Ridge Wilson enjoyed one of the greatest moments of his thoroughbred racing career, with the Inverell trainer preparing his first winner at Armidale on Tuesday.
With Madeline Owen in the saddle, Blue Sky Moon ($10) was driven out of gate two to take the early lead, and the pair eventually settled third in the 1100m Benchmark 58 Handicap.
Turning for home, Owen found space on the six-year-old, and from there, it was all over as she pulled away for a comfortable 1.26 lengths win.
Connections were over the moon with the result, with the post-race celebrations leading to an unfortunate hospital stint for Blue Sky Moon’s owner and Wilson’s partner, Sarra Magann.
“It was a big shock and a thrill,” Wilson told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“My partner Sarra ended up in hospital; she punched the air when she was celebrating and popped her shoulder out, but she’s been discharged and is having an easy day on the lounge.
“She was thrilled, and so was I, and it was a bit unexpected but a very good result.”
Once a popular amateur jockey on the NSW picnic racing circuit, Wilson won 19 races in the saddle during a two-year career between 2018 and 2020.
His career highlight was when he booted home four winners at Trangie in late 2018 for Nyngan trainer Rodney Robb before the pair combined for a winning double at Geurie in early 2019.
The 22-year-old explained that his weight got in the way of riding, which put him on the path to training.
“Weight knocked that on the head. It was only a short-lived stint, but I had some fun,” Wilson said.
“I originally started riding trackwork, and I was never oversized, and I gave that a crack at the picnics and got a few winners, but I never set the world on fire before finishing up.”
Wilson seemed destined to train and explained how it all came to be.
“Marcus (Wilson), my cousin trains 30 (horses) on the Gold Coast, and we have been close, and I’ve always wanted to get into that,” Wilson said.
“It all started when my partner and I bought a horse for $600, and she ran a place for us, and when I was getting too heavy to ride, I thought I’d stop riding and give the training side of things ago.”
Wilson had his first starter late last year, with Spanish King racing three times without a win, but that led to the pair’s purchase of Blue Sky Moon, and the rest is history.
“We had a very promising stayer, a horse called Spanish King, and he had run a few nice races without winning, and he managed to win first-up at Ipswich over 2100m for Marcus because we sort of lack those staying races around here,” Wilson said.
“We have got Spanish King back, and we liked the look of Blue Sky Moon when it won the Goodwood Cup at Inverell last year, and Sarra always liked the horse, and he came up for sale, and she managed to pick him up for $3000.
“We’ve had him about six weeks, and that was his first start for us at Armidale, and we couldn’t be any happier.”
It was a memorable win for connections, but they never expected to be celebrating a victory so soon.
“Sarra is from Armidale too, so it was excellent for her to own a good winner there, and we just looked after him,” Wilson said.
“It was a shock; we thought he’d run a good race, but I definitely didn’t expect him to win because we thought he needed the run.”
As far as riding and training, Wilson felt privileged to have tasted success in both capacities, but he said training a winner was a lot more rewarding.
“They’re different thrills,” Wilson said.
“There’s more adrenalin in the jockey side of things, but training-wise, wins are a reward for effort, and it doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas or what, you need to tend to them twice a day, so there’s a lot of work.”
Wilson, who has an owner/trainer’s licence at the moment, has grand plans to expand and is enjoying life at Inverell.
“I would like to gain my country trainers licence ultimately, and I’d love to expand, and who knows where we could end up one day,” Wilson said.
“Inverell has been good to us, and it’s a beautiful place, and the horses love it here.
“Plus, they have fantastic training facilities, and the only hard thing about being here is all the travel.”
It was another big day at Armidale, and for all results click here.