Party days are over
MATT Dracos has been waiting a long time to find his groove in racing.
The 32-year-old has had great success in metropolitan scene in Brisbane and has partied hard on the big prize money won at the Toowoomba and Gold Coast tracks.
But he has also seen the inside of a jail cell due to drug supply offences, has nursed a drug habit and was banned from racing for 12 months in July 2009 after testing positive to a banned drug.
The banned drug, buprenophine is an anti-depressant Dracos claims he took to help him sleep and to alleviate some of the pressure he was feeling about re-entering the race world after his time behind bars.
During the 12-month ban, Dracos worked at his cousin's fencing business in Cairns and did some other odd jobs.
“If there were as many tracks up there as there are down here, I'd definitely consider living there,” he said. “I'll retire there one day.”
But Dracos had to endure a total of 20 months off the track – the Thoroughbred Racing Board in Sydney granted him only a conditional track riding licence for several months, meaning he wasn't allowed to ride in races.
Dracos had to agree to random urine tests as part of the conditions of his licence.
“Any other jockey would have just done their 12 months and that would be it, but I guess they just don't like me,” he said.
“I've just got to play their game.”
Dracos did track work with Halfway Creek trainer Jack Gallagher for several months and helped prepare horses on race days.
“I was getting pretty itchy feet by the end of that I tell ya,” he said.
Dracos said he also found it frustrating at times as riding instructions were sometimes ignored by jockeys and horses were not ridden at their best.
The affable jockey's first professional ride back was at Wauchope in early April where he enjoyed a full book.
“I didn't do any good that day, I got a couple of thirds, but that's it,” he said.
Asked yesterday at Grafton whether he was enjoying being back in the saddle, the answer was quick and enthusiastic: “bloody oath I am,” he said.
Since then, Dracos has ridden four winners amid bouts of flu and injuries to both hands.
“I've been a bit unlucky, not getting the right horses,” he said.
Dracos, who is now living with his long-trusted friend and trainer Gallagher, said he had no plan of chasing the metro rides at this stage indicating he would stay in Grafton for the long haul.
“Things might change, but right now I'm taking things one step at a time.”