JUMPS jockey Tom Ryan left his Irish homeland's worsening economic conditions behind him 18 months ago in search of riches in Australia.
Yesterday the 27-year-old hit paydirt when he etched his name into Warrnambool's racing history, winning the $100,000 3YB Scotty Stewart Brierly Steeplechase (3450m).
Ryan produced a masterful ride on the Robert Smerdon-trained Fareer, denying Warrnambool hope Megapixel a home-town victory in the feature race on the opening day of Warrnambool's May Racing Carnival.
"Over the moon, absolutely over the moon," Ryan said after accepting a commemorative whip and trophy.
"Robert Smerdon had him trained to the minute."
Ryan, who rode in two English Grand Nationals, rated yesterday's win alongside his victory in last year's Australian Grand National Steeplechase on the Ciaron Maher-trained Man Of Class.
"Warrnambool is a great carnival. The National was absolutely sensational but every jumps jockey wants to win at Warrnambool."
Ryan, who is based with Russell Cameron at Flemington, only picked up the ride on Fareer after Australia's premier jumps jockey Steve Pateman opted to ride Megapixel, which was two lengths away in second.
"I was relatively happy where I was (in the run). I got into a lovely rhythm. When I got on to the course proper, he just came alive."
He said Fareer was "quite quick, a very brave jumper".
"They say horses don't like to jump, he will tell you different."
Ryan was a fresh-faced 21-year-old when he came to Australia six years ago to ride in an international jumps racing series.
He vowed he would return if he ever got the chance.
When the racing industry was hit by the global financial crisis, he decided to leave his home in Galway and head for the land Down Under.
The win was Smerdon's second Brierly triumph in three years, following the great Some Are Bent's victory in 2010.
"I thought his ride was great," Smerdon said of Ryan's performance.
"He jumped faultlessly. When he gets into wet tracks there could be more (success)." Smerdon said the five-year-old gelding was a cheap pick-up.
"He's more than repaid the purchase price," he said.
Smerdon, who was born and raised at Derrinallum, about 50 minutes north-east of Warrnambool, had a day to remember at the carnival yesterday.
He won all three jumps races, the two maiden hurdles and the feature steeplechase.
With champion hurdler Black And Bent a short-priced favourite in today's feature Galleywood Hurdle (3200m), Smerdon has his sights set on another triumph.
But he won't be driving away in a new Mercedes- Benz like he did two years ago for winning a trainer's bonus by producing four winners, including a feature.
A race must have a minimum of 10 runners in it to qualify towards the bonus and today's Galleywood only has eight.
"I feel like Walter Lindrum, they keep changing the rules to beat me," he said.
Fareer ($7.50) was positioned off the early speed in yesterday's race with last year's third-placegetter Royal Laddie and Megapixel ($4.60) setting the pace. They led the field to the last of 19 fences where Ryan brought Fareer on to their heels.
After clearing the last, he surged to the front. The Darren Weir-trained Via Savoia was a length away third after making a lot of ground late.
The Jarrod McLean-trained Cats Fun ($4.20 favourite) lost ground going down the hill to the Tozer Road double and surged to the line to finish fifth in a solid hit out for tomorrow's Grand Annual Steeplechase (5500m). He was just behind the Clinton McDonald-trained Grizz ($31) which also did his best work late, running on well for fourth.
The only casualty of the race was equal second favourite, the Matthew Hyland-trainer Phaze Action, which fell at the third-last fence. Jockey Paul Hamblin escaped without injury and the gelding ran on beyond the field.