Holidaying apprentice eyes first winner at Cooma

Jack Baker. Image – Supplied.

Being the son of former champion jockey-turned-trainer Garry Baker, Jack Baker has racing in his blood.

So, it’s no surprise that while holidaying with his partner in Canberra, the young Gold Coast-based apprentice, indentured to Richard Laming, has decided to make a quick detour via Cooma for tomorrow’s famous once-a-year meeting.

“I was actually just down here in Canberra on holiday and visiting some of my partner’s family, and I saw there was a meeting at Cooma, and I thought I would see if I could get a couple of rides,” Baker said. 

The 19-year-old will team up with good friends Joe Cleary and Tim Martin, riding Threethumsup in the $20,000 Sundowners Cup and Sunshine Reggae in the $12,000 Benchmark 50 Handicap (1200m). 

“Dad is very good friends with Joe and Tim, and he used to live with Tim,” Baker said. 

“I’ve always known Joe, and I always strap his horses when he brings them up to the Gold Coast, so it’s good to ride for them; it will be a very good experience, and I’m very thankful they gave me a ride.”

Baker has only ridden at one meeting, debuting with two second-placings at Gympie back on November 25. 

If he were to win his first race at Cooma for Martin, it would be a full-circle moment for everyone involved. 

“It was a good experience at Gympie, and I was a bit nervous with the first ride, but it was quite good after that, and the nerves eased up a bit,” Baker said. 

“It would be really great to win a race at Cooma for Joe and Tim, and especially for Tim because Dad actually rode Tim’s first winner as a trainer, and it would be cool if I could ride my first winner for him.”

Baker, who admitted that racing was ‘all he knew’, always looked destined to be a jockey. Still, he explained that it didn’t happen overnight, with the youngster initially considering being a Bloodstock Agent.

“I never really rode as a kid and only started riding track work about two years ago,” Baker said. 

“I was always into horses, but not the riding side, and I was more into my bloodstock and going around at the Magic Millions, and I was half into the training side of it.

“I’m not short, but I am light, and I thought I might as well give it a crack and see how I go, and I’m glad I did.”

His undeniable talents will be on show at Cooma on Saturday, and while he was confident in both of his chances, he said he didn’t know what to expect from the Snowy Mountains racecourse. 

“I’ve heard it’s a pretty tight track, but I don’t know much about the area,” Baker said. 

“A couple of trainers on the Gold Coast are from down in this area, and they have told me a bit about it, but I’ll just go have a good walk on the tack when I get there tomorrow and go from there.”

In terms of his chances, Baker thinks he has two good opportunities to ride his first winner, and he was leaning towards one over the other. 

“I think they are both good chances, and both have been running in TAB races and been quite competitive,” Baker said. 

They both go back to the non-TAB, and especially Tim’s; it (Sunshine Reggae) can handle a wet track quite well, and the conditions should suit.”

It is set to be a big day at Cooma, with the $20,000 Sundowners Cup (1400m) for the maidens and the $20,000 Cooma Cup (1600m) headlining a good six-race card. 

The program has been well-supported, with 66 acceptances,

There has been a bit of rain in the region, and some more is on the radar, and as a result, the Cooma racecourse is currently rated a Heavy 9. 

Racing NSW Stewards will inspect the Cooma racing surface at 6:30 am tomorrow (Saturday) ahead of the race meeting scheduled for later that day (first at 1:20 pm).