By Kirra Grimes
A LARGE team worked together to deliver a stellar season opener at Stony Creek Racing Club on Saturday, with over 1500 people making the most of the fine weather and family friendly focus of the day.
The first race meeting of the season featured a range of free kids’ activities, live music from local trio ‘Limerence,’ and an even bigger racing field than anticipated.
Two of the advertised seven races had to be extended to cope with a flood of nominations following recent cancellations of race meetings at Bairnsdale and Wangaratta due to smoke haze.
This gave punters nine thrilling starts to watch from shady vantage points across the lawn, including under a newly installed shade sail structure in the members’ section.
Newly appointed track manager Mick Templeton’s hard work in rejuvenating the track surface was put to the test for the first time, and he was pleased to receive positive feedback including compliments from fellow curators.
Trafalgar born and bred, Mick’s been involved in racing all his life, along with his father Alec and brothers Cameron and Paul – both trainers who had runners at Stony on Saturday (‘Girl on a Train’ and ‘Rokurokubi’).
Mick’s goal is to keep the track looking its best. A trainer as well, with eight horses in work at the moment, he hopes to race one or two of his own at Stony this year; and they should be ones to watch, as Mick’s previously trained a horse (Family Bliss) to a $100,000 victory at Moonee Valley, as well as having several winners in the city.
He likes Stony because it’s a unique track – “it’s not just flat and round; it’s got an undulating circumference with an uphill finish which is challenging for a lot of horses and for a curator as well because it reacts in different ways in different parts,” he explained.
Also playing an integral role on Saturday was Len Bell, who was working as both the farrier and a barrier attendant and was likely to be running the bar at the club rooms at the end of
Len’s been around working as a farrier at Stony and throughout Gippsland since 1974 – before it was even a recognised trade.
With a lifelong love of the racing industry, he’s trained, bred and broken in horses over the years. He still keeps a couple on his acreage at Leongatha and is a part owner of six-year-old mare ‘Springer,’ who ran in the 0 – 58 Handicap at Stony on Saturday.
She’s been a very unlucky horse, said Len, who added that drawing a bad barrier didn’t help her success on the day, where she placed eleventh.
“She raced in Melbourne and only got beat three lengths but the others were too fast for her today. But that’s racing,” he said.
Having grown up on farms, Len describes working with horses as “just part of life”.
He loves the highly competitive nature of horse racing these days and has been interested to observe changes in the farrier’s role, which he jokes is as much about people skills and “putting up with the owners” as it is about the horses.
“There weren’t many [farriers] around when I started and the job has changed. We used to have to put [the shoes] back on after each race, so the horses got shod twice on race day. We were flat out,” he explained.
Also assisting in a smooth and successful day were the Stony Creek Football Netball Club, running the canteen as they have done for over 30 years. The Korumburra City Soccer Club helped with event management and the Meeniyan Stony Creek Fire Brigade added extra interest with their crayfish raffle, raising funds for a new Ultra Light 4WD. The brigade rushed to a call out of a smouldering fire at the old tip at Meeniyan while they were setting up for the raffle that morning but they were back in time to see the racecourse’s gates open at midday.
The next event at Stony Creek Racing Club is the Stony Pony Fun Day on Tuesday, January 7. Visit scrc.com.au for further details.