WIN GRIN: The larrikin smile of jockey Jasen Watkins is back at the track.
WIN GRIN: The larrikin smile of jockey Jasen Watkins is back at the track. Bruce Thomas/Trackside Photograp

Cups king is back

NORTHERN Rivers Racing's "cups king" Jasen Watkins has returned to the saddle.

The dual Coffs Harbour Gold Cup-winning jockey put three years of frustration behind him with a return to race riding on the weekend with two mounts at Grafton and while there was no fairytale comeback to the winner's circle, the relief was evident.

"I felt so fit I could have gone around all day," he said.

"Such a great thing to be back competing and having a laugh with the boys again and fantastic to have so many people wishing me well.

"Even that little retired champion Allan Robinson rang the night before to wish me luck and promised to turn up to see me ride and I thought he was kidding.

"But there he was cheering me when I came out for the first ride and that's the kind of special day it was."

One of the most popular racing people and talented riders the NRRA has produced no longer looks back on the dark times when injuries and the torture the jockeying profession wrought on his body forced him into unwanted "retirement."

Close friends knew his determination to make it back to the track and intentions became clearer in the days leading up to the Grafton meeting when Watkins began posting images of minute meals on his Facebook page.

Backing him all the way were partner Leah and their two little dogs, Jack Sparrow and Pearl, who have been constant training partners in the gym and while he slogged out endless miles of beach running and surfing as part of the fitness regime.

"For the past eight months all I've done is work on getting fit and it's meant a clear mind and body to do what I love.

"I'll ride at 57kg and if something comes along at 56 or even 55 I'll work to get down to that weight without causing distress."

Watkins will be stable rider for Sally Taylor and hasn't lost the desire to win a third Coffs Cup when the big one rolls around in August.

"Depends if I get a good ride but at the moment being back in the game is good enough."

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