Joshua Jones back in the saddle
ONE of Australia’s most anticipated apprentice jockeys climbs back into the saddle at the Lismore Turf Club’s Christmas meeting on Friday.
Former Ballina-based Joshua Jones has five guaranteed rides on the eight-race card, with at least two more pending, just five days after his jockey licence was reissued late on Friday.
The 18-year-old stable apprentice to noted Grafton trainer John Shelton has been sitting on the stable gates since August, riding only track work while battling massive weight problems, the consequences of using diuretics, and a troubled riding record dating back three years.
Jones’s constant bout of trouble with race stewards includes a shattering inquiry into a tragic fall that killed fellow jockey Daniel Baker in Grafton in 2007, a string of suspensions and a rift with Ballina trainer Stephen Lee that terminated their association in the third year of his apprenticeship.
His weight skyrocketed to 66kg just weeks ago, prompting the confirmation of rumours the jockey with one of the brightest futures in racing was about to call it quits on his promising career.
Jones got to the stage of telling his family the battle to keep his weight down through constant wasting was proving ‘too much’.
But his gutsy fight, an enduring friendship with John Gorman at Shelton’s stable and the switch of Shelton’s fellow stable apprentice Ben Looker to Gai Waterhouse’s Sydney stable has reignited his career path and he’s determined to go on with the job after shedding 10kg.
“It hasn’t been easy, and it’s not going to get any easier,” Jones said yesterday.
“There has been a lot of people helping out, particularly John (Gorman) who has given up hours every day to go walking, jogging and playing squash to help me out.
“I couldn’t have done it without him and I’m determined not to let anyone down.
“I admit I’ve been going pretty hard for three years, but everything is out of the system now and I’m not about to blow it.”
Jones said although he was sorry to see Looker heading to Sydney, it was the turning point in getting his head back on the job.
“John (Shelton) wasn’t going to let him go without having a stable apprentice and it was make or break time,” Jones said. “With his help I applied for the reinstatement of the licence I voluntarily surrendered after serving the month-long suspension for using diuretics.”
Fortunately, the application was successful and word has spread quickly in Jones’ new Grafton surrounds, with four local trainers quick to give him mounts.
Jones is confident he can take up from where he left off before his last suspension – he was sitting on three successive winners: two at Murwillumbah and one on the Gold Coast.