Watkins is on the mend
TOP jockey Jasen Watkins has a nasty reminder why it's not a good idea to get tangled up in the barrier stalls when thrown by your mount.
A long scar across the chest from his right shoulder is legacy of the operation that became necessary after being dumped by Ace Arena at Kempsey's Warwick Park racecourse on February 2.
After becoming unsettled while the field was being loaded, the horse dislodged Watkins when the gates crashed back causing him to hit the ground awkwardly and suffer major damage to his shoulder.
Kept in hospital overnight for observation, the diagnosis called for corrective surgery that originally threatened to keep the Coffs Harbour-based rider out of the saddle for up to six months.
“At first it didn't hurt and I only found out later how bad it was,” he said.
“But since having the surgery it's improved pretty quickly and I can now get my arm back above the shoulder.
“They first said six months but I don't know ... if the healing continues I hope to be back for the start of the carnivals.”
If all goes to plan, that means a return to track work around mid-June to get fit in time for the Northern Rivers Cups season.
In the last three years, Watkins has made a habit of winning feature races, including dual wins in the Taree and Coffs Harbour Gold Cups, thanks to an association with 'people's champion' Mr Gold Fire and flashy chestnut Belmonte.
But the break couldn't have come at a worse time, financially.
At the time of the accident, the riding fees in New South Wales had just been lifted and with Watkins' services in demand, that's a lot of $150 bank deposits he's missing out on.
“Mate, tell me about it, what a time to fall on your arse,” he laughed.
“At least I can go out on compo but you soon get sick of that.
“I love the water but I'd much rather be sitting on a horse instead of sitting down at the beach all day, having a ciggie and looking at the waves.”
And it seems Watkins isn't the only Northern Rivers postilion going through the horrors at present with controversial apprentice Josh Jones also hitting bumps in the roads.
Feeling unsettled in the Stephen Lee camp, Jones has switched indentures to trainer Sue Birney at a time when the tall 19-year-old is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain a reasonable riding weight.
From a 15-win lead in both premierships at the half way point of the 2008-09 season, Jones has seen his margin whittled away to a handful of wins in the senior title and is almost certain to be swamped for the junior championship by latest boom apprentice, Adam Hyeronimus.
Meanwhile, with four months of the season remaining the trainer's list has developed into a five-way dog fight for supremacy.
Titleholder Brett Bellamy has surrendered his lead by one win to Grafton-based John Shelton but three other trainers remain in contention and just five victories separate the front-runners.