For Kody Nestor, a Melbourne Cup Day non-TAB meeting at Dubbo Turf Club is the perfect place to have a final ride.
The well-known Dubbo jockey will step away from a life in the saddle after Tuesday, an ongoing battle with weight and injuries taking a toll.
It’s been 11 years since he had his first ride and it’s been a career which has included rides from the glitz and glamour of Randwick to the red dirt of the outback at Birdsville and almost everywhere in between.
“I’ll go out there and do my job and it’s a good meeting to end on,” he said.
“It’s a low-key meeting at Dubbo, a non-TAB and this is where it all started. But it’s just another meeting and then I’ll go for a few beers and a feed tomorrow (Tuesday) night and then I’ll probably end up trackwork on Wednesday morning again.”
I’ve lasted a lot longer than I thought I would and most people thought I would so I’m pretty happy.Kody Nestor
That “few beers and a feed”, most likely a steak, might not seem like much to many but for the bulk of Nestor’s life he has missed out on things like that.
Always one of the larger-built jockeys on the circuit, Nestor had a continual battle with keeping his weight down since making his debut on De Cream in 2006 while some falls in recent years resulted in time out of the saddle and more struggles to maintain fitness.
Almost everyone, whether they have an interest in racing or not, knows jockeys have to be incredibly strict in order to stay in the game but Nestor stated he doubts people know how much hoops put themselves through.
“It’s really something you’ve got to turn into a lifestyle,” he said.
“Every day you go to trackwork, you come home and you look at noms (nominations), acceptances and whatever else and then you’re at the gym with the sweat gear on and you might be running 10 or 11 kilometres and then you’re in the sauna for an hour.
“If you’ve got racing the next day, you’re back in the bathtub for another sweat for a couple of hours and you’re living on black coffee and cigarettes and it’s something you’ve got give 110% to and sometimes things don’t go the way and you get the dirts with it all but at the end of the day it’s no good doing it halfhearted.
“You’ve got to be willing to put the hard yards in day in, day out, whether you’re riding at Enngonia or Royal Randwick.”
And that lifestyle, combined with a number of injuries in recent years, takes a toll.
Nestor was involved in a horrific fall which made national headlines at Mudgee in 2015.
At the time he said being involved in that was like “being in a war zone” while he also spent seven months out of the saddle earlier this year after a fall at Narromine.
His weight went above 70kg during that time and he admits it “killed” him to get back to the 56kg mark.
“I’ve been battling with it (weight) my whole career and I had a couple of bad falls … and I’ve been trying to keep the weight down and I’m a bit older now and I’ve lasted a lot longer than I thought I would and most people thought I would so I’m pretty happy with what’s happened and the time has come,” he said.
He said the support from wife Anna, and his young daughter Olivia, helped him during the tough times and they’ll be there again on Tuesday.
While there were plenty of work and struggles at times, Nestor loves the sport and has no plans to walk away from it completely.
Other standout memories include riding winners at Sydney while there was also the day he scored with Izababe at Wellington when the gelding was carrying a “ridiculous” 62kg.
“I’d keep riding if I could but the body’s not really playing along but I’ve got no regrets and I’m happy with what I’ve done,” he said.
“I went to Sydney as an apprentice and rode winners for (Chris) Waller, Gai (Waterhouse) and (Peter) Snowden and all those people and the same thing happened there, I just got too big.
“I came back to the bush and I think there’s great people involved and I’ve met a lot of good people and rode for a lot of good people and I’ve ridden for some ordinary people too.”
That larrikin attitude, something he shares with his trainer uncle, is something which made Nestor a popular man in the racing game.
But not only was he popular, he was a quality performer and can look back on a career which includes wins in the majority of the region’s major races.
Nestor appears to have every chance to finish with a win as he has three rides on Tuesday.
He will again feature onboard Noel’s Gift for Gayna Williams, a horse he won with at Mudgee recently, while he will also ride Sun Burn for Sharon Jeffries and Exquisite Halo for Lee Lunn.
Nestor now plans to take up his trainer’s licence to stay involved in the sport but confessed it will take some time to get used to no longer being in the saddle come race day.
“It will be good not getting on the scales on six times a day … it consumes your life and it has to,” he said, before speaking about becoming a trainer.
“It’s a bit stressful because I’ve done one thing my whole life and that’s just ride.
“I left school in year 10 and just rode and rode, it’s all I’ve ever done so anything I did next was always going to be a big step but it’s something I’ve got to learn to do but I’m lucky enough to have good people around me and I’ll give it a crack and I’m really looking forward to what’s going to happen.”