As Hugh Bowman prepares to return to race riding for the first time in two months, he has admitted the emotion surrounding Winx took a mental and physical toll.
The champion jockey has confirmed he will return at the Randwick meeting on Saturday week, having not ridden since May 1 after deciding to take an extended break from the saddle because of exhaustion.
As the regular rider of superstar Winx, Bowman remained calm and composed throughout the champion’s farewell campaign and guided her to an emotional Queen Elizabeth Stakes win at her final start in April.
But not long after he realised the pressure had impacted him more greatly than he thought.
“I underestimated the impact that Winx had on everybody. All the emotion everyone felt around Winx, I blocked that out so I could continue to play my role and do my job to the best of my ability,” Bowman told Sky Sports Radio.
“At the end of the day it took its toll and I felt that when she retired.”
Bowman relinquished opportunities during the winter carnival in Brisbane, along with invitations to ride in South Africa and England’s Shergar Cup.
He said it was a tough call to make and one he questioned more than once but he had enjoyed spending time with his family including doing the school run with his two young daughters.
“I was just exhausted,” Bowman said.
“My body was telling me, that was the bottom line.
“A few people questioned the decision, including myself at times, but it wasn’t a decision I would have made unless I needed to and I’m glad I did.”
Bowman returned to trackwork riding for the first time on Tuesday and says he has work to do to get his weight and fitness back under control.
He currently weighs around 60kg and has accepted rides at 58kg for the Randwick meeting on July 6.
The top jockey, who is third on the Sydney premiership with 63 wins, says he accepts it will take at least a month for him to return to the performance level he was at before his break but he is excited by the challenge and the new season ahead.
“I certainly feel good in my mind. It’s been great to step away from it for a little while,” Bowman said.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to the races, getting back into the routine and back into the winner’s circle, hopefully.”