Mickey secures race win number 2000
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.’’
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.