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Bundaberg racing on the national stage

Bundaberg racing
Ten Taubada’s with jockey Leeanne McCoy, part-owner Dale Rethamel and trainer Darryl Gardiner. Photo: Paul McInally, Michael McInally Photography

Introducing a new weekly sports column by Bundaberg sporting identity Vince Habermann. In 2008, Vince was awarded an OAM for service to sport and the community. He's a Bundaberg Regional Councillor who holds the sport and recreation portfolio.

Sports Talk with Vince Habermann

While most sports have been in shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bundaberg has been thrust into the TAB national racing spotlight with the continuation of spectator-free greyhound meetings every Monday and an additional four bumper horse meetings so far, all at Thabeban Park.

The Bundaberg Race Club (BRC) answered the call from Racing Queensland to conduct fortnightly horse meetings for the South East Coastal Zone 4 (Bundaberg, Gladstone, Gympie, Monto, Mt Perry, Gayndah, Wondai, Nanango, Kumbia, Kilcoy and Esk) and they have all run like clockwork.

BRC president Dale Rethamel said while staging the meetings was “cost neutral” to the club, it was good for the industry and he is happy to “make good out of a bad situation”, also showcasing the city and its facilities to many Sky Racing viewers who knew little about Bundaberg.

Conducting the meetings has also provided an unexpected bonus for Rethamel as a horse which he part-owns in a syndicate of 10; “grey flash” Ten Taubada’s has won at each of the four added meetings, on April 7 and 19, May 5 and 19.

Dale said the syndicate has owned the six-year-old throughout his career, which started with a second at Ipswich in September 2017 and a win at Gold Coast at his second start but yielded just two more victories in 16 starts, at Ballina and Murwillumbah, before he was transferred to champion Bundaberg trainer Darryl Gardiner last August.

Since then, apart from a third on his stable debut in Rockhampton and fourth on the same track, after finishing a dismal last at his first Bundaberg start on Melbourne Cup Day, he redeemed himself at the next local meeting on December 7 and resumed from a spell with a third at the Catholic Schools Race Day on March 14, before winning his past four outings.

Dale also part-owns four gallopers in Brisbane and Sunshine Coast but said Ten Taubada’s is his “favourite ever” and he attributes his recent run of success to trainer Darryl whom he said is “such a great horseman”.

“The horse also enjoys being in a smaller stable which is a more relaxed lifestyle, away from the hustle and bustle of the bigger stables – he has also always liked soft tracks, so Bundy is perfect for him. He has even had spells at our house, so I have a personal attachment to him,” Dale said.

Dale said the gelding would continue to race here and was hopefully a contender for the Bundaberg Cup in July, when ideally the further lifting of COVID-19 restrictions will allow crowds back to the track.

Bundaberg has further crowd-less TAB meetings scheduled for June 2 and 30 but Dale said the July dates will not be released by Racing Queensland until early-mid June.

Dale said he is also pleased to have recently donated one of his horses which struggled in races, Permafrost, to a young local rider, Alexis Thwaite, and that early reports are that he is shaping up well as a showjumper.

Meanwhile, Darryl Gardiner has enjoyed even more success at the local TAB meetings, also winning two other races at this week’s meeting, with two-year-old second-starter Isis Brumby, part-owned by Isis identity Leo Ricciardi, and Joe Albert, taking his total number of winners to nine out of the 24 events across those race days.

Darryl, who currently has seven horses in work, has won hundreds of races since gaining a trainer’s license in his home-town Eidsvold 46 years ago, and he has taken out countless trainer’s premierships since moving to the Rum City in 1999.

Although he describes Ten Taubada’s as a “good country galloper”, the best horses Darryl has trained include Victory Hotel, which won the $100,000 Rockhampton Cup in 2015 in a distinguished career.

“Also Craiglea Emma was a very good mare, and I trained another very good horse for the Wondrock Family which went to the Sunshine Coast, Hooded Gem, and Craiglea Ego, also for Stan Johnston, won 15-odd races on the sand – they were some of the better I have had,” Darryl said.

Meanwhile, last week marked the first anniversary of the start of weekly Bundaberg Greyhound Race Club TAB meetings on May 13 last year, and the move has been a raging success with nine races again this week.

The Group Listed Bundaberg Cup was run recently with Yengarie trainer Laurence Thomas taking out the rich $17,500 purse with rank-outsider Belli Ultra.

Top-line sport returns soon

The restart of the NRL season next Thursday night is great for sports lovers with the AFL relaunch to follow on two weeks later on June 11.

But locally, the restart of competition across the “traditional” winter sports of AFL, football (soccer), hockey, netball and rugby league, as well as Bundaberg and Bargara Parkruns, are still a few months or more away.

The key dates as stated in the State Government’s Return to Play (Guide for Queensland sport, recreation and fitness industries) document are Stage 2 (June 12) when Non-contact activity with up to 20 people will be allowed, and July 10, when Stage 3 takes effect, permitting “Sport, recreation and fitness activity with a maximum of 100 people”.

Most sporting associations are seeking to have the July 10 limit of 100 significantly increased, fearing so few people being allowed at a venue will make it very difficult or unviable for them to conduct their competitions this year.

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