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  • Provincial Racing NSW


THE spring is back in Andrew Gibbons’ step! 

The one-time NSW jockeys’ premiership winner has had a quiet year by his own standards, with his Gunnedah Cup victory on Sunday being his 22nd in 2023-24.

A far cry from “topping the ton” twice in consecutive seasons; 124 winners in 2019-20 which earned him the State title, and 137 the following season when runner-up to Greg Ryan.

But the 46-year-old says a change of management is inspiring him to get back into the winning groove.

Gibbons recently took on former jockey Sam Clenton as his new manager, and is excited about the switch.

“Nothing whatsoever against my former manager Andrew Northridge (who is based interstate), but I was in a rut,” he said as he headed off to compete at Monday’s Taree meeting.

“Sam is very well respected, we have always got on well, and I’m sure our partnership is going to work really well.

“The results might not show it this season, but I feel I’m riding as well as ever.

“I’ve got a spring back in my step, and there’s absolutely no thoughts of retirement.”

Gibbons’ victory on the Australian Bloodstock-raced Mayfair Spirit in Sunday’s Big Dance Eligibility Gunnedah Showcase Cup (1600m) was his 451st for leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees – and his second in the race.

Like Mayfair Spirit ($14), that was on another double figure odds chance Present Sense ($13) for Tamworth trainer Craig Martin in 2019.

“I’ll never forget that day,” Gibbons said.

“I had five rides at the meeting and rode four winners, including the first three races for Kris (Lees).

“Kris had a two-year-old who had won both her trials, and I was prepared to go anywhere to ride her.

“It was another Australian Bloodstock horse Wandabaa (who went on to win a further seven races, including the 2022 Group 3 Newcastle Stakes, and earned nearly $1m before being sold as a broodmare).

“She won the 2YO Handicap (1000m), which was the first race, and then I won the next two on Miss Earth and Ultimate Power.

“I didn’t have a ride in the Cup, until my manager rang at acceptance time to say Craig Martin wanted me for his horse.

“Seeing as though I was going there, there was no problem taking the mount.

“Present Sense had won the Bingara Cup and ran third in the Merriwa Cup prior to Gunnedah.”

Mayfair Spirit was having his first start under Lees’ banner, but Gibbons wasn’t totally surprised with the gelding’s performance at Gunnedah in spite of his odds, having taken confidence from his jockey son Dylan.

“Both Dylan and myself had ridden Mayfair Spirit before in races when trained by Ciaron Maher and David Eustace,” he explained.

“He has been a bit quirky, but Kris went back to basics and took all the gear off him (tongue tie and cross-over nose band) when he trialled at Gosford last Monday.

“Dylan rode him in the trial and said he felt much more tractable, so I went to Gunnedah thinking he wasn’t without some chance.”

Gibbons gave Mayfair Spirit an economical run on the fence from his rails draw, then took full advantage of clear room inside runner-up Russley Crown ($4.40) on straightening and edged him out in a tight finish.

The $2 favorite Akasawa, burdened with a massive 65.5kg, stormed home from well back to finish third, narrowly failing to win the Gunnedah feature for a second year running.

Trainers Kris Lees and Jake Hull were winners at Monday’s Taree meeting.

Lees won the opener with $2.60 favorite Oakfield Hawk (Grant Buckley), following up his Gunnedah Cup victory with Mayfair Spirit the previous day, whilst Hull’s success with Olivia’s Spirit ($7.50) continued his benchmark season after also scoring with Six Foot Song at Newcastle last Saturday.

Story John Curtis, May 27, 2024 - Pic Muswellbrook Race Club

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