WINNERS: The Vagg family, jockey Richie Oakford with Tyranize and Emerald Jockey Club president Leon Roberts in the winner's circle on Easter Saturday at Emerald.
WINNERS: The Vagg family, jockey Richie Oakford with Tyranize and Emerald Jockey Club president Leon Roberts in the winner's circle on Easter Saturday at Emerald. Contributed

Veteran jockey hands Vaggs another big win

FAMILY fun and Easter festivities were the order of the day at Pioneer Park in Emerald on Saturday for the annual Easter Saturday meet.

The races coincided with the Emerald Sunflower Festival and Parade that finished at Pioneer Park for a big day of country racing, kids' activities and the Sunflower royalty presentations.

The 2019 Sunflower Princess winner Breanna Hales was crowned at Pioneer Park by Member for Gregory Lachlan Miller.

Emerald Jockey Club president Leon Roberts said the annual Easter races had been established as one of the bigger events over the Sunflower Festival and the club would continue to build the races to make it one of bigger days on the Emerald social calendar.

The opening race on the program, the Benchmark 60 handicap over 1000 metres, was taken out by Bluff trainer Ross Vagg, one of the good guys of country racing.

Tyranize ($11.00) was ridden to perfection by Richie Oakford at juicy double each way odds after no luck in running at its recent starts.

The Vagg stable may have unlocked the key to the former Melbourne metropolitan winner when formerly trained in Victoria by Danny O'Brien earlier in its career.

Glenda Bell's runner Clappers ($3.80), ridden by Mackay jockey David Simmons, charged home late for second placing with a win not looking far away.

Rockhampton trainer Mick Attard and Richie Oakford teamed up in the next race on the program taking out the 1300 metre maiden handicap with Gotem ($3.40).

The horse was again given a 10/10 ride by veteran hoop Oakford, in a race-to-race double landing the prize and some solid bets. The win was the second leg of a treble for Oakford.

The last race on the program saw the most exciting finish of the day.

Oakford teamed up with country racing supremo John Manzelmann for a riding treble in the last race on the program in a two way driving finish on Don't Cheat Charlie ($3.00), who edged out Kalangadoo Chrome ($2.90) from Mick Attard's Rockhampton stable.

Oakford, formerly based in Darwin in the Northern Territory, has recently set up base in Rockhampton and is starting to reap success on the country Queensland racing circuit.

Oakford's career began at 14 years of age race riding and he has ridden in Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

Oakford rode 'til his mid-20s and took a break to bring up his children. He made a comeback at age 40.

Oakford had plenty of success with leading Darwin trainer Gary Clarke in his time in the Northern Territory, including teaming up with the Clarke stable to win the Darwin Guineas with Mahaffey Road and the Palmerston sprint with Captain Punch in 2017.

Moving to Rockhampton is part of Oakford's retirement plan to ride work and ride the country circuit and take a step back in his twilight years in the saddle.

Yesterday's treble was his first of his career and Oakford was extremely proud of the achievement after a recent illness.

Battle of the Bush

THE first heat of the Capricornia Battle of the Bush heats were run at Ferguson Park in Gladstone last Saturday, which gives grassroots' racing participants the chance to compete on the big stage over the winter carnival in a $125,000 race on June 22 Tatts Tiara day.

The final will also carry a $30,000 bonus for QTIS registered horses.

To highlight the June 22 final, a special barrier draw function will be held giving country racing participants all the thrills of a big race day.

The Gladstone heat was taken out by premier country Queensland trainer Bevan Johnson's Queensland Country Horse of the Year, Fabs Cowboy, ridden by Minonette Kennedy who was sent out as a red hot $1.60 favourite.

Saturday's performance strongly indicates the Johnson-trained runner will be hard to beat in the $125,000 Battle of the Bush final.

On May 25, Thangool Race Club will host the second heat of Capricornia Racing Association's Battle of the Bush.

The next Central Highlands' meeting is the annual Emerald Cup Day on May 18.