Andrew Stead has had a few cracks at the racing game and apprenticed under a host of trainers, but now as a 27-year-old he gets the chance to finally rise to the next level.
After riding on country tracks since his latest return he will have a chance at Flemington this Saturday with four metro rides.
He does already have eight city winners in his career but they came in his first stint where as an apprentice he served under David Balfour in Adelaide, Bruce Purcell at Cranbourne, Les Ross at Eagle Farm and John Salinitri and Andrew Noblet, at Caulfield, up until 2005.
“I was going pretty well in Queensland but had a fall at trackwork and hurt my shoulder in 2003 which put me on the sidelines for a couple of years,” Stead said.
After the fall Stead said he lacked the motivation to battle through the injury and keep up with the daily fitness and weight rigours of being a top jockey.
As a result he quit racing completely and started in the building industry as well as a nine-month stint on a pearl boat off the coast of Darwin.
Last year though he made the decision to have another crack at it and he got in contact with the executive of the Victorian Jockeys Association Des O’Keeffe.
“If he (O’Keeffe) wasn’t there to help me I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Stead said.
“He organised me to join the John Ledger stable at Wangaratta.
“He and (Racing Victoria’s jockey assistance psychologist) Lisa Stephens were very helpful in getting me back as far as putting me on to people for my weight and to get me fit.”
He had to have an operation to mend his injured shoulder and then was restricted to track work for a period until he made his comeback at Albury and won on Kua Fu on December 18th.
Since that race he’s won 23 races, including 19 for his home stable for an overall career tally of 60 wins.
One of his rides this weekend will be for the Ledger stable, aboard Fine Cuban in the Riding For The Disabled Plate.
“John has given me every opportunity to make a comeback and it’s paid dividends. It’s been really good for both of us,” Stead said.
His other rides will come on Hawks Bay in the National Jockeys Trust Handicap, Forbidden Quest in the Racehorse Outplacement Program handicap and Rocky Times in the Living Legends Handicap.
He hasn’t had a lot of luck to start though with a barrier draw that couldn’t really have got any worse.
Fine Cuban will start from gate 10 with Rocky Times (19), Forbidden Quest (19) and Hawks Bay (12) all drawing even wider on the track.
“It would have been nice to draw a barrier on one of them,” Stead said