Hard-working Welsh hoop Ash Morgan having season to remember

Ashley Morgan, pictured here on the Gayna Williams-trained Press Estate, is NSW’s leading country jockey in 2021/22, boasting 54 country victories and 64 state-wide victories. Photo: Racing Photography.

After riding a winning double at Port Macquarie on Friday, Ashley Morgan has been catapulted to top spot on the NSW country jockey’s premiership.

The in-form jockey won on the Natasha Hall-Antonio prepared Hemsted in the 1506m Benchmark 66 Handicap and the Joseph Burges-trained Wonfentein in the 1506m Class One Handicap, and now sits on 54 country wins for the 2021/22 season, which brings him level with fellow country hoop, Mathew Cahill.

Morgan has also ridden 10 provincial winners this season, meaning he sits on 64 victories in 2021/22, and is placed second on the NSW jockey’s standings, trailing only champion hoop, James McDonald, by four victories. 

“I think I’m second in the country and second in NSW, which is hard to believe,” Morgan said to NSW Country and Picnic Racing before riding his winning double at Port Macquarie on Friday.

“I’m on track for my best season. I was on 23 (winners) on January 1st last season, and I was on 56 (winners) on January 1st this year, so I am a long away ahead of where I was.”

The Welsh product, who arrived in Australia in 2018, said breaking the century barrier was his big goal this season. 

“The target was 100 this year, and all being well and everything going good, I should crack the 100,” Morgan said.

In a testament to his dedication to the sport and willingness to travel, Morgan has taken more rides than any other jockey in NSW in 2021/22, hopping in the saddle 478 times. 

Morgan believed his recent success, which includes riding a treble at Inverell on New Year’s Day and a double at Taree on January 3, came down to his willingness to travel for a rides and being on better horses.

“Obviously there is a lot of racing and I ride for a lot of trainers that have runners in most of the areas (in the state), so I’m riding everywhere,” Morgan said. 

“I’m doing a lot of traveling, but the quality is there too. I’m not going racing for the sake of racing, but the quality is better, and I know I have good chances and I’m happy to go that extra mile for those good horses.”

Morgan has been a regular on the NSW country racing circuit since arriving in Australia some three and a half years ago, but he explained that it took some time for him to find his feet in the industry. 

“I’m obviously more established now,” Morgan said. 

“It took me a year or two to adapt to the racing and I feel like it was only at the start of last year that it probably clicked for me.

“Obviously the winners have followed, but I feel like I’ve come along way, and every season has been an improvement.

“Plus, riding for bigger stables and Sydney stables has given me more opportunities.”

While he is based in Newcastle, Morgan said riding in town and making a name for himself as a Sydney jockey was the end ‘goal’.

“That’s the goal for sure,” Morgan said. 

“I was riding my winners in the country, and I only rode one provincial winner in my first season, and I’ve ridden 10 in the provincials so far this season, and that shows how far I’ve come.

“Hopefully I keep improving because the main goal is to be riding in town. 

Covid-19 has made it hard for Morgan to travel home to see his family, and the leading jockey said he would look to make a quick trip back once the 2021/22 season had come to a close. 

“I haven’t had a chance to get back home since I’ve been here,” Morgan said. 

“I am looking to get home for August, and get my daughter Christened, and I hope to be there for a couple of weeks.” 

For the time being, Morgan will be focused on his riding, and over the next four days, he will be riding at Wyong, Coffs Harbour and Taree.