Jockeys call on a variety of pursuits to chill out ahead of a big raceday – anything from golf to surfing, fishing or relaxing at home.
Matamata-based Craig Grylls sits apart from those activities, opting for the cockpit of his sporty red Mini Mustang aeroplane as the perfect relaxer with a practical twist ahead of Saturday’s massive card on his home track.
That’s how he spent Friday morning, taking advantage of a cloudless sky to zip across from Waharoa Aerodrome north of Matamata to visit his parents Gary and Leigh on their Te Awamutu farm, which conveniently has a neighbouring airstrip.
“You couldn’t get a better day to go for a spin, not a cloud in the sky, just a perfect way to relax,” Grylls said.
“I flew over the racecourse on the way down; it looked pretty good from up above and this weather is going to set it up nicely.
“My small plane is a single-seater and it takes me around 11 minutes to get over to Mum and Dad’s; a bit quicker on the way home this morning with a slight southerly tailwind – my groundspeed got up to 170 knots.”
Grylls also owns a four-seater Cessna which, when the weather permits, he uses for raceday travel and makes room for jockey colleagues.
“I rode at Waverley yesterday but the weather in the morning wasn’t any good and we ended up having to drive down.”
A win on the Robbie Patterson-trained first starter Our Jumala took his season tally to 15 wins and equal fifth place on the premiership.
That doesn’t yet include a black-type win, but Grylls is hoping to address that anomaly with some plum rides on the massive 12-race card headlined by the Gr. 1 Arrowfield Stud Plate (1600m).
His prime booking is La Crique in the weight-for-age feature, for which the Katrina and Simon-Alexander-trained mare is the $2.80 second favourite behind Mark Walker’s Imperatriz at $1.90.
“She’s really well, bright and happy,” Grylls said of the Vadamos mare with an air of quiet confidence.
“Her gallop on Wednesday morning was probably some of the best work she’s done leading into a big race.”
Grylls is more than happy to have drawn barrier two – directly inside the Opie Bosson-ridden Imperatriz – from the 1600m start point, which allows a straight run of 800m to the turn out of the back straight.
“She normally jumps well, so it shouldn’t be any problem taking a position,” he said.
“The way she feels she’s all set for a big effort, and I’d just love to win the first ever Group One race on my home track.”
Grylls is also keen on his chances in the other feature 1600m race on the card, the Listed Team Wealleans Matamata Cup, in which he is engaged for his first raceday ride on the Walker-trained Belle En Rouge.
“I haven’t ridden her on raceday before but she felt good when I sat on her for a gallop on Tuesday morning,” he said.
Grylls is also happy to start the day on two more familiar Walker-trained mounts, first race maiden runner Romancing the Moon and second race candidate Baronet.
“I finished second last start on Romancing the Moon and she’ll enjoy the better ground, and Baronet is a nice progressive horse,” he said.
Grylls’ book also includes the favourites Fashion Shoot (Race 4) and Arjay’s Flight (Race 11), both of whom he has ridden recently.
“Opie was on Fashion Shoot when she won her last start but I rode her when she just got beaten the time before and she always tries,” he said.
“I’ve been on Arjay’s Flight in his last two starts for a win and an okay run on that heavy track at Hastings.
“He’s a nice young stayer and I figure he’s going to like the better ground.”