By Duane Ranger (courtesy of Redcliffe Paceway)
Tamworth driver, Emma Ison, made a successful hit-and-run mission to Redcliffe Paceway on Thursday afternoon (November 23), thanks to her close Queensland friends, Trent Moffat and Emily Anforth.
“I was talking to Trent and Emily earlier, and told them I was coming up to Queensland for a few days, and they kindly offered me a drive on their 4-year-old mare, Shady’s Cullect. It was so nice of them, because I only arrived the day before the races and go back home on Sunday,” Ison said.
“Emily and Trent are two of my best friends,” the 22-year-old added.
Shady’s Cullect provided Ison with her second Redcliffe victory in half a dozen starts on the track, when scoring by two lengths as the $1.90 favourite in race seven – the Happy 9th Birthday Amelia Hanrahan Pace.
Her first Queensland winner was also at ‘The Triangle’ when her older brother and mentor, Tom, trained Overthemoon to an easy 16.2-metre win on February 23 last year.
Moffat trains Shady’s Cullect at Purga and owns her with his partner, Anforth. He also bred the 4-year-old Gotta Go Cullect mare, who has now won eight of her 61 starts ($54,559).
Ison had the race well in control from the moment the eight runners left the 1,780m mobile starting point. She drew one with the $1.80 favourite, and led all the way, scoring by two metres, and stopping the clock in 2:14.3 – with a 2:01.4-mile rate.
“The mare was really rearing to go, and she felt super throughout. I thought we might be tough to get past once we held the lead. Trent had her in perfect condition for the race. He did the hard yards. I just drove her, and it felt great,” said Ison.
The drive was a far-cry from when Ison had her first drive at Redcliffe Paceway early last year.
“I didn’t believe it had three corners. I was shocked. I thought Tom was having me on until I actually got out there. It was a really different feel, and I was a bit shocked to be honest. But the more I drove around it the more accustomed I became to it, and now I love it.
“My strike-rate at Redcliffe is quite good. I like variety in racing and Redcliffe Paceway certainly provides that. You have to be very wary where those three corners actually are, and that only comes with race-day experience,” Ison said.
“The track has given me some nice memories already, and I’m only in my early 20s,” she added.
Ison said she might have been scratching her head at her brother’s description of Redcliffe Paceway, but she said he was her inspiration and a large reason why she left the motor industry for equine horsepower.
“Ninety-seven per cent of what I know is because of Tom. We have always been close, and I certainly look up to him. I first brought horses north to Queensland with him in February 2022. He was a big reason I left Bearing Accessories (https://www.bearingaccessories.com.au/) after 3 years, and got back into the horses.
“I actually fell in love with Queensland. We brought nine horses up and went home with 12. I loved the Queensland weather and went home for three days after our racing finished there. I then packed up my two dogs (Alfie and the late Archie) and came back and lived here. That was in March last year,” Ison said.
A relationship break-up since then now sees her back at the family home in Tamworth, but Ison hasn’t ruled out coming back to the Sunshine State to work and race again.
“I love it in Queensland. I have made so many great friends and who knows what the future holds, but for now, I’m really happy driving back home and helping Tom with our team of about 40,” Ison said.
Born in Tamworth and educated at Peel High School, Ison left school at the start of Year-11 to train her family’s horses.
“Dad (Andrew) trains at Warral (9km from Tamworth) but Mum (Nikki) and her side of the family have never really been into racing. Dad’s father Gavin, who was known as Samuel, had horses too.”
Ison is the fourth in a family of five – Sam, Ben, Tom, Emma, and Molly. She said her brother Ben, and Mum Nikki, were the only family members not currently licensed.
In fact, it was ‘Dad’ who provided his daughter with her first race-day victory when she got Fear No Evil up by a head in race two at Armidale on Sunday March 11, 2018.
“That was a memorable victory. I absolutely loved that horse. Fear No Evil was my all-time favourite. I just loved him. He was another big racing why I left school to drive in the first place. He had a great personality, a big heart and always gave his best for me. And to win it for my Dad made it all the more special.
“But I think my best moment so far was dead-heating with Tom at Tamworth a couple of years ago,” Ison said.
She was referring to race seven on June 27, 2019, when they dead-heated over a 1,980m mobile. Ison was driving the Andrew Ison trained Bailees Girl from gate eight, while her brother was driving Dwayne Brown trained, What A Flight, who started from gate one.
Then there was November 16 at Tamworth.
“It was so good to see my younger sister Molly win the Thursday before at Tamworth. That was her fifth win. Tom placed second and I ran third, with Tom training the trifecta. It was definitely one to remember. I’m always so proud of Molly.
“Being there and witnessing it close-up was a big deal for me after living in another state for so long. I remember yelling at her after the line saying I’m so proud of you,” Ison said.
Shady’s Cullect was Ison’s only Queensland drive this visit.