SEA CHANGE: Looker on target for the century
RACING: A change is as good as a rest.
It's a common phrase bandied about but, for Grafton jockey Ben Looker, it is almost the gospel.
Eight months ago Looker and his partner, Sky Racing's Priscilla Schmidt, made the move from Grafton to a property on the outskirts of Port Macquarie. That move brought him much success.
Looker has ridden winner after winner across NSW and over the border, and is on track to crack the century of winners in a season for the first time with 71 already on the board.
"I got the closest I ever have last year with 97," he said.
"I have been determined to get there these past few seasons, and I am on track this year but I am not putting too much focus on it.
"I just want to keep the luck coming my way, and keep the momentum going."
But to keep pushing for the winner's circle has seen the 27-year-old jockey put in more than a few miles in the car.
In the last week alone, Looker has travelled to Moree on Thursday, Taree on Friday, Lismore on Saturday, Scone on Sunday, Armidale yesterday and into Grafton today.
It is thousands of kilometres and hours of travel, but it is the life of a winning jockey.
For Looker, he just thanks the heavens he has an understanding partner back at home.
"Priscilla is incredible to me. She is in racing so she knows what I have to go through, but she does everything back at the farm," Looker said.
"Just the fact that I get home late at night, but I know there will be a clean pair of silks and clothes for the next day is massive.
"There is no way I could do this without her support."
Looker said the main reason for his success was the faith shown in him by trainers and owners across the region.
Topping that list is Port Macquarie trainer Jenny Graham, who ensured that Looker took the reins on Country Championships Qualifier Victorem in all of his five starts.
But the faith shown in the jockey will be returned two-fold as he has already decided to ride the enigmatic three-year-old in the $500,000 Country Championships Final at Randwick, despite also qualifying Ferniehirst for Coffs Harbour trainer Paul Smith.
Looker is one of only two jockeys, along with leading provincial hoop Mitchell Bell, to ride two horses into qualification for the rich final.
But he is confidently sticking to his guns on Victorem.
"He has been a fantastic horse, and it has been amazing that Jenny and the owners have trusted me to ride him on every start," he said.
"He has improved with every start, and he will go into the final as a live chance. It is going to be a very strong race and there is plenty to like about it."
But before he can get to Royal Randwick on April 7, Looker will be aiming for a slice of glory on his home track at Grafton today with a full book of race rides.
His best chance will come in the shape of John Shelton-trained livewire Invincible Tammy in the opening maiden.
In her first start since October last year, the filly has been blessed with a good draw out of the four barrier and will carry no weight over the 1006 metres.
"It is always good to get back and ride for the old boss in Johnny," Looker said. "She looked really good in her last preparations, and John said she has only improved and really strengthened up since."