A thrilling finish at Central Warrego
CHARLEVILLE'S final race meet for the year brought out the best in country racing both on and off the track.
Trying to beat the heat, the races themselves were pushed back, but that didn't stop punters turning up early to catch the Melbourne Cup on one of the big screens, or try for a prize in fashions on the field.
When the bell finally sounded, familiar names of the southwest circuit graced the line-up, along with some riders new to Central Warrego; nevertheless, all were vying for big prize of the afternoon.
Kicking things off with the Riverina Stockfeeds QTIS Maiden Plate, Natalie Morton showed what she's made of, and pipped Shane McGovern at the post by a mere fraction of a second.
It was a result that had to be closely reviewed by stewards before placings were finalised.
Up next in the Frank Cavanough Memorial, Les Tilley gave punters a look into the near future, blitzing the rest of the field by 5.8 seconds on board Mark Johnstone's six-year-old gelding Schmizo.
The pair were followed by Craig Smith's Wonderful Wally, ridden by Christopher Bryen, and Zoe White on Ayla's Angel - a Pat Webster mare.
Race three saw the emergence of Yeezy on the Charleville track - a Bevan Johnson horse with Adin Thompson at the helm.
They crossed first to take out the Condon Financial/Charleville Pharmacy Benchmark, but Les Tilley and Immutable were hot on Yeezy's tail to snatch a second in the middle of the program.
Both horses left the rest of the field in their dust in this race, but Zoe White broke through to claim another third, this time on Pat Webster's Unaccompanied.
In what was almost a repeat of race one, the space between first and the runner up in race four looked to be no more than a third of a second.
Ultimately, Christopher Bryen and Golovkin were declared winners of the Charleville Tyre Service/Charleville Concrete Benchmark, Zoe White less than a nose behind them on Relnino.
Staying up there in the placings for the penultimate race of Cup Day, Adin Thompson was third over the line with Christmas Cheer.
As the day drew to a close, punters awaited the last race with bated breath.
This was the big one, the race that shuts down the town: The Blue Hills Thoroughbred Stud Charleville Cup.
The time-honoured event had more than the cup at stake yesterday, with the winning jockey racing for a place in the upcoming George Moore Stakes Day at Doomben, and results from the race deciding the Central Warrego Race Club's jockey and trainer of the year.
Cup winners from this season filled out the starting gate; horses and jockeys in this field had won the Springsure, Mitchell, Longreach and Blackall Cups to name a few, so it could have been anyone's race.
Fab's Cowboy and Adin Thompson were off to a brilliant start ad quickly took a lead in the 1620 metre race - a length the seven-year-old horse had run comfortably many times before with five wins from seven starts at the distance.
But Les Tilley on newcomer to the Queensland racing circuit Eschiele took it to their closest rivals early in the run, catching them by the first turn.
The two favoured runners continued their own battle at the 1000-metre mark, proving this Cup would well and truly be a race between them while Palace Tycoon and Priceless De Hero jostled for third along the back straight.
By halfway, Eschiele and Tilley were leading by a neck over Fab's Cowboy and Thompson as the tension mounted among punters in the stands, and then in a thrilling twist, Eschiele kicked it up a notch to run four lengths in front before Tilley had even steered him around the final corner.
Behind them, Fab's Cowboy maintained ground while Crawfish briefly came out from the middle of the pack to appear in third.
With Tilley five lengths in front by the last corner, and Thompson still ahead of the rest, the big fight was for third, and no one was intent on backing off yet.
Natalie Morton on Dawn Fighter, Paul Payne on Crawfish and Christopher Bryen on Palace Tycoon were practically neck-and-neck (and neck) coming down the straight.
Continuing to widen the margin, Bubba Tilley was able to do what both his mum and dad had done before him and win the Charleville Cup - a feat which has reportedly been ticked off the young jockey's bucket list.
Coming up behind, Adin Thompson and Fab's Cowboy maintained their second place, while Natalie Morton pushed hard to bring Dawn Fighter up to third for the final race of the day.
The Charleville Cup was one of the last Country Cup events for rural racers to earn a place at Doomben.
Trainers and jockeys have one more chance to take a spot when the Roma Cup is run in just under a fortnight.
After the race, the Central Warrego Race Club presented trophies to not only the Cup winners, but their trainer and jockey of the year.
For their consistent placings and a number of wins in Charleville this season, those awards went to Bevan Johnson and Adin Thompson respectively.