Making hay while the sun shines was the course followed when Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb led a recent expedition to the Simpson Desert Racing Carnival in outback Queensland.
During his time away, many meetings were washed out in NSW including Parkes, Mendooran, Mudgee, Collarenebri, Grenfell and Walgett in the local region.
Hosting the meetings were Betoota, a ghost town where the hotel closed 20 years ago), and the small towns, Birdsville and Bedourie. Those remote towns are on the border of the Simpson desert which stretches through Queensland, Northern Territory and South Australia and is the largest desert of parallel sand dunes in the world.
Average rainfall, per annum, for the arid region is about 125mm yet ironically the 2016 Birdsville races were nearly abandoned when around 50mm flooded the track during race week.
"The committee at Birdsville did an incredible job to drain the water from the track and repair the racing surface and likewise at Betoota", said Rodney Robb.
(The scheduled meetings on Thursday and Friday at Birdsville were transferred to Sunday with a mammoth 11 races ).
Over the Carnival the Robb stable had five winners and with several placings picked up over $50,000 prize money plus a $3,000 bonus for Jen See See being the leading horse (3 wins) and $1,000 for Rodney Robb being leading trainer.
Ridden by Dubbo jockey Kody Nestor for Rodney Robb and the owner Hunter Valley publican Wayne Brown, Jen See See came from behind to win at Betoota as a $2.80 chance.
Jen See See (Kody Nestor) started the $2.40 favourite when leading all the way to win at Birdsville and completed the hat-trick when starting at $2.80 eq.fav. and finishing strongly after a slow getaway to win at Bedourie when ridden by Robb's apprentice Clayton Gallagher.
Gaining good experience from his trip away Clayton Gallagher also rode the Robb trained winners Nordic Red ($2.00 fav.) and Miss Mellencamp at Birdsville and Bedourie, respectively.
Owners of Nordic Red include Jim Hampstead from Nyngan and Moree bookmaker Terry Picone while Miss Mellencamp is raced by Wendy Robb from Nyngan.
At the Bedourie meeting 63 year old Keith Ballard rode a winner,the Queensland trained Whispering Death. On Australia Day, Keith Ballard was named as a Mt Isa "Living Legend" for his achievements as a jockey
Despite his senior years Keith Ballard finished in the top ten list for country riders last season while his son Dan Ballard who Keith often rides against was the leading country jockey in Queensland.