THE future is looking bright for country racing in Queensland as high stakes race meets lift competition to a new level.
The outback racing showcase open handicap 1400m final came to a spectacular finale in Richmond on Saturday, with a nose separating the winner of race five.
With a prize pool of $30,000, the hotly contested race was won by John Manzelmann trained Far North, which was ridden by Charters Towers jockey Scott Sheargold, who won four of the five races on the day.
The outback racing showcase is a new event on the country calendar, with the best performers at previous meets at Julia Creek, Winton, Barcaldine, Gregory Downs and Mount Isa selected to contest the Richmond final.
Richmond Turf Club president David Fox said the event was a terrific success.
After a tumultuous few years for country racing, Mr Fox said Racing Queensland had invested in a number of new initiatives including Race to the Reef and Battle of the Bush, that were beginning to pay off.
“I think it is on the way back now,” Mr Fox said. “We had some really scary moments there… but looking forward the future looks quite bright for us.”
Far North’s trainer John Manzelmann said he was satisfied with Saturday’s win.
“It is very satisfying and wonderful to put those major races on with good prize money in country towns.”
Sheargold nudged out Sammy Sparrow, ridden by Mount Isa based jockey Dan Ballard, who has accepted a ride on top weight Fab's Cowboy in the Battle of the Bush final at Doomben on Saturday.
Country racing received a boost in the State Budget last week, with increased funding of $55.4 million over four years announced.
Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said that brought the total investment in Queensland country racing to $70 million over four years.
“This will enable us to maintain existing prize money levels, and provide country race clubs with crucial financial support to meet their race day costs,” Mr Hinchliffe said.
“Country racing is an essential part of the social fabric of many regional communities in Queensland – and it also helps to sustain local jobs and local economies.
“The racing industry contributes $1.2 billion a year to the State economy, with more than 47 per cent of all economic value generated in regional areas.
“It also supports 9548 full-time equivalent jobs, including 4606 jobs outside Brisbane.
“Given the vital social and economic role played by country racing, and the thousands of jobs it supports, we’ll continue to support this vital industry.”