Weatherley always proud of his habit

Darren Weatherley will be riding in memory of Rough Habit on Sunday.

Darren Weatherley will be riding in memory of Rough Habit on Sunday.

  It’s often said when racing gets in your blood you just can’t shake it. For Darren Weatherley there’s also a habit in racing he’ll never forget.

Weatherley (42) ended his career as a jockey at Te Aroha in March 2004, the day he won on Desert Flight. But next Sunday he will be back on the racetrack at Te Rapa as one of the 10 ex-jockeys competing in the Classic Jockeys Series.

Each of the riders in the novelty event was asked to come up with his or her favourite winner to be used as the highlighted name for their mount in the maiden 1000-metre non-totalisator event and when the question was put to Weatherley there was no hesitation. “It’s got to be Rough Habit.”

Weatherley began his apprenticeship at Matamata with the master Jim Gibbs, but it was later when transferring to Taranaki trainer Bob Sharrock that he was very fortunate to pick up the ride on the John Wheeler-trained Rough Habit.

“I had two rides on Roughie for two wins,” recalled Weatherley, who has a photograph of one of those memorable wins proudly displayed in the bar room at his home.

“I was lucky to ride some good horses but he was special. There’ll never be another Roughie.”

Weatherley was aboard Rough Habit when the champion scored the second win of his illustrious career, at Hastings in February 1990, and was again in the saddle when he recorded his next win, a month later at Hawera.

Rough Habit went on to win a total of 29 races, including 11 Group One events, and be the New Zealand Horse Of The Year twice (1992 and 1995). He retired with more than $5million in prizemoney and was inducted into the NZ Racing Hall Of Fame in 2012.

Weatherley got a buzz watching Rough Habit compete, especially at the highest level, and he shared in the sadness when “Roughie” died last Friday week at the age of 28.

Rough Habit’s feats were recalled again last Wednesday when his close relation Addictive Habit won the Gr. 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile for Cambridge trainer Lee Somervell. And come next Sunday Roughie’s deeds will again be talked about as Weatherley attempts to win the first leg of the two-race Classic Jockeys Series on a horse bearing the name Rough Habit for the day.

Weatherley isn’t taking his return to the raceday saddle lightly. In fact he and Classic Jockeys Series rival Jim Collett took advantage of last Tuesday’s Cambridge trials to prepare further for the event at the Cambridge Jockey Club’s meeting. Both had two rides.

“It was a great buzz to get out there again,” said Weatherley. “I’ve kept riding trackwork for years but it’s not the same as riding in a race or trial. I was feeling a bit sore after the trials but I’ll be all go for next Sunday.”

Weatherley kicked home 281 winners in New Zealand and he also picked up a win at Penang during a two-week contract riding for former Kiwi trainer Paddy Busuttin. A stint in Australia resulted in placings.

Though Rough Habit is the top of Weatherley’s list, he also had the experience of riding such other top gallopers as Sounds Like Fun (a second), Field Dancer (a third) and Maurine (a fourth from three rides) when indentured to Gibbs.

Weatherley’s two most important wins came in 2002 in the Gr. 3 Highview Stakes (Molly Dot Com) and the Gr. 3 Eulogy Stakes (Gypsy Babe). He also picked up a couple of Listed races (Marton Metric Mile and Wanganui Stakes) on Van Winkle, plus the Listed CTS Wanganui Cup on Orchido and the Listed Manawatu Breeders’ Stakes on Ethlen.

“Though I gave up I’ve still got the passion,” said Weatherley, who is making his mark pre-training and breaking-in young horses. He is also training a few horses.

“It’ll be good to get out there again on Sunday. I’d say there’ll be a fair bit of interest in the race.”