Looker makes mark in city
HAVING already outridden many battle-hardened rivals, former Grafton apprentice jockey Ben Looker has proven he will not be intimidated by Sydney’s bare-knuckled racing circuit.
With two wins from five starts on the testing Randwick track, Looker has justified leading trainer Gai Waterhouse’s decision to headhunt the 19-year-old to join her stable.
His triumph aboard Power And Glory in the Zephyr Bay Handicap (1200m) released the pressure that comes with riding for the stable of racing’s first lady.
“It was very good. There’s a lot of pressure off me now that I have had that first win,” he told The Daily Examiner from Sydney.
“The racing is not much different, but Grafton was more laid-back. Sydney is more intense. Like anything it takes time to adjust.
“I just put my head down and bum up,” he said.
Second-place finishes on Kontiki Park in Wednesday’s 1800m Clovelly Handicap and on Katiet in yesterday’s Pacific Labels Maiden Handicap has Looker primed for a big day in Newcastle tomorrow.
He rates his ride on Curraghmore in the Nick Swayer On-Site Test & Tag three-year-old Maiden Handicap (1850m) as his best bet for another victory. Break Of Dawn (Race 3) and Once Were Wild (Race 4) are his other Waterhouse rides. He also has rides tomorrow for Charlie Porter on Eyes For You (Race 5) and David Payne on Chitu Ma (Race 6). Not that there will be too much celebrating even if he is first past the post.
“It was very quiet (after the first win). I went home and went to bed early,” the former John Shelton rider said.
“You have got to work pretty hard in that (Waterhouse) camp.”
Looker admits a return to Grafton’s circuit is a possibility in the long term, but for now he is happy to continue his 3am starts in the Waterhouse yard. The financial incentives – Looker’s money goes into a trust fund he can’t touch, which is ‘probably a good thing’ – are also an added bonus.
“I can see myself staying here until I finish my apprenticeship, but I am a country boy and I would love to come back to Grafton and be number one there,” he said.
“But the money is better down here. And not a lot of people are asked to join the Waterhouse stable.”