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BROCK RYAN – FITTING RETURN TO THE CITY SPOTLIGHT


Brock Ryan joked that Satness owed him “nine months wages” after he rejoined the city winner’s list at Royal Randwick last Saturday.

Given the circumstances, it was rather fitting that the young Kembla Grange jockey should win his first race back in town on the gelding after being sidelined for nearly five months as a result of a shoulder reconstruction.

It was Satness from which he had a freakish spill at trackwork one morning just over 12 months ago which led to him eventually having to undergo surgery earlier this year.

“I was taking Satness out onto the track to work when he stumbled and went over and I went with him,” Ryan explained.

“I hung on to the reins as he got to his feet and took off, and pulled my left shoulder out.”

Ryan underwent intensive physiotherapy and didn’t resume riding until November 1 (Melbourne Cup and The Big Dance day) at Kembla Grange when he landed a double (Ginger’s Gal for Bjorn Baker and Mr Rock It for Rob and Luke Price).

Whilst he continued riding for a few more months, it got to the stage where he knew something was seriously wrong and pulled the pin after being narrowly beaten on Wyong trainer Sara Ryan’s $31 roughie So Good So Cool at Warwick Farm on Easter Monday (April 10).

Only two days earlier he had ridden Ciaron Maher and David Eustace’s $61 outsider Alakahan, who finished seventh to stablemate Explosive Jack in the Group 1 Sydney Cup (3200m) at Randwick.

“After the shoulder reconstruction, the rehab was pretty intense and I didn’t go near a horse for four and a half months,” Ryan said.

“I rode work for three weeks when I came back and had my first rides at Kembla Grange on August 26.”

Ryan didn’t take long to return to winning form, scoring on Slickman at Nowra the following day for his former bosses, leading Kembla Grange trainers Rob and Luke Price.

In fact, five of his six winners back have been for the father and son team. He scored on Extreme Freedom at Hawkesbury on September 2, picked up a double on the same horse and Spirit Of Varanasi at home last Thursday, then won the Midway Handicap (1600m) on Satness at Randwick two days later and produced a clever tactical ride to win on Tip Top Timing for Clarry Conners at Nowra the following day.

“It was great to not only win on Satness at Randwick (his first success since Kelilah scored at Wagga on March 16), but also to get my name back out there in town,” Ryan said.

“It’s a difficult time of the year to re-establish myself in the city with all the big races here now, but I can ride light at 50kg and hope to pick up some opportunities on lesser weighted horses in the features.”

Ryan’s six winners back have boosted the now 29-year-old’s career tally to 313. Pretty good for someone who, by his own admission, was a late starter and had never touched a horse when he joined the legendary late Kembla Grange trainer Bede Murray and son Paul in his bid to break into the racing industry.

“I was born at Wollongong, but the family moved to Yamba on the Northern Rivers when I was 12 years old,” he said.

“I always enjoyed watching the races with mates, and when one of them suggested I should be a jockey because I was small and light, I thought I would give it a crack.”

He was indentured to the Murrays, learnt how to put a head collar on a horse and clean a stable box, and rode in five barrier trials.

Ryan subsequently joined another late Kembla Grange legend Gwenda Markwell, and will never forget his riding debut as a 21-year-old.

“It was the same day (November 3, 2015) Michelle Payne won the Melbourne Cup on Prince Of Penzance,” he said.

“I had four mounts as a 4kg claimer at the non-TAB meeting at the Sapphire Coast. I ran second at my first ride (Regal Rush) and finished third twice from the next three rides.”

Ryan’s first winner came two and a half weeks later at another non-TAB fixture at Adaminaby. He won a Benchmark 45 Handicap (1300m) on Casanova.

It was the last of the then 10-year-old gelding’s eight victories, but the first of many more for his young rider.

Whilst still an apprentice, Ryan hit the headlines as a 2kg city claimer with a four-winner haul (So Say You, Chat, No Compromise and Cuban Royale), all for separate trainers Terry Robinson, John Thompson, Chris Waller and Rob and Luke Price respectively, at Rosehill Gardens on July 24 two years ago.

He spent the final stages of his apprenticeship with Cuban Royale’s trainers, the Price boys.

But as good as that big day obviously was, there was no greater thrill than winning Kembla Grange’s flagship race, the $1m The Gong (1600m), on Count De Rupee later that year in November.

Not long after Ryan’s mishap on Satness just over a year ago, Count De Rupee crashed into the outside running rail during a Kembla track gallop and died.

“He had never showed any sign that something might have been wrong,” Ryan said. “It was tragic that something such as that should happen to such a good horse.”

HOOFNOTE: Ryan might have been off the racing scene between April and late August, but life certainly hasn’t been dull.

He and partner Madison Waters, also a jockey, are now the proud parents of four months’ old son Parker, who was sleeping soundly in his father’s arms during this interview.

“Both Mum and baby are great,” a proud Dad said. “Madison obviously had to put her riding career on hold but has started going back to the track on slow mornings.

“She is keen to ride again, but we’ll have to wait and see."

*Story John Curtis, September 18, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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