The forecast 'Big Wet' has been down-graded for the races
HORSE RACING: Gladstone Turf Club has acted upon the truism "failing to prepare is preparing to fail" by opting for a much earlier start and finish timetable for its strong five-race card at Ferguson Park racecourse tomorrow.
With all the hype this week about that unwanted visitor Cyclone Owen, the GTC brought forward its normal race schedule, initiating a noon start for the first race and a 3pm time for the last race.
"The club decided to act on the side of caution and have the early start and finish for the racing stakeholders," club president David Weinert said.
"We have a lot of trainers from faraway places and while they may have to set out for Gladstone earlier than normal, they will get home much earlier, with the last race scheduled for 3pm."
The move will prove popular to travelling trainers such as Bevan Johnson (Miles), Tracy Simmons and John Manzelmann (Mackay), Scott Pedron (Kumbia) and Tracey Leake (Emerald).
Johnson has eight horses engaged and, as that number suggests, he has grand prospects of multiple winners.
Weinert said the Family Fun Day originally set for tomorrow had been postponed until the next meeting on February 9.
Ferguson Park trainer Lee Kiernan should start the day off on a winning note with the Lope de Vega (IRE) filly La Celestina in the Maiden Plate (850m) at noon.
Raced in partnership with Kiernan's family and the Weinerts, the filly has raced soundly at both her Gladstone starts and meets what appears easier opposition tomorrow.
The same connections have strong representation in the second race, the BM 60 (850m), with the sand track specialist French Flame.
The last three races on the program are full of genuine winning chances.
Bluff trainer Ross Vagg's Clear the Debt, to be ridden by Natalea Summers, looks a strong chance in the third race at 1.30pm, the appropriately named Merry Xmas Handicap (1194m).
Bundaberg trainer Darryl Gardiner, a major player at Gladstone meetings, has the right horse in Big Shaka to win the fourth event, the BM 60 Handicap (1194m), at 2.15pm.
Big Shaka will be ridden by Sunshine Coast hinterland-based Kelly Gates, who for some years was at Gladstone.
Rockhampton apprentice Nicole Seymour links with the Graeme Green-trained Margo Maree, who looks a top winning hope in the last of the five events at 3pm.
Despite the early finish to the race program, "the band will play on" well into the night.
"We have a band booked to entertain racegoers celebrating the festive season and they will be in full swing well after the last of the local and interstate races," Weinert said.
The Gladstone Turf Club's first race meeting for 2019 is scheduled for Saturday, February 9.