INTERNATIONALLY-acclaimed riding coach Steve Smith Eccles has spoken in glowing terms of Victoria’s jumps jockeys after he saw them school and trial horses in Warrnambool yesterday.
Smith Eccles, 57, rode more than 900 jumps winners during his 23-year career and has been in Victoria for the past six days overseeing an intensive training program that has focused on safety for jumps jockeys, trainers and horses.
“I’ve been very impressed by the talent I’ve seen from the jumps jockeys over the past few days,” he said at Warrnambool’s racecourse.
“There are some very good jumps jockeys here. Some of the boys are still learning their skills but, on the other hand, you are always learning in this caper.
“I would say Steve Pateman could hold his own on the world stage as a jumps jockey. He should be the role model that the other jumps jockeys strive to be like.
“He’s a very driven person to succeed and that’s how the other jumps jockeys should be.
“They should all want to be winners.”
Smith Eccles, who is highly sought after as a consultant and coach to jumps jockeys and trainers in the United Kingdom and Ireland, follows in the footsteps of British Olympic equestrian coach Yogi Breisner, who conducted a multi-day workshop for Victorian jumps jockeys last year.
“Part of the workshop has been at Racing Victoria, Glenormiston, Mornington and Warrnambool over the past few days and has centred on race riding, jockey fitness, weight and all other aspects relating to jumps racing,” Smith Eccles said.
“We are trying to improve the standard of jockeys. There has been a bit of one-on-one advice for the boys over the past few days.
“I’ve kept on telling the boys that practice is the key to being successful.
“Former champion jumps jockey Craig Durden is a great mentor for the boys.”
Smith Eccles is no stranger to Warrnambool. He rode in a steeplechase around the racecourse in 1985 as part of a British jumps racing series.
“There were three legs in the series. We rode in America before going to New Zealand and then Australia,” he said.
“The races in Australia were at Flemington, Sandown, Moe and Warrnambool.”
Racing Minister Denis Napthine said having Smith Eccles work with jumps jockeys and trainers had further enhanced safety in jumps racing in Victoria.
“While the last two years have seen a vast improvement in safety statistics in jumps racing, we are not prepared to rest on our laurels,” he said.
“The Victoria Coalition government and the racing industry are absolutely committed to ongoing safety enhancements for both jockeys and horses.”
Racing Victoria workforce development officer and Australia Jumps Racing Association secretary Lisa Coffey revealed 16 new trainers had indicated over the past few days that they wanted to train jumpers.
“We’ve been really busy over the past few days fielding inquiries from trainers who are interested in training jumpers,” she said.
“Horse numbers early in the season may tend to be a bit light, but I can assure you as the season goes on the amount of jumps horses in races will increase.”