When I first started this blog a few years back, my intention was to write about the good news stories and the quirky things which make our industry so unique.
Along with the good and quirky though, came the absolutely dire and dreadful and, in the way of bad news, it didn’t take long for those issues to take over.
Last week with the passing of the Racing Reform Bill and the announcement of RITA (Racing Industry Transition Agency) is now looks as though the much-needed change, promoted through the Messara report, may be on the horizon.
Bearing that in mind and combined with the fact I am sick of reading negative, narky and downright nasty content via various news and social media channels, I’ve decided to bring this back to the place it was originally intended to land. Expect celebrations of good stuff mixed with the odd random piece and with the occasional dollop of history for the next 12 months or so as RITA guides us through the interesting seas we are now charting!
Meandering introduction over, this week’s happy topic was an occasion I, like a heap of other people, had been awaiting for a very long time.
The result of Saturday’s Tatt’s Tiara at Eagle Farm was memorable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it allowed Chris Waller – arguably New Zealand’s best export – to claim the record for the most Group One wins in a season, topping TJ Smith’s long-standing mark of 17 wins set in 1979-80. In itself this was a phenomenal result, so let’s just take a moment to savour it.
Foxton’s finest (yes, okay technically Himatangi, but it doesn’t have the same alliterative allure) has been smashing records at will, often those of his own creation, but this time it was a record of nearly 40 years standing. With Chris and wife Steph off in the UK where they were lunching with The Queen and attending Royal Ascot it meant most of the media attention centred on the fact that this was also the first Group One win for the Waller-trained Invincibella and jockey Jason Collett.
The win took Invincibella’s tally to 11 wins with earnings of $2.46m and few would have begrudged her breaking through for a win at the highest level, she is the very definition of an honest mare.
When it came to Collett though, his reception on-course and the reaction from his contemporaries, friends, followers and fans, spoke volumes.
Most realised that this was a win which should’ve come much, much earlier, after all he had previously recorded around 16 placings in Group One races.
It also brought to an end the most perfect family teasing from Jason’s Group One winning sisters Tash and Alysha. It was always good-natured because they, like everyone else who has followed his career, always knew he would join that Group One winners’ club. It just took longer than expected.
“At the end of each season we would say, oh well he will probably get it next year,” mum Judy Collett recalled on Saturday night as she toasted her son’s success.
While Judy, Tash and Alysha were able to savour the moment as it happened, dad Richard, en route to a fishing trip in Alaska, knew something special had happened when he landed and found mega-messages on his phone.
While Jason was always destined to become a jockey, Judy and Richard both rode, as did Judy’s father who was an accomplished jumps jockeys, there was a time he considered giving it all away.
As an apprentice he was involved in a horror race fall and ended up with bleeding on the brain which kept him away from the track for four months and during which he thought a career being followed by an ambulance might not be a great choice.
However, the pull of the track was too great, and he eventually found himself back in Sydney, where he had earlier spent three months on loan Chris Waller’s stable. Collett’s professionalism and dedication was demonstrated when he came out of his apprenticeship and just two days later won his first race as a senior jockey – for none other than Chris Waller.
At the time Waller was fulsome in his praise.
“He came out of his apprenticeship on Monday and was still at the stables at 3.40 on Tuesday morning, his first day as a senior rider,” Waller said.
“What does that tell you about a young man that is wanting to have a go? He’s really focused.”
That focus hasn’t wavered over the past 6-7 years and while some might have feared he would never break through for that elusive maiden Group One, those close to Collett knew it was only a matter of time.
It was a glorious result on a winter’s Saturday and you can bet Collett will be itching to collect a few more wins at the top level come the 2019-20 racing season.