Prolific Penza rides for Group 1 glory

Jeff Penza.

Prolific provincial and country hoop, Jeff Penza, will make the rare trip into the city on Saturday for the opportunity to add the title of ‘Group 1 winning jockey’ to his extensive resume.

One of the more popular jockeys going around – known for his work ethic and rarely having a day off – it is a proven formula, with Penza boasting over 2,000 career winners that included a fruitful 2016/17 season that saw him ride 136 winners to be the leading jockey in NSW.

Penza heads to Royal Randwick in great form, sitting sixth overall in the NSW jockey standings with 21 ½ winners for the 2021/22 season, and he had a record-breaking day in the saddle on Newcastle Cup Day, becoming the only jockey in history to win all three Newcastle features on the same program.

It was a couple well rated front running rides aboard Madam Legend and Ashman to claim the Tibbie Stakes and Cameron Handicap respectively, which split a fantastic win from Great House in the Cup.

After his recent run of form, Penza will be eager to continue his association and look to go back-to-back with Chris Waller’s Great House in the Group 1 Metropolitan (2400m) and Kim Waugh’s Ashman in the time-honoured Epsom Handicap (1600m). 

The hard-working hoop uses plenty of petrol travelling across the state and just this month has ridden winners at Moruya, Taree, Newcastle, Goulburn, Port Macquarie but he was forced to endure a rare break, going into isolation following his Port Macquarie rides in order to be eligible to ride in town due to Covid-19 rules and regulations for jockeys.

The 51-year-old was looking forward to the opportunity on Saturday, although admitting winning a Group 1 race had never been at the top of his ‘to do’ list.

“I have to do a bit of wasting and a bit of isolating on either side of the meeting but I’m excited about it all,” Penza said.

“I haven’t really ever aimed for a Group 1 win. People see where I ride every weekend but every now and then an opportunity like this pops up.”

Penza did go close to Group 1 glory back in 2015, riding Sons of John to third in the Epsom, and while Group 1 opportunities have been few and far between since then, the popular hoop will take the bull by the horns at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

“Something similar happened with Sons Of John. He ran third in an Epsom,” Penza said.

“I’ve had to wait a few years for another Group 1 ride, and I’ve got a couple so I’m very excited.”