Apprentice jockey Jake Barrett seems to be at home in Dubbo with the Brett Robb stable.
Since making the move out west earlier this year, the apprentice jockey has found his feet, riding winners at Mudgee and Gilgandra last month, before landing a double at Cobar on Saturday along with winning the Cobar Cup on the Connie Greig-trained Valadyium.
Barrett was over the moon after landing his first winning-double and Country Cup.
“That is why I was so excited; it was my first country cup,” Barrett said.
“It rammed home why I’m here and why I’m away from my family and friends and it was one of those days.
“We were dirt track racing, and I was completely out of my comfort zone, but it was a great feeling and to win the Cobar Cup for Connie; that meant the world.
“She has always had my back and pulled me into line when I’ve needed it, and to win the cup for her meant a lot.”
It’s been an unusual journey for the 23-year-old, who only four years ago had never been in a saddle, before spending time with Gai Waterhouse and Kim Waugh.
“I was born and bred on the Central Coast, and I have been there most of my life,” Barrett said.
“Four years ago, I had never sat on a horse in my life and my first ever job was with Kim Waugh as a stablehand, and I thought, ‘nah stuff this’, and I got out of it and did some tiling and water proofing.
“Then one of my friends at the time worked at Waterhouse racing and they asked me what my weight was and asked me to come up there and learn how to ride and I ended up on the doorstep at Tulloch Lodge.
“I was there for two and a half years, and I learned how to ride, gallop and I was learning from some pretty well-respected people the whole time.”
Barrett then kicked off his career with Kim Waugh and he rode his first winner for her at Newcastle at only his eighth start when guiding Endless River to victory.
Unfortunately, a lack opportunities in the saddle forced Barrett to look elsewhere before he finally ended up on loan to the Brett Robb yard.
“I have been in the saddle for eight or nine months, but I only really got serious about my race riding two or three months ago,” Barrett said.
“It was a very hit and miss start to my career. I started off with Kim Waugh and got my first winner with Kim at Newcastle but then I went through a tough, quiet patch with Covid, and after that, I struggled to gain any traction.
“The suggestion was made to go out on loan, and I was thrown into the Brett Robb stable, and I’ve been here for nine or 10 weeks now,” Barrett said.
The move west has reinvigorated Barrett, who is loving life out west.
“I have never worked in a joint where a group of people care about each other so much and care about getting winners – it is just a really good place to work,” Barrett said.
“Plus, it’s the best of all worlds. I have one of the best breakers and horseman teaching me with Snow (Robb), and Clayton Gallagher and Johnny Wilson are there helping me, and there is Maddy Wright, who is the best picnic jockey around.
“My riding has improved tenfold and I’m very happy with the move.”
Barrett has developed a newfound respect for country racing, with the young hoop learning to appreciate the sport from a different perspective.
“Even from a track work perspective; It took me a good month to adjust to pace work,” Barrett said.
“You have to completely change your perception of what a quality horse is, and what a quality gallop is and since being here, I have come to respect picnic form lines, and really respect picnic racing.
“I have changed my outlook on how a horse is trained and raced and I have a lot of respect for country racing.”
Barrett is happy in Dubbo, and he didn’t envision a move anytime soon, but he said wherever he ended up, he simply wanted to be successful in the saddle.
“I just want to be successful; no matter where I’m racing,” Barrett said.
“Whether it is country, provincial or city – I want to be giving it 110% and I want to have a real crack.
“Every kid dreams of being a professional athlete and I’m blessed with the opportunity to be able to ride and I need to give it my all.”
Barrett will have more opportunities over the coming days, with the three-kilogram claiming hoop riding at Dubbo today, Quirindi on Saturday, Bathurst on Monday and Armidale on Tuesday.