Joshua Jones.
Joshua Jones. The Northern Star

Josh back in the saddle at Ballina

JOSHUA Jones survived his baptism of fire and an attack of nerves at Newcastle last Saturday and settles back down to the task of serious race riding at Ballina today.

Jones had two rides for Anthony Cummings last Saturday for a 10th on Equus and a last on Force And Effect.

However, Jones came through unscathed and stewards were satisfied with his efforts.

Today, Jones has seven rides on the nine-race program, including five for his master, Stephen Lee.

Jones resumed riding last Saturday after a three-month suspension following the fall at Grafton that cost Daniel Baker his life.

Jones is still on loan to Anthony Cummings at Randwick and is riding at Ballina to help Lee who has 15 runners engaged.

However it may be one of the last times we see Jones on a local track.

He has been offered a full-time position with Cummings but no decision has yet been made on whether he will take it.

"We have had some discussions about Josh coming to Sydney permanently and we will have more talks shortly," Cummings said.

"The offer is there if he wants to take it. He is a great kid. He has got through the worst of what happened at Grafton and I think he has a big future."

Allan Robinson, despite his persona as a lair, is one of Australia's most accomplished riders and a man with a heart of gold. On Saturday he took an obviously nervous Jones aside soon after the apprentice arrived at the track to talk to him and settle him down. He told him to keep his head down and his horse's straight.

"Josh was quiet and thoughtful but a lot of the jockeys talked to him and got him feeling okay," Robinson said.

"He will make it back.

"In fact, I think he will end up being the leading rider in NSW, that is how much talent he has."

Despite all that help, Jones suffered an attack of nerves as he arrived at the barrier on Equus, the first of his two rides, for the Rating 71 (1200m).

One of the barrier staff asked him how he was.

"I'm nervous, just get me in and get me going," Jones said.

Meanwhile, in a bygone era hardened punters were always wary of wagering their hard earned on apprentice jockeys.

The claiming kids, light on experience, were often considered a risky proposition.

However, when it comes to a band of highly talented North Coast youngsters dominating this season's country apprentice premiership, the old ethos has changed forever.

At Ballina today three of the State's top apprentices - Ben Looker, Jamie Quinnell and Michael Hellyer - have an attractive book of rides and are sure to be the focus of punter confidence.

Looker, 17, apprenticed to John Shelton at Grafton, Quinnell, 18, apprenticed to Brett Bellamy at Coffs Harbour and 20-year-old Hellyer, indentured to Col Parker at Stokers Siding near Murwillumbah, have made incredible progress over the past 12 months and rank one, three and four on the premiership table with 43, 36 and 28 wins respectively.

Dubbo's Kody Nestor splits the trio at number two with 40 wins.

Racing's L-platers receive a 4kg claim until they ride five winners, 3kg up to 20, 2kg up to 50 and 1.5kg until their 80th winner.

Looker is just four wins short of outriding his country claim. Hellyer, who rode only six winners last season, is down to 2kg and Quinnell, 1.5kg. And let's not forget Jones, who has out-ridden his claim.

Hellyer's master, Col Parker, jokingly describes Hellyer as 'the best horse I've got in my stable', such has been the Dapto youngster's impact since arriving via Kembla Grange and Port Macquarie.

Hellyer partners Kendrick Lad for his master in the Carlton Draught Cup (1310m), Parker suggesting the Murwillumbah Newmarket winner was headed towards the Beef Week Cup and Grafton carnival.

Quinnell's father, Phil, a former jockey and trainer for 20 years, said since the lad's move to Bellamy, his career has taken off.

Three of Quinnell's best rides for his master are Line Of Sky, Hayil And Pace and former John Hawkes-trained gelding, Pennants.

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