An emotion-charged Johnathan Parkes notched a significant milestone at Awapuni on Saturday with four wins to his name including the day’s feature, the Listed Rangitikei Cup (1550m) aboard venerable winter galloper Justaskme.
It was a day to savour for Parkes, who began the race meeting with 998 career wins, and he wasted little time in setting out after his long-stated goal of 1000 career wins.
Parkes resumed riding last month after a six-month break from racing after becoming stale from wasting, and has returned more driven than ever.
The outstanding Central Districts jockey produced a perfect on-speed ride as Papa Surf broke maiden ranks in the opener, before hitting four figures when Fellini dug deep to score over 1300m in the second race on the card.
The usually low-key rider was quick to salute the sky as the treasured memories of a key supporter were front of mind.
“It was a special moment to get to the milestone of 1000 wins,” Parkes said.
“I dedicated that win to a lady called Jill Rohloff, who was there for me through thick and thin.
“She has just been a massive supporter of mine and she passed away last year. We were counting down to the 1000 wins together at the time.
“She was a big supporter of mine in general life. If I was having a good day, she was there to back me big time and if I was having a bad time, she was always there for that as well. She was like a Godmother to me.
“The salute after winning was for Jill. Her husband Kevin drove me to the races and that made it even more special, as they both have supported me amazingly well.”
Parkes became the 36th New Zealand jockey to reach the milestone, his tally including 58 Group and Listed winners, and pushing his mounts’ earnings to just on $19 million.
The 34-year-old was pleased to register the win on the Mark Walker-trained Fellini, with Te Akau Racing frequently keen to utilise the jockey’s services.
“I am always thankful for the rides and it was great to get a win for them,” Parkes said.
The in-form rider picked off a further victory, when progressive stayer Fabian Hawk trounced his rivals by seven lengths, before Justaskme provided the icing on the cake in the Rangitikei Cup, despite his 60kg top-weight.
“He is a superior wet-tracker and he did the job nicely,” Parkes said.
“He is just tough and really gritty and even with the 60kgs I was pretty confident.
“Going in I was a little bit worried about Mary Louise. I have ridden her before and know that she is quite a good horse too.
“During the running I wanted to follow her and stalk her a little bit. I always thought she was the one to beat and when I came up to the 800m mark, we were coming into the race quite easily and I knew we were pretty much home. He went on to win well.”
Parkes, who has ridden at 57.5kgs or above since his return, said he is aiming to get down to as light as 56.5kgs, while he doesn’t have an issue riding through the winter months, including on Saturday’s Heavy 10 surface.
“After a break you don’t really mind the conditions. Whether it is winter or summer – I am just happy to be back out there,” he said.
“Looking ahead to Spring, hopefully I can get on another good one. We will see how it goes and see what comes my way.”