When the Rockhampton Jockey Club opened its grass track at Callaghan Park on Saturday, 15 September 1984, I was there with my camera.
Even though I am a journalist and words are what I do best, I had more than a passing interest in photography.
Although I was The Morning Bulletin‘s racing writer for a handful of years from 1973, I left the paper in 1983 and worked as a journalist at the Capricornia Electricity Board before joining The Courier-Mail newspaper in 1986.
During my newspaper hiatus, I worked part-time work at the Bulletin as well as for The Sunday Mail newspaper.
On top of that, I also worked casually as one of the official photo-finish operators at Callaghan Park gallops, harness racing and greyhounds. If you’re interested, I written about that as well.
As I recall I took photos for The Sunday Mail‘s coverage of the grass track opening.
Callaghan Park’s old dirt track proved the undoing of many visiting horses and I believe most in the industry were pleased with the new surface.
I have a copy of the racebook from that day which helps identify horses, jockeys, trainers, and other officials.
With the help of local knowledge, particularly from the family members in the racing fraternity, I’ve been add other names as well.
It would be great if you could leave a comment at the end of this yarn.
Wally Welburn takes main race
Drive On James produced a strong finish to win the Russ Hinze Open Handicap (1200m) for RJC committeeman Colin Gabel and his wife. He beat home Tanzada (John Flanders) and Sir Pellinore (Ken Russell). The horse was prepared by Clem Jackson.
Drive On James and Tanzada had filled the placings behind Golf Field two weeks earlier. Golf Field was highly favoured to win again but finished 10th in the 16-horse field.
Racing Minister Russ Hinze
In revisiting my negatives, I noticed that I’d taken a picture of Racing Minister Russ Hinze watching proceedings.
I recognise Bob Meldrum at right with his hand shading his eyes, and I believe the man obscured with his hand on the rail near Russ Hinze to be RJC committeeman Colin Gabel. And, it’s possible that’s Colin Lisle standing behind Russ Hinze.
Parading before main race
Some will recall that Robin Hartwig’s horse Ormiston twice ran second in the Rockhampton Cup (1983 and 1984). Cheryl Crosby (now Dennien), who was Hartwig’s apprentice and who often rode Ormiston, recalled those times in 2019 after Robin passed away.
Of him, Cheryl said: “Robin really taught me how to have a clock in my head and judge pace. The timing developed through practice while riding trackwork.”
Hartwig wasn’t afraid to take his horses around the State as can be seen from Roving Romeo’s form in 1984. He’d won at Townsville over 1000m in June, and then back home in Wondai on 4 August over 1200m. He then had a trip to Eagle Farm where he ran fourth over 1200m.
Golf Field No 16 in main race
Le Toll, first grass track winner