Crowds stampede to Bassett Park and it’s a Warrior’s Cup!

Racegoers in their thousands flocked to Bassett Park Saturday November 18th for Roma’s Event Of The Year, the 2023 Club Hotel Roma Cup. While the Barcaldine-trained Stampede Warrior took honours in this year’s Cup, winners came from near and far with winning stables from Roma, Toowoomba, Miles, Alpha, and Charleville. Entrants in the Western Queensland Spirit Fashions On The Field also came from across the state, making the trek to Roma to vie for the fantastic prizes on offer.

Photo: It’s Tyler Cup!

Roma once again played host to the final qualifying race for the Racing Queensland Country Cups Challenge Series, with the Club Hotel Roma Cup the final leg of 16 qualifying races held across the state. Along with the $30,000 first prizemoney cheque awaiting the winner, Roma Cup entrants were also hoping to win to earn a spot in the rich $200,000 Country Cups Final held on December 2nd at Doomben. Race favourite Kobe Rocks led the field past the winning post the first time as the capacity field of 12 thundered down the Bassett Park straight past the sold our Cup Start Marquee and thousands gathered on the lawns to witness the big race. Parko and Portnoy made early moves to the front setting a hot pace, but apprentice Tyler Leslight brought Stampede Warrior to the outside of the leaders at the point of the home turn, before running away to win the 2023 Cup by 6 lengths for Barcaldine trainer Bevan “Billy” Johnson in a time of 1:41.79. Calm Seeker ran on well for second for Brooke Richardson and Toowoomba trainer Matt Kropp, with Sammy for Dale Evans and Toowoomba trainers Corey and Kylie Geran finishing third a further length back.

Photo – Stampede Warrior wins the Cup

It was an emotional win for the Johnson stable with Billy’s wife Mel a part-owner in the horse, but sadly had lost her father on race morning. Leslight said after the race that he always felt confident in the run sitting at the tail of the field as he felt the Declaration Of War gelding was travelling comfortably. Leslight made his move about 800 metres from home, easily rounding up the leaders to come to the centre of the track at the home turn and run away with the win in a one-act affair. In winning the Roma Cup, Stampede Warrior qualified for the Country Cups Challenge Final on December 2nd, with Leslight thrilled that stewards approved his application to ride in the Final at Doomben. Johnson is no stranger to taking his team to the big smoke, having won the 2019 edition of the Battle Of The Bush with Hanover Square and stable favourite Fab’s Cowboy a regular competitor in the Country Finals in Brisbane.

Photo – Club Hotel Roma Cup presentation

The day’s racing action started off with the Toowoomba-trained Big Sky Country saluting in the Brown & Hurley Agriculture Maiden Plate of 1000 metres for jockey Les “Bubba” Tilley and trainer Pat Webster, with Tilley leading all the way on the race favourite to score by 3¾ lengths from Cryptess and Queen’s Arms a further 4 lengths back in third place in a time of 58.38.

Photo – Big Sky Country

The Hall Chadwick Class 1 of 1000 metres saw Alpha trainer Cameron Dixon make a successful return to Bassett Park with Relicta ridden by Dan McGillivray winning by 1½ lengths from Dustins and Deep Millions a further length back in third place in 58.47. Dixon is a former jockey, having to give riding away in 2018 as weight got the better of him and only posted his first winner as a trainer in April this year at Longreach.

Photo – Relicta

Craig And Hoff was the only Roma-trained runner to salute the judge on Saturday, taking out the Nutrien Harcourts/Slatterys Class 5 Plate by ½ a length for apprentice Nikki Olzard and trainer Craig Smith from the winner’s stablemate Deference and Dreamseeker finishing third a further 4¼ lengths back in a time of 1:12.12. Smith is the “Craig” in Craig And Hoff, having raced the Real Saga gelding with his great friend Rodney “Hoffy” Hoffman until his passing last December. Craig And Hoff has managed to string 4 wins together since his trip to the iconic Birdsville Cup Carnival in September, with back-to-back victories at Emerald followed by wins at Yeppoon and now Roma.

Photo – Craig And Hoff

The McInnes Wilson Lawyers 0-55 handicap of 1200m also provided emotional scenes at Bassett Park on Saturday with Nutso ridden by Sarah Robbins winning by 1¼ from Lip Sip Suk and Valar Dohaeris ½ a length back in third in 1:12.89. Miles dual licensee Brendan Newport won his first race as a trainer with Nutso at Charleville on Melbourne Cup day, and Marty Awha also saluted at Gladstone the same day. Part-owner Raymond Mason paid tribute to Newport as he had been trying to win a race as an owner on Melbourne Cup day since 2017 as his brother Brian died from a heart attack when riding trackwork on Melbourne Cup morning that year. Mason dedicated the win to his brother and was thrilled that the Roma Cup meeting carried full TAB and Sky Channel coverage as family members had been able to watch the win and have “a little something on him”.

Photo – Nutso

Along with the Club Hotel Roma Cup being a Country Cups qualifying race, Roma also hosted one of the last legs of the Country Stampede series with the XXXX Flying of 1000m, and the Toowoomba-trained Jack Be Lucky reserved his place in the Final at Doomben winning by the narrowest margin of the day by a head from Hidden Eys and 1¾ lengths back to Keenzap in third in 57.55. Ridden by apprentice Rob Thorburn and trained by the mother and son team of Corey and Kyle Geran at Toowoomba, the Holy Roman Emperor gelding not only made it 3 wins in a row but also ticked off the last of his 5 starts at a country or non-TAB meeting to be fully qualified for the Country Stampede Final at Doomben.

Photo – Jack Be Lucky

The day’s racing concluded with another all-the-way win in the Mitchell Water/Maranoa Regional Council BM60 with Azoustic winning for jockey Nathan Evans and Charleville trainer William Pugsley. Evans was able to dictate terms out in front before careering away in the straight to win by 5¾ lengths from Moorabinda Mick and Peshwa a long neck back in third in 1:43.81.

Photo – Azoustic

Training honours went to Craig Smith with 12 points, securing the Trainer Of The Day award of a new Akubra Cattleman hat sponsored by Phil Aisthorpe and Phil’s Small Tractor Service of Roma, while Les “Bubba” Tilley won the Jockey Of The Day award on a countback from Sarah Robbins and Rob Thorburn. Tilley received a staycation accommodation prize at the five-star Pullman Brisbane Airport sponsored by the Brisbane Airport Hotels Group for his win in the first race of the day and a number of placings including running 4th in the Club Hotel Roma Cup on 2021 winner Tears Of Love.

Photo – Rider of the day – Less Tilley with Peter Flynn

Photo – Trainer of the day – Craig Smith’s daughter Courtney with Lexi and Peter Flynn

Roma Turf Club co-president Peter Flynn said the club was very happy with the whole Cup weekend, adding “Seeing the town packed with people and motels and restaurants all booked out shows the economic benefits to the region and the boost to the town’s economy. From welcoming new Cup sponsors the Club Hotel on board, to hosting Racing Queensland CEO Jason Scott at the meeting, to the big crowds rolling in to Bassett Park and all events extremely well attended, the club could not be more happy with the 2023 Cup and are already looking forward to next year’s event.”

Fashions On The Field organiser Lucy Foley said the club was thrilled with both the numbers involved and the quality of fashions entered for the Western Queensland Spirits Fashions On The Field competition. Judges Sarah Taylor, Cara Spreadborough of Inky & Moss and Will Fellowes of Western Queensland Spirits certainly had their work cut out for them, with Roma Fashionistas taking both the Classic and Contemporary categories. The Inky & Moss Classic Lady was won by Tess Schiffmann from Lily Voss of Rockhampton, and the GR Production Services Contemporary Lady award went to Annie Barclay from Haylee Martell of Gatton. Brisbane’s Conor Anglim was judged Nutrien Harcourts Best Dressed Gent with Melbourne’s Jarrod Kanizay the runner-up

Photo – Classic Lady Fashions winner Tess Schiffmann, Roma and runner-up Lily Voss, Rockhampton

While the weather was kind to racegoers through a fabulous afternoon of racing, November’s unpredictable weather turned nasty around 6:45 when Roma was battered by wild winds, driving rain and hail sending fascinators flying and patrons forced to take shelter. Thankfully the storm moved on as quickly as it had arrived and although a touch damper, the big crowd partied on into the night with Route 33 and Brooke Schubert.  

Racing returns to Bassett Park on Saturday December 9th when the Roma Turf Club hosts the McDonalds Christmas Race Day as their last meeting of the year with a special visit from Santa. Tickets are available now at the club’s website at www.romaturfclub.com.au    

For more information, visit the memberships page at www.romaturfclub.com.au, or contact info@romaturfclub.org.au

Photo credits

race photos supplied by Three Way Photos – for race day images, visit www.michaelmcinallyphotography.com; email threewayphotos@gmail.com; or phone 0497577565

fashions photo courtesy Queensland Country Life