NRRA’s 2009 LEADING JOCKEY AWARD WINNER: Marlon Dolendo (aboard last month’s Lismore Cup winner Hecentadove).
NRRA’s 2009 LEADING JOCKEY AWARD WINNER: Marlon Dolendo (aboard last month’s Lismore Cup winner Hecentadove). DAVID NIELSEN

Track’s winners one and all

LISMORE Cup-winning jockey Marlon Dolendo grew up riding water buffalo in the Philippines but had never seen or heard of horse racing before he arrived in Australia as a 14-year-old.

He’s since made a fair career out it and on Sunday won the Northern Rivers Racing Association’s (NRRA) leading jockey award.

Like he always does, the Port Macquarie-based hoop accepted the award with good humour.

“Hopefully, I can do it again,” Dolendo said.

He was supposed to be riding in Taree yesterday but the meeting was washed out so Dolendo was planning to do what he always does when he’s not racing.

“Normally, I go fishing when I don’t race,” he said.

And he’ll be back in Ballina on Saturday for the Evans Head cup race meeting.

But it all seems a long time ago when Dolendo was first introduced to racing by a girl at his school.

“She had two brothers who were both jockeys and until then I didn’t know anything about horse racing,” he said.

“But that’s how I started because I thought ‘I can do that’.”

The NRRA awards were presented at the Ballina Jockey Club on Sunday with the Grafton-trained Forestreno named ‘horse of the year’

Rather than a straight award based on the most prize money or wins, each NRRA member club –
Ballina, Casino, Clarence River, Coffs Harbour, Lismore, Nambucca, Tabulam and Tweed River – had
to vote for the horse that was judged to be the ‘greatest ambassador’.

Forestreno polled five out of a possible eight votes to beat the other contenders which included
Takeover Target, One Lickety Split and the Ballina-based Multire Music and Shuffle the Cash.

Former Ballina Jockey Club chairman Bill Lofts was granted life membership along with Ballina trainer Bill Pholi.

Asked how the award made him feel, Pholi said: “Old and buggered.

“It came as quite a surprise and it’s a nice little achievement.”

Pholi was once dubbed as the ‘Northern Rivers raider’ because of the number of winners he chalked up in Queensland.

“We’ve had a lot of success in Queensland over the years and we had a lot of good luck with the two-year-olds,” he said. “We had 52 (horses) in work at one stage and won eight or nine trainers’ premierships.”

Other NRRA awards went to the leading trainer Brett Bellamy and leading apprentice Josh Jones.

The Dale Thompson Award, for service to the industry, went to Barry and Margaret Walker of Beam Video, while the Gary Kliese award was given to Kevin Tonks and Alan Watkins.

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