyllic weather conditions, the racecourse was transformed into a glittering outdoor theatre.
However, next Friday and Saturday, Callaghan Park racecourse, the home of racing in Rockhampton for 118 years, will play host to two outstanding TAB race meetings.
These two dates have been cleverly crafted to create a carnival atmosphere to emphasise and build momentum around the importance of Rockhampton racing's crowning jewel - the Capricornia Yearling Sales (CYS) next Sunday.
So while the 300-plus were having a ball and dancing the night away, in stables throughout Queensland the equine stars which will gather for the fray at Callaghan Park were conserving their energy.
They will need it for sure as the calibre of horses in the $120,000 SMW Group CYS 2YO Classic (1200m) and $42,000 CYS 3YO Classic (1300m) next Saturday is unprecedented.
While all the emphasis, publicity and notoriety has been focused on the juveniles in the 2YO Classic, their counterparts from last year's classic gearing for the 3YO Classic have been somewhat overlooked.
Not far away from the gaiety on Saturday night, the Kelly Shaw-trained 3YO Classic dominator Duan Oscar was tucked up in his racecourse stable.
A winner of $81,000 in prize money and another CYS success story being bought for a mere "song and a prayer" at $4500 in 2014, Duan Oscar, as his name suggests, deserves top billing.
A winner of five races from 14 starts and a last-start annihilator of a hot 3YO field at Callaghan Park on March 3 where he humbled subsequent winner Embrace the Pain, all's well with Oscar.
'"He's fine. No problems with him. It was always planned to space his runs leading up in to next Saturday's Classic. Oscar races best that way and I'm pretty confident he can win," trainer Kelly Shaw and mum of four-year-old son Cruz said yesterday.
A talented horseperson in her own right, Kelly and Cruz will place Oscar in the hands of the little boy's dad in jockey Scott Sheargold next Saturday.
Meanwhile, at trainer Ray Long's Townsville stables, a two stone lighter Wicked Crime was recovering from his much-awaited return to winning form on his home track there last Friday.
By Wicked Style from Special Dane and a $14,000 buy at the 2014 Rocky Sale, Wicked Crime's stash to date is a whopping $123,300.
"He'd been very colty this preparation especially in races around the fillies where he would lean in on them. I had him gelded five weeks ago and Friday was his first run back and it turned out to be a winning one," Long said.
A lot is banking on a Wicked Crime win as his little sister sells as Lot 95 at next Sunday's sale.
Not forgetting the gifted but somewhat troubled Mick Attard-trained Supreme Jet (ch g 3 Jet Spur-Navarro) who looked like being the proverbial "anything" earlier on in his career.
If horses were smokers you would swear Supreme Jet fitted the mould. He is a "loud breather" which has troubled his form.
"Yes he has a breathing-related condition and in his races when the pace is slow, such as last week when he disappointed here, he isn't suited. He needs the speed on so he can roll along at a constant pace. He is going around for sure and I'm told jockey Ash Butler can't wait to get back on him," Attard said last night.
One thing is certain, racegoers haven't got long to wait for three cracking days of thoroughbred- related theatre.