Jockey Leith Innes has announced his retirement from race riding  Photo: Trish Dunell

Innes at peace with retirement decision

NZ Racing Desk
29 May 2022

A relaxing lunch with Kiwi trainers Tony Pike and Lance Noble was just the ticket for jockey Leith Innes on Sunday after a hectic 24 hours prior.

Innes produced one of the rides of his career to win the Gr.1 Queensland Derby (2400m) aboard the Roger James and Robert Wellwood-trained Pinarello at Eagle Farm on Saturday and then dropped a bombshell by announcing his immediate retirement from race riding.

The 44-year-old had been considering the move in the weeks leading up to Saturday and once he had fulfilled a successful mission for his major supporters in Brendan and Jo Lindsay, who own Pinarello, he knew the time was right to announce his decision.

“It was a pretty huge day and just good to go out on a good note,” Innes said.

“I had been thinking about it all for a while now and as far as I am concerned it was one hundred percent the right thing to do.

“I’m only 44 but the older you get the harder it is to waste to make weight on raceday and it was even harder during the COVID lockdown as your weight just goes up when you are not riding on a regular basis.

“I was very fortunate to have Brendan and Jo to support me the way they did, so I’m thrilled I could repay them with a win in a Group One.”

Innes admitted that the pre-race plan he had worked out went almost to the letter and was thrilled to see everything fall into place thanks to the courage of Pinarello.

“It’s quite surreal in that I got over 200 text messages last night after the race congratulating me and I would say if we had got beaten there wouldn’t have been anywhere near that number and a few of them might not have been as complimentary,” he said.

“I knew what I wanted to do, and the early part of the race just went like clockwork until we got to around the 1000m.

“At that stage I had to pop out as the horses in front of me weren’t going anywhere and my bloke was travelling so easily.

“He got to the front a little early but he was very brave in the way he fought them off.

“At the 200m I did think for a fleeting moment that we might run second or third but he just wouldn’t flinch and was actually holding them at the line and at least 50m past that point.

“He is obviously a real talent and I think when he matures and strengthens up he could be a very good horse.”

Innes will now make his way back home to New Zealand on Monday to reunite with wife Jess, daughter Stella and son Jett.

“My wife Jess was hoping to come over to be with me on Saturday but couldn’t get a flight so it will be good to catch up with her and the kids when I get back on Monday,” he said.

“I haven’t really thought too much about what comes next, but I have my golf cart rental business to concentrate on and we will see what happens from there.

“I had a call from Glen Boss after he heard that I had retired and he told me that I will most likely miss it for the first few weeks but those feelings will start to fade over time and you can concentrate on the rest of your life without thinking about the ‘what ifs’.

“I’m sure that is the case as I am very comfortable with the decision I have made and thankful that during my career I got to ride some amazing horses for some very good trainers and have the success that I did achieve.”

Innes retires with 1567 wins to his credit with 183 of those at stakes level including 31 Group One victories. He rode his first winner aboard Bodle at Waipukurau in 1995 and his first Group One success came aboard Tobruk in the 1998 Gr.1 Bayer Classic (1600m) at Otaki.

Champion Jockey in New Zealand for the 2003/2004 racing season with 114 wins, Innes also enjoyed a stint in Hong Kong and has ridden the likes of outstanding gallopers Starcraft, Ocean Park, Kawi and Sacred Falls to Group One success.  

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