Apprentice jockey Sam Weatherley is champing at the bit to get back raceday riding. The Waikato hoop will enter the senior jockey ranks next season and he is determined to complete his tenure as an apprentice in style.
Weatherley returned to New Zealand last year after a stint riding in Sydney and the season hasn’t gone entirely to plan for him. “It started off a little bit slow, as expected, but I really started to kick into gear over the Christmas period,” he said. “I was halted by a few silly suspensions. I was out for a month at one stage. When I was getting my momentum up I would end up getting suspended again.
“The results were not what I was hoping for, but with a few suspensions and this COVID-19 pandemic, I haven’t ridden as many winners as I would have liked. “But I am keen to work hard next season and go wherever the rides are, and try and ride as many winners as possible.”
Weatherley is currently sitting on 39 wins for the season, including three stakes victories, and highlighted the New Zealand Cup carnival as one of his biggest moments this term. “I had a really good run with the Pitmans at the Riccarton Carnival down at Christchurch,” he said. “We had six winners over the three days. It was a pretty good couple of days down there. “Riding a few winners for Mum and Dad was pretty special as well.”
Weatherley has enjoyed his COVID-19 enforced break from riding over the last few months and said he was in need of a break, both mentally and physically. “It was a good break for me personally,” he said. “I am now getting itchy feet to get back out there. It will be good when we start back-up. “I have taken a fair bit away from the lockdown. My body is feeling good and healthy and I have really freshened up.”
Weatherley didn’t restrict himself over the lockdown period, and while the scales crept up, he is confident he can get back down to his riding weight before racing resumes. “I really let myself eat and drink what I wanted and I felt really refreshed,” he said. “I was quite tired before it (lockdown) and had been doing a bit of travelling. It was good for the body to refresh and obviously the mental side of it as well was good. I wasn’t worried about wasting. “I ended up getting quite heavy. I was 64 kilos at one stage. I would go for a walk or a run most days, but when you are sitting at home for the rest of the day you can get quite heavy. “It’s coming off slowly, but surely. I am happy with where I am at at the moment.”
While Weatherley’s father Darryn had a few horses in work on his private property over lockdown, Weatherley said his services weren’t required during level 4. “Dad was only breaking in a few horses at home, so I wasn’t needed, but as soon as we got the go (Level 3) I have been riding trackwork every day, it’s been good,” he said.
Weatherley is looking forward to resuming raceday riding and getting back on Sultan Of Swing ahead of spring racing. “I would just like to go as hard as I can and do what I can,” he said. “I come out of my time very shortly, so it will be my first season as a senior jockey. I am looking forward to that.
“Sultan of Swing is a good old horse of Shaune Ritchie’s (I am looking forward to riding). He has been going well over the last few seasons and he always runs well in those big races. “With a couple of those good horses still over in Aussie he could have a crack at a couple of those first races at Hastings. “I am looking forward to getting back on a couple of Dad’s that are going well, so hopefully we have a good season together as well.”