Just before 4pm as the riders for the Birdsville Cup headed for the stalls all eyes were on the big screen.
Around 2000km away the great mare Winx was running in Sydney and seemed to be losing.
But yet again it found something else to win its 19th straight race, the Chelmsford Stakes.
“That will be a hard act to follow”, the announcer at Birdsville said over the tannoy as the cheers for Winx roared around the racecourse in the middle of the Simpson Desert.
But that’s just what Rockhampton jockey Adrian Coome, did as he rode the Craig Smith-trained Fast Fella to victory in the 135th Birdsville Cup.
The Roma based Smith had won the 2012 cup with Dancefloor Prodigy but this was more special, he said.
“Winning my first one was a great thrill but this is bigger to do it twice,” Smith said.
He hailed the work of Coombs who rode the 1600m distance to perfection to storm clear by a couple of lengths
“It was a gem of a ride – he put him in a winning position,” Smith said.
“Winning my first one was a great thrill but this is bigger to do it twice.”
Second was Eye Winsome and third was Aussie Jack.
The result was disappointing to the many jockeys and trainers from the North West hoping to claim the big $35,000 prize and the gleaming gold cup.
The Ballards started the day out strongly with Danny Ballard riding Nuncius to victory in Race 1 for mum Denise Ballard.
Ballard also won race 5, the Landmark/CGU Class 5 Handicap on Rothstein for trainer Damien Finter, the same combination winning a week earlier at Camooweal.
On Friday Keith Ballard had a win on Tempesta Rossa in Race 2 for Bob Burow.
The Craig Smith – Adrian Coome combination also had a win on Friday in Race 4.
Gary Brook, Vice President of the Birdsville Race Club said this year was a lot different to 2016 when both days were rained out.
“What a difference a year makes. This year we had perfect weather conditions leading into the races, and a typically dry and hot day for our first day,” he said.
“There was a great vibe at the track with novelty fashions on the field, and for the first time we live streamed the final two races of the day on Facebook.”
The 2017 Birdsville Races offer up a $200,000 prize-purse, plus a further $12,500 in QTIS ((Queensland Thoroughbred Incentive Scheme) bonuses – making it one of the richest regional race meets in Australia.
News from Derek Barry, the North Queensland Register