OUT IN FORCE: Country racing stalwarts the Vagg family, from Bluff, will have four runners at tomorrow's race meet in Emerald.
OUT IN FORCE: Country racing stalwarts the Vagg family, from Bluff, will have four runners at tomorrow's race meet in Emerald. Contributed

Galloping good weekend

RACING in the Central Highlands kicks off tomorow at Pioneer Park in Emerald in conjunction with the gala dinner at Emerald Town Hall, which will host the inaugural On the Bit Queensland Country Racing Awards with a 6.30pm start.

A total of 14 awards will be presented on the night, including the On The Bit Queensland Country Trainer, Horse and Jockey of the Year Award.

Guest speakers tomorrow night will include retired Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Jimmy "The Pumper” Cassidy, former Test cricket great Andy Bichel, legendary race caller Alan Thomas and renowned Australian poet Rupert McCall.

The quartet, along with 4tab host Tony Clements and Mark Forbes, will also be special guests throughout the day at tomorrow's Emerald Jockey Club meeting at Pioneer Park.

On the Bit is a Facebook platform that aims to highlight the efforts of country clubs, trainers, owners and jockeys, particularly on the non-TAB country circuit.

The page distributes important racing information for participants and fans, live streams of country non-TAB race days and provides video previews for upcoming racing events for trainers, owners and jockeys.

Prior to On the Bit's inception, this was a matter of word-of-mouth results and waiting until late into the evening for the Racing Australia website to post country non-TAB venues race day results.

Racing Queensland general manager Simon Stout will be in attendance at tomorrow's races and awards dinner.

Racing Queensland chief executive Brendan Parnell, who is unfortunately unavailable to attend tomorrow night's awards, said Racing Queensland was proud to be the major sponsor of the country racing awards night and to support and promote the On the Bit platform, which had generated new levels of interest in country racing.

Parnell said grassroots country racing participation was critical to the ongoing success of the Queensland thoroughbred industry as a whole.

On the Bit was established by passionate country racing supporter and local Emerald jockey manager Matt Peters, with the help of central west race callers Andrew Watts and Bush Beat's Rob Luck, who pioneered the full race-day coverage experience of country racing via Facebook.

Some weeks, the page has up to 35,000 views on the Facebook platform.

Peters said country racing was an important part of the Central Highlands social fabric and was proud to have Emerald as the inaugural host of the awards night.

Tomorrow the five-race program kicks off at 1.15pm, with big fields being the order of the day.

A big contingency of jockeys will be on hand, which is a rarity in country racing at the present time - the shortage of jockeys at country meetings in recent times is the Achilles heel of many meetings in regional and country Queensland.

Emerald Jockey Club president Leon Roberts was gobsmacked with the larger-than-usual field sizes from visiting trainers attending the awards night, with horses coming from all parts of country Queensland.

Tomorrow's meeting at Pioneer Park will draw a big crowd with the awards night being held.

Roberts said there would also be a large contingent in town for former Emerald Jockey Club president Pat Lyons' 60th birthday celebrations and the club will be honouring the occasion with the Happy Birthday Pat Lyons 1100m Class 3 Plate run.

The feature $15,000 QTIS race has drawn together a strong field. The Central Highlands-trained gallopers are well represented, with Glenda Bell lined up and last-start Townsville winner No Finer Jet, who was impressive winning first for the Bell stable last month.

There are also the two Bluff-trained gallopers, Ross Vagg's Tyranize, who is first up, and Dakota Rocks from Bill Trimble's stable.

Pioneer Park trainer Ross Meek will saddle up Bound to Me first. The ferocity gelding was impressive last prep for the meek stable and will feature in the finish.

Gates open at 11am.


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