Cyril Small and Jeff Perry speak at Warwick races. File photo.
Cyril Small and Jeff Perry speak at Warwick races. File photo.

Jockey Small praises Gladstone race meeting

SIX times Group One winning jockey Cyril Small was rewarded for his commitment to help out the Gladstone Turf Club when he led throughout on Liberty’s Gift to win the first race at Ferguson Park racecourse there last Saturday.

Small, 61 who is part of racing folklore from the late eighties and early nineties winning 22 races on Queensland front-running champion Vo Rogue, answered a late SOS call last Thursday from club officials.

Owing to an acute shortage of jockeys, Small and his wife Lynlea made the seven hours’ drive from Tallebudgera Valley to Gladstone thereby preventing the scratchings of another five horses because of a lack of jockeys.

“It was a much-appreciated effort by Cyril to make the long drive to help us out,” GTC president David Weinert said.

“His appearance created tremendous interest not only on race day but our office fielded calls from all over the place about his appearance at Gladstone races.

“He has to be applauded for coming up and it sets a fine example of what commitment and dedication to his profession is all about.”

Small, originally from Casino, NSW, had his first race ride at Lismore in May, 1974 and he cherishes a desire to complete 50 years of race riding.

His passion for race riding despite some horrific injuries during his career has never waned and given his fitness level, Small ticks all the boxes to fulfil his half-century ambition.

It is certainly a feather in Small’s jockeying cap that he can achieve what many of his younger fellow riders cannot in being able to get his weight down to 52.5kg so as to ride at 54kg.

By coincidence last Saturday was the GTC’s Moonee Valley Cox Plate race day and exactly 33 years earlier in 1997, Cyril finished fourth on Vo Rogue (led by about 20 lengths at one stage) to Rubiton in the great Weight For Age event.

“My wife and I were absolutely delighted to be part of the Gladstone meeting and it was wonderful to see so many young people in attendance,” Small said.

“They are the future of racing. I was also pleased to catch-up again with jockey Natalea Summers riding there as she is a fine horsewoman and to meet some of the younger jockeys.

“It concerns me greatly that there is a shortage of jockeys in the country areas as that’s from where I and so many jockeys started out from.

“It was a lovely day all round and the hospitality from the club and racing people was first class.”

The Gladstone Turf Club capped the crowd at 1200 and it represented a sea of colour with an air of vibrancy matched by the well-behaved shouts of revelry as racegoers were thrilled to be back trackside.

It was a matter of first out and first home when the Lee Kiernan trained Liberty’s Gift (Small) scored a 3.75 lengths win in the 0-60 Band Handicap (850m) in the new course record time of 49.65 seconds.

The Kiernan family race the Statue Of Liberty mare with David and Judy Weinert and that group had more reason to celebrate when Clusterfest (Sonja Wiseman) won the following race, the Maiden Plate (1000m).

Sonja Wiseman proves that winners are grinners. Photo. TonyMcMahon.
Sonja Wiseman proves that winners are grinners. Photo. TonyMcMahon.

Wiseman, a journeywoman jockey, has been Rockhampton based for the past 12 months but she and her partner, the former Victorian jumps jockey Tommy Logan, depart for Adelaide in December.

Sonja started her career at Deagon before moving to the Sunshine Coast and then after a break from racing moved to Cairns, riding very successfully there for many years for trainer Trevor Rowe and others.

“I then went across Australia to Darwin and Alice Springs before coming down to Rocky last year,” Wiseman said.

“It is great racing in this area (Rockhampton – Central Queensland) but we hope to settle in Casterton, Victoria, when the COVID settles down.”

The couple has had to put wedding plans on hold because of the current COVID-19 restrictions.

Wiseman brought up a winning double when speedy Spill The Beans gelding Isis Brumby won the Class B (1000m) for Rockhampton trainer Kevin Miller.

Other Gladstone winners were Bevan Johnson’s Best Guess (Shannyn Stephan) with Mackay’s John Manzelmann and jockey Trinity Bannon combining with Tavi McBride in the 1517m restricted event.

The Gladstone Turf Club’s next race meeting is on Melbourne Cup Day, Tuesday, November 3, with online ticket bookings available.