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Michael Walker (jockey)

Michael Walker is New Zealand jockey of Māori ancestry. He was born in Rotorua, New Zealand in the central districts of the North Island, although his family later moved to Waitara. At the age of 11 Walker approached noted thoroughbred trainer Allan Sharrock, asking for work with his horses. Sharrock gave him regular work after school, before eventually indenturing him as an apprentice. He arranged a special dispensation for Walker to start riding in races at 15 instead of the usual starting age of 16.

What Sharrock saw in Walker quickly became evident to racegoers as well, for in his first year as an apprentice (the 1999-2000 racing year), Walker had an astonishing 131 wins to not only win the apprentices’ championship but the jockeys’ premiership as well (his first of three). While apprenticed to Sharrock, Walker won 653 races, most in New Zealand (a record 631 wins), but also in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and Macau.

Still only 20 when he became a fully fledged jockey in April 2004, Walker celebrated the next day by riding five winners at the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club's meeting in southern Hawke's Bay. Despite not riding in New Zealand for three quarters of the season, Walker finished with 107 wins, only seven behind Matamata jockey Leith Innes who won the 2003-04 premiership. However, he was awarded the apprentice of the year title for the season.

Wanting to further his career, Walker announced in May 2004 he was moving to Australia to live in Melbourne, following in the footsteps of other champion New Zealand jockeys such as Midge Didham, Greg Childs, Brent Thompson, Shane Dye and the Cassidy brothers who made their names overseas.

Walker left with the blessing of Sharrock and the New Zealand racing fraternity. He made an immediate impression a few days after moving to Victoria when he rode 30 to 1 shot Monde Special to win the Warrnambool Cup, and he was suddenly the darling of the Australian media. A couple of weeks later he rode Chloe With Class to win at Moonee Valley to record his first metropolitan win, and he was the talk of the town when he rode a treble at Bendigo on 20 May 2004 Victoria. on Lord Orb, Swift Rule and Scopari

His canny ride on Danestorm to win the Brisbane Cup in June 2004 was hailed by the media as one of the best seen for many seasons, and there was widespread speculation that he would become one of the greatest riders in Australian racing history.

But then he went through a period of poor form and wins were few and far between. In 2005 he returned to New Zealand and became stable rider for leading Matamata trainer Mark Walker. With that deal the winning feeling returned, and the two have had spectacular success. He showed in March 2006 that he has lost none of his talent, producing a perfectly-timed ride on Pentane to win New Zealand's richest handicap, the Auckland Cup.

On May 20, 2008 Walker was seriously injured while a pig hunting in Taranaki when he fell down a 10 metre high bank. He was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital and then transferred to Auckland City Hospital with serious head injuries.[1] He scored a win in only his second ride after his accident, at Matamata on 4 December 2008. [2]

Group 1 victories

  • 1000 Guineas, Insouciant, Riccarton Park, 10 November 2007
  • Auckland Cup, Pentane, Ellerslie, March 8, 2006
  • Brisbane Cup, Danestorm, Eagle Farm, June 14, 2004.
  • New Zealand Bloodstock 1000 Guineas, Taatletail, Riccarton Park, November 8, 2003.
  • Waikato Draught Sprint, Tit For Taat, Te Rapa, February 8, 2003
  • Telegraph Handicap, Tit For Taat, Trentham, January 25, 2003.
  • Sires’ Produce Stakes, Grout, Ellerslie, April 6, 2002.
  • Sires’ Produce Stakes, Grout, Awapuni, March 23, 2002
  • Wellington Cup, Smiling Like, Trentham, January 27, 2001.

Official website

Official Michael Walker Website

References



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