Michael Walker (jockey)

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Michael Walker (born 1984) is a New Zealand jockey of Māori ancestry.

Early life[edit]

Michael Walker was born in Rotorua, New Zealand in the central districts of the North Island, although his family later moved to Waitara. At the age of 11 Walker approached noted Thoroughbred trainer Allan Sharrock, asking for work with his horses. Sharrock gave him regular work after school, before eventually indenturing him as an apprentice. He arranged a special dispensation for Walker to start riding in races at age 15 instead of the usual starting age of 16.

In his first year as an apprentice (the 1999-2000 racing year), Walker had an astonishing 131 wins to not only win the apprentices’ championship but the jockeys’ premiership as well (his first of three). While apprenticed to Sharrock, Walker won 653 races, most in New Zealand (a record 631 wins), but also in Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and Macau.

Senior jockey[edit]

Still only 20 when he became a fully fledged jockey in April 2004, Walker celebrated the next day by riding five winners at the Woodville-Pahiatua Racing Club's meeting in southern Hawke's Bay. Despite not riding in New Zealand for three quarters of the season, Walker finished with 107 wins, only seven behind Matamata jockey Leith Innes who won the 2003-04 premiership. However, he was awarded the apprentice of the year title for the season.

Overseas move[edit]

Wanting to further his career, Walker announced in May 2004 that he was moving to Australia to live in Melbourne, following in the footsteps of other champion New Zealand jockeys such as Midge Didham, Greg Childs, Brent Thompson, Shane Dye and the Cassidy brothers who made their names overseas.

Walker left with the blessing of Sharrock and the New Zealand racing fraternity. He made an immediate impression a few days after moving to Victoria, when he rode 30 to 1 shot Monde Special to win the Warrnambool Cup. A couple of weeks later he rode Chloe With Class to win at Moonee Valley to record his first metropolitan win, and followed with a treble at Bendigo on 20 May 2004 on Lord Orb, Swift Rule, and Scopari.

His ride on Danestorm to win the Brisbane Cup in June 2004 was hailed by the media as one of the best seen for many seasons, and there was widespread speculation that he would become one of the greatest riders in Australian racing history.[citation needed]

But then he went through a period of poor form and wins were few and far between. In 2005 he returned to New Zealand and became stable rider for leading Matamata trainer Mark Walker. With that deal the winning feeling returned, and the two have had spectacular success. He showed in March 2006 that he has lost none of his talent, producing a perfectly timed ride on Pentane to win New Zealand's richest handicap, the Auckland Cup.

Hunting accident[edit]

On 20 May 2008 Walker was seriously injured while pig hunting in Taranaki when he fell down a 10 metre high bank. He was taken to Taranaki Base Hospital and then transferred to Auckland City Hospital with serious head injuries.[1] He scored a win in only his second ride after his accident, at Matamata on 4 December 2008. [2]

Group 1 victories[edit]

  • New Zealand Derby, Puccini, Ellerslie, 1 March 2014
  • New Zealand Derby, Military Move, Ellerslie, 6 March 2010
  • 1000 Guineas, Insouciant, Riccarton Park, 10 November 2007
  • Auckland Cup, Pentane, Ellerslie, 8 March 2006
  • Family Hotel WFA, Darci Brahma, Otaki, 25 February 2006
  • 2000 Guineas, Darci Brahma, Riccarton Park, 12 November 2005
  • Brisbane Cup, Danestorm, Eagle Farm, 14 June 2004.
  • New Zealand Bloodstock 1000 Guineas, Taatletail, Riccarton Park, 8 November 2003.
  • Waikato Draught Sprint, Tit For Taat, Te Rapa, 8 February 2003
  • Telegraph Handicap, Tit For Taat, Trentham, 25 January 2003.
  • Sires’ Produce Stakes, Grout, Ellerslie, 6 April 2002.
  • Sires’ Produce Stakes, Grout, Awapuni, 23 March 2002
  • Wellington Cup, Smiling Like, Trentham, 27 January 2001.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Vass, Beck (22 May 2008). "Walker still unconscious after fall". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  2. ^ "Michael Walker wins his second ride back". Stuff.co.nz. NZPA. 4 December 2008. Retrieved 25 October 2011.