Perfect start a fitting reward for Malaysian's determination Tue, 26 Jun 2012
The long road to becoming a successful jockey finally had its reward at Rotorua yesterday for Malaysian-born apprentice Thava Barnabas.
In his very first raceday ride, the 25-year-old scored a runaway win on The Muffin Man in the NZI 1950, convincing him that the years of preliminary training to achieve his goal had been worth the effort.
Barnabas, who is apprenticed to Matamata trainer Andrew Scott, left his homeland as a 17-year-old to study at Doncaster College in the north of England and then spent two years with Yorkshire trainer Mark Johnston. After returning home for the first six months of his apprenticeship in Singapore, he travelled to South Africa and spent two years in the Durban apprentice jockey academy.
On his return to Singapore a shoulder injury interrupted his career, and once that repaired the decision was made to head to New Zealand for a position at Wexford Stables. Twelve months and more than 30 trial rides later, he received his race-riding clearance last week and was quick to snap up the offer from Matamata owner-trainer Paul Marks to ride The Muffin Man.
Rotorua had also been the venue for one of The Muffin Man’s previous four wins and in yesterday’s Rating 75 Benchmark event he again showed his liking for the Arawa Park course. After trailing in the early stages he made a forward move starting the final turn and after looming up to challenge at the top of the straight, he cleared out to score by five lengths.
“Andrew (Scott) took me for a walk around the track when we got to the races yesterday and we talked about where I should be in the field,” Barnabas explained between rides at the Matamata track this morning.
“My horse jumped well and I kept him in a good position away from the inside because the ground by the rail was very heavy. I pushed him forward when I thought it was time to go and when we came into the straight I kept pushing him and there were only two horses to pass, then there was one and then I was in front!
“I did not know it was going to be so easy and I was very happy – my first winner! My family at home were able to watch the race and when I spoke to them they were very happy too.
“I am very grateful to Paul for letting me ride such a good horse and Andrew and Lance (O’Sullivan) have been the biggest help to me. They have taught me so much and now I want to be a very good jockey.”