Champion Dubbo jockey Greg Ryan is chasing a record-breaking win in Sunday’s Wellington Boot.
If successful, Ryan will become the first to ride three Boot winners in a row, after success in the last two runnings of the feature 2YO event on the Western NSW racing calendar.
He has teamed up with wily Muswellbrook mentor Pat Farrell for his past two Boot winners in Alart and Alliterate. On Sunday, Ryan partners Hinchinbrook filly Crystal Pearl in the $100,000 (1100m) sprint.
“She is a nice filly, with a bit of size about her,” Ryan said.
“However she will have to improve quite a bit on her last start effort when she finished third at Dubbo. She was a little flat at Dubbo and I told Pat she might need a bit of a let up before the Boot and he has given her that.
“If anyone can improve a horse then it’s Pat. He is a master at doing that and we will be trying our absolute best to make it three wins in a row.”
Another Boot win would be special for Ryan who has quite an affinity with Wellington. The 51-year-old’s career in the saddle virtually started at the home of the Boot after former jockey Michael Diamond suggested he try his hand at the sport.
After seeing and meeting jockeys like Dar Lunn and Paul Wearne, Ryan, who was a mechanic, thought he would pursue a career in the saddle.
“I spent a while riding work for Mick Willis who had a stud,” Ryan said. “I can remember working for Paul Robertson who had the Ford dealership in Wellington. Robbo would not be concerned if I was late into work after riding trackwork back in those days. He loved the horses as well. Robbo was very good to me for being so understanding.”
And despite some humble beginnings, Greg Ryan has transformed into one of Australia’s most successful jockeys. Numerous premiership wins in country NSW has seen the likeable hoop become one of the most sought after jockeys in NSW.
He has ridden for some of the land’s best trainers and the hunger to succeed is still well and truly alive.
“I am feeling quite good at the moment,” he said. “Look, at 51 years old I guess you become a year-to-year prospect. But I want to keep going as long as I can.
“I am trying to avoid riding at 54kg. That means I have to work a little to get my weight down. But my current diet is great and I just feel really happy at present.”
However racing and mechanics is not all that Ryan loves – rugby league is still a passion.
Ryan played league for Wellington from the under-15s until the juniors (under-18s). He still recalls his battles with former CYMS hooker Mark Dooley.
“I recall coming up against Mark for a few years,’’ he said. “He was a tough player. But I loved playing with the likes of Paul Kennedy and Paul Shaw.”
But do not mention last weekend’s results to Greg Ryan. The avid Souths follower thinks the Red and Greens might be in for a long year.
Racing at Wellington this weekend is over two days, with a massive $600,000 in prizemoney on offer. Whilst the Boot is perhaps the highlight, a $150,000 heat of the Country Championships will also hold attention.
One man who has seen all 36 runnings of the Boot is former club president Ian Giffin. And he believes one of country NSW’s most popular events will again provide racegoers with plenty of highlights.
“This track is in great order at the moment and would rival any surface in Sydney,” Giffin proudly stated.
“There will be plenty for oncourse patrons to do. We have fashions in the field with great prizes and there is a stack of entertainment as well. If you have never been to a Boot meeting, you do not know what you are missing.”
Not a truer word has been spoken, Ian! Going to Wellington for the Boot will always be one of the highlights of this former owner and punter.
Kev’s three ‘good things’
There are few certainties in racing, albeit Winx is seriously very close to one every time she steps out. However I will give you three ‘good things’ to keep in mind for this weekend.
- Get your backside trackside to the Boot.
- Follow Greg Ryan at the carnival – nobody rides Wellington better than this bloke; and
- Wellington Race Club will turn on a great couple of days of racing and fun.