Jockey Kuskopf comes of age
A BRIGHT future looms for 20-year-old Townsville apprentice jockey Juliet Kuskopf who did it in style yesterday, guiding five-year-old gelding Panecillo to an all-the-way win in the $20,000 Country Queensland Showcase Benchmark 79 Handicap at Pease Park in Innisfail.With the eyes of the nation's punters watching Innisfail's richest race in betting houses across the country during the televised meet, the rookie hoop produced the race of her life when it mattered most.
Following the instructions of Atherton trainer Michael Lee, Kuskopf jumped beautifully on Panecillo and guided her $6 hope straight to the front before holding off her rivals over the 1200m journey to win by one-and-a half lengths.
Favourite Blame Game ($3.60) finished second, with Junee Boy claiming third.
"I got travelling, I followed the instructions, he said to get him going even if he leads by four lengths, to get his confidence up and, he sure did," Kuskopf said. "It's my first provincial win, first TAB win, so it's pretty special."
Although able to claim a 3kg discount, apprentice Nor Yadi still had to carry a whopping 62kg on race favourite Sun Warrior, which did it easy for what was almost an all-the-way win in the Innisfail Advocate Benchmark 65 Handicap.
It was a closer affair in race three, with jockey Wanderson D'Avilla timing his run in the straight to guide four-year-old gelding Pink 'n' Blue to victory in the distinctive Hedley colours.
Despite early fears the meeting could be called off due to wet weather, the rain clouds parted right on schedule to see Pease Park bathed in sunshine for the commencement of the area's leading race day.
It was a scene that brought smiles to the faces of officials from both the Innisfail Turf Club and Racing Queensland, with the sport's peak body investing heavily in the country showcase meetings as part of a plan to boost regional racing.
"Our track dried out beautifully for the races and it looked like it wasn't going to," Innisfail Turf Club president Mark Spagnolo said.
"Other than that there's a lot of kids and families having lots of fun."
The crowd, which streamed into the showgrounds for what was promoted as a family fun day, built throughout the afternoon.
At the same time a nationwide audience of punters eager to start their year with good fortune tuned in on Sky Channel at TAB venues across the country.
"It's great. It's a good day up here, the sun's out and this is country racing at its best with the local communities coming together to support their race club," Racing Queensland commercial and racing development manager Blair Odgers said.
"Innisfail is the shining light today, covered on TAB throughout Australia."
Mr Odgers also offered immense praise for the Pease Park facilities, tipping the race day could develop into a significant yearly event, provided the community gets behind it.
"New Year's Day, this has the possibility to become an institution in Innisfail if it's embraced by the local community and embraced by the racing community," Mr Odgers said. "The surface, when I first arrived I was just taken aback by how good the track looks. It's the equivalent to some TAB venues throughout Australia."
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Ride of her life: Juliet Kuskopf guides Panecillo to victory in Innisfail's richest race. Picture: JOHN FLYNN