You grew up in Wagga. Did you come from a racing background?
No not at all. I grew up on a farm doing rodeos and horse sports but not racing.
Where did you start your apprenticeship and who was it with?
I did my apprenticeship with Garry Frazer at Hawkesbury. I was contacted by his brother Glenn who is an ex-jockey. I played polocrosse with his son for New South Wales. That is where Glenn saw me as a young kid on a little buckskin pony running around and he thought I would be a make for a jockey.
Was it a hard move to make from Wagga to Hawkesbury?
It was. Obviously I was only fourteen when I first moved up to Sydney. I was missing out gong to rodeos every weekend with my brothers because I was flat out working every weekend.
Was it a steep learning curve?
It certainly was. I had to grow up and mature very quickly.
How much help did Grant Buckley give you in the early days?
He’s gone from racing rides each day and then coming into trackwork each morning just to help me out. He has been a very big part of my career and still is today.
Tell us about your first race ride?
My first race meeting was at Bathurst. The first horse was for Dave Keegan, I can’t remember its name. I came out for the second ride and Wave the Dollar was my first winner. It was an exciting meeting with all my family coming up to Bathurst.
We then jump forward to the 2006/7 season and you rode 127 winners in NSW. What a great achievement. What do you put it down too?
Opportunities. I worked very hard and Garry worked me hard which I did not like at the time but you sit back now and have a look at it and it definitely made me a better person and a better rider. By doing those hard yards straight away I always went to the races very competitive. I was a competitive kid with what ever sport I took on. I was also able to utilize my claim and I took all the opportunities and went from there.
Your first Group One was on Black Piranha in the 2009 Stradbroke. He had previously run 2nd in the George Ryder, Doncaster and Doomben 10,000. Were you under pressure to perform? Talk us through the race.
Yes there was pressure. Obviously the owners were frustrated and I was frustrated. Every time I rode him he had a chance of winning but he just found one better. Vision and Power came out and beat us twice and Apache Cat beat us once. They were good horses in front of us.
In the Stradbroke he had a fairly light weight and a good barrier and everything just went right in the race. I was able to kick him home and he won easily. He was a winner from a long way home.
In 2010 you moved to Hong Kong for four seasons. What did you learn from the experience? You had great support from trainers like Cruz and Size; that must have helped?
I went over there and the first meeting was Happy Valley and I had two rides. One went forward and lead them up and one went back and they both finished in the same position which was well back.
I then went to the Sunday meeting at Sha Tin and the first ride was on the inner track in the dirt which was a wet track. I jumped well from a good gate and landed in just behind the leaders and it was 100/1 and got it home. So I was able to get a winner at my second meeting which made the rides com easier from there.
Tell me about the abuse jockeys get from David Ferraris?
I won on a horse in the early days for David and I got abused for winning by to far. David is a frustrated man. He trains well and wears his heart on his sleeve and he is not shy in telling someone. I rode a few nice winners for David and I got a few nice sprays off David too.
What can you tell me about the time you stopped for a bourbon when you were supposed to be out riding your bike to keep fit?
I took the girls out one day for a lunch and I was always out riding getting fit and going for long rides and on the way home if it was a hot day there was a nice place I would stop and have a bourbon before I got home.
I told the girls, Nicole and Erin, they could come for lunch and we got on the bikes and went for ride. We sat down and I went to order a drink and the bloke said to me ‘do you want the usual’. So I was given up straight away.
Chris Waller has given you a real leg up since your return. That must give you a lot of confidence knowing you have the backing from such a high profile stable?
Yes it does. I was lucky straight away to come back for my first meeting at the Kensington track and I had a hand full of rides. I think it was my first ride back for Chris and ‘The Alfonso’ jumped from a wide gate and everything just worked out and I had a perfect ride on him and he won and it just went from there.
Is there a horse we should be keeping an eye on leading into The Championships?
I have the ride on Honesta. I rode her before she went down to Melbourne and they wanted to use a Melbourne jockey and I was promised that when she came back up here I can ride her. She is my Oaks filly and I think she is going to be very competitive straight away.
Your brothers Rhys and Cody are both on the PBR (Professional Bull Riding) circuit in America. Did you ever think about giving it a crack?
My childhood dream growing up when doing the rodeos was to go to America and compete in the PBR. Before I came to racing the last year I rode in rodeo I won the Australian title in the junior steer rides. My family is doing quite well and both brothers have won a few Australian titles. It would have been good to do it however I took the racing career path.
‘Bears of Hope’ is a non-for-profit charity you support. You have been very active in supporting them. Are there any upcoming events and how can people get behind he charity?
I am not so sure on upcoming events at the moment but you can always go online straight away (www.bearsofhope.org.au) and there are links to donate. It obviously holds a big part in my life. We lost our little girls a couple of years ago and they have always been there to support us.
What are your goals for this year?
I think I got three Group One’s last season so it’s obviously to go bigger and better with that. The main thing is to keep being competitive and go home safe and the winners will follow.
How do you stay fit? Is weight an issue?
Weight is an issue. We do ride a lot through racing and trials so that’s the main thing with my fitness. I haven’t been doing a great deal of running because my back has been playing up a fraction. At home I work hard in the garden doing landscaping so that is a good hit out.
Last question; the Broncos. Let’s not talk about last season. Is this our year in 2016?
I am a big Broncos fan. When I was a kid watching the Footy Show Wendell Sailor comes out and it was his birthday which is the same day as mine so I fell in love with the Big Dell and I have followed them ever since. We just need to go one better in that last minute. I thought we were home and hosed but it was very disappointing. At the end of the day it is a game.