You’d think Travis Wolfgram would have been on cloud nine as he left Gosford racecourse last Saturday.
He’d reeled off a brilliant winning treble in the first four races for Team Snowden, all three having been saddled up by Peter Snowden himself.
When the stable accepted with only two runners at the Rosehill Gardens meeting, Peter decided to make one of his rare appearances at the Central Coast track.
Two of the trainer’s winners Oribella and Invincible Dash are raced by Triple Crown syndicates, which gave the Gosford crowd a significant boost.
Travis was obviously pleased to deliver the goods for such a high profile stable, but was more concerned about his ride on the Mark Newnham trained Antonio which ran second in a later race.
The jockey felt he may have erred in not surrendering the lead when hotly pressed by Obscene in the early stages. “It was only an 1100 metre race and Antonio had begun so fast it seemed a shame to waste that advantage”, said Wolfgram over the weekend.
As it turned out Obscene wasn’t the problem. The Waterhouse/Bott first starter Lancer swamped them both in the closing stages with a performance that points to a city win in the near future.
Travis Wolfgram isn’t one to rest on his laurels. “I’m desperate to make a go of it here in Sydney. Every ride is important to me and I want to learn and improve”, said the twenty four year old. “I often give myself a lecture driving home from race meetings”.
One person who’s obviously impressed with the young jockey’s attitude and work ethic is Peter Snowden. “His Queensland record indicated he had some ability and I kept an eye on him when he started riding work at Randwick”, said the champion trainer. “He’s a good talent and a pleasant young bloke to deal with. I’m very happy to use him when the opportunity arises, as it did at Gosford on Saturday”.
It would have come as a major shock had Travis Wolfgram not become involved in the racing industry. He’s one of three sons born to Phillip and Tracey Wolfgram who’ve spent all of their working lives around thoroughbreds. Travis had the right physique to become a jockey - brother Jesse was always going to be too heavy, while brother Ryan was always going to be too tall.
Phillip was one of Queensland’s most respected jockeys, riding hundreds of winners in a career spanning almost thirty years. His skills as an all-round horseman earned him the respect of a wide range of trainers including Peter Moody, one time Queensland foreman for Sydney trainer Bill Mitchell.
This association led Phillip to a brief association with the “best horse he ever sat on” - the brilliant, dual Group 1 winning sprinter General Nediym.
The compact colt was very quirky at the barriers early in his career, requiring the constant attention of a rider like Phillip Wolfgram who schooled him out of the gates in several trials.
Phillip rode General Nediym at his first two race starts for brilliant wins at Eagle Farm - by 7 lengths and 4 lengths respectively. He was quietly confident he would be retained in the Magic Millions 2YO Classic, but suffered the shattering disappointment of losing the winning ride to the all conquering Mick Dittman.
Phillip and Tracey followed Travis to Sydney in 2015 and actually landed jobs with the Godolphin machine during John O’Shea’s tenure as trainer.
Twelve months later, with Travis well settled in Sydney the Wolfgrams returned to Queensland. Phillip fully intended to continue riding, but all of that changed when he was involved in a dramatic trackwork incident at the Sunshine Coast.
He was dislodged heavily when struck in the face as a horse threw its head up, and on hitting the ground gave his head another hefty blow. “Dad has suffered from vertigo ever since. He’s had a million tests and they’re still not completely certain of the cause of his problem”, said Travis. “The improvement has been very slow and he has good days and bad days”.
Phillip manages his health issues well enough to keep a close eye on every move Travis makes in a race. “He watches all of my rides on Sky Racing, and we talk most days”, said the young Wolfgram. “I listen carefully to his comments and any criticism he has to offer”.
Roma born Tracey started her career with horses when she went to work as a polo groom for Bathurst trainer Deidre Stein in the 1980’s. Deidre also happened to train a string of thoroughbreds including the multiple Gr 1 winner Rising Prince. It wasn’t long before the 17 year old’s interest was ignited.
She rode 40 winners as an amateur jockey in the central west of NSW before returning to Toowoomba where she joined the professional ranks. Another forty winners followed before increasing weight terminated Tracey’s riding career.
She and Phillip established a training, breaking and pre training business at Cotswold Hills near Toowoomba and enjoyed some productive years. Tracey trained many winners in her own right, in addition to pre training for several leading Toowoomba horsemen.
Not surprisingly it was Mrs. Wolfgram who indentured her teenage son and provided him with his first race ride in 2012. In fact she gave him three rides on the dirt track at Gympie for three unplaced efforts.
Another dirt track awaited Travis when he jumped at the opportunity to ride a horse called Anchor Bolt in the Tara Cup - a horse whose career started in Sydney three years earlier when he won a Maiden 2YO at Warwick Farm for David Payne. He was now trained at Dalby by Gil Baker who’d heard good reports about young Wolfgram.
Travis recalls steady rain had made the Tara track very slushy, but that’s not his clearest memory of the day. “Coming around the hometurn I was just about to join the leaders when I spotted some unwelcome visitors on the track just up ahead”, recalled the jockey. “There was no outside fence and two kangaroos had wandered onto the track. Thankfully they were startled by the oncoming field of horses and got out of the way. That’s what happens in bush racing”.
Six months after Travis began his apprenticeship, Phillip and Tracey made the kind of decision only parents make. They decided to wind down their Toowoomba business and relocate to the Gold Coast with a small team of horses and a very enthusiastic apprentice jockey.
A couple of years later that move resulted in the promising rider winning both the apprentices and jockeys premierships on the Gold Coast against some pretty strong opposition.
By now Travis was getting frequent offers to ride in Brisbane. He opened his city account with an Eagle Farm win on the Jeff Caught trained Tax Evader in April 2013. “Liam Birchley was the trainer to give me enormous support in town”, said Wolfgram. “Indirectly he was responsible for my move to Sydney in 2015”.
Travis rode the Birchley trained Rock Royalty very skilfully to win a Class 6 at Doomben from the extreme outside gate. “You could have knocked me over with a feather later that night when I got a phone call from a member of the Gai Waterhouse team”, recalled Travis. “They offered me the opportunity to join the stable on loan for a few months. A quick chat with Mum and Dad and I was on my way to Sydney”.
Things didn’t work out quite as well as Travis had hoped. “Rides weren’t as frequent as I’d expected, but there were jockeys everywhere around the Waterhouse/Bott operation. I was a little fish in a very big ocean”, recalled the jockey.
Just as the young Queenslander was about to book a one way ticket back to the Gold Coast, along came Ron Quinton. “He offered me the chance to extend my stay by a few months with an assurance that he’d put me on whenever possible”, said Travis. “Remember Sam Clipperton was just out of his time and absolutely flying at the time”.
True to his word Ron gave young Wolfgram a good number of rides including one very special winner. “ I’m not too proud to tell you that I’ve ridden only one Sydney metropolitan Saturday winner and that was Boss Lane for Ron Quinton”, explained Travis. “I’ll always be grateful to him for that opportunity”.
The heir apparent to master tutor Theo Green, speaks well of Travis Wolfgram. “He probably took a little while to get used to the grind of being a professional jockey in Sydney, but he seems very settled now”, said Quinton. “The Sydney arena has never been stronger and only the most dedicated young riders will make it here. Travis has enough natural talent to take him a long way”.
The Queenslander is one of several young Sydney based jockeys who earn the bulk of their livelihoods on the provincial and country tracks. “I try to concentrate on meetings inside the five hour driving range of Sydney”, he explained.
Despite his tough travelling schedule, Travis makes a point of getting to trackwork two mornings a week. “I’m at Randwick on Thursday mornings where I do a few for Peter Snowden and Anthony Cummings who are great supporters”, he said. “On Tuesday mornings I’m at Rosehill where I ride work principally for Gerald Ryan and David Payne”.
Interesting to note that the jockey’s partner Courtney Van Der Werf rides trackwork six days a week for Team Hawkes at Rosehill. Courtney retired from race riding just a few months ago, following a short but successful 130 win career.
Wolfgram’s long association with Gerald Ryan led him to a couple of rides on the best horse he’s ever been involved with. He rode the classy Trapeze Artist to win a 2YO Maiden at Newcastle on Feb 4th 2017, the first of seven wins for the son of Snitzel which included four Gr 1’s. Travis got to ride him one more time for a respectable fourth at Randwick eleven days later.
It hasn’t been all plain sailing for the likeable jockey. He suffered a complicated collar bone break when a horse he was working for Damian Lane fractured a shoulder and fell in a Wyong track gallop.
A long plate was inserted to support two fractures in the clavicle. He recovered quickly and was back riding sooner than expected, but wasn’t out of the woods yet.
He discovered that in using the whip, the plate was ‘snagging’ the shoulder blade causing him great discomfort. His surgeon quickly removed the plate and Travis has experienced no trouble since.
With 300 winners under the belt he’s well on the way to a successful career as a professional jockey. As Ron Quinton says he’s always had the talent. He doesn’t mind a bit of hard work and he has the added bonus of very wise counsel from that former outstanding jockey who watches his every move from the Gold Coast.
Tracey Wolfgram recently applied for a renewal of her trainer’s licence. She’s pretty excited about a rising two year old filly she has in her care by Your Song out of Tracey’s Angel - a mare she trained to win six races a few years ago including a couple at Doomben.
The filly will race as Ave Maria. To win a race or two in Brisbane would be thrill enough. Tracey can only dream she’ll be good enough to warrant an opportunity in Sydney. Either way you can bet T.Wolfgram will be putting his hand up for the ride.
(Banner image courtesy Bradley Photographers - Trapeze Artist won 7 races including four Group 1's. This was his first win Newcastle 04/02/2017, Jockey was Travis Wolfgram.)