After seven years away from race riding, Wayne Wheatley has made a triumphant return to the picnics, booting home a double at Forbes on Saturday.
The veteran hoop was tickled pink after the winning-double, and plans on making his presence felt on the NSW picnic-racing scene.
“I am humble to have ridden two winners and I am dedicated to competing at the picnic circuit,” Wheatley said.
“I am ready to give it a real go and I’m available for rides.”
The former North Coast jockey, who last won a professional race aboard Desert Bunny at Casino in August 2011, admitted it was weight that got in the way of a well-credentialed country racing career that boasted 220 career victories.
“I was a good country jockey and I rode all over Northern NSW and South East Queensland but my weight got in the way,” Wheatley said.
“I’ve ridden professionally since I was 17 and I’m just glad to be back doing what I love.”
Now based in Moorebank, Wheatley rides track work for David Pfieffer and certainly hasn’t lost the love of riding, having originally prepared for the Bong Bong Cup late last year before return to riding at Wagga Picnics on March 28.
“I ride track work for Dave Pfieffer and he wanted to run a horse in the Bong Bong Cup and that got the ball rolling,” Wheatley said.
“Even though that didn’t happen, I decided to keep going with it and now I am ready to continue at the picnics.”
The 44-year-old said it was easy sitting at the 62kg weight required by picnic jockeys, suggesting he was enjoying the challenge of riding without the concern of maintaining at unrealistic weights.
“I had ridden for so long and worked hard on my weight but I just got heavy,” Wheatley said.
“I rode at 63kg on Saturday and it’s just so much easier with no pressure to turn up at such a low weight.”
Wheatley’s first winner on Saturday came in the first event when he helped Stardux greet the judge first in the 1600m Class B Handicap for Canberra trainer Todd Smart.
“It was easy, I sat three wide outside of the two leaders in a seven-horse field and she still had enough in the tank to get the job done,” Wheatley said.
Wheatley’s second win came in the fourth event when he rode Adventure Queen home for a 0.12 of a length victory in the 1200m Class Two event for Dubbo trainer Kody Nestor.
“I’ve known, and been mates with Kody for years and it felt good riding a winner for him,” Wheatley said.
“It’s good to get the phone call from those blokes, I get a bit of joy riding for those who I have known for such a long time.”
The Cowra born hoop is now focusing on future picnic meetings and hopes to become a mainstay on the popular NSW circuit.
“If I don’t do it now, I won’t get another chance,” Wheatley said.
“I am getting older but I’m really enjoying racing and I hope to continue to get the chances.”