SHE'S BACK: French Flame will be keenly watched.
SHE'S BACK: French Flame will be keenly watched. Matt Taylor GLA281017RACE

Hot racing ahead for first meet of year

HORSE RACING: Horse racing returns to Gladstone's Ferguson Park racecourse tomorrow for the inaugural meeting for 2018.

In the main, good fields are the order of the day with three races on the five-race card, which starts at 1.15pm, having capacity fields.

Visiting trainers John Manzelmann (Mackay), Darryl Gardiner (Bundaberg) and Bevan Johnson (Miles) will supply no fewer than 17 of the 45 race starters.

Manzelmann runs seven horses while Gardiner will start five and Johnson will also saddle-up five runners.

Gardiner, a grand supporter of Gladstone racing, will be a busy man prior to the fourth race, the Allen Brooks BM 65 Handicap (1000 metre), as he will saddle-up three horses.

They are Jeb's Boy, Emperor Maximillian as well as Al's Briefs.

The race heralds the return of the promising Lee Kiernan-trained mare French Flame who will have the featherweight of 53kg courtesy of in-form Rockhampton apprentice Elyce Smith's two kilograms claim.

No doubt her owners David and Judy Weinert, the president and treasurer of the Gladstone Turf Club, will be nervously listening to the call of the race per medium of the telephone.

The couple are absent in Tasmania and will actually be on a river cruise when the race is run at 2.45pm.

Earlier in the program - to be exact, the first race at 1.15pm - Bundaberg's Gardiner is likely to strike per medium of Overload (Mark Barnham) in the BM 55 Handicap (850m).

Another Bundaberg-based trainer in Bill Melvin has excellent winning prospects in the second event at 2pm, the QTIS Maiden Plate (850m), with Need Finance (Pietro Romeo).

Bevan Johnson plays a big role in the Class B (1194m) at 3.30pm with his two runners in Yeezy (Lachlan Dodds) and Mudcrab (Hannah Phillips).

Rarely does a Brisbane-based trainer make the 520km trek up the Bruce Highway with a runner at Ferguson Park.

However, that is not the case today with Deagon trainer Jason Noud starting last start Bundaberg placegetter Rosdane in the final event, the BM 50 (1517m).

Rosdane will have a big pull in the weights over rivals and it well could be the way to wager in the race.

As usual a sizeable ring of bookmakers will be fielding at Ferguson Park where gates will open early so punters can bet on the interstate metropolitan races.

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