Young Gun - Sam Weatherley
Award-winning apprentice Sam Weatherley saddled his first horse as a four-year-old and has never looked back.
He’s following in the footsteps of grandfather Dan Weatherley and dad Darryn Weatherley, who were both successful jockeys, and this likeable 18-year-old is now making his own impact on the world of racing.
Last year he won the apprentice jockeys’ premiership with 67 wins – 19 more than the runner-up – and finished in the top 10 on the overall jockeys’ premiership.
“I didn’t set out to do that, especially with it being my first full season, but it is really super to have done it.”
In January Sam notched his first Group 1 victory when he steered outsider Enzo’s Lad to victory in The JR & N Berkett Telegraph at Trentham.
“That was all my dreams come true,” says Sam, who is based with Lance O’Sullivan and Andrew Scott at Wexford Stables in Matamata. “It was just such a huge thrill to win a Group 1 at such a young age. It really is only just starting to sink in now. It’s pretty unusual to be an apprentice and win a Group 1.”
Sam is the leading apprentice again this season, which began in August, is in the top 10 on the premiership and his mounts have already earned more stake money than in the whole of the previous season.
Sam has always wanted to be a jockey. While he was riding at a very young age, he never did pony club or any other sort of competition. From the day he was allowed to ride track work it has been warp speed ever since.
He’s now two years into his four year apprenticeship. “It is all going really well . . . it’s kind of surreal that it is going that well so early actually.”
He’s living in his hometown of Matamata, sharing a flat with fellow jockeys Shaun McKay and Jake Bayliss.
While his other 18-year-old mates are out painting the town red, Sam has to button down and is generally in bed at a reasonable hour. His first alarm goes off at 3am and he’s at the stables by 3.45am and riding out on the first horse at 4.15am.
His afternoons are spent at the races or apprentice school – the former a far more preferred time than the latter. “I just love the adrenaline,” says Sam. “I love horses and have a huge passion for them.”
Those who work with him agree. Andrew Scott remembers Sam arriving at Wexford as a “round faced, round bellied young fella who was full of enthusiasm and loved horse racing”. They’ve seen him grow into quite the young man now.
Lance O’Sullivan, who Sam says has been hugely instrumental in putting “a lot of polish” on his riding, praises the professionalism of the teen. “He always does his homework,” Lance says.
Sam figures he wasn’t a natural when it came to riding well. “I just didn’t look good, but Lance has really helped me out in that department. I can’t thank him enough. And Andrew too – to have both of them helping me is incredible. I can’t think of two better people.”
He also receives valuable assistance from NZTR riding mentor Noel Harris.
“He is like my coach and we get on very well. He is such a good man . . . so knowledgeable about the game and been in it a long time.”
Like most jockeys, the ultimate for Sam would be to ride in the Melbourne Cup.
“I would love to have a crack at that.”
He’s got his favourites, both in the stable and amongst his rides, and is hoping for big things from them. “Charles Road is a very good horse and I do a lot on him, and Sleeping Beauty is quite special too – I’ve had four rides on her for four wins. She is a very progressive mare and one of my favourites,” Sam says.
“I just want to keep riding as many winners as possible. I am starting to get on some nice horses in bigger races, and I hope to keep that rolling with more success at the highest level.”
Sam’s dad still rides trackwork, along with breaking in and pre-training. Mum Louise, who worked for a while at Wexford, has now set up her own business, doing the accounts for around 12 trainers.
Sam’s younger sister Briar loves horses and helps at Wexford whenever she can, while youngest Paige couldn’t care less about them.
But love horses or not, the whole Weatherley clan are as proud as punch of young gun Sam, who really is one to watch.