Drinks With ...

Hugh Bow­man

Inside Sport - - CONTENTS -


GROW­ING UP on a prop­erty out­side Dune­doo in the NSW Cen­tral West, Hugh Bow­man has been rid­ing horses since he was two. Be­fore he was 14 he’d done just about ev­ery­thing on a horse, bar “back one out a chute” (what bush types call rodeo). Young Bow­man knew the horse. Old boys, ob­servers, noted his hands and his car­riage, his “feel” on horse­back. They told him and his par­ents that he was too good to be bomb­ing around pic­nic races – that he could make a good go of the jockey life. Bow­man liked the sound of it. A driven, goal-ori­ented lad, he was ap­pren­ticed at Bathurst, and rode a hun­dred win­ners. He headed to Ron Quin­ton’s sta­bles in Syd­ney, broke his arm early in the sea­son, and still rode 65 win­ners. Then they put him on Ex­ceed And Ex­cel, the bril­liant sprinter, the Dane­hill colt. And that an­i­mal won ev­ery­thing. And Bow­man was away, into the strato­sphere, one of the rac­ing game’s elite, up there with “names” like Bead­man, Cas­sidy and Oliver. And he’s still up there to­day, at 35, bat­tling away with 24-year-old punks James McDon­ald and Tommy Berry for the ti­tle of very best jockey in the land. He spoke to Matt Cleary.

Last year you ad­dressed the Syd­ney Roost­ers NRL club. Any­thing in the speech about stay­ing off the drink?

Iron­i­cally I was out with them the night [the Mitchell Pearce in­ci­dent] it hap­pened. Well, I wasn’t with them. I went out to din­ner with my wife, then went and had a beer with a cou­ple of mates. I got there and my mates were say­ing the Roost­ers boys were here. They’d been on the boat and they were good, well-be­haved. They were pissed but they were fine. They were get­ting self­ies with me. Ev­ery­one was get­ting self­ies with them. And I thought, "They’re just tar­gets." Any­one else out do­ing the same thing š and ev­ery­one else was š there’d be no prob­lem.

WS Cox Plate, Moonee Val­ley last year. You’re on Winx, the favourite, and with 300 to go you’re bomb­ing around the turn and smash­ing them, six lengths in front. When did you know you had it?

Once I got to the 200 I was pretty sure. It was an amaz­ing feel­ing. It’s an emo­tional race for me, the Cox Plate. I rode Lion Tamer in 2011; it was prob­a­bly my most chal­leng­ing time on a race course. He was fa­tally in­jured af­ter the race. I’d won the Derby on him the year be­fore. And Winx ... the Cox Plate was a bit of a query; it was a step up in class. But she had been so dom­i­nant in races lead­ing up to it. I thought she could win by five lengths or not fig­ure at all. One or the other. And it’s in­ter­est­ing that she went out and was so dom­i­nant.

The feel un­der­neath you must have been fan­tas­tic. If any­thing, she was go­ing away. It must be close to the big­gest buzz in your game ...

Ex­actly. When I went through and got on the cor­ner I was in top gear. I got on the right leg and I didn’t try to rush, I just

helped her round the

cor­ner and she was still at top gear when I bal­anced up in the straight. I swapped legs and she quick­ened again! And then to sus­tain a gal­lop, it’s very rare for a horse to sus­tain a sprint at any level.

Af­ter­wards you were head­ing back to the en­clo­sure and there were tears. Sur­pris­ing?

Ob­vi­ously I’m driven and want to do my best and I want suc­cess. I try to keep emo­tions on a level whether I’m do­ing well or things aren’t go­ing my way. It’s some­thing I strive for but it’s my na­ture as well. So yeah, it was a bit of sur­prise. I sup­pose it showed how much it meant to me.

Chris Waller trains Winx, along with so many other great an­i­mals. He al­ways de­flects praise but he’s got some­thing spe­cial. What

has he got?

He has an amaz­ing knack to put longevity into the an­i­mals. He doesn’t fo­cus a lot on his young horses, though he’s won some great races with two-year-olds, par­tic­u­larly in Bris­bane late in the sea­son. But it’s th­ese older horses that have been brought to him from over­seas, horses that have had an education, that he seems to be able to re­ju­ve­nate and take them to an­other level. He’s set the bar world­wide. There’s also his abil­ity to think out­side the mould. There’s his man­age­ment skills, the way he deals with staff, horses, own­ers. It’s ex­tra­or­di­nary. And with all th­ese dif­fer­ent qual­i­ties he’s able to get the best out of his horses.

Re­mem­ber your first meet­ing with Bart Cum­mings?

I do. It was hum­bling. I was cer­tainly starstruck. Bart, he had an amaz­ing way with peo­ple. He wouldn’t give much away. He usu­ally took time to say hello but it’d de­pend on what sort of mood he was in. But when he took the time he was cer­tainly worth lis­ten­ing to.

You’re 35 and a se­nior man now. On be­half of all the guys in your game, what’s some­thing you’d im­prove in rac­ing?

I think the cur­rent whip rule needs at­ten­tion. To me it lacks practicality of the high­est de­gree. And I think this ri­valry be­tween Syd­ney and Mel­bourne ... No one’s a big­ger fan of Mel­bourne rac­ing than me; I love it down there. But the pro­gram­ming could be bet­ter. But over­all I think rac­ing’s in a healthy po­si­tion. We’ve got the ben­e­fit of an ex­cel­lent breed­ing in­dus­try. That’s where Ja­pan also does very well, and Eng­land and Ire­land. They’ve been at it for cen­turies.

Rac­ing has had its is­sues with cobalt. As a jockey can you feel if a horse has been got at? Have you ever got off one and thought, ‘Wow, that ran a lot bet­ter than it ever has’?

Not re­ally, no. But then I’m not some­one who thinks like that.


Some peo­ple may. Pun­ters are very scep­ti­cal by na­ture. I never think like that ever. Ob­vi­ously when it all came out, you might think, I tried to get past a cer­tain horse and it just

wouldn’t stop. But I don’t think cobalt made bad horses good. It might’ve given them a bit of an ex­tra se­cond wind when the ding-dong go is on. But I would never think of it. The whole thing’s dis­ap­point­ing.

Damien Oliver was sus­pended for ten months for bet­ting on an­other horse in the same race. Did you agree with the length of that pun­ish­ment?

To be hon­est, that’s none of my busi­ness. He made a mis­take, ob­vi­ously, and was charged. But again, I’d rather not be wor­ry­ing about or think­ing about other peo­ple’s busi­ness. I’d rather just worry about my­self. And I think that’s one of my strengths. It’s very easy to be sucked in to wor­ry­ing what other peo­ple are do­ing. And you hear it all the time, why some­one’s go­ing so well. Soon as a trainer’s go­ing well, you hear it – “What’s he got? What’s he us­ing?” And I just don’t think like that be­cause ev­ery­one has their chance.

How were you as a kid, com­ing to Syd­ney, rid­ing at metropoli­tan race meet­ings?

I’d had a good ground­ing. I’d rid­den a hun­dred win­ners in the bush. I came to Syd­ney in June of 2002 and I fell off, broke my arm, had six weeks out. Early Au­gust and we’re head­ing into the Spring Car­ni­val and I was back rid­ing in pro­vin­cial meet­ings. And in five week­ends while all the top jocks were in Mel­bourne I rode three tre­bles and two dou­bles for city train­ers. And hung around and had 65 win­ners. It laid a plat­form.

Get­ting on Ex­ceed And Ex­cel was a turn­ing point in your ca­reer?

Ex­ceed And Ex­cel was the first re­ally good horse I rode. That sort of gave me an in­tro­duc­tion to Mel­bourne; it got me up to that level. It didn’t

keep me there.

It must’ve given you con­fi­dence that the con­nec­tions and trainer had the con­fi­dence to put you on it ...

That’s right. Though [owner] Nick Mo­raitis didn’t want me on the horse. But I kept win­ning on him so he couldn’t take me off! Ev­ery­one needs a chance.

You had five weeks' rid­ing in Ja­pan ei­ther side of last Christ­mas. How was that?

It was chal­leng­ing. And like all ex­pe­ri­ences, it was a good one. Main thing was weight. I was hav­ing to ride too light. To get rides, I had to do it. I was there on my own away from fam­ily. There’s no English spo­ken.

How’d you speak to own­ers and train­ers to get in­struc­tions?

It was lovely – I didn’t get in­struc­tions! They left it up to me. And in my feed­back I tried to be very sim­ple and ex­plain things in lay­man terms. Train­ers could un­der­stand English, they’d trav­elled a bit, so there wasn’t a lot lost in trans­la­tion. But it wasn’t easy, for me or them.

What’s the cul­ture of punt­ing in Ja­pan? They have TABs?

They go to the track. The gam­bling side of things is huge. In Aus­tralia it’s a cul­ture, like a bit of fun. I think the Ja­panese do it more as an in­ter­est. But the Chi­nese, they do it to make money.

How did you re­lax be­tween race meet­ings?

I had a lot of down time. The races are Satur­day and Sun­day. I rode work on Wed­nes­days and Thurs­days.

Rest of the time I had to my­self. Went to a cou­ple of wine bars. Saw some karaoke. I was with my trans­la­tor a lot, and a bit iso­lated. But what I en­joyed was go­ing out to din­ner. The food was amaz­ing. En­joyed the cul­ture. Found the Ja­panese peo­ple very wel­com­ing even though there was a lan­guage bar­rier. Ev­ery­one’s very pleas­ant. And quiet!

Peo­ple are quiet in Ja­pan?

Two things I no­ticed: how clean the taxi driver’s shoes were when I got off the plane. And how loud the flight home was. On the BA flight to the UK, I re­ally no­ticed the dif­fer­ent man­ner in us. I was there that long, it was in­ter­est­ing. I got back to Ire­land with the fam­ily and ev­ery­one’s nor­mal but I found it loud! Al­most im­pos­ing. I was only in Ja­pan six weeks ...

Reckon you could live there? Move the mob over?

I wouldn’t be­cause of the weight. But they wouldn’t let me any­way; they wouldn’t li­cense me. I can only go for three months a year. There are two ex­pats there full-time, both light-weight. You need to ride at 52 ki­los to get a li­cense, and speak flu­ent Ja­panese.

What about Ire­land?

I’d love to spend an ex­tended pe­riod there in the UK, and the rest of Europe. I rode in Ire­land for ten weeks when I met my wife, but that was more a work­ing hol­i­day. But when I went to the UK, that was more fair dinkum. And re­ally en­joyed it. I’d love to spend more time in Europe; it’s a goal of mine. But the re­al­ity is they race for no money. I’m sure if I spent time there I could find a good con­tract. But I don’t see the point of giv­ing up my po­si­tion here to get a con­tract there. From a busi­ness point of view it seems a step in the wrong di­rec­tion. But they’ve got the best horses, ex­clud­ing maybe Ja­pan. And I love the rac­ing. It’s the home of rac­ing and you can ride all over Europe, which in­spires me. But it’s very hard to leave here.

Do you like Guin­ness?

I drank Guin­ness. It’s good. But you couldn’t drink it all the time. When I go there I say I’m not go­ing to eat and drink much. But Chris­tine’s got fam­ily ev­ery­where and they’re all feed­ing you. And all I wanted to do was get into the pubs, get on the scoops. I came back one time and it took me two months to get back. Even this last time, two weeks, long enough. It’s the vol­ume of those pints. Drink five pints of wa­ter a night, you wouldn’t fit it in ...

I googled “James Hugh Bow­man” and came up with a list­ing at the Aus­tralian War Me­mo­rial, a pri­vate killed in the Se­cond World War in Malaya ...

That’s who I’m named af­ter: my great un­cle, my grand­fa­ther’s brother. He was an ath­lete. Grand­fa­ther was too. They were both first XV rugby play­ers, first VIII row­ers at board­ing school. They were big men – don’t know where I came from! And they were farm­ers. When they went back to the farm, they got called for duty. There were three of them: grand­fa­ther, his brother and his cousin. Two out of three had to go, one had to stay and look af­ter the prop­er­ties. They went down the river and drew straws. Two went and never came back. Grand­fa­ther stayed.

Wow. And here we are

And here we are ...

Mat Rogers radars-in on the sticks for the Sharks in 1997. Anewlease oflife­with the Perth Scorchers forHoggy. Thanksto part­ner Ch­eryl [ ].

Cox win­aboard­Winxin­lastyear's Š‹ŒŽ ‘’As­tun­ning

weigh­tand­fit­ness. Plate. ˜™š›™œWorkingonthat

1996Olympics,1500m. 1K.Perkins;2D.Kowal­ski.

Bow­man aboard Winx, with day­light se­cond in last year's Cox Plate.

„…† …‡ ˆ‰   …Š„ Tak­ing on the world in

Hong Kong.

starstruck." Meet­ingBart:"Iwascer­tainly Rogers on the prowl for the Ti­tans in 2010. His first game for the Tahs in

2002.   Caught dur­ing the 2003 Rugby World Cup fi­nal.

With the Bledis­loe in '02.

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