17 years between drinks for John Wilson

John Wilson (right) was his first race in 17 years on Saturday when winning the Bedgerabong Cup.

In 2002, a 27-year-old John Wilson rode Sports Fair to a Bedgerabong Picnic Race Club Inc Cup win for trainer Mark Ostini. 

This win would be Wilson’s last ride before hanging up the boots to work as a stable foreman in Orange. 

17 years later and a 44-year-old Wilson has returned to racing on the NSW Picnic circuit, remarkably winning the very same Bedgerabong Cup on the Justin Stanley trained, Wollartant.

As perfect as this Cinderella story sounds, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Narromine-based hoop in preparation for his long-awaited return. 

Upon retiring from riding, Wilson, or better known as Mabo in racing circles, took up a stable foreman role with Orange-based trainer Brian Buckley. 

Wilson spent 15 years in what was a very successful country stable before the unfortunate passing of Buckley in 2017. 

After Buckley’s passing, Wilson decided to take some time away from the industry, finding work in Narromine. 

Unfortunately, the drought led to Wilson having lost his job and needing to find a new way to support his family and six children. 

A chance meeting with Narromine-based trainer Kylie Kennedy while shopping, led to an ongoing track work role. 

“It was completely by chance, I was shopping and bumped into Kylie, and she asked me what I was doing, and I replied with nothing,” Wilson said. 

“Kylie offered me some work on her property riding track work.”

After working with Kennedy for some time and with long-time friend, and leading picnic jockey Ricky Blewitt ‘in his ear’, a decision to return to the picnic circuit was all but decided. “I had Ricky in my ear about getting back into racing and it really spurred me on,” Wilson said.

It wasn’t easy at first though as Wilson was 75 kilograms or more before returning to a respectable racing weight. 

“I was 73 kilos on the Monday before my first ride back, but I dieted and worked hard and got down to 63kgs for Bedgerabong”,” Wilson laughed. 

In what was a triumphant return to racing, Wilson rode Wollartant for an absolute gem of a ride, giving him a patient and smart run to cup victory for trainer Justin Stanley. 

“He was very patient and didn’t buy into the early speed battle, which he could have easily done,” Stanley said. 

“He showed his experience and that was probably the difference in Wollartant getting the win.”

Wilson doesn’t plan on re-retiring anytime soon and has already booked five rides for the upcoming Condobolin Picnic Race Clubmeeting. 

“I’ve got two rides for Kylie, and I have booked a couple of others with the help of both Kylie and Ricky,” Wilson said. 

“There is a picnic meeting every week for the next three months and besides the Bourke meeting, I plan on riding at them all.”It is obvious that John Wilson has that rare ability to push on through in the toughest of times and is a testament to the patience and strong