SATURDAY will be a long day for Sydney-based picnic jockey Blake Ryan, but it's nothing compared to the journey he has followed to get himself into the saddle on Geurie Cup hopeful Antidotes.
The 26-year-old lost close to 40kg and gave up his career at racing network TVN to join the amateur riding ranks and so far has piloted 12 winners from less than 60 rides, including the recent Trangie Cup on Orbit.
After riding trackwork for his father, leading Rosehill trainer Gerald Ryan, on Saturday morning he will jump in the car and head to Geurie for a full book of rides before returning to the city after the meeting.
Among his rides will be Antidotes for Dubbo trainer Garry Lunn, which lines up in the $4000 Regional Auto Supplies/Peggy Fulwood Memorial Cup (1400m).
While Ryan has had racing in his blood since he was born, he admits his move from television production to jockey wasn’t entirely born out of a desire to sit in the saddle.
“It started because I was going backpacking for a few weeks around Europe and I wanted to get a bit fitter for that.
“I didn’t want to have a heart attack running for a train in Germany or something like that,” Ryan said.
“So I started riding work for dad (Rosehill trainer Gerald Ryan) and gave up my job at TVN and it just fell off me.
“I lost 20kg pretty quickly, in about six weeks, but after that it just kept coming off so when I got to about 65kg I decided to give riding at the picnics a go.
“I did try and keep going and get into the professional ranks but when I got to about 57kg or so I was just flat so I gave up on that and stuck with the picnics.
“These days I walk around about 64kg and I can ride 62kg, which is what Antidotes has on Saturday, pretty comfortably.”
Antidotes will have eight rivals on Saturday’s event including Orbit, which Ryan identified as his mount's main danger.
He will also ride Precious Diva for Lunn in the final event, the Carter-Lindsay-Webber/Don McDonald Woolbroking Class B Handicap (1400m).
“I’ve had a few rides for Garry and for his brothers Lee and Mick as well and ridden a lot of seconds, thirds or fourths for them so it would be nice to get a win on Saturday if possible,” Ryan said.
“They’ve supported me and I think Antidotes will be a good chance in the Cup for Garry.
“On his day he’s a pretty handy horse, although Orbit has been in good form and after I won on him at Trangie he was unlucky not to win the Gilgandra Cup so he is definitely the one to beat I think.”
Five races are on the program at Geurie, with the first scheduled for 1.56pm and the last for 4.50pm