Mickey se­cures race win num­ber 2000

Matamata Chronicle - - Mo­tor­ing - DEN­NIS RYAN

Michael Cole­man turned up to last Wed­nes­day’s Mata­mata race meet­ing need­ing just one more win to be­come the sev­enth jockey to ride 2,000 win­ners in New Zealand.

The catch was that he had just two rides to com­plete a dream out­come on his home track, but he made no bones about it. Rid­ing one of the lead­ing prospects, Au­gust Edition, in the sec­ond race on the card, he positioned the South Auck­land mare just be­hind the leader, took over on the home turn and was never headed as he crossed the fin­ish line with half a length to spare.

Re­turn­ing to the bird­cage as the cheesy tune ‘‘Oh Mickey You’re So Fine’’ rang out over the course speak­ers, the man known as The King was the toast of the town.

There to greet him were his par­ents Peter and Pauline, son Liam and three ear­lier in­ductees to the 2,000 club, re­tired jock­eys Lance O’Sul­li­van and Noel Harris and South Is­lan­der Chris Johnson on a rare visit to Mata­mata in quest of his sec­ond jock­eys’ pre­mier­ship.

An­other at­tendee was the man who made it all hap­pen for Michael, for­mer master trainer and ap­pren­tice men­tor Jim Gibbs.

He had the hon­our of pre­sent­ing his prote´ge´ with a tro­phy to mark the oc­ca­sion and re­flect on the lad who be­gan work each morn­ing while still at­tend­ing Mata­mata Col­lege, rid­ing his bike from his father’s work­place at Bland­ford Lodge to the Gibbs sta­bles in Banks Road.

‘‘I knew then that Michael had what it took to make it as a jockey,’’ said Jim.

‘‘Within 18 months he was rid­ing in Group One races for me here and in Aus­tralia, that’s how highly I rated him, and he has gone on to be one of our very best and most pro­fes­sional jock­eys.’’

Michael won two ap­pren­tice cham­pi­onships in those early days, and al­though he has never been able to crack a na­tional pre­mier­ship, he has had two sec­ond plac­ings along with three thirds. He had to put his ca­reer on hold in his early 20s when he con­tracted the de­bil­i­tat­ing lower bowel con­di­tion ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, which has con­tin­ued to man­age in the years since.

Now aged 47, his 2,000 wins in­clude 37 Group Ones and an as­so­ci­a­tion with some of the coun­try’s best gal­lop­ers, amongst them two Horse of the Year ti­tle­hold­ers, the Gibbs-trained Ti­dal Light and Bal­ly­more’s ex­cep­tional gal­loper Xcel­lent.

‘‘It couldn’t have been scripted any bet­ter,’’ Michael said when re­flect­ing on his land­mark win. To do it on my home track and with so many peo­ple who have helped me get there, that was spe­cial.’’

SUP­PLIED

Michael Cole­man is joined by fel­low 2,000 win club mem­bers Chris Johnson, Noel Harris and Lance O’Sul­li­van fol­low­ing his land­mark achieve­ment at Mata­mata last Wed­nes­day.

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