Natalie Morton charges to first place on Gud Onya (Geoffrey Schrader), followed by Minionette Kennedy on Arigold (Bevan Johnson).
Natalie Morton charges to first place on Gud Onya (Geoffrey Schrader), followed by Minionette Kennedy on Arigold (Bevan Johnson).

Best of the west celebrated at Christmas races

A BIGGER and better year filled with successes was celebrated at Bassett Park, where the last race meet of the year was run at the Roma track, and the best in the industry were awarded for their excellence.

Following a huge Saturday on the track for the McDonald’s Christmas Races, Natalie Morton took home the top gong for Downs Region Jockey of the Year, and Bevan Johnson’s Fab’s Cowboy winning Horse of the Year.

Natalie Morton and Peter Flynn.
Natalie Morton and Peter Flynn.

Roma-based trainer Craig Smith was named Trainer of the Year, after racking up 16 wins over the season – a notable achievement in a sport which he says is constantly raising the bar.

“Racing has greatly improved in this area quality-wise, and we have a lot of young jockeys and young trainers coming forward,” Smith said.

“It is very competitive I find nowadays, and you’ve got a couple of young kids having jump-outs today too.

“I think next year will again be good for the Downs and western area.”

Craig Smith and Peter Flynn.
Craig Smith and Peter Flynn.

With the year now officially wrapped up for the Downs Country racing region Roma racing identity and regional representative on the Country Racing Advisory Panel Peter Flynn took a chance to reflect on the year that was.

“The good part about this year is that all the clubs in the Downs Country area, and we have 11 clubs, most of which are far-flung bush clubs, have all been very successful in all the meetings they have had this year, with the exception of a washed-out Injune meet” Flynn said.

“The highlight of the year was the fantastic meeting on Roma Cup day, with the massive prize money, but I think the other things is that, particularly from a Roma Turf Club point of view, is the significance of the Rugby Race Day, the Picnics, and also the many other meetings during the year.

“This Christmas party meeting has certainly become an outstanding day as well, so I think the real highlight is the continued success of all our clubs.”

The final meet was rounded out with trial runs for some of the region’s up-and-comers – both jockeys and horses.

Hailing from across the districts, the next wave of country jockeys were vying for accreditation, and a chance to ride a big race in 2020.

And having the newcomers in the field is expected to be exciting for racing followers, and trainers alike.

“There are a number of two-year-old horses that are going to be racing in the new year, and there are a couple of jockeys who will hopefully be licensed to ride in the new year, which will be extremely beneficial for the local trainers,” Flynn said.

“It is a bit early for any tips yet, but I can say that Dan McGillivray, who rode in the trials today and is indentured to Craig Smith, is the brother of Matt McGillivray, who is one of the leading jockeys in Queensland.

“I think he will be equally as good, if not better, than his brother.”