Bradley officially hanging up riding boots

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  • June 04, 2024
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Bradley officially hanging up riding boots

Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

Central Districts jockey Darryl Bradley has been in a career transition over the last few years, and he feels now is the right time to officially call time on his riding career.

It brings the curtain down on four decades in the saddle where the 57-year-old horseman has recorded 1,832 wins, and 103 of those at stakes level.

For the last five years, Bradley has been transitioning to a career as a racecourse manager, for which he is now the track manager of Manawatu Harness Racing Club in Palmerston North, following stints at Awapuni and Foxton racecourses.

“I knew my riding career was starting to dry up, so I was searching for another job, and I was lucky enough to get the course manager’s job at Foxton Racing Club five-and-a-half years ago. That was a great start,” Bradley said.

“The club allowed me to continue doing track work and riding raceday.

“I really started to enjoy course management and I was told Foxton would never be a raceday venue again and I wanted to grow and be a racecourse manager. Manawatu Harness (track manager job) came up a little while later and I got the job, and I am very grateful.”

While Bradley made a career in the saddle, harness racing isn’t foreign to him, having grown up with a dual-code trainer father, Graham Bradley.

“I was brought up in harness when I was an apprentice, because my father trained both codes,” Bradley said.

“My career is all due to my father, who was a sheep and beef farmer. His father was into harness and he used to drive in races himself.

“We moved to Stratford and Dad started to get a little (racing) team around him of both codes – thoroughbreds and standardbreds.”

Surrounded by both thoroughbreds and standardbreds growing up, it was the former that captured a young Bradley’s imagination, and he was intent on pursuing a career as a jockey.

“When I was a kid, even though I had very little to do with racing, I loved the horses, the speed and the colours, and I always said ‘I want to be a jockey when I grow up’,” he said.

However, he still held a passion for harness racing, so attempted to go down both paths in his youth.

“I did my cadetship as a harness driver and did the probationary part of that – I drove in trials. I went to apply for my raceday license and NZTR (New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing) wouldn’t allow me to be a dual code license holder, so naturally I kept my thoroughbred license, I was three years into my apprenticeship by then.”

Bradley said his father was instrumental in launching his riding career.

“If I hadn’t been with my Dad, I would have been one of those typical apprentices that was mucking out and doing the dirty work all the time and got the occasional slow ride just to keep me happy,” he said. “But with Dad, he put me on everything, and we were self-taught, and I gradually learned the trade.”

Bradley rode his first winner for his father in 1984, while his first stakes win came several seasons later.

“Choir Path was my first winning ride, he was Dad’s horse,” he said. “My first stakes winner might have been Sir Daniel in the Hawke’s Bay Cup in 1992.”

Bradley enjoyed his time working under his father, but decided a move to Palmerston North was important to help further his riding career.

“One day I said to Dad, ‘if I want to grow then I have got to go to Manawatu, that is where the heart of Central Districts racing is’, and I moved to Manawatu in 1994,” he said.

“I had to gradually get more confidence and more trainers’ support. I rode for Felix Campbell and that is when it started to turn, when you are riding Group winners.”

Bradley’s career trajectory continued to rise, and eventually he became the country’s leading jockey in the 1998/99 season when riding 133 winners, eight at stakes level, and more than $1.3 million in prizemoney.

“A season before that I really started to hit my straps,” Bradley said. “A very good trainer friend of mine in Invercargill started to push me and said ‘let’s target the premiership next year’.”

Bradley said he has had a number of highlights in his career, but none more so than winning the 2016 Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m) with El Soldado.

“That was a race I thought I would never win,” he said. “I find Ellerslie the hardest track to ride. It was something special about El Soldado winning.

“He was only just ahead of Sapio winning the Doomben Cup and New Zealand Cup.”

Bradley also enjoyed a lot of success on a number of other horses and enjoyed a solid record with a number of Central Districts trainers.

“There was Chad, he won 14 races and I won 13 on him, and I won 12 on King Of Ashford,” he said. “I had a good association with Karren Zimmerman when she was at Otaki, I rode just over 100 winners for her. Then joining the stable of Lisa Latta, the list goes on there.

“In the mid-nineties, I got a call from Kay Marsh, Bruce Marsh’s wife and she asked if I wanted to join their stable. That was a big boost to my career, Bruce was a very astute trainer.”

Bradley’s riding career also afforded him the ability to travel internationally.

“I have ridden in four states of Australia, with a couple of placings and the Group One win in the Doomben Cup,” he said. “When I won the (New Zealand Jockeys’) premiership, I was lucky enough to represent New Zealand in the World Jockeys’ Championship in Japan. After the first day, I was first equal, and I ended up seventh overall.

“I rode Sapio in Hong Kong for an international race, I had four months in Malaysia where I rode 17 winners, and I spent two months in Mauritius before I got sick and had to come home. I had three wins there from 20 rides.

“If it wasn’t for horse racing, I wouldn’t have probably gone out of the country. The people you meet and places you go are just beautiful.”

While Bradley will miss riding on raceday, he said it is the people that have made his career so special.

“There are a lot of fantastic people in the industry,” he said.


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