Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Horse racing in the bloodlines of the jockeys, not the horses

The Grace boys: Sons follow in father's footsteps as winning jockeys including at the Speed to Safety comps run buy Pony Clubs in conjunction with Racing Victoria.

LIBBY PRICE July 24, 2014 3:00am

Harry Grace at Speed to safety competition run in by Benalla Pony Club in conjunction with Racing Victoria.

It’s said to succeed in thoroughbred horse racing, the secret is in the breeding.

But it’s usually the horses, not the jockeys, that come from winning bloodlines.

For the Grace family of Benalla, it’s a family affair.

Father Tim Grace is a racehorse trainer, but started as a jockey until he got too heavy in the 1970s.

He then rode track work at Warwick Farm and Randwick in Sydney, before a serious fall left him with muscle spasms and health problems that plague him to this day. That hasn’t deterred his sons.

Three of the four are following in his footsteps.

His eldest, 21-year-old Kodie, is doing his jockey apprenticeship in Tasmania and will soon move to Bendigo.

He’s ridden more than 40 winners since he started at just 17.

Nineteen-year-old Lester is doing his apprenticeship in Sydney after starting out with the great David Hayes and has ridden more than 150 winners.

Fifteen-year-old Harry is going to ‘‘jump outs’’ and barrier trials before he starts an apprenticeship next year.

The only son likely to break with tradition is 13-year-old Timmy, who is passionate about cooking and wants to be a chef.

But that hasn’t stopped him and Harry from competing in the Pony Club’s annual Speed to Safety North Eastern Zone competition final held last Saturday.

This time it was Timmy’s turn to win, taking out the grades 3/4 section, which means he’ll represent the zone at Moonee Valley races for the grand final, just as Harry did last year, representing the zone to finish fourth in the state final at Caulfield.

Speed to Safety is run in conjunction with Racing Victoria and teaches young riders how to ride safely to optimum times over a given distance.

These times are based on the optimum times Pony Club riders must ride to when competing in cross-country events.

This gives riders an awareness and ability to control how fast they are travelling at a safe and balanced rhythm and speed.

Grade 1 and 2 pony clubbers ride 1000m in 109 seconds and Grades 3 and 4 ride 1000m in 120 seconds.

The riders who ride the most accurate times over two qualifiers go on to ride in the final, which is held on race day at a metropolitan track.

Tim Grace believes it is a great way for would-be jockeys and track riders to learn.

‘‘Racing is struggling to get people to do the track work. This way they can earn money doing what they love and trainers know they (the riders) know what they’re doing.’’

Mr Grace is involved with his sons’ careers.

‘‘We often drive three hours with the heater on full blast to lose weight,’’ he said.

‘‘The boys wear their special rubber gear, so they sweat like mad to make the weight. They have to weigh in at 51kg on the dot with their saddle, gear, silks... it’s very taxing on the body.’’

Lester has always been the most passionate and used to go with his dad to track work very early in the morning from the age of just three.

‘‘When he was born the great English jockey Lester Piggot was riding in the Black Opal Stakes in Canberra. I said to my wife ... ‘if Piggot wins, the baby will be called Lester’,’’ he said.

‘‘He went for three days with no name, then of course Piggot won, and I said it would be an omen that he might be a jockey.’’

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