Three years ago Adam Roustoby moved to Victoria from Tasmania with his wife Anita Bell to give himself a real crack at getting his jumps licence. Adam figured that the Victorian picnics would be a great place to chalk up some valuable race riding experience on the flat before trialling over jumps. Anita trained in Tasmania and now rides regularly on the picnic circuit alongside her husband.
Adam currently rides work for Troy and Leon Corstens at Flemington where he’s based.
‘I love working for the Corstens, they’re easy going yet professional at the same time. It’s a great place to work’, said Adam.
It’s not just any old week for Adam. On Monday he’s heading to Ireland on a Racing Victoria Scholarship for jump jockeys. He’ll school and ride work at the Curragh for some of the World’s best jumps trainers organised by the prestigious RACE (Riding Academy and Centre of Excellence).
The scholarship culminates in the stuff of dreams for Adam, he’ll be helping Willie Mullins to prepare his stable for Cheltenham then spend a week at The Festival.
He and Anita went to The Festival as spectators 8 years ago when they were riding work for British trainer Philip Hobbs. ‘It’s going to be an unbelievable thrill. Finishing up at Cheltenham is the ultimate highlight’, said Adam.
There’s been some controversy in the online news surrounding this year’s scholarship and application process which Adam shrugs off, ‘I applied in the correct way, as did Dara, so I’m not sure where they are getting their information from.
‘When I was interviewed they asked me why I wanted to go to Ireland and what I thought I’d get out of it. I also had to write an essay highlighting the benefits that I could bring to Victorian jumps racing and to my riding career.
‘I’ve been riding at the Picnics, working on my style. I have my jumps permit and have done two hurdle trials so far of the 20 I need to get my jumps licence. After I’ve completed the scholarship when I call for rides I think I’ll have a lot more chance that they’ll put me on.’
It’s easy to understand his logic, with Adam’s limited jumps exposure it’s a tougher call for trainers. With his experience in Ireland under his belt, Adam should have less of a job to do to convince trainers of his ability and dedication.
Adam’s love of Jump racing becomes apparent within the first few minutes of speaking with him. As he gave me his email address it began with the name of a 90’s hurdler. Since the age of 5 Adam’s been going racing, upon reading ‘Enquiry’, a Dick Francis thriller, aged 13 he became hooked on jumps racing in particular.
Adam’s rides at Yea this Sunday might be his last at the picnics. If all goes to plan he’ll focus on growing his tally of jumps trials when he gets back to Australia.
Does he have a chance of securing his first win of the season before he leaves? ‘That would be great! I’m riding Soul Glo for Dean Boal, she’s got a good each way chance in what looks like a competitive race.
‘Hopefully I’ll pick up more rides between now and then, it would be nice to finish on a winner. I’m also riding Playboy Frank in a Hurdle Trial at Cranbourne tomorrow, a horse I’ve ridden before at the picnics.’
Unfortunately, once Adam secures his jumps licence he will no longer be able to ride at the picnics as dual licences under two codes, amateur in one and professional in the other, aren’t permitted.
Adam had never met Dara O’Meachair prior to the news that they’d attend RACE together but it’s a comfort to him to be going with an Irishman who ‘knows the ropes having already ridden work over there.’
‘The only things that I’m apprehensive about are the long haul flight and being away from my wife. It’s short term pain for a long term gain!’
Last year’s inaugural cohort saw three jockeys, Clayton Douglas, Braidon Small and Tyler Duynhoven head to the Curragh’s training grounds.
Their experience gives Adam great hope for his chances: ‘The experience seems to have done them some good. They’ve all got their licences and are doing well. Clayton is riding for Eric Musgrove so that’s great for him.
‘I can’t wait to have the benefit of such experienced coaches, the experience that I’ll gain from schooling in front of them will be unbelievable.’
Adam believes that there’s a healthy future ahead for jumps racing in Australia: ‘The future looks very bright. Since 2009 fatalities have dropped by over 70%. There’s better education now for riders and trainers, the safety record has gone up, so has prize money.
‘Ruby Walsh coming to ride Bashboy to win the Grand National last year gave us overseas exposure which was really good for the Sport.
‘Racing Victoria have just added 1/2 million dollars in prize money for Jumps racing. They’ve also created a two-day carnival for the Grand National Steeplechase at Ballarat this year. There was a great atmosphere last year, this year it’ll be like a mini Warrnambool’.
‘It would be great to see Saturday jumps racing back again, especially if we can get some fixtures up in town rather than hide them all in the Country. This would be brilliant promotion for the Sport.’
Adam hopes that he’ll have a big part to play in the resurgence of jumps racing: ‘Ultimately I want to get my licence and ride some winners. I’ve attended Oakbank for years, it’s a great carnival and my favourite track. To ride a winner there would be my ultimate achievement.’
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Featured image and Balnarring image courtesy of Naomi Seccombe Photography.
Other images kindly supplied by Adam Roustoby.