Laidley Cup gallops for zero spectators
HORSE RACING: Instead of ensuring 3000 patrons were having a good time, Terry Kirkwood stood in an empty marquee as horses galloped down the home straight.
The Lockyer Valley Turf Club was forced to cut months of hard work for the Laidley Cup, with the coronavirus pandemic cancelling major events.
Instead, it was trainers, jockeys and key racing staff who were at the track with not a spectator in sight.
As the horses galloped towards the finish line, those who were fortunate enough to watch the race could hear the jockeys’ banter, a noise which is usually overridden by a strong, cheering crowd.
Turf club president Terry Kirkwood said the club, and surrounding businesses, took a major hit with general public banned from the race meeting.
“We had nearly four busloads coming. And talking to people in the street there were people coming to the races that had never been before and they were looking forward to it,” Kirkwood said.
The feature race, the Laidley Cup, was won by Toowoomba trainer Richie Stephenson’s horse Bernie’s Tiger, ridden by Josh Oliver.
The five-year-old bay gelding, carrying 11–1 odds, crossed the line by a neck in front of Shauquin (NZ) for Gold Coast trainer Harold Norman
Stephenson said the gelding received a brilliant ride from Oliver, and looked the winner in the straight.
“He was ridden nice and quiet and was able to come home over the top of them for a nice win. He’s going very well,” Stephenson said.
“We’ve found the correct way to ride him and to space his races.
“The home turn at Gatton is pretty sharp and he had to come quite wide where he lost a bit of ground, but he was always going to win in the straight I thought.
“Even though he only won narrowly, I had the impression he was always going to win and that nothing was going to beat him over the last 50–60m.”
With the Gatton Cup the next major race day for the turf club, Kirkwood said they hadn’t written off racing.
“The committee will discuss the race day in conjunction with Racing Queensland,” he said.
“We’ll be guided by RQ and the virus. If can hold it (the race day) we will.”
The Gatton Cup is scheduled for Saturday, May 30.