Apprentice jockey Liam Blanch trekked from Taree to Coffs Harbour on Thursday for just one ride, but it was an important ride according to the young hoop.
Blanch jumped aboard the Jim Jarvis-trained Bonchevo in the 1012m Class One Handicap – a race that doubled as a heat of the 2021/22 Rising Star Series for apprentices – and despite starting as one of the outsiders at 18/1, Blanch and Bonchevo were good winners, storming home late in proceedings to beat Phule (Kris Lees and Bailey Wheeler) and Free Spin (Chris Manson and Jai Williams).
The 1.5kg claiming apprentice said he was making a point of featuring in the 2021/22 Rising Star Series after finishing close without winning in 2019/20 and 2020/21.
“I went there for the apprentice race,” Blanch said.
“I have been trying to win that apprentice series for two years since I was out at Dubbo with Kody Nestor
“I was close last year; I made it to the final, but they didn’t run it and I want to give it a real crack this year.”
Blanch admitted his win on Bonchevo was somewhat of a surprise, and only made possible after the race was run along at a very fast pace.
“I was just looking at the speed in the race, and in every apprentice race, they go quick,” Blanch said.
“Plus, he won his maiden over 1400 last prep, and I knew he handled the soft conditions, and I thought if they went quick, he would be there in the finish.
“I didn’t expect them to go that quick and be off the bridle the entire race and when I got on the straight, he really picked up.
“I was six lengths off them at the top of the straight, and he kept finding and well he flew in that last 200m.”
The next heat of the Rising Star Series will be held at Warwick Farm on January 5 before another heat at Wagga on January 6 and with the remaining heats coming in thick and fast, Blanch said he wasn’t afraid to travel for the right opportunity.
“I will get to as many as I can without busting myself,” Blanch said.
“I want to win the series and there are heats at Wagga and that, which is a bit drive, but I’m willing to do that for the right ride.”
Blanch has been on the move of late, joining to the Wayne and Joel Wilkes yard in Taree after most recently spending time with Kody Nestor in Dubbo until Nestor stepped away from training.
“Kody stuck loyal with me and helped me out when I had nowhere to go and he helped me out so much with my riding and I was there until the very last horse left,” Blanch said.
“It was sad, because you build up these relationships with these horses and Fast talking was the last to go, and I had a good relationship with him, and it was hard to watch them all go.”
Blanch, who kicked off his career with the Wilkes’ stable, was now looking forward to making his mark in Northern NSW.
“It’s been full circle going back to Wayne and Joel’s,” Blanch laughed.
“When I first started with them, I couldn’t’ even lead a horse and they took me on as a stable handle and they taught me the ropes of groundwork, and when they moved to Taree, I moved to Marc Quinn’s, and I was still a stable hand and he taught me how to ride and gave me a chance at an apprenticeship.
“Now I’m back with Wayne and Joel and want to get some winners here and prove I am a good jockey.”
Blanch’s victory in the Coffs Harbour heat of the Rising Star Series was the young jockey’s first win up north since returning home, and while he was a recent winner at Newcastle aboard the Mark Minervini-trained Quick Tempo back on December 18, he explained that it was his goal to make a name for himself up north.
“Yesterday was another box ticked off for me,” Blanch said.
“I was coming back to the area after being away and I rode a winner at Newcastle, but I needed a winner here to prove that I have learned more with Kody and was ready to ride some winners.”
Blanch has a busy two days ahead of him, with five rides at Tamworth today before two rides at Taree on Monday.