Courtesy of Just Racing
When the sun first peeped its boiling hot head over the horizon last Saturday morning, the only certainty to look forward to in racing was that all and sundry knew that it was going to be a stinking hot day. At Birdsville they were headed to 48 degrees meaning the bitumen melted in the main street just outside the famous pub.
At Ipswich the mercury was headed to 40 degrees, so Racing Queensland provided a lucky masterstroke by having the usual annual Ipswich meeting that was staged in conjunction with the Gold Coast Magic Millions switched to Eagle Farm from this year. More good luck than good management that turned out to be, as via that decision, TAB racing in South East Queensland dodged a bullet. Had the meeting still been programmed at Ipswich we'd have probably lost the meeting. Down in Sydney the heat was expected to be so oppressive that it's well documented that the powers that be had to put the start of the Rosehill meeting back two hours for animal welfare concerns. So it was just a fact of life that the heatwave conditions were happening all over the country.
Out in the much cooler Brisbane bayside suburb of Redcliffe the heat was also on at the Appo household - and not because there was a fire in the kitchen. You see the youngest of the three children born to affable jockey Lyall Appo and his charming wife Michelle – is 19YO apprentice jockey Beau. The couple are understandably proud of their three children. The oldest two are daughters – 28YO Ashleigh has a good job with Medicare. Their second daughter is Lindsay. She's 27YO and works for Ergon Energy. Both Ashleigh and Lindsay are married and each has two children, meaning at their relatively young age, Lyall and Michelle Appo have four grandchildren to spoil – then hand back. That's got to be an ideal world.
Yet last Saturday morning as all the eyes of the racing world were squarely focused on the Gold Coast meeting, the Appo couple was thinking of their youngest son Beau. You see the young apprentice jockey was making his city riding debut, riding at Eagle Farm later that day. It's just a fact of life that the racing industry spits trainers and jockeys out like a chip making factory, as put simply you don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Whilst the Eagle Farm meeting had TAB status, it held little significance to the overall tenor of the race day, as evidenced by the fact that the main race at the Gold Coast, the Magic Millions 2YO, boasted overall prizemoney of $1,640,000. In comparison at Eagle Farm the highest prizemoney race was worth a measly $25,000 all up - meaning the highest prizemoney Eagle Farm race was worth just 1.53% of the Magic Millions 2YO.
To apprentice Beau Appo simply riding at Eagle Farm was a dream come true. His father Lyall told me yesterday that he unfortunately couldn't accompany his son to Eagle Farm. "I'd have loved to be at Eagle Farm with my son, but we are both jockeys and we both have our own jobs to do. I had to go to Nanango to ride four horses, so I said to Beau 'Just go out there and enjoy yourself. You're having your first ride at Eagle Farm and to we jockeys it's the pinnacle of all racetracks to ride at in the State. Take your horse out onto the track then take your time and turn back around and look at the big grandstand and reflect on the fact that you're finally there'". Lyall said he told Beau to "be mindful of the fact that Eagle Farm is a good track for a horse to run home on," adding, "you're three kilo claim means your 54 kgs weighted horses only have to carry 51 kgs and that's a big help to your horse up that long straight".
The young apprentice Appo no doubt took notice of his father's words when he went out on to the Eagle Farm racetrack of dreams for Race 1 and I've no doubt that right on cue he turned around and looked at that famous grandstand. They've lifted the roof off it a few times over the years but when the screaming and yelling died down, the roof miraculously landed back in the same spot. Will one day a jockey named Beau Appo lift the roof off it when he hits the front at the 200 in a Stradbroke? Guess we'll just have to wait and see, but it costs absolutely nothing to dream.
So in Race 1 at Eagle Farm, riding 9/1 chance Wishmore for local trainer David Murphy, Beau Appo clocked in fifth, beaten less than two lengths. Close - but no cigar kiddo. Fifth's not bad, but all of fourth, third, second and first are better. Beau then had to sit in the jockeys room twiddling his thumbs for Races 2 and 3 as he didn't have a ride in either race. That's totally understandable. After all who'd want a green kid riding their horse on his first day out in the big smoke? Not many.
Race 4 at Eagle Farm arrived and the betting ring suggested Beau Appo had his big chance. Ageing hard-head bookmakers like Lindsay Gallagher and Hadyn Flynn sent Rare Ruby, ridden by Beau Appo, to the barriers as the $3.60 favourite. Scrubbers don't start at $3.60. Well some do, but that's another story for another day. Anyway, the youngster was riding the Elusive Quality filly for his boss – Deagon trained Mick Lakey and that Lakey bloke and his wife Janelle have had some talented apprentices over time, so I guess they must have more idea than most. The filly that Beau Appo was employed to do steering duties for had had only one other racetrack start 31 days earlier and a chap called Colless, who most would agree can ride a bit, couldn't get her to run a place for him at 3/1. If Colless can't run a place on one – well surely a kid on his first day out in the big smoke is on a kick in the head to nothing, if he thinks he's going to win? Yet with those words of his father "Just go out and enjoy yourself" ringing in his ears, Beau Appo got that young filly home by a length. No luck in the equation apparently – just a good ride. Rare Ruby is owned by the Hutchins family who raced that former top class mare Typhoon Tracy a few years ago. Named 2010 Sky Racing World Australian Racehorse of the Year, she sadly died having her first foal in August of 2012. Strange it should seem then that the Hutchins family Maiden filly should give a hopeful 19-year-old kid such a big thrill as they normally only deal with top class senior riders. Had Beau Appo ridden Typhoon Tracy to a Group 1 win somewhere, it's doubtful he would have got a bigger thrill than he did riding Rare Ruby whose name will surely stay etched in his mind to his death bed.
So Beau Appo rode a winner at his first day of riding in the city. As Ken Howard so famously exclaimed when a young apprentice called Peter Cook rode a despised 80/1 bolter from Queensland called Panvale to win the 1970 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Randwick, in front of the Queen - "what a thrill for the kid".
But Beau Appo's day wasn't quite over yet. He was down to ride a horse called Marc The Magpie in Race 6, however the horse was a race morning scratching. Yet somehow that sometimes wonderful, sometimes sad entity called "fate" stepped in – and when apprentice Anthony Allen was indisposed and couldn't ride the Norm Hilton, Toowoomba trained galloper Monjaya Boy in Race 6, young Beau Appo was Johnny on the spot. For his part Monjaya Boy has been proven in life to be a bit of a slow conveyance. If you think that terminology is a bit unfair, well one win in 18 runs before last Saturday sort of infers he definitely won't be being set for any Brisbane Winter Carnival feature this year. But funny things happen in racing and Beau Appo and Monjaya Boy saluted at $12 with bookies, but better odds of just on 16/1 on the tote. Now Beau's two winners from three rides on his first day out in town. Bet you the Appo family won't forget that effort in a hurry? In fact after just one more ride, the most rewarding day of the short life of Beau Appo will come to an end. And that one more ride is for that boss bloke Lakey again in the last race. Seems he's about the only one who will put the kid on. The boss's horse is called Special Lie, the equal third favourite at 9/2. It's history now that Special Lie and Beau Appo went out on to that hallowed Eagle Farm track and walloped their opposition, winning by 2.75 lengths. That carrying as little weight as possible up that long and testing Eagle Farm straight that his jockey father told him about before the meeting worked out spot on advice for 47-kilogram Beau in hindsight, as his three winners carried only 51.5 kgs, 52.5 kgs and 52.5 kgs respectively.
Speaking from the family home at Redcliffe yesterday morning Beau Appo's beaming mother Michelle said, "We are just so proud of him. It was amazing that he could ride a winner as all his mounts had to carry a lot of extra weight, as I was riding them all the way too".
For his part Lyall Appo told me yesterday, "I placed Beau with (trainer) Mick Lakey for a purpose and Mick's done a terrific job with him and he'll continue to excel with Mick. It was a great day yesterday. You know, good jockeys make their own luck. Beau's purpose in life was always to be a jockey. He used to sit in the lounge room aged two and pull the whip in both hands. What people see today is what I've seen developing all his life. And it was great to see Beau ride a winner for Norm Hilton at Eagle Farm. Norm started breaking in horses in Toowoomba in 1983. I've seen a lot of bronc riding in my life but I've never seen a better bronc rider in Australia than Norm Hilton – he was the best. I've ridden for him and now Beau has too".
In another million-to-one chance that also got home last Saturday at Eagle Farm, Beau Appo's father Lyall amazingly also rode a treble at his first day of riding at Eagle Farm. He told me, "29 years ago I rode three winners on my first day out at Eagle Farm. I rode a double for the late Des Burns with Kanga Khan and Top Fella and I won a Novice (Handicap) for Johnny Wallace riding Noble Saint".
So whilst all the media attention of Australia surrounded the action at the Gold Coast Magic Millions race day last Saturday, it was arguably up the road at Eagle Farm where the best story in racing surfaced.