Winter Carnival kicked off with a day of Rugby

Battle of the Bush winner 2023

The Roma Turf Club’s 2023 Winter Carnival kicked off on Saturday with a feast of Football, Fashions and Furlongs at Bassett Park. Perfect weather brought out a bumper crowd to enjoy an exciting 5 race programme and 3 hard-fought games of rugby as a part of the annual Rugby Race Day held in conjunction with the Roma Echidnas.

The biggest cheer of the day however wasn’t for the local lads taking the field in the Risdon Cup clash with the Condamine Cods but was reserved for Roma trainer Craig Smith winning the rich Battle Of The Bush Final at Eagle Farm with Art By Concorde for local owner John Bushell. The 4YO gelding was ridden to perfection by jockey Kyle Wilson-Taylor, flashing up the straight to reign in race favourite Isis Carmella and bolt away with the $116,000 first prize.

The Smith Racing stable also saw success at Bassett Park, with Keenzap taking out the Southport School 0-60 Handicap with stable apprentice Dylan Bennett in the saddle, defeating Joey Jaws with Chayse ‘N’ Menari back in third. Bennett had combined with Art By Concorde when he won his qualifying heat last month at Cunnamulla.

The Santos riding honours for the day went to apprentice Savannah McCann with a winning double, combining with the Matt Kropp-trained Pheeble’s Spirit in the Roma Veterinary Clinic Maiden Plate ahead of Marty Awha and Bindango. McCann again saluted the judge aboard Heat for Chinchilla trainer Len Mawn in the Anglican Church Grammar School BM45 Handicap, beating Raspberry Bullets and Camarosa. The Mawn stable were unsure what to expect from the 5YO gelding as it had only been in the stable for a week having been sent north by Scone owner Jack Cavanagh. Heat’s victory along with 2 second placings for the stable ensured Mawn was crowned the Santos trainer of the day.

Track specialist Waitakere made it 4 wins from 4 starts on the Bassett Park sand taking out the St Joseph’s Nudgee College BM60 Handicap, defeating Tomboy’s Spirit and Package. Under the steading impost of 67kg, jockey Paul Hamblin brought the 6YO gelding to the lead around 500 metres from home and was never headed going on to score by ½ a length. Toowoomba trainer Paul Edwards said Waitakere would now be aimed at the Birdsville Cup Carnival in September

It was a case of “what might have been” for Roma trainer Wayne Baker as Menindee saluted in the David Power and Upstream Production Solutions Open Handicap with Amy Graham aboard, beating Dynamic Verse and Shotgun Sonny. The 5YO gelding had also competed in the qualifying heats of the Battle Of The Bush, and narrowly missed out on a start in the rich final at Eagle Farm being declared second emergency. While Baker said he was naturally thrilled for Smith, he felt he had Menindee primed for a win had he made the Eagle Farm Final.

At the conclusion of the racing action, the Roma Turf Club made a special presentation to bookmaker David “Crocket” Power, who was fielding in the Roma ring for the final time ahead of his retirement from bookmaking later in the year. RTC President Peter Flynn paid tribute to Power on his last day of fielding at Bassett Park, saying “Crocket has been a wonderful servant of the racing industry and a great supporter of the Roma Turf Club, both as a bookmaker and as an owner. His dedication to the full western Queensland racing scene will be missed.”

Saturday’s Fashions On The Field saw many ladies sporting wonderful winter race day outfits, but eventually it was Ginny Warby and Liz Deardon who won the day in the Classic Lady and Contemporary Lady categories, picking up the cash prizes thanks to St Hilda’s School, Gold Coast.

While the local boys were on the wrong side of the scoreboard in the A Grade clash going down 56-14 to the Condamine Cods, the Echidnas C grade team started off the day on a winning note against the Chinchilla River Rats 31-7, and St George Frillnecks were too strong for the Condamine Cods 51-14 in the B Grade game.

The Roma Turf Club’s Winter Carnival continues Saturday July 8th with the Cities RLFC Race Day featuring a 5-race programme racing for $67,500 in prizemoney, and then wraps up on Saturday July 22nd with the Fillies And Families Race Day in conjunction with the Roma State College for a 5-race programme, also carrying $67,500 in prizemoney.

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Photo credits

  • The Roma trained Art By Concorde, winner of the Battle Of The Bush Final – credit RaceQ/Michael McInally
  • Battle Of The Bush winning trainer Craig Smith, jockey Kyle Wilson-Taylor, and owner John Bushell – credit – Darren Winningham
  • Keenzap, Pheeble’s Sprit, Heat, Menindee and Waitakere – credit Three Way Photos
  • Retiring bookmaker David “Crocket” Power – credit – Clare Adcock
  • Fashions On The Field winners in Ginny Warby and Liz Deardon – credit – Katarina Silvester