RULED OUT: Jockey Gemma Steele will not be riding at the Rockhampton Newmarket meeting tomorrow due to injury.
RULED OUT: Jockey Gemma Steele will not be riding at the Rockhampton Newmarket meeting tomorrow due to injury. Claudia Williams

'Frank' discussion needed after racing sinkhole incident

THE head of the Rockhampton-based Queensland Trainers Association has written to the state's racing control body requesting "full and frank" discussions about last weekend's sinkhole incident at Calliope.

Jockey Gemma Steele fell from the Andrew Suli-trained Party Pardee after the third race when part of the track surface gave way about 30m past the winning post.

The rest of the race meeting was subsequently called off.

 

A jockey stands in the sinkhole which opened up on the Calliope racetrack during a race meeting last Saturday.
A jockey stands in the sinkhole which opened up on the Calliope racetrack during a race meeting last Saturday.

QTA president Ross Shannon, who is also a member of the Country Racing Panel which meets every quarter in Brisbane, said in his letter to Racing Queensland's hierarchy he had asked for the matter to be discussed as priority.

"The problem with many country race clubs, and it's not a matter of picking on country race clubs, is that some of them these days all suffer from the same problem," Mr Shannon said.

"At volunteer run and once-a-year race clubs, their tracks and facilities don't get regular maintenance.

"They tend to do a quick clean-up just prior to a meeting, whether it be a month prior or a few weeks prior."

Mr Shannon said at all of the Panel meetings he had attended, Racing Queensland and the Queensland Government had reinforced their commitment to country racing and that had "come through loud and clear".

"They have no intention of wanting to close country clubs," Mr Shannon said.

"But it makes sense when you've got a regularly-used racing and training facility at Gladstone, for a club like Calliope to race there."

Yesterday Calliope Jockey Club secretary Margaret Neill-Ballantine said photos that had been published of the section of track in question made the hole look worse than it actually was.

"What people need to remember is that hole was opened up later by people prodding it with shovels and things, and jockeys standing in it."

Calliope Jockey Club track manager Bob Lisle strongly disagreed with Mr Shannon's suggestion to transfer all future racing to Gladstone.

"I live 10km from the track and I tend to it on a weekly basis," he said.

"With the help of club volunteers and sponsors, many of whom have access to machinery, we can fix these issues in about three weeks, so we'll definitely be right to race here on Boxing Day."

A Racing Queensland spokesman said, as the principal racing authority, it was incumbent on it to work with clubs to ensure the safety and well-being of equine and human participants.

Ms Steele said she was originally looking to have rides on the Rocky Newmarket card tomorrow, but she was still experiencing some pain and a doctor on Tuesday had advised her to get an ultrasound on her left shoulder.

 

She will require a medical clearance before she can ride in races again.



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