Blessing in disguise has Paul Zerafa set for return

Paul Zerafa is planning to make a return from injury at the Sapphire Coast next week. Image: Racing Photography.

Paul Zerafa has taken the path least travelled to an apprenticeship, and while he’s hit a few speed bumps along the road, he’s motivated to ride more winners. 

Having developed a taste for riding horses while living in Malta, Zerafa spent his time ‘doing a bit of flooring’ before he started riding trackwork and eventually commencing his apprenticeship. 

As a 35-year-old, he debuted aboard the Tyrone Coyle-trained Prince Aurelius, finishing second in a 1400m Benchmark 64 Handicap at Kembla Grange in late 2022.

At his second start, Zerafa was in the winner’s circle, riding the Blake Fitzpatrick-trained Bracewell to victory in the 1200m Benchmark 50 Handicap at Moruya in November 2022.

He’s since won five races in a stop-start career, with the well-travelled apprentice booting home winners at Carinda, Cobar, Bombala, and Queanbeyan. 

“I just enjoy riding winners and getting out there,” Zerafa told NSW Country and Picnic Racing

“My best moment would be my first TAB win at Queanbeyan for Brett Lazzarini; that was good.”

Now 37 and indentured to Paul Murray, Zerafa is eyeing a return from injury. 

The three-kilogram claimer last rode at Adaminaby in November, but on that day, he cut himself in the barriers, which led to an infection. 

Still, it appears it may have been a blessing in disguise. The apprentice had metal taken from his right ankle, which was there due to a trackwork fall in 2008. 

“I got an infection after getting that cut in the barriers, and it ended up with me getting surgery to rip some plates out of my ankle,” Zerafa said. 

“It was a really nasty infection, and after it, it was causing me a lot of grief, and I could barely walk. 

“I had ankle surgery back in 2008, so they went in and took everything out, and now I’m feeling a lot better.”

Zerafa was out of the saddle for three months, but he said he had come back a different jockey, and the ankle surgery made a huge difference to his mechanics.

“I’ve been back about a month and a half, and I feel a lot better in the saddle and can get down lower,” Zerafa said.

“Before I went in for surgery, I was shifting my weight from my right to my left, and people kept telling me I wasn’t even in the saddle. 

“I now realise what they were saying was right, and I‘m now dead-even, can get lower, and rider better.”

While it has taken Zerafa a little longer than expected to get his weight down, he’s eyeing a return to race riding at the Sapphire Coast on Saturday, March 23. 

Zerafa admitted it will be tough for a 37-year-old apprentice to make his name, but he’s willing to get it a red-hot crack. 

“I just want to get as fit as I can and ride as many winners as I can until I have to give it up,” Zerafa said. 

“I’m aiming to ride at the Sapphire Coast, but I’ll go anywhere. I love travelling and seeing new places.” 

Anyone looking to book Zerafa for rides can contact Craig Fitzgerald at 0434 275 146.