Friend seeks familiar faces
COMEBACK jockey Wayne Friend looks around Coffs Harbour racecourse and notes how much has changed since he began his apprenticeship.
Today’s meeting celebrates the Bicentennial of Australian Racing and Friend will ride two horses for his first boss Peter Goodenough, one of the few familiar faces remaining at the track from fledgling days.
“Trainers Trevor Hardy and Brett Bellamy are still at the top, but there are so many new people here now compared to when I first retired in 1997,” he said.
Rival jockeys Steve Traecey and Raymond Spokes are still prominent but the likes of Barry Courtney, John Hutchings, Michael Flick, Wayne Burris and Gary Kliese are long retired and belong to another era.
When the urge to ride again tempted Friend back to the saddle, his only thoughts were of working in the stables and picking up extra dollars riding trackwork.
“I found my weight was good and the injuries that caused trouble and forced me into retirement the first time had all come good,” he revealed.
“During the time away I missed riding work and thought I might as well get a permit for barrier trials and after thinking about if some more, decided to go all the way and re-apply for a full jockey’s licence.
“You’ve got to pay the mortgage somehow so I’ve put the head down and got stuck in.
“It’s shown me how much I love the racing game after all.”
Friend will today ride Geronimo Jack and the aptly-named Sawty Panther for Goodenough.
“My uncles, the Deans, played for Sawtell, and Pete played for the Panthers once upon a time,” he laughed.
“I rode the horse in a barrier trial, and Wayne Wheatley was on him when he made his race debut, so it’ll be good to be on his back again.
“The Goodenoughs are a wonderful family and I’d love to see them finish up with a good horse.”
A dozen or so rides into his comeback and Friend is now ready to pick up the pace.
“It takes a while to find the rhythm but now I’m settled in and ready to go,” he said.