Since Brock Ryan left Yamba to pursue a career as a jockey, he has made a big impact; he recently won the Kembla Grange apprentice jockey premiership in just six months.
The 22-year-old, who has only been riding for nine months, has garnered high praise from some of the country’s best know horse racing identities.
Darren Beadman said: “I haven’t seen an apprentice advance so quickly at such a short time.”
Jim Cassidy, who has mentored Ryan, said: “He has plenty of boxes to tick off yet. He’s very motivated, he’s a good listener and he’s patient.
“He can only keep asking for advice and keep wanting to improve and that’s what he’s shown me.”
Ryan rode his first winner at the Kembla Grange track in January and, by the end of the racing year, he was 14 points clear of his nearest rival.
Ryan is apprenticed to the NSW south coast’s leading trainer, Glenda Markwell, who has won the past 14 trainer premierships at the Kembla Grange track.
Markwell told the Illawarra Mercury: “I am very proud of him. He is a great guy and we never have any dramas or no problems with him.
“He really wants to do it and he has got natural ability which really helps.”
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the rising star, though.
racenet.com reported on July 5 that he was “grilled by stewards for his navigation aboard the John O’Shea-trained Badajoz in the Give Me 5 For Kids Charity Benchmark 70 Cup (1100m) at Wyong.
“NSW stewards’ strong stance on jockeys taking what they believe to be wrong options has continued with a talented apprentice [Ryan] referred back to the Riding Skills Panel for further training after being a tragedy beaten,” the Illawarra Mercury reported.
Ryan told the Independent that he “got sent back to school, and the racing board went through a couple of rides, actually; they just showed me what I should have and shouldn’t have done”.
“That helped me a lot, I won’t make those mistakes again,” he said.
“The premiership side of things is a massive thing to achieve in the first year of my apprenticeship; I’m just grateful for all of the opportunities that I’ve been given … particularly my boss Glenda Markwell … she’s taught me a lot along the way.
“And Scott Pollard has had a major influence on me; he’s pretty much taught me everything I know as a jockey. He’s out injured at the moment but he rides a lot of track work for Glenda, he’s a pretty good jockey around the provincial area and south coast.”
Pollard, who is a keen surfer like Ryan, was a late starter in the racing game, too. “He was like 27, when he started,” Ryan said.
“He was just a surfy boy from the south coast; I go surfing with him when we get the chance.”
But it is the response of Ryan’s family and friends that has provided extra motivation, many of whom have liked or made comment on his Facebook page.
“All of the support from family and friends up in Yamba and all of the new friends that I’ve made down here, it helps you along your way as well,” he said. “I thought everyone had forgotten about me.
“I just thought once I’d left Yamba everyone would just think I’d gone my own way and not really follow me; but everyone still wants to keep in contact with me and wish me good luck and all of that … it’s been good.”