In was a season like no other, with so many picnic meetings lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, yet despite the disruptions and limited chances, there were two clear winners in the jockey’s and trainer’s premiership.
Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb landed 23 winners and 40 placings from his 87 starters to win his fourth consecutive trainer’s title, which was well ahead of Mark Schemtzer and Sharon Jeffries, who finished on six and five wins respectively.
“I had a good year, I was very happy with the horses and as people know, with the horses I train out here, they are suited to the races out here,” Robb said.
The popular Western District trainer said that it didn’t matter where the horses won either, with connections just happy to celebrate a victory.
“They are just bush horses but the owners love to win a race and it doesn’t it matter where they are winning,” Robb laughed.
Robb said he enjoyed winning in the bush due to the people that support the meetings, even offering an example of the differences between picnic and city racing.
“One day I won two races at Canterbury and maybe six people shook my hand and congratulated me, but three days later I won two races at Coolabah and there was probably 500 people there but 50 people shook me hand,” Robb laughed.
“It shows the difference with those country people, who just love winning, no matter where you are racing.”
Robb’s success on the picnic-racing scene in recent years has coincided with the rise of popular hoop Maddy Wright, who took out the NSW Approved Rider’s premiership for the second year running.
“Our biggest attribute on the picnic circuit is Maddy Wright; she is honest, she is strong and she is loyal,” Robb said.
Wright had a tougher time of things this season, recording 26 winners to hold out the returning Ricky Blewitt, who landed 22 winners.
Brent Evans and Jody Hughes also had good seasons, scoring 14 and 13 wins respectively.
Wright thanked Rodney Robb, and his wife Wendy, for all of the opportunities and said they were more like a family to the Moruya-based hoop.
“Rodney and Wendy are more like family to me now. I stay at their place during the season and they make sure I get home okay,” Wright said.
“I love riding winners for them because they are my biggest supporters. If I ever left the racing industry, you would definitely still find me in Nyngan for a few weekends of the year.”
The talented jockey admitted Blewitt was closing in on the title late in the season and joked fewer meetings may have helped her chances.
“Covid cut our season very short, so I only had to hold onto my lead for a few meetings. It was probably a blessing in disguise,” Wright laughed.
As far as the meetings that were lost, Wright was disappointed to miss out on her favourite races but applauded Racing NSW and the clubs who decided to push on and race.
“All my favourite meetings were cancelled due to Covid, so I definitely didn’t enjoy this season as much as I usually do,” Wright said.
“Bourke is one of my favourite places to ride at and they had to cancel but a lot of clubs pulled together to put on a few meetings for us and the horses to keep ticking a long.”
Wright is now focusing on the 2020/21 season and hopes to make it three premierships in a row and wants to visit as many picnic tracks as possible.
“Well I want to win three so I can be a good as Ricky Blewitt,” Wright laughed.
“I definitely want to go and support all the country clubs if Covid clears up.
“They love getting big fields and we need jockeys for that to happen, but who knows what will happen with Covid. It could stick around a bit longer.”
The first meeting that will count towards picnic premiership points will be at Cobar on August 22 and all eyes will be on Wright and the Robb stable as they set themselves for a bumper 2020/21.