Callan Murray admits to coming back from Australia much wiser.
The 20-year-old spent around six weeks Down Under where he rode for David Hayes. Although he did not get as many rides as he may have hoped Murray still had four winners and a number of places.
“I’m happy with the way the whole time went. Even the horses I didn’t win on ran well. I felt I couldn’t have done anything more than I did to improve their performances,” said Murray yesterday.
Murray was “noticed” by Matt Pumpa, a former jockey who is the apprentice riding coach in Victoria. It was Pumpa who organised the trip to Australia and he put Murray up for the period.
“They looked after me really well,” said Murray yesterday. “I knew two apprentices who I met when I went to Dubai. I also knew a few other people.”
The first difference between South Africa and Australia hit Murray almost immediately. “I had to clean out some of the boxes and then we were given horses to work. In South Africa you just get on to the horse and ride him. In Australia we had to go to the stables and saddle them up and take them to the track.”
Once track work was over Murray would prepare himself for racing but if he was not riding on the day he spent the time with friends or get to see some of the country.
“I saw some of the country and it was really beautiful,” said Murray.
One of the places that really impressed the South African was Lindsay Park, the racing establishment of David Hayes. “It’s in Euroa, about an hour outside Melbourne. It was similar to the Summerveld set up but it’s his own private establishment.”
Murray’s first ride came aboard Wicked Sensation. “She finished fourth, beaten less than a length.”
“My second ride was at Flemington and I was beaten into second by a short head. Flemington, where they run the Melbourne Cup, along with tracks like Moonee Valley, the home of the Caulfield Cup, are city tracks. The stakes are bigger and if you are an apprentice with an allowance city winners count two as two winners on the total of 160 points an apprentice needs. You need to ride 60 city winners before you get out of your apprenticeship.”
Murray’s first win came in his fourth ride aboard Strictly Legit in a Maiden Plate at Mornington. His second win came at Sandown Hillside, which is a city track, where he rode Barjeel. “That win was the highlight of my trip,” said Murray. “It was my only win on a city track and the horse is owned by Sheikh Hamdan who I have ridden for in South Africa.”
His third win was on Will’s Bid at Geelong and his final win came aboard the horse he first rode when arriving in Australia, Wicked Sensation.
Australian tracks have no false rail and that forced Murray to think a little differently during a race. “You tend to ride a lot for luck and you need to be more patient. The tracks are relatively short and tight, not as wide as we have in South Africa and without a false rail you are encouraging the riders to fan out in the straight.
“I prefer having a false rail in place.”
Murray admitted he got “a bit homesick”. He was also disappointed not to get that many rides. “I only rode for David Hayes and he has a number of jockeys who he is obliged to look after.”
When interviewed shortly after his arrival Murray said he would move to Australia if offered a job but had second thoughts about that as time went on. “When it dawned on me how big a move it would be I realised I would have to wait.”
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