When Racing NSW increased the riding fee for the State’s jockeys two years ago, a new window of opportunity opened for those riders who are prepared to travel.
Several Sydney based jockeys are regulars at country meetings within four or five hours of home and invariably have a worthwhile number of rides. If two or more jockeys are going to the same meeting and are able to rendezvous conveniently they’ll often travel together.
I just happened to check Shaun Guymer’s racing results from Saturday June 22nd to Saturday June 29th. He had twenty six rides - Newcastle (Sat), Wagga (Sun), Hawkesbury (Tues), Moruya (Fri) and Newcastle (Sat). He was down for one ride at Kembla last Thursday but it was a scratching.
His efforts netted only one winner and four placings, but his riding fees justified the huge mileage travelled. Shaun’s manager Greg Burke has the job of coordinating his weekly schedule and does the job expertly.
Goulburn born Guymer learned the basics of riding racehorses from the vastly experienced trainer and former jockey Danny Williams. “I started off before and after school, progressed to school holidays and eventually to an indentureship”, recalled Shaun. “Danny started me off on the stable pony, but soon got me on the racehorses. He was a great tutor”.
Rex Cole was the trainer to supply Shaun’s first winner Penalty Shoot Out at Queanbeyan on 31/10/2009. Jarrod Austin was the trainer of his first city winner, Yonderstar, on the Kensington track in July 2011 - both unforgettable thrills.
Shaun had been riding for twelve months when the decision was made to transfer his papers to Canberra trainer Mark Schmetzer. “I enjoyed my time with Mark who gave me many opportunities”, said Shaun. “I was able to outride my country claim”.
Mark Schmetzer was anxious for his apprentice to gain experience in a Sydney stable resulting in a three month stint with former high profile jockey Kevin Moses. Then came a similar period of time with Joe Pride, both great learning curves.
Arrangements were later locked in for young Guymer to spend the remainder of his time in Melbourne with Peter Moody, in the immediate post Black Caviar era. “Peter is a great horseman and gave me a lot of help”, said Shaun. “He also provided me with a massive thrill by giving me two rides on a filly called River Delta in 2014”, recalled the jockey. “I won a 3YO Fillies race at Caulfield and finished third in another one on the same track”.
Not long after completing his apprenticeship, the young jockey moved back to NSW and based himself at Hawkesbury where champion trainer Tony McEvoy had established a training operation. “He invited me to join the team, which was a terrific experience”, said Shaun. “He put me on a few winners including a nice horse called Shiraz who won a race at Rosehill for me. Sadly the Sydney operation didn’t work as Tony had hoped. It closed almost as quickly as it started”.
Shaun’s wife Emma works full time for Randwick trainer John O’Shea who regularly utilises her husband’s services on the provincial tracks. One of Emma’s roles is to coordinate the syndication of horses purchased by Champion Thoroughbreds who have a close association with O’Shea.
Emma has a strong racing background. Her father Tim Walsh trained in his own right at Hawkesbury and later managed the famous Princes Farm for the late Bart Cummings.
Shaun had a retainer situation with Richard Freedman at Rosehill for quite some time. “I was riding work full time for Richard and we had a good run together, but my country commitments increased to the extent that I could no longer put in the same hours at the track”, said the jockey. “Latin Boy was probably my favourite horse at the time. I won four races on him”.
Richard has fond memories of his association with the young jockey. “When I first met Shaun he was battling to get rides at Hawkesbury”, recalled the in form trainer. “We had a chat about dedication and fitness, and then we teamed up. He came to Rosehill with me and went from strength to strength. He was eventually too busy on the country circuit to continue riding work. It’s a credit to him that he’s resurrected his career. I’m glad I could play a part in that”.
It’s unlikely Shaun will ever win a race under more spectacular circumstances than a BM 58 success at Nowra in January of this year. Social media went “feral” with photos and footage minutes after his mount Ahmad blundered right on the line, but had sufficient momentum to retain the race.
Shaun says it was better luck than management, but horsemen agree a rider of inferior balance would almost certainly have parted company with the gelding.
Shaun is pretty content with his current format. At just 26 he has 331 winners on his CV, and is comfortable riding at 54 kgs. He’s more than happy to continue with his country involvement, hoping to discover a city class horse from time to time.
Grant Buckley and Jeff Penza are two Sydney based jockeys who’ve made their marks on the country circuit for well over a decade. Grant is as busy as ever, while Jeff is still recovering from injuries sustained in a Queanbeyan race fall last October. Pleasingly his progress is such that he hopes to resume in around two months.
Shaun Guymer is a member of the generation to follow Penza and Buckley. He handles the tedium of travel and enjoys competing on country track surfaces which have caught up with their city counterparts. He’s extremely popular with the country trainers who use his services on a regular basis.
They like his work ethic, they like his pleasant manner, but most of all they like the way he rides their horses. Guymer set himself a goal of seventy winners this season and will reach that mark by season’s end. He’ll be hungry for more in 2019/2020.