‘Bucko’ trending towards major milestone

Well-travelled jockey Grant Buckley is closing in on 2500 career wins. Image – Racing Photography.

Grant Buckley is only a stone’s throw away from joining some elite company by bringing up a remarkable 2500 winners.

With 2484 victories to his name, Buckley has been a stalwart of the sport since his debut in 1990, developing a reputation as one of the hardest working jockeys in NSW.

The son of Group 1 winning hoop Clarrie Buckley, Grant won his first race on Impossible Mission at Hawkesbury in 1990, defeating his father in the process.

That commenced a glittering career, where he started with Gary White at Hawkesbury before transferring to John Holgate’s stable for the last year-and-a-half of his apprenticeship. 

While he is a 14-time Group and Listed winning jockey, with his record including two Group One placings, undoubtedly, the highlight of his career was a brief but successful association with Private Steer when she was under the care of Lee Curtis.

In 2002, Buckley guided Private Steer to victory in the Listed Reginald Allen Quality Handicap (1400m) at Royal Randwick before finishing third on the Danehill Dancer mare in the Group 1 Flight Stakes (1660m), again at Royal Randwick.

In the mid-2000s, Buckley shared an excellent affiliation with the Bede Murray-trained Jamberoo, which went on to deliver him his first Group 3 victory when the pair triumphed in the 2006 Summer Cup (2400m) at Royal Randwick.

Buckley rode in 24 Group One races and won 12 Listed events.

Other notable horses he enjoyed success on were The Iron Maiden (9 wins), With A Chance, High Court, Marwin Gold, Mary’s Grace and Ausbred King, among many country and provincial champions. 

Throughout his career, Buckley has ridden in an astonishing 28,490 races and countless trials while earning connections over $50 million in prize money.

He’s won on 50 different tracks, with his victories arriving at all corners of NSW. 

In a 2009 interview with Sydney Morning Herald journalist Craig Young, Buckley touched on why he spent so much time taking his talents to the provincial and country circuits. 

”I ride where I can ride a winner,” he said.

“Like I say, I was born and bred to be a jockey – my father was one; there are generations of riders in my family. I just love to ride.”

Buckley definitely rides to the beat of ‘have saddle, will travel’, and for those statistically minded readers, his success can be measured by so many metrics. 

During his 33 years in the saddle, Buckley rode 103 winners for the late Bede Murray while enjoying much success with the likes of Jeff Englebrecht (73 wins), John Morrisey (71), Paul Cave (70), Kylie Gavenlock (60), Garry Frazer (56) and Robert Price (51).

Robert Price, who now trains with his son Luke, said Buckley was a committed, likeable jockey who understood how the game worked.

“Bucko was a stalwart in our stable for years, and he did a great job,” Price told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“Guys like Bucko and Jeff Penza, they just turn up, and it’s that commitment you love.

“Plus, they don’t get their noses out of joint when you go to the big smoke and put on a top-ten jockey, which the owners want. 

“Grant was always happy to jump back on, and he’s just a good fella. He is always the first person to come out and say hello, and he’ll always greet you with a good, strong handshake.

“There’s nothing bad you can say about Grant; he is like a fine wine and only gets better with age. He still sits down and rides them out as good as he did when he was 25.” 

Buckley has undoubtedly been a picture of consistency in recent seasons, riding at least 96 winners since 2017/18 while breaking the 100-win mark in five of his past eight seasons. 

The 2006/07 season was a particularly good one for Buckley, who finished third in the NSW Jockey’s Premiership with 126 wins while taking out the Provincial title with 56 victories.

On 111, he fell three wins short of Greg Ryan in the 2009/10 NSW Jockey’s Premiership race but again won the Provincial title with 41, sharing top honours with Jon Grisedale.

Buckley won the Provincial title again in 2007/08 with 56 winners, and he would share the honour with Jeff Pena in 2013/14, with the pair riding 46 winners apiece. 

He’s been very successful at the Provincials, bringing up 281 wins at Kembla Grange and 251 at Newcastle, while Hawkesbury (143 wins), Gosford (140), and Wyong (107) have all been happy hunting grounds. 

Buckley has been equally as impressive on the country circuit, riding 100 or more winners at Bathurst (138), Canberra (137), Nowra (116), Goulburn (112), and Muswellbrook (108).

There could be a few racetracks to add to that 100-win list in the coming seasons, with Buckley also riding plenty of winners at Scone (98), Taree (85), and Tamworth (83). 

One man who has watched Buckley ride more than most is Col Hodges, who thinks highly of the well-travelled jockey.

“He is a strong jockey, and he gets everything out of them and is always strong to the line,” Hodges told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“He is a jockey that people have come to rely on. He has a good record, he’s honest, and trainers want to put him on, which, to me, is always a good sign of a top jockey. 

“Plus, there wouldn’t be many harder-working jockeys. He was one of the first jockeys to start to ride regularly, and he was virtually riding every day, and with that, he has become very well-respected.”

At only 50, there should be plenty more winners for Buckley. 

Robert Thompson, who retired in 2021 as Australia’s most successful jockey, compiled an astonishing 4447 victories during his decorated career and was riding until he was 62.

There is nothing to suggest Buckley won’t kick on for another decade or so, but only time will tell what other milestones he can surpass before his career begins to wind down. 

For the moment, he will do what he has done best for the past 33 years when riding at Gosford on Thursday, Scone on Friday, Kembla Grange on Saturday, and Hawkesbury on Sunday.