"Fly-ins" claim good wins
ROCKHAMPTON racegoers are indeed blessed in the modern era of TAB mid-week race meetings at Callaghan Park where some of Queensland's best jockeys ride.
Tagged as the "fly-ins" - the mainly Gold Coast and Brisbane-based jockeys have for over a decade now rode with a huge degree of success in Rockhampton.
In the mid to late 90s, the Gold Coast's Scott Galloway pioneered the trend of South-East Queensland jockeys flying to Rockhampton to ride at the TAB meetings either on a Tuesday or a Thursday.
With airfares relatively cheap and especially so when pre-booked some weeks ahead, for the "fly-ins" it is certainly economically viable.
These days the regular fly-ins who must be accruing unlimited Frequent Flier points includes the Gold Coast's Tony Pattillo; Dean Tanti; Chris Whiteley while Brisbane's Ryan Wiggins and Dale Missen also make regular appearances.
One young Brisbane-based jockey, with respect to the above concerned - the equally talented Michael Hellyer has now added his name to the "fly-ins" but on a conditional basis.
"I'd love to be riding regularly at Rockhampton mid-weeks but it just depends on the schedule. With so many race meetings in the South-East and with barrier trials and track work commitments it isn't always possible", Eagle Farm Hellyer explained at last Thursday's TAB meeting in Rocky.
Yeppoon trainer Allan Jenkinson would have become an instant fan of Hellyers after the young jockey, just weeks out of his time as an apprentice was seen at his best to win on Stansavanna in the Maiden Handicap (1100m).
Hellyer seemingly did the impossible on Stansavanna as the four year-old had not been able to win a race in his previous 21 starts although in all fairness he had registered seven placings.
A natural lightweight who goes to scale at 51kg, Hellyer, 24 is a "thinker in a race" as well as being very strong at the finish.
Another attribute in his favour is that he is a good communicator and an excellent judge of a horse's performance on a futuristic basis.
He completed his apprenticeship under Brisbane trainer Kelso Wood last November and admits the transformation into the ranks of so many gifted senior jockeys in Brisbane has been a little testing.
Certainly not so through lack of ability but more so by the time-honoured demon endured by so many of his talented predecessors in a similar transformation - the lack of competing without a claiming weight allowance.
"I'm determined to stamp my mark in Brisbane racing. I haven't been getting the quality rides of late but I am thankful of the loyal support some trainers and owners are giving me at present," Hellyer said.
Hellyer is also gracious of the marvellous support and tutorage he was given earlier in his career by top Brisbane trainer and master of apprentice jockeys in Pat Duff.
With a career tally of around 200 winners including a memorable Brisbane win on Zero Rock, the professionally minded Hellyer has every reason to look confident about the future.
That's because his established track record is indeed impressive,
During the 2009-10 racing year he won the apprentice jockey's premiership in Brisbane honoured by the coveted Ken Russel Award for the apprentice jockey of the year.
"That honour provided me with a ride for invited apprentice jockeys at an international race in Macau where I was fortunate enough to run second. It was great experience," Hellyer recalled.
With so much obvious talent on display through his connection with the horse when he is on their back, it is intriguing to learn that Michael Hellyer had never been on a horse's back until he was 16.
He entered racing as a by-product of another means of horsepower - the car.
"I was in this Wollongong car yard looking at buying my first car. There were racing photos on the wall of the showroom and when the owner had one look at me he thought I was a jockey."