RIDE HIM, COWBOY: Lleyton Marks, a promising young Clermont bull rider.
RIDE HIM, COWBOY: Lleyton Marks, a promising young Clermont bull rider. Contributed

Battle of the bush in Emerald

Clermont Rodeo

IT'S rough, tough and tucked away on the outskirts of a small rural and mining town.

It is the Clermont Rodeo Association arena in the Central Highlands and when it hosts the cowboys and cowgirls, it does so with flair and fierce competition.

Dubbed "the fire pit”, this arena is one that has launched riders onto the national and international stage and cemented bull riders' reputations over the years.

Dave Appleton, who calls Clermont home, is a rodeo legend. The former world champion cowboy, inducted into the Professional Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2016, is the only Australian-born cowboy to ever make the elite list of Gold Buckle holders as all-around world champion cowboy.

Clermont has a long list of up-and-coming bull rider champions on today's stage - names such as Clayton Braden, a CRCA bronc riding champion; Aaron Kleier, a promising PBR bull riding rookie who entered the fray in 2017; young gun Lleyton Marks, who is an Australian High School bareback riding champion; Straw Jones, who won two season leader titles in Canada; and Ryder Marks, CRCA under-12 poddy riding champion in 2017.

Association president Wayde Marks said with the Clermont association being granted professional status for the first time in 30 years, it would bring plenty of interest and excitement.

Saturday is set to be a great family event, one not to be missed, with face painting, kids' rides and activities. Gates open at 5.30pm with plenty of food, drinks and live entertainment until late.

Winx owner accepts

PETER Tighe, the owner of arguably Australia's greatest ever racehorse, Winx, will be a special guest of the Emerald Jockey Club at tomorrow's Battle of the Bush heat at Pioneer Park.

Tighe has also thrown his support behind Central Highlands Racing's sponsorship of race five, the last race on the program, the Magic Bloodstock benchmark 50 handicap over 1615m. Tighe has also endorsed the Battle of the Bush concept strongly, saying it is great to see grassroots racing participants competing on the big stage over the winter carnival, in a $100,000 race on June 23 on Tatts Tiara day.

To highlight the June 23 final, a special barrier draw function will be held, giving country racing participants all the thrills of a big race day.

On Anzac Day, trainer Bevan Johnson took out the $10,000 Cunnamulla Battle of the Bush heat with stable star Fab's Cowboy, the $1.20 favourite, putting the writing on the wall for country Queensland's premier trainer.

The performance strongly indicates the $100,000 Battle of the Bush final is at his mercy.

Tomorrow, the Emerald Jockey Club hosts one of the Capricornia Racing Association's two Battle of the Bush heats. The Maraboon Tavern Battle of the Bush qualifier 1100m plate will give the winner automatic entry into the final.

In tomorrow's heat the leading Central Highland local hope looks to be the Glenda Bell-trained track specialist Ossenhagen, a rising nine-year-old who has been racing in career-best form in recent times. A win wouldn't shock.

The capacity field has plenty of chances in a very open race. Bell is also lining up five other runners, including last-start Pioneer Park winner Onemore Bopa and stablemate Mono Lad in the benchmark 60 handicap over 1300m.

Pioneer Park trainer Ross Meek has Norudder Nocompass in the same event. The gelding will be nearing peak fitness and looks good each-way value in the event.