Sam making the most of his happy place

By Dennis Ryan

7 Apr 2022

Sam making the most of his happy placeSam Weatherley returns on Maven Belle after capping his season with victory in the Gr. 1 Manawatu Si

“It’s more important to keep a good mind-frame; I figure that when you’re happy it comes through in your riding.”
When Sam Weatherley surrendered to homesickness and returned from a successful stint riding in Sydney, one of his ambitions was to win the New Zealand jockeys’ premiership.
He was already a dual apprentice champion, leading to a position riding for champion Sydney trainer Chris Waller. His 15 months there produced 45 wins, well justifying his right to mix it with the best, but not enough to counter other factors in his life.
Having settled back in Matamata close to family and friends at the start of the 2019-20 season, Weatherley refound his happy place. The 22-year-old has yet to win the premiership, but he’s come to realise that’s not the b-all and end-all.
More than 150 wins later and a current tally of 50 were capped last Saturday when he broke a four-year drought between his career-first Group One win and his second with a masterly front-running ride on Maven Belle in the Courtesy Ford Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes at Awapuni.
Add other season highlights such as the $1 million Karaka Million 3YO Classic on Maven Belle’s stablemate Pin Me Up and the Gr. 2 Rich Hill Mile on his father Darryn’s horse Mali Ston, and Weatherley is well satisfied with where his career is at.
“A premiership would be nice, but that probably went out the window when this season got off to a slow start for me with the COVID delay and a couple of niggly suspensions,” he told RaceForm. “But my real goal was to get on the right horses and give myself to win some decent races.
“My agent Stu Laing is a big help there and it sure helps to get noticed by a stable like Te Akau, who are so dominant in the big races. Things really started to happen for me around Christmas and since then I’ve won six stakes races.”
Pin Me Up was one of three Jamie Richards-trained runners in the Karaka Million 3YO Classic and at $24 she wasn’t a leading prospect, but Weatherley conjured the perfect result from her. At the start of the month he had done likewise on the rapidly emerging Mali Ston, who landed a narrow win in the Rich Hill Mile, his first start in open company.
“That was special, winning a big race on a horse trained by my father and strapped by my sister Briar, also for the family who bred and race him. And then to win a $1 million race, that was a real buzz too.
“It was great to be asked by Mark Walker to ride Maven Belle at Awapuni. She had the record on the board and it meant a lot to be given a free rein how to ride her from the draw.
“When she bounced the gates she just put herself in the race and travelled sweetly all the way. In the end she was pretty dominant.”
Weatherley, who admits to being frugal with his money – “I don’t like to spend too much”, he says – is similarly conscientious with his weight and overall approach to his career.
“I’m one of the taller jockeys and have to be careful how I manage my weight, and the other thing is I don’t set out to rid at weights I would struggle with. I can ride at 54kg but nothing lighter, that allows me to feel happy and have a good state of mind at the same time.
“Those are things that really matter to me. I can still remember travelling here, there and everywhere to find winners when I was chasing those two apprentice titles, but I don’t want to be doing that.
“It’s more important to keep a good mind-frame; I figure that when you’re happy it comes through in your riding.”
Weatherley is currently sitting out a careless riding suspension that ends next week, but won’t be seen in action locally for the immediate future. Instead he’s heading back to Sydney, but only temporarily, to ride Mali Ston and stablemate Maria Farina in their late autumn campaign.
“I’m really looking forward to heading over next week. Dad’s pretty busy with the stable back here and Briar and I will take care of things when he can’t be there.
“We’ll be based at Rosehill, which will a good chance to catch up with everyone over there, and Mali Ston is targeting the Hawkesbury Gold Cup later in the month. If he was to go well in that I think the plan is to look at a race called The Coast up at Gosford.
“It’s for three and four-year-olds over 1600 and worth half a million, so that would be a nice challenge. Maria Farina and Mali Ston are mates and will be good for each other on the trip. I
“She’s a better horse than her form might suggest – she’s one of those that pulls up when she hits the front – but if we can place her right she’s got it in her to pick up some money.”