Lane does great­est work on grand stage

Mercury (Hobart) - - THE CUP - SCOTT GUL­LAN

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.”

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