I have always been a big Michael “The King” Coleman fan, so seeing him join the elite band of Kiwi jockeys to reach 2000 winners today was pretty special.
During a conversation with a Matamata trainer one day, he quizzed me about why I was so keen on Mickey – the answer was simple, he provided me with my biggest thrill on a racecourse when riding my first winner.
It was one or two wines ago – 1987, to be precise. Mickey was an apprentice and the apple of my eye, Genuflect, a filly from one of my grandmother’s old mares was trained by his boss Jim Gibbs. I had headed from Auckland to Matamata for the South Waikato Racing Club meeting, an on-course only meeting, to see whether she could improve on her first start ninth.
From memory, she paraded with a shortened tail, thanks to the ministrations of the cattle beasts at the pre-training establishment. Gibbsy, waxing lyrical, described her as being a girl in a mini-skirt…! He also insisted I come and speak with my jockey pre-race so there I was all new to this caper about to greet Mickey – “Hello, Blossom”……I have no idea where that came from but the upshot was a jockey whose face matched the maltese cross on my colours and a trainer bent in half laughing. Henceforth I called him Blossom.
Embarrassed or not, Blossom rode a great race and won, becoming in the process my favourite jockey of all time. Just how favourite is probably emphasised by the fact I had to check on the NZTR website to see who was in the saddle when I had my first (and, so far, only!) Group One winner.
Michael was the leading apprentice of his generation and has always had an association with an above-average horse or two subsequently, so I was a little gobsmacked when I got a brief to write a piece on him.
Not that Mickey’s countdown to 2000 wins wasn’t worth a story, it was more how the request was worded. In this person’s mind Michael was starting to “look like a journeyman” but his season thus and his association with the formidable Baker-Forsman stable made him newsworthy.
Obviously, the 212 wins, including 24 Group and Listed races he had won over the three previous seasons, had escaped this good judge’s notice!
In general conversation during the interview Genuflect got a mention, likewise today when I sent him a text to congratulate him on his achievement.
According to Mickey “they all help”.