Year in review: Alan Welburn's top 10 racing moments of 2021

Alan Welburn
By Alan Welburn
Updated January 4 2022 - 4:10am, first published December 23 2021 - 7:00am
Racing's rear view of 2021

LOOKING at racing through a rearview mirror lends itself to bountiful bouquets and the odd brickbat.

The bush really was the cornerstone of some of the industry's greatest moments; from meteoric rises, leading jockeys or finally making satellite TV channels.

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Anyone can pick their favourite moments, but these are the top 10 for Queensland Country Life's racing expert Alan Welburn.

What's yours?

Rider Jamie Kah became the first jockey to win more than 100 city winners in Victoria.

Gun riders

UNQUESTIONABLY Jamie Kah's feat to smash another barrier as the first jockey to surpass 100 metropolitan grade wins in Victoria warrants due credit.

Even Brett Prebble, who held the previous best at 99.5 wins in a single city season, was quick to shower his rival with praise.

Sadly for Kah she will probably be remembered for her indiscretion over a COVID-19 breach.

A nod goes to other premier riders throughout Australia, though the loudest clap belongs to Glen Boss and Robert Thompson, who retired after spectacular careers.

Tip top trainers

IT would be rude - if not improper - to rate Chris Waller and Peter Moody alongside past training greats.

Bart Cummings, Colin Hayes and Tommy Smith belonged to another universe so good were they and numerous others demand inclusion in such a conversation.

But Waller's continued dominance of Australian racing and his diligent management of Melbourne Cup heroine Verry Elleegant and quicksilver Nature Strip has been astonishing to watch.

As with Waller when Winx retired, many wondered what would become of Moody in the aftermath of the Black Caviar era. Well Moods is back, better than ever and to see him with a Caulfield Cup in the trophy cabinet is, put simply, superb.

Incentivise rose from a maiden victory at the Sunshine Coast in April to win the Caulfield Cup and run second in the Melbourne Cup.

Meteoric rise

ONLY eight months ago Toowoomba breeder Steve Tregea took Incentivise to the Sunshine Coast to race and returned home with a maiden win.

It was the first of nine successive victories, a lengthy picket fence which included a Group 1 hat-trick to launch his spring and earned pre-race favouritism for the Melbourne Cup.

He ran second to grab a prize money cheque worth $1.1 million - not a bad pay day for losing.

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There have been longer winning streaks but not since Vo Rogue has Queensland had a horse rise from such obscure beginnings to the top as it has with Incentivise (Shamus Award-Miss Argyle).

The Birdsville mob

THEY are a stoic lot out at Birdsville way - and just as well for us racegoers.

The dreadful COVID-19 has twice put paid to the township's historic race carnival with the 2020 and 2021 renewals cancelled because of the pandemic. Postponing the carnival for a second consecutive year was the only decision officials could make, according to Birdsville Race Club president David Brook.

But with resilience so common in the bush, Brook and others are pushing ahead with plans to host carnivals in April and September next year and showing such a bold, no surrender attitude compels me to dip my lid.

St George sprinter VJ Day and Les Tilley clinched the Country Stampede final in Brisbane. Photo: Michael McInally

The class of 20-21

APPRENTICES Alisha Ross and Anna Bakos gave senior peers something to ponder for the future after their quinella act in the 2020-21 Country jockeys premierships.

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While both were among the junior ranks, they proved best of all against the fully-fledged riders with Ross winning 46 times for the season, five more than Bakos and third home was Mount Isa-based Dan Ballard (37).

Naturally enough Ross and Bakos finished 1-2 in the apprentice's title ahead of Angela Jones and Dan McGillivray.

The leading trainer for the season was Julia Creek's Tanya Parry with 49.5 winners returning prize money of $525,875 and Moranbah-based Bevan Johnson (35 wins for $306,105) and Barcaldine's Todd Austin (33, $273,843) rounded out the top three.

Congrats to all.

The unbeaten Sweet Dolly was an outstanding juvenile.

Country quality

NEARLY 3000 kilometres separates Cairns from Melbourne and even the Gold Coast is quite a trip from Far North Queensland.

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Yet The Harrovian did it in style.

This iron horse from way up there moved out of the Stephen Massingham stable in the spring of 2020 to join the Toby and Trent Edmonds stable on the Coast.

By the autumn he was racing for $5 million as connections - and supporters - plotted a path to the All Star Mile at Moonee Valley. He finished fifth, a bit over four lengths from winner Mugatoo in sloppy conditions.

Then there's Rockhampton-trained Sweet Dolly (Real Saga-Sweet Cherub), bought for a song and unbeaten in four runs with a bank balance closing in on $500,000. Only a mug would discount them.

The Dalby-based David Reynolds and rider Wendy Peel broke new ground to win the Battle Of The Bush Final and Country Cups Challenge with Rather Salubrious. Photo: Michael McInally

Country Cups Challenge and Stampede

DALBY has given country racing its latest poster boy and girl.

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In June clever trainer David Reynolds qualified his then six-year-old mare Rather Salubrious (Highly Recommended-Enthusabelle) for the Battle Of The Bush final in Brisbane and she she did the rest to win easily.

Fast forward a few months and Reynolds was back at the planning table with the Country Cups Challenge in mind for his stable mainstay.

Again Rather Salubrious and regular rider Wendy Peel played Oscar-type roles to land the big prize and seal an historic Battle Of The Bush-Country Cups double.

Country meetings on Sky

LOUNGEROOM jockeys and bar stool punters were given a rare glimpse at "real" bush racing this year when some remote fixtures featured on the tele.

Sky put meetings at such centres as Emerald, Mount Isa and Cloncurry on the satellite circuit and, instantly, city slickers were exposed to horses and jockeys hitherto anonymous except for hard-bitten bush racegoers.

It was impressive looking through a window to another world and long may it continue.

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Tide is turning

A WHILE back a wiser voice than mine declared the influence of women jockeys would rise slowly through the early years of the new millennium, then become an unstoppable force.

This former jockey reasoned males were getting heavier and while officials would lift minimum weights to compensate, it would not be a sustainable practice, hence lighter riders such as females would forge ahead.

Last season Queensland's country premierships became a female domain. Six of the 10 leading riders on the jockeys table - Alisha Ross, Anna Bakos, Angela Jones, Hannah Richardson, Bonnie Thomson and Emma Bell - were female.

It was a similar tale in the apprentice's ranks.

In the city Stephanie Thornton, Tiffani Brooker, Leah Kilner, et al are turning the tide.

Jockeys Keith and Dan Ballard and trainer Denise (second from left) were added to Racing Queensland's Hall Of Fame. Photo: Supplied

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Honour well warranted

THE induction of the Ballard family to the Racing Queensland Hall Of Fame rightly brought smiles to countless faces.

Sixty-eight year-old Keith, wife Denise and their son Dan have been part-and-parcel of racing in the north-west for years winning races left, right and centre.

Dan, who has claimed the Queensland bush jockey of the year crown on a breathtaking six occasions, is also one of the most articulate horseman in the country and had the massive audience at the Hall Of fame dinner in the palm of his hand.

A humble Dan said: "Racing has given our family so much and our shared love of the sport has helped to create a very special bond. For all the achievements we've been blessed with over the years, it's the friendships we've made and the people that have supported us throughout the journey that mean the most to us."

Well said and well deserved.

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Alan Welburn

Alan Welburn

Journalist

Lover of sport, particularly horse racing and all things Olympic. Have spent my entire working life in journalism, mostly with News Corp on its major metro mastheads. Done plenty of things but the best by far is having a teenage son who calls me dad.

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