Late starter, new to town
AT 25, Kirk Manoukian had never touched a horse, let alone ridden one.
He didn't mind the races, often the recipe for a day out with mates.
But a vague curiosity soon turned into a fledgling career when Manoukian upended his desk job in favour of early morning starts in the great outdoors.
"Coming from Melbourne you go to school, to uni, get a degree in finance and work in an office," Manoukian said.
"That's the norm in Melbourne. I did a TAFE course to do trackwork in the mornings before going to the office. But then it was suggested I become a full-time jockey."
The first year of Manoukian's riding career was spent as an apprentice under leading Victorian trainer Leon Corstens.
Then an opportunity popped up in Alice Springs. Manoukian admits it was an unusual location to start out.
"I was in Alice Springs for two years," he said.
"Not many jockeys so you get your full book every week. It's a good opportunity to get going and not a bad lifestyle.
"Alice has 34 meetings a year, so that's about 170 rides. It's enough to make a living.
After his stint in the red centre he moved to the Central Coast.
That's where he met apprentice master Malcolm Fitzgerald who pointed the now 31-year-old northward.
Manoukian spent the past three months in Coffs Harbour but quickly found he'd walked into a crowded house.
"Matty Bennett, Stephen Traecey and Jason Watkins all came back around the same time, so race rides were a bit hard to get over there.
"Malcolm suggested I give Grafton a go."