Collett celebrates Group One anniversary in best possible way

By Dennis Ryan

30 Jun 2022

Collett celebrates Group One anniversary in best possible wayJason Collett is firmly established in Sydney jockey ranks

“Yeah I’m starting to really like Tatt’s Tiara day, and it was great to top it off with that win on a New Zealand-owned horse.”
A badly timed injury brought a premature end to Jason Collett’s Sydney autumn carnival, but he has well and truly moved on from dwelling on any missed opportunities.
His feature race double at Eagle Farm last Saturday was a timely reminder of just how far his career has come from his days as a champion apprentice jockey in New Zealand. That title earned a stint with Chris Waller and then a permanent shift to Sydney a decade ago.
He thrived in the highly competitive environment and after a frustrating run of Group One placings, in June 2019 he finally broke through when riding the Waller-trained Invincibella to victory in the Gr. 1 Tatt’s Tiara at Eagle Farm.
He had to wait more than a year for his second elite win, which came on the David Payne-trained Montefilia in the Spring Champion Stakes, and last March the same horse provided one leg of a momentous double when Collett was again on board in her defeat of Horse of the Year Verry Elleegant in the Gr. 1 Ranvet Stakes at Rosehill.
On the same card Collett also partnered the Ciaron Maher/David Eustace-trained Lighthouse in her Gr. 1 Coolmore Classic success, but only days later disaster struck when he broke a collarbone in a midweek Warwick Farm fall. That meant six weeks on the sideline, but it at least allowed time for Collett and his partner Clare Cunningham to visit New Zealand with their infant daughter Scarlet for a long-awaited meet and greet with family and friends.
“Up until that fall my autumn had been going really well, but it wasn’t all bad.” Collett recalled when RaceForm spoke with him earlier this week. “Scarlet had arrived during lockdown and I was grateful that after 10 months my parents were finally able to meet their grand-daughter.”
Collett’s season didn’t take long to get back on track, and last Saturday at Eagle Farm he marked the anniversary of his maiden Group One victory in the final Group One race of the Australian season with a second Tatt’s Tiara on the Robert Heathcote-trained Startantes. For good measure in the next race he also partnered the Trelawney Stud-owned Snitzel mare Juan Diva in her career-high win in the Gr. 3 W.J. Healy Stakes.
“Yeah I’m starting to really like Tatt’s Tiara day,” Collett added,” and it was great to top it off with that win on a New Zealand-owned horse.
“Startantes is a funny wee mare, you really need to know her. I hadn’t ridden her for a while, but I was on her when she finished second in the Surround Stakes in Sydney back in the summer and I knew what to expect.
“She’s very unassuming, she doesn’t travel on the bridle and if you were on her for the first time you’d be worried on the turn. On Saturday she was well back but I hoped that she had it there and sure enough, when I asked her she picked up and really accelerated through them.”
Collett has been joined in Sydney in recent times by his younger sister Alysha, who has been mixing her riding between metropolitan and provincial tracks to now have a tally of more than 70 wins and a top-20 spot on the overall New South Wales premiership.
“It’s been good having Alysha living here,” says Collett, “and we’re looking forward to the rest of the family moving over some time soon.”
Parents Richard and Judy Collett, as well as the eldest of their offspring, former jockey Natasha and her husband Andrew Calder and their children, are making final arrangements to move from Pukekohe to Sydney. Calder’s recent Ruakaka race fall, in which he suffered multiple injuries, has meant some delay in plans.
“It’s going to be good,” says Jason, who expects the family to be together in Sydney ahead of November, when he and his long-time partner Clare are scheduled to be married.
At age 31, Collett is firmly established in Sydney jockey ranks with his current tally of 58 metropolitan wins placing him fourth to runaway champion James McDonald and within just a handful of wins of Hugh Bowman and Tommy Berry. His tally of 97 wins has him sixth on the New South Wales table.
Collett chuckles when the inevitable question is asked about his all-conquering compatriot J-Mac. “Good on James, he’s a freak, but I’m more than happy with how my career is going. Sydney racing is great, and for me and the opportunities I’m getting – the lifestyle and everything – I could hardly ask for more.”