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  • Provincial Racing NSW


John Gibbons, Nevada Mansfield, Dylan, Andrew & Cathy Gibbons

ANDREW Gibbons normally would be riding at his home track at Broadmeadow this weekend.

But this is not a normal Saturday for the experienced Newcastle jockey. He’s taking the day off – and for the best of reasons.

Gibbons will be amongst the expected 50,000 plus throng at Royal Randwick to watch his gun apprentice son, 21-year-old Dylan, become one of the first two apprentices to ever ride in the world’s richest race on turf, the seventh running of the $20m The Everest (1200m).

The other is the equally talented Zac Lloyd, who edged out the young Newcastle man in a thrilling finish to the Sydney apprentices’ premiership at the end of July.

Gibbons rides the classy Sydney four-year-old Buenos Noches, and Lloyd partners the exciting three-year-old Cylinder for his Godolphin boss, trainer James Cummings. Both horses are prepared at Warwick Farm.

“I have to be there to support Dylan,” Gibbons said. “It’s the right thing for a father to do when he gets an opportunity such as this.

“We rode against each other in the Doncaster Mile (Andrew finished third on $21 chance Nugget in the Group 1 feature and Dylan was eighth on Duke De Sessa, $11) at Randwick in April, but I was riding at Newcastle a week later when he won his maiden Group 1 there on Explosive Jack in the Sydney Cup.

“I watched the Cup in the jockeys’ room at Broadmeadow between races. That was the first time he had ridden in a 3200m race, let alone win the Cup.

“I’m not going to miss this one. Dylan will have a terrific family support crew to cheer him on.

“My wife Keeley, my Mum and Dad Cathy and John, Dylan’s girlfriend Nevada Mansfield, his brother Ryan, and my brother Michael and sister Lisa will be all there.

“Win, lose or draw it’s going to be a big day and one we are all really looking forward to.”

Gibbons readily admits he never encouraged his son to follow in his riding boots by becoming a jockey – but quickly realised he was fighting a losing battle.

“I never pushed him at all because I know how tough the business can be,” he said.

“I tried to give him other opportunities and introduced him to various sports, but riding in races was what he wanted to do, and naturally I gave him my full support.

“Dylan finished his schooling in 2018, completing Year 11 at St Mary’s Maitland.

“The school obligingly allowed him to start getting accustomed to his chosen profession, courtesy of a workplace arrangement.

“They allowed him to have Wednesdays off in the final term so that he could go to the track in the morning and then back to the stables in the afternoon.

“Outside school hours, he also went to the track on Saturday mornings.”

Those visits to Broadmeadow merely fuelled further a young Gibbons’ desire to become a jockey.

“Toni Lennard from Whitehorn Academy Equestrian Centre on Newcastle’s outskirts taught Dylan the basics of riding, and then Mal Ollerton brought his own pony from home to help him get started at the track,” Andrew Gibbons said.

“Of course I’m tremendously proud of what he has achieved already in such a relatively short time.

“Dylan has great timing in races, and backs himself on a leader.

“He might lead by three or four lengths and is a great judge of pace, and gets it right most of the time.”

Gibbons Snr said his son’s penchant for cooking also has helped immensely in his blossoming career.

“Dylan loves cooking healthy meals,” he said. “He is very dedicated and sticks to a good diet and thus keeps his weight well in check.”

Dylan Gibbons’ master, leading Newcastle trainer Kris Lees, says his star apprentice’s progression in the last 12 months hasn’t surprised him one bit.

“If I was asked the question three years ago when he had just started riding, I probably would have been surprised then just how far he has both grown and matured as a jockey,” Leessaid.

“But not any more. Dylan has truly come of age in the last year, outriding his city allowance toward the end of last season and securing rides from all the leading Sydney stables.”

Gibbons sure has come a long way since he made his debut at Taree on July 28, 2020 when he finished fourth as a 4kg claimer on odds-on favorite Star Raider in a Benchmark 58 Handicap (1000m), beaten just over a length.

It didn’t take him long to get the monkey off his back. Only 11 days later at a country TAB meeting at Coffs Harbour, he won the Bonville Cup (a 1500m Benchmark 58 Handicap) on Ocean Ruler for trainer Paul Smith. And by four and a half lengths no less on a heavy track.

A further 326 winners have followed. He rode 86 in his first full season (2020-21), 116 the next season, 113 last season and has already tallied a dozen so far in this new season.

Andrew Gibbons will always remember the day his son had his first ride.

“Not only did Dylan make his debut, but I needed to ride two winners at Taree that day to land the NSW jockeys’ premiership,” he said.

“I rode three (two for Kris Lees on La Girl and Jaja Chaboogie and the other on Men In Tights for Wayne Wilkes), and with 124 for the season beat Blaike McDougall (122.5) for the title.

“It was a pretty special day all round.”

Suffice to say that milestone will be well and truly surpassed if Dylan Gibbons climbs his biggest mountain on Saturday and caps an already brilliant career by getting Buenos Noches to the post first!

. HOOFNOTE: Dylan Gibbons is in his final season as an apprentice, and will turn 22 eight days after The Everest.

Could you think of a better early birthday present?

*Story John Curtis, October 11,2023 - Pics Bradley Photos*

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