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  • Provincial Racing NSW


ZAC Wadick is nothing if not honest.

The 21-year-old apprentice, who is only 10 shy of riding 100 winners and now calls Hawkesbury home, was at a low point in his career 12 months ago.

It was at a Tamworth meeting on January 19 last year when he was beaten on two well-fancied runners, Cody Morgan’s Smart Shot (fourth at $4.40 in a Benchmark 58 Handicap, 1400m) and Grant Jobson’s Imatruestar (third at $4.20 in a 1200m Heat of the Rising Star series for apprentices).

“I rode them both horribly,” Wadick candidly admitted in an interview with Provincial Racing NSW website.

“But it turned out to be the turning point in my career.”

RacingNSW stewards inquired into his ride on Smart Shot, and later suspended him for a brief period for causing interference on Imatruestar.

Wadick’s then Taree boss, trainer Glen Milligan, told him to take a week off and have a good think about what he wanted to do.

“I was living at Forster at the time and just stayed home for the first few days,” he said.

“Whilst I was never going to give up riding, my initial thought was that I might be better off making a change and going elsewhere for a fresh start.

“But later in the week, I realised I had to learn from my mistakes and went back to Glen with a different mindset.

“Since then my career has been on a pretty good upward spiral.”

It certainly has. Wadick rode 40 winners in 2022-23, and has ridden a further 37 in the first half of the current season, including two winners in town at Canterbury (Oxford Vision and Hellfire Express) and three (Pins and Needles, Treasurer and Dawla) for his new boss, leading Hawkesbury trainer Brad Widdup, whom he linked with just after Christmas.

Sydney born and raised, Wadick says he never really entertained following in the footsteps of his father Adam (who rode and also later trained) until he was around 15 or 16 years of age.

“I was more interested in playing computer games,” he said. “But it all changed when Dad was training at Warwick Farm and I started watching the races.

“I began riding some work on a quiet ex-racehorse Dad put me on, and he reached out to Mark Newnham (who then had stables at both Warwick Farm and Randwick), who agreed to take me on.

“It would have been 18 months before Mark signed me up as an apprentice, and I rode work with both Robbie Dolan and Tom Sherry.

“Robbie was starting to focus on Sydney racing, and Tom on the provincials.

“I looked up to both of them, especially their horsemanship and probably rode more work with Tom.

“I marvelled at how he could get a horse to relax, and always swore to be able to copy him.”

Wadick also had the opportunity to work for a year with another Newnham protégé Tyler Schiller, now forging a very successful career in the Sydney senior riding ranks.

He won’t forget his riding debut on Newnham’s Shadow Colour, who ran a $3.40 favorite in a Benchmark 58 Handicap (1000m) at Nowra on May 23, 2021.

Wadick’s 4kg claim lessened the gelding’s big weight to 59.5kg, and he bounced him out of the barrier stalls first and made the running.

“I had been dreaming all week about winning at my first ride, and soon realised you can’t ever think like that,” he said.

“For sure I thought I was home when Shadow Colour led clearly making the home turn, but I got white line fever and let him drift out in the straight thinking I was going to win anyway.”

Shadow Colour was swamped in the closing stages and finished a close third, and stewards, taking into account his inexperience, suspended him for a mere two days for causing interference in the straight.

The youngster’s breakthrough winner wasn’t too far away, however. It came on stablemate Formeinaway at Nowra on July 2 that year in a Benchmark 66 Handicap (1100m) when he led throughout.

Wadick says the plan was always to gain further experience in the country and then rejoin Newnham once he had outridden his country allowance.

Of course that didn’t occur when his first boss was given an opportunity last year to take up a contract to continue his training career in Hong Kong.

“I was riding only once a week, and Mark had plenty of good city class horses and could support me only so much,” Wadick said.

“I was supposed to go to Tamworth, but former top jockey Corey Brown recommended going to Glen Milligan at Taree.

“It took me a while to really get going, and it was great experience.

“With Mark moving to Hong Kong, I wasn’t sure about going back to Sydney.

“I had been riding on the Northern Rivers tracks, and wondered about moving to south-east Queensland.

“But Corey was keen for me to join Brad Widdup’s stable, and again I took his advice and it has worked out well.

“Brad and his wife Millissa have been terrific to me, and he has been giving me plenty of opportunities at the provincials. I’m really enjoying it.”

With 16 months of his apprenticeship remaining, Wadick’s immediate aim is to focus on riding provincial winners with his current 3kg claim.

“I would like to win the apprentices’ provincial premiership, but it’s not going to be easy as I have just moved and already we’re nearly halfway through the season,” he said.

“All the same, my transfer to Brad has already gone much better than I could have expected. I was prepared for a slow start.”

Wadick rode a Wyong double last Thursday on Dawla for his boss, and Black Duke for Warwick Farm trainer Richard Litt. Both were at double figure odds; $12 and $10 respectively.

This young man clearly has both a good work ethic, and his head screwed on the right way.

When asked about his goals, apart from winning the provincial title, he had a succinct answer – and it wasn’t about winning Melbourne Cups or The Everest.

“I want to be a good intelligent rider, and keep striving to be the best I can,” he said.

Story John Curtis, January 22, 2024 - Pics Bradley Photos


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