From riding in trotting races back home in Ireland to having his first ride in Sydney, it has been a long journey in the life and career of jockey Aaron Sweeney.
At 34 years of age, Sweeney will have his first metropolitan ride when he is legged aboard Stephan at Rosehill on Saturday.
The following day he will ride one of the favourites Bank On Henry in the Winter Sprint at the Sapphire Coast.
It’s little wonder Sweeney is looking forward to his Sydney debut after forming a strong combination with Stephan.
“It’s every jockey’s dream to ride in a Melbourne Cup, but for me to have the chance to ride in Sydney let alone on a Saturday is a major step in my career,” he said.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity I have been given on Stephan who drops a lot in the weight from what he has been winning with at Canberra.
“He drops around ten kilograms from his last couple of starts so that will be a big help in a stronger race.”
The Aaron Sweeney story has taken some twists and turns, but now the mature aged apprentice is making the most of his chances at Canberra.
Known as “Irish” around the tracks, Sweeney started off as an apprentice jockey, rode in trotting races, then found a career as a plasterer before returning to race riding.
His first stint was at the amateurs where he rode nine winners and once he took up permanent residency in Australia he turned to the professional riding ranks.
The past few months has seen Sweeney find his niche with plenty of rides and winners and he said he has a lot of trainers to thank and one horse that means a lot to him.
“Stephan has been really good to me with four wins and a second from five rides. He has to be a good chance in Sydney the way he has been racing,” he said.
“The trainers I have been riding for have been great giving me rides and some of their horses have been winning so that has been a big help with trying to get other outside rides.”
Stephan’s trainer Gratz Vella wasn’t far away in Sydney last Saturday with Wanna Getta What and Sweeney would love to ride a Sydney winner for him and the horse’s owners.
Back home in Ireland, he knows his family will be tuned in.
“They can watch the race live back home so hopefully I can win,” he said.
Sweeney will line-up the following day at the Sapphire Coast with Bank On Henry who was an impressive first-up winner at Canberra.
“If he runs up to how he went last start he will be hard to beat,” he said.
Bank On Henry has won six times and boasts strong second-up statistics of two wins and two seconds from six starts.