CELEBRATION: The Milne family out in force at the New Year's Eve Races at Emerald's Pioneer Park.
CELEBRATION: The Milne family out in force at the New Year's Eve Races at Emerald's Pioneer Park. Contributed

Family pays tribute to loved ones

THE annual Pioneer Park Twilight New Year's Eve race meeting has well and truly anchored itself into a permanent fixture on the Central Highland region's social calendar.

A massive crowd of 1200 enjoyed racing and a festive atmosphere. The maiden handicap was run as a memorial in honour of the late Capella residents and Emerald Jockey Club life members Herb and Deidre Milne.

The Milne family was in attendance with a big contingent of 46, making the trek from all over Queensland to be on hand doing what Herb and Deirdre loved - celebrating their lives by having a punt together.

The running of the inaugural Herb and Deidre Milne Memorial 1000 metre maiden handicap saw a locally trained Pioneer Park quinella with the two leading ladies of Emerald racing, Glenda Bell and Tracey Leake, locking horns.

Bell took the prize in a thrilling finish with Browel Rowel ($4) ridden to perfection by Nathan Day gunning down the speedy Leake-trained ($3.20) Zorro Femino (ridden by Alisha Ross) right on the line.

Browel Rowel thundered down the middle of the track in a powerful finish from a long way back to grab the Leake-trained speedster right on the line. Ex-Victorian Zorro Femino, who was only having its first start for the Leake stable, has plenty of upside.

Leading country Queensland apprentice Alisha Ross, from Barcaldine, made amends for her close finish in the maiden handicap to pilot a race to race double firstly for Roma trainer James Baker and then for premier Rockhampton trainer Tom Button.

The James Baker-trained Zooming ($4.40) finished with a wet sail, charging home late to take out the class 2 handicap over 1000 metres.

Ross then chimed in for the Button stable in a masterfully-timed ride on Sparrow family-owned Mystic Forces ($3.50) with a big impost of 63kg rattling past Tracey Leake's Boot Shaker in the shadows of the post to land the prize on a two-day back-up from last Saturday's Taroom Cup.

The Button-trained runner was dropping back in distance from 1400 metres to the 1000 metres of the benchmark 65 handicap, which made it two wins within a 48-hour period.

Mystic Forces' part owner Kelvin Sparrow said the six-year-old gelding was improving with age and the Button stable now has sights set on the $100,000 Winter carnival Battle of the Bush sprint at Eagle Farm in June.

The next race meet in the Highlands is on February 16 at Pioneer Park. The weekend will also include the Country Queensland Awards Gala Night dinner. Tickets can be purchased online at eventbrite.com.au

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