SHE'S BACK: Dakota Graham, pictured here on Still the Same, made her comeback to riding in April.
SHE'S BACK: Dakota Graham, pictured here on Still the Same, made her comeback to riding in April. LEEROY TODD

Graham takes out Alpha race

FORDHAM Park racecourse in Alpha was the place to be last Saturday with more than 3000 racegoers flocking through the gates.

The Alpha Cup Race Day continues to build in popularity and really sets the scene for upcoming winter carnival country meetings in Central Queensland.

Club president Kevin Wiltshire and his team have well and truly set the bar high.

The country race day was one to be seen during the winter carnival.

And Alpha Cup racegoers were treated to some exceptional racing.

The Central Highlands featured strongly in the rich Fashions of the Field.

Former Blackwater girl Larissa McIntosh took one of regional and country Queensland's most prestigious Fashions of the Field titles, Miss Alpha Races Lady of the Track, at Winx odds as a prohibitive $1.05 favourite.

McIntosh, a proven star in the fashion stakes far and wide throughout Queensland, has taken out several major prizes including the major women's title at the Birdsville Cup carnival and over the Rockhampton Jockey Club winter carnival in recent years. McIntosh was also the face of this year's Alpha races.

Miles trainer Bevan Johnson has got the band back together after a hiatus of more than 12 months when he teamed up with his stable apprentice and daughter Dakota Graham for a long overdue win together.

The 2017/2018 country premiership winning jockey, who made her comeback at Gympie in April, has had several setbacks due to injury in a stop start preparation after an 11 month hiatus from the saddle.

Graham returned to race riding at her peak weight only 10 weeks after having her first child Connor.

On Saturday Graham weighed in at 56 kilograms to ride the Johnson stable's newest member Alert by Sea, to take out the Allan Peckett Memorial Benchmark 65 Handicap over 1200 metres.

Graham rode the former Kembla Grange trained mare like it was the best horse in the race, waiting until the straight to drive the former Glenda Markwell trained mare to the lead.

Graham pushed her right out and proved too strong in a thrilling finish with consistent place-getters Rosexcel ($4.00), ridden by ace Clermont apprentice Emma Bell, and Barcaldine galloper Turkey Beach ($14.00) in third place.

Johnson hopes to target the upcoming Clermont and Middlemount cups with the bonny mare.

The main event on the program, the $25,000 Alpha Cup over 1700 metres, was taken out by Roma galloper Potemkin ($6.00) in a thrilling finish.

Potemkin was ridden to perfection by Rockhampton jockey Dale Evans. Craig Smith, a noted specialist in training cup horses, may have a serious country cups' horse after all.

Potemkin has had a slow start since joining the Smith stable but the gelding's Alpha Cup win was as dominant as any you would see.

In a gritty effort and a perfectly timed ride, Evans made a mid-race move, going to the lead 700 metres and running rivals ragged for an all the way victory to win by 4.5 lengths.

Smith said he would let the dust settle on the former Melbourne Mike Maroney galloper, but he looks extremely hard to beat in the $30,000 Race to Roma series final on July 27.

Smith is undecided where he will calibrate his radar now, with a possible tilt at the Birdsville Cup in September.

There's also the Emerald 100 in October and a possible tilt at his home town cup in Roma later in the year.

Smith said he would let Potemkin tell him if he wanted to press on to the Simpson Desert carnival and country club glory in upcoming starts.


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