FROSTY THE SHOWMAN
Lane does greatest work on grand stage
JOCKEY Chris Symons had a suspicion he knew what was going to happen.
He was watching Flemington trainer Matthew Ellerton leg up his new apprentice Damian Lane onto a young horse renowned for its erratic ways. And, on cue, it dropped its head and suddenly the new kid in town was hanging on for dear life like a bull rider.
“Have a look at Lane Frost,” Symons said of the American professional rodeo champion who was killed in the bull ring at the age of 25. The movie 8 Seconds was made about his life.
“So it started as Lane Frost, then ... Frosty and the next minute that was his name.”
Many thought the nickname had something to do with Lane’s demeanour given his quiet understated manner.
The 25-year-old is the hottest jockey in the country right now. But it almost wasn’t to be.
From Bunbury, Lane’s first career winner was on the red dirt of Port Hedland. But, after arriving in Melbourne in 2011, he found the going tough, homesickness biting hard.
Mornington trainer Pat Carey had formed a relationship with the Sandgroper and had received a cry-for-help phone call.
“He felt like he was in the doldrums and said he was going to go home,” Carey recalled. “I said, if you go home you might waste the best opportunity you have ever had.”
He stayed and eventually other trainers started to use him, in particular Darren Weir, and the wins followed. His first Group 1 was on the Weir-trained Trust In A Gust in 2014.
Later, it was in the 2018 Victoria Oaks for the Ellerton/Simon Zahra team on Aristia.
Not long after, a more mature and confident Lane would make a career detour to Japan.
An insight into Lane’s psyche was the fact he took Japanese language lessons in the lead-up so he would be able to at least communicate at the most basic level with trainers and owners.
As Carey noted: “I think that was a pretty smart move and says something about his preparation.”
In his first month in Japan, Lane rode 19 winners from 71 rides, including a Group 1 winner.
But more importantly, he got to see firsthand the brilliance of the Japanese stayers and positioned himself to be on their backs when they came to Australia later in the year.
Lane’s 16th Group 1 victory came in the Caulfield Cup on Mer De Glace with No.17 coming a week later in the Cox Plate on Lys Gracieux.
Zahra was emotional in the Moonee Valley stands: “Whether it’s a maiden at Ballarat or a Group One Cox Plate, he is so cool under pressure.”