Mitch Fenton– www.weekendking.com.au
Gold Coast’s premier jockey Chris Whiteley’s terrific 2014/2015 racing season went to another level yesterday at Grafton, winning the time-honoured $152,000 Ramornie Handicap aboard the Liam Birchley trained Rock Royalty.
The win was Whiteley’s 4th career stakes win, and 2nd for the season and it was a gem of a ride – that is at least in the eye’s of Rock Royalty’s backers and connections – after Whiteley who had drawn gate 15 of 16 was able to give the 6-year-old son of Elusive City the run of the race, crossing down from the horror gate to sit just off leader Rocket To Glory in what was a hot tempo. Whiteley got the horse to settle perfectly in a lovely trailing position and nursed it right up around the turn perfectly, before hitting the go button at the furlong pole, and sending Rock Royalty home for a convincing win.
It looked a ‘ peach ‘, a ‘ 10 outta 10 ‘…. but Racing NSW deputy chief steward Greg Rudolph who was officiating at the meeting made the huge (& in my opinion totally outlandish) declaration that Whiteley had caused “the worst interference ever seen”, when crossing the field from the outside draw.
“Golden Slipper’s are cleaner than this” Rudolph reprimanded Whiteley.
Whiteley was flabbergasted by the statement. Labelling it as “bullshit”!
“If you watch the race you barely can see the interference. Jockeys Colless and Schoefield said they were hampered, but never lost any ground.”
“It was (Stephen) Traecey who checked, but in my opinion it wasn’t drastic” Whiteley said.
“I put my hands up and just surrendered when Mr. Rudolph wanted to carry on, but I told him what I thought of his opinion”.
Whiteley instructed me, “Watch the replay. You will have to watch it a few times before you see any action unfold”. I did so, and couldn’t disagree one bit with the statement, with any interference clearly looking to be minor.
(ROCK ROYALTY RACES IN MAROON SILKS WITH THE WHITE CAP)
Whiteley was swiftly warned not to address stewards in such a manner and was told his behavior could warrant further charges.
Whiteley later apologised to Rudolph before being charged with careless riding and was suspended for nine meetings, to add to a $2000 fine.
It couldn’t do much to dampen Whiteley’s joy after the big country feature race win though, adding to what has been one of the esteemed provincial jockey’s best racing season’s in a 25+ year riding career.
Last December Whiteley scored his first Group race win ever, winning the Group 3 BJ McLachlan Stakes on Less Ross’ two year old Mishani Honcho. He also partnered the horse in Sydney during “The Championships” when it ran in the Group 1 Sire’s Produce Stakes at Royal Randwick and he admitted not only did it give him “exposure” on a larger scale but it gave his confidence “a huge boost”.
Whiteley is also an odds-on favorite to take out his 4th Gold Coast Jockey’s premiership, “It wasn’t a target at the start of the year but I’ll give it a crack, it’d certainly be nice to win another one if I do”.
Jockey’s Premierships and Group winners were a mile far-afield when Whiteley won his first ever race aboard Snobbery at Bathurst on the 23rd March 1991, but the now married, father of two has come along way on and off the track since then.
When asked to nominate a career highlight & the best horse he’s ridden, the decision on both counts was an easy one.
“Amex is the best I’ve ridden & the day he won the Magic Millions Cup, was just a great day, a clear career highlight”.
At 41, Whiteley still has plenty of good rides left in the kit bag in the years to come and it’s great to finally see a very much ‘under-rated’ hoop starting to get better and better riding opportunities, as he can match it with the best of them on his day.