THE TAB QUEENSLAND WINTER RACING CARNIVAL
After an interrupted 2020 carnival, the 2021 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival was back in the best possible way this year.
Thousands of punters flowed through the gates of Eagle Farm, Doomben, the Gold Coast, Ipswich and the Sunshine Coast to see thrilling Group 1 action with some of the biggest stars in Australian racing in the Sunshine State.
Staged over 10 action-packed weekends, the Winter Carnival received a prize money increase to $20.5 million – a $2 million uplift from its 2019 counterpart – and featured 53 black-type races including eight Group 1s.
There were success stories aplenty, as we recap the highlights of the winter that was.
The star of the carnival
It was Hollindale Stakes Day on the Gold Coast when Zaaki announced himself as an absolute star of Australian racing.
It was just a two and a quarter length margin he put on his rivals that day on the Gold Coast at Group 2 level, preparing himself for bigger and better things to come just a few weeks later.
While Zaaki was dominant on the Gold Coast that day, he really put them to the sword in the Group 1 Doomben Cup – breaking their hearts by seven lengths.
Up-and-coming trainer Annabel Neasham and leading rider James McDonald gave him one more go around in the Sunshine State for the carnival, earning his biggest prizemoney of the three victories in the brand-new Sky Racing Q22 at Eagle Farm in June.
Zaaki now turns his attention to the spring carnival of later this year, with many tipping a Cox Plate being added to his resume in the near future.
“I think he will probably be fourth-up into the Cox Plate and his two runs between the Tramway and the Cox Plate are up in the air a little bit,” Neasham said recently.
“I would love to give him a run down in Melbourne before the Cox Plate.
“I will keep a very open mind as there’s so many ways of getting him to a Cox Plate.”
The surprise of the carnival
Incentivise is a galloper that not many outside of Toowoomba would have known about before the 2021 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival.
As for veteran Darling Downs trainer Steve Tregea, he did not even fancy the now boom stayer much either a year ago.
"For a horse that we wouldn’t have given two-bob for 12 months ago, he just kept improving," Tregea said recently.
Incentivise has rattled off five straight victories, four of which were by massive margins, and is now one of the leading hopes in this year’s Melbourne and Caulfield Cups.
In his last four wins, Incentivise has won by more than seven lengths on each occasion – underlined by a 12-length romp in the Group 3 Tattersalls Cup.
Such is his star on the rise status, Incentivise will soon be transferred to legend trainer Peter Moody, after a 50 per cent share of the galloper was purchased by well-known owners Brae Sokolski and Ozzie Kheir.
Incentivise looms large on the spring carnival stage later this year.
Double Group 1 glory for Tofane
The Queensland Winter Racing Carnival is always headlined by the time-honored Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap and in 2021 – the prize went to rejuvenated mare Tofane.
Tofane was not satisfied with just the one Group 1 in Queensland this winter either, nabbing the Tatt’s Tiara not long after.
It was a masterclass of riding from champion hoop Craig Williams on Tofane, who based himself in the Sunshine State during the rich period of the year.
It was almost not to be for Tofane after connections wanted to sell her at the Magic Millions Broodmare Sale not long before the Queensland carnival.
Trainer Michael Moroney was the winner when the sales idea fell over, with Tofane joining Dane Ripper (1997) and Srikandi (2015) in winning both the Stradbroke and Tatt’s Tiara in quick succession.
“It could have all ended for her at the Broodmare Sale, but the owners decided to withdraw her from the sale, and she’s won two Group One races and another $1.4 million for them since then,” Moroney said.
It was a carnival to remember for Moroney, remaining in Victoria as his stable cleaned up as he watched at home on television.
The ride of the carnival
As far as spectacular rides go – Jamie Kah’s performance in the Kingsford-Smith Cup on Vega One was almost as good as it gets.
Kah has taken all before her in Victoria over the last season and she took her special talents to Brisbane for a few days of the winter carnival.
On board the Tony Gollan-trained Vega One, Kah looked to be in an unwinnable decision in the home straight but somehow weaved her way through to claim the Group 1 feature in astonishing fashion.
“That is unbelievable – awesome, I wanted to get held up a bit on that horse but not that much, I needed a run desperately in the end,” Kah said.
“I was on a lot of trouble on him.
“This year has been unbelievable for me; I have been trying to stay in Melbourne as much as possible but this was a great opportunity.”
The ride of Kah’s on Vega One will be on the showreel for the Queensland Winter Racing Carnival for years and years to come.
A Doomben 10,000 for the ages
Eduardo wrote his name into the history books early in the Queensland Winter Racing Carnival when he became the shortest-priced Doomben 10,000 winner ($1.70) ever.
Trained by Joe Pride and ridden by Nash Rawiller, Eduardo led them into the straight at his short quote and while he got a little tired in the final strides, he did enough to hang on.
“It was a bit of an afterthought coming up to Brisbane but his win is a testament to the quality he has,” Pride said post-race.
“He is a real fighter, it’s not often you see horses who have speed like that who really fight.
“About the 200(m) I was worried; I could see them coming.
“But he showed what a bulldog he is and held them all off, I’m very proud of him.
“He will now have a little break in Queensland before spring.”
Eduardo’s triumph is the second time Sydney trainer Pride has won the 10,000, with Red Oog also doing so in 2005.