Lloyd leaving a lasting legacy
WHILE most jockeys at his age have long since climbed out of the saddle, evergreen South African Jeff Lloyd just keeps finding ways to reinvent himself.
The truly international hoop started his career more than four decades ago in South Africa, and has since ridden winners in England, Hong Kong, Singapore and Australia.
More than 5000 of them and still counting. But there are few he remembers above the others.
One of those was on heavy six-year-old gelding Art Success when it shocked the industry to claim the 2008 Grafton Cup.
It was an international moment, Lloyd a South African riding for the first time at the Clarence River Jockey Club, and Art Success trained by New Zealand's John Collins, who was having his first start at Grafton as well.
"I remember that day well, it was my first year in Australia and I didn't know anything about the Grafton Cup," Lloyd told On Track.
"My manager just told me it was a big carnival out in the bush. At that time I took whatever rides he suggested.
"I had no idea what to expect. When you are new to a country I guess you just take everything as it comes.
"I remember the crowd was raucous near the finish line. It was a great moment. I think I rode a winner for Jenny Graham on the same day."
It would prove to be one of the first doubles Lloyd rode on an Australian track but far from the last.
It was a bit of a breakthrough success for the South African, who had hit a form slump during the Winter months, and was facing pressure from a racing-hungry media he had never experienced.
Lloyd had hit the turf running when he first moved to Australia at the start of 2008, landing the biggest win of his career, the Group 1 ATC Australian Derby on Nom De Jeu.
However with big wins, come big expectations and the spotlight of the Australian racing media soon blistered the struggling hoop.
"There just wasn't that pressure when you're in South Africa, you would be lucky to get a column in the paper," Lloyd said.
"Over here it is much different. People want to read racing content, and the pressure from the punters can be tough for new riders."
His return to the winner's ranks at Grafton that July was the springboard Lloyd needed to refind top form in time for a tilt at the Sydney Spring Carnival.
It was form that would never quite leave the aging jockey.
Lloyd took that form abroad on another international assignment to Hong Kong, where he thrived under the high pressure. It was his second time in Hong Kong, and he was not going to let the opportunity pass him by again.
When he returned to Australia in 2011, Lloyd relocated to the Gold Coast, as he chased the climate closest to his native Durban.
While he made a habit of returning to the Grafton Carnival in the following years, success would rarely follow, until he struck employment with Patinack Farm, the former breeding business of billionaire Nathan Tinkler.
As the retained rider for the business, Lloyd was tasked with piloting short-odds chance Shamardashing in the 2012 edition of the July Carnival.
While a helping of rainfall certainly upped the gelding's chances, it was a supreme ride from Lloyd that helped the John Thompson-trained mudlark power away from stablemate Saint Encosta.
It was the second time Lloyd had claimed the Cup at the Clarence River Jockey Club, and he said both moments of glory held special places in his career.
The year following his last Grafton Cup win, Lloyd's life would be turned upside down when he was felled by a stroke.
Doctors thought Lloyd had severed an artery to his brain due to the whiplash effect when he fell from a horse in trackwork in 2013. At 52 years old, he was told he would never ride again.
For the average rider, that would be the end of a career. But Lloyd have proven he was not yourt average rider.
"Fourteen months, I was out of the saddle," he said. "When you're 52 years old and you have a major stroke no one would expect you to be riding races again. But I still felt I had more to give."
The break from the racing rejuvenated the aging jockey. It gave him time to reflect on a career well-worked. But also made him realise what was in front of him.
Since returning to the saddle, Lloyd has won the Queensland Jockey's Premiership three years in a row and last year smashed the Brisbane metropolitan winner's record with 137. More than 30 more than the previous record.
But according to Lloyd, there is no real secret to his against-the-odds success.
"I am just trying to keep focussed on everything, I do my own rides now so I study a lot of form and I find the right horses for me," he said.
"I think you always need to remember what got you where you are, and keep working on that, it is always going to take extra efforts.
"There is no secret to the success. It is just hard work, and trying to find the right stables to work with."
In the past few years Lloyd has taken up a permanent residency with the Toby Edmonds stable on the Gold Coast riding work and most race rides for the experienced trainer.
The pair tasted their biggest success in 2017, when young upstart Houtzen stormed to victory in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic.
Lloyd heaped the praise on his close friend, and said the partnership between the pair was as much a factor in his recent season successes, as his own riding skills.
While he is still finding the winning post on a regular basis - he has passed the century mark this season - Lloyd said has entertained the idea of pulling up stumps on his racing career at the end of this season.
With two teenage sons, Jaden and Zac, both trying to find their way into the racing industry, Lloyd will likely pull back from his own career to help them kickstart theirs.
But it is not a concrete decision yet for the jockey, with the love of racing keeping him firmly on track.
"I think if I knew what I wanted to do I would have done it years ago," he said.
"It could be the end of the season, it could be the end of the year, it all depends on what horses I am on and what I want to still work with. I do know it is definitely coming near the end.
"I just think you have to try and be realistic, I am 57, and I have been the leading rider in Queensland for three years. It is also a long way to the bottom.
"When you're are so high, there is only one way to go and I would hate to have pushed it this far only to fall away. I would love to leave on a high."
If he does decide to call it quits at the end of the season, it will be a fitting finale with one of his last assignments at the Clarence River Jockey Club's Winter show piece.
While he could not yet confirm if he had any runners lined up for July, Lloyd admitted he was looking forward to getting an opportunity to come back, maybe for the last time.
"We will just have to wait and see what comes up," he said. "It is hard to aim at a particular race from a long distance out, but if the runners are there then so am I."