By Ray Hickson
Sam Weatherley didn’t hesitate when offered the chance to spend three months in Sydney as Chris Waller’s apprentice.
He only has to look at other young jockeys who have crossed the Tasman in recent years to take on a similar role – the likes of Jason Collett, Rory Hutchings and Lee Magorrian – for an example of what’s possible.
The 19-year-old makes his Sydney debut with four rides at Royal Randwick on Saturday and he’s keen to make a lasting impression too.
“The boys that have come over have done a super job, if I can be half as good as them I’d be happy,’’ Weatherley said.
“I considered going to Melbourne but this offer came up and you can’t turn down an offer like this. You wouldn’t find a better trainer in Australasia.
“To come over here to a mentor like Chris Waller I think I’m in the right place.
“I want to really improve on my riding and, if I go back to New Zealand, take something back with me. I want to go back a better rider.’’
Weatherley is obviously an apprentice but he’s far from a rookie.
He won his first Group 1 race in January this year, claiming the Telegraph Handicap on Enzo’s Lad, and was runner-up in the Group 1 Thorndon Mile on the same day.
Under the guidance of former champion jockey, turned trainer, Lance O’Sullivan and co-trainer Andrew Scott he was New Zealand’s champion apprentice in 2016-17 and holds a 20-win lead to retain that title this season.
His father Darryn and grandfather Dan were both jockeys and Weatherley said he’s never thought of doing anything else since his first rode trackwork on his 13th birthday.
When he arrived at Waller’s stable he was struck by the size of the operation – O’Sullivan has 40 in work, there’s over three times that number with Waller at Rosehill - and how organised it is.
“It’s very different to New Zealand and the stable I come from, it was a big shock to the system. The team there do a super job,’’ he said.
“The staff are incredible, and you’ve got Winx. And nearly every second horse you walk past is a Group 1 horse.’’
He finished second in the Thorndon and he's gone one better in the Group 1 JR & N Berkett Telegraph.
Apprentice Jockey @WeatherleySam99 gets Group 1 glory on the Pitman-trained Enzo's Lad ($74.30) at the expense of seven-time Group 1 winner Kawi@SKYNZ #NZRacing #WellingtonCup pic.twitter.com/knTbKBRg5s
— TAB Racing (@TAB_Racing) January 20, 2018
Waller has provided one of Weatherley’s four rides for his Sydney debut and the teenager says he’ll be well versed in all four by the time he arrives at Randwick.
He rides the in-form My Blue Jeans ($7.50 TAB) for Danny Williams in the Southern Cross Turf Highway (1200m), Star Reflection ($10) for Kris Lees in the SCG Trust Handicap (1400m), The Avenger ($4.20) for Waller in the Hi Quality Turf Handicap (1400m) and She Knows ($5) again for Williams in the Turf Drain Australia Sprint (1000m).
“I like to do my form a lot, and know what I’m riding,’’ Weatherley said.
“I want to make a good impression, I don’t want to be out there and make a fool of myself.
“With a nice, tidy, book of rides I hope things go right and we have a bit of luck, maybe if I’m lucky enough I can get on the board early.
“I’m not expecting miracles at this stage but I’m over the moon I have four rides on my first Saturday in Sydney.’’