Andrew Banks enjoyed a good day in the saddle at Lightning Ridge on Saturday, with the veteran hoop landing a treble, whilst also winning the Lightning Ridge Cup on the Clint Lundholm-trained Fearless Mila.
The 49-year-old, who has a cupboard full of Lighting Ridge Cups from the late 90s, last won the feature in 2001 when guiding the Collen Thurston-trained Fair Play to victory.
21 years later and Banks was again in the winner’s circle, lifting the Lightning Ridge Opal Bracelet, when finishing ahead of the Bryan Dixon-trained pair of Ecker Road (Zara Lewis) in second and Fox Spirit (Angela Cooper) in third.
“I have had some good luck there before,” Banks said.
“I have won that bracelet about three or four times back when I was an apprentice, and it was good to win it again.”
Fearless Mila was stepping back from a second placing in the 1850m Benchmark 58 Handicap at Mudgee last start, and while Banks had his reservations leading into the race, he said he merely gave the Dubbo galloper every possible chance in the 1200m feature.
“I was a bit worried about her jumping down from 1800m to 1200m, and I thought they would go too quick, but I rode her accordingly and she put in and went really well,” Banks said.
Banks also won on the Peter Mills-trained Hillbilly in the 900m Class One Handicap and again on the Andrew Bayley-trained Miss Ash Star in the 1200m Maiden Plate, locking in his winning-treble.
The day did see Banks experience a career-first though, with the popular jockey racing in his first flag started event.
After the Lightning Ridge barriers played up in the first race, causing three horses to be scratched, Racing NSW stewards explained that the remaining five races were started by ‘flag start’.
“Following the running of this race, all riders expressed serious concern with functionality and safety of the barriers,” the Racing NSW steward’s report read.
“Stewards, acting under the provisions of AR199 directed that the remaining races be conducted under flag start conditions.”
Banks said it was a first for him and many jockeys on course.
“Never ever in my life and I’m 50,” Banks laughed when asked if he had started via flag start.
“It’s quite different. We (the jockeys) milled around about the start, and we lined up in barrier order and once the flag dropped, we went and that was it.”
Banks praised Racing NSW stewards for hosting the meeting despite there being concerns with the starting barriers.
“It was a good result,” Banks said.
“Instead of an abandoned meeting, we raced, and it was good to see them keep it going.
“If we didn’t race, a lot of people would have lost out, plus they had a big crowd there for the day.”
While based in Sydney these days, Banks said it was good to see country race meetings returning to normality following the pandemic, and he said he would continue to support non-TAB and country meetings all over the state.
“I’m at Warwick Farm and poke up this way for these meetings and always take the rides when I get them,” Banks said.
“I try and support all the outback meetings. I grew up in Gulargambone and did my apprenticeship in Coonamble and I will always get back to those meetings.
“It’s always a good atmosphere, good racing and good for the clubs and the small towns.”