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  • Provincial Racing NSW


IT is a measure of Dylan Gibbons’ humility that he couldn’t have said it better!

“It was a good day even before I won the Cup,” Newcastle’s gun apprentice said this afternoon in the afterglow of his most successful day in a relatively brief career which keeps exceeding even his own expectations.

Twenty-one-year old Gibbons was referring to the fact that his winning ride on Razeta ($10) in the Listed South Pacific Classic (1400m) at Royal Randwick was his first stakes success for his boss Kris Lees.

Five races later Gibbons landed a maiden Group 1 triumph, powering home on triple Derby winner Explosive Jack ($26) in the $2m Sydney Cup – and at his first ride at the 3200m distance.

It was Day 2 of The Championships, and an important win for his master was pleasing enough. To then add the time-honored Sydney Cup as an apprentice, competing against a line-up of outstanding senior jockeys, was indeed something else.

All the more remarkable is that Gibbons was having only his ninth ride at racing’s elite level; his first was a mere six weeks ago.

It was a pretty good day for the “boss” also; Lees capturing his fifth $500,000 Provincial-Midway Championship Final (1400m) with Spangler on top of Razeta’s victory.

Such is often the irony of racing that Gibbons got the opportunity to ride in four Group 1s this autumn on the classy mare Montefilia as a result of a track injury sustained by fellow jockey Jason Collett in late February.

Multiple Group 1 winning trainer David Payne could have chosen another senior rider, but he went for Gibbons.

“That definitely gave me confidence that I could compete at Group 1 level,” Gibbons said.

“They were all weight-for-age races and usually don’t attract big fields, so David could have gone to any of a number of senior jockeys.

“The fact that he called on myself as an apprentice to ride the mare undoubtedly boosted my confidence.”

Gibbons says he really enjoys riding in distance races.

“Those races give me the opportunity to take my time, and get the horses into their rhythm.

“I feel riding in distance races plays to my strengths.”

Gibbons had his first race ride at Taree less than three years ago on Lees’ Star Raider, who finished a close fourth in a Benchmark 58 Handicap (1000m) when an odds-on favorite.

It didn’t take him long to post his first win as a 4kg claiming apprentice; at Coffs Harbour little more than a week later on Ocean Ruler in the Bonville Cup (1500m). And by four and a half lengths on a heavy track.

A further 278 winners have ensued; 86 in his first full season in 2020-21, 116 the next season and already 77 this racing year (with more than three and a half months remaining), competing in the top bracket in town.

Gibbons’ father, experienced jockey Andrew, tried his best to dissuade his son from pursuing a career as a jockey – but didn’t have the faintest of hopes!

“It’s all I ever wanted to do,” Gibbons said. “I never considered doing anything else.

“And once Dad knew how committed I was, he did everything possible to help me.”

A disciplined Gibbons had no trouble making Explosive Jack’s 52.5kg yesterday, and said he could even enjoy a coffee yesterday morning before heading to the races.

“I’m careful what I eat, and my weight has been really good through the autumn.”

Gibbons has another opportunity to quickly add a second Group 1 to his burgeoning career tally of winners when he rides Pier Pressure for Lees in Saturday’s Champagne Stakes (1600m) at Randwick.

“She ran a great race when third in the 1400m Sires at Randwick a week ago, and gives the impression she will handle the 1600m,” he said.

“Any further rain this week will help her chances for sure.”

Most jockeys when asked, quickly say they would like to win a Golden Slipper or Melbourne Cup – or both.

This young man is measured, well-mannered and well-spoken, is handling his success in his stride, and mentioned neither when queried about his goal.

“I want to establish my spot in Sydney,” he said, quite matter of factly. “I don’t finish my apprenticeship until July next year, and it’s not easy with so many top jockeys there and the likes of Hugh Bowman, Zac Purton and Joao Moreira coming from overseas for the carnivals.

“But I’ll keep working hard to give it my best shot.”

He might now be a Group 1 winner, but nothing changes as far as trackwork at Broadmeadow is concerned.

“I’ll be there in the morning,” he said. “I ride work six mornings a week for the boss.”

HOOFNOTE: We’ll leave the final word to a very proud Dad.

“I got a huge thrill a week ago when I thought I was going to win my first Group 1 on Nugget (third) in the Doncaster Mile,” Andrew Gibbons said.

“But seeing Dylan win his maiden Group 1 yesterday was the biggest thrill. I watched the Cup between races at Broadmeadow in the jockeys’ room.

“All the boys get on well, and there were plenty of high fives when Dylan won.”

Whilst it wasn’t a Group 1, Gibbons Snr was also in winning touch, landing the Maiden Handicap (1500m) on aptly-named $2.30 favorite Invincible Legend for legendary Sydney trainer Les Bridge.

*Words John Curtis - April 9, 2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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