Luke, why was the win on Royal Butterfly so significant?
It was my first winner back after a long stint on the sidelines. It was an emotional day.
My life and career has had many highs and lows, but the win was very special.
Can you tell me about the highs and lows of your career as a jockey and life?
I’ve battled addictions to alcohol and drugs since I was very young.
I started drinking alcohol when I was 15 years old and got involved with drugs when I turned 18.
I’ve often thought how my riding career may have gone if I never got involved in drugs. But I can’t change what I’ve done in the past.
We’ll speak about your addictions shortly. How did you get involved in racing?
I worked at the stables of Gary Lee at Mornington before being apprenticed to Peter Healey at Mornington.
I then went and worked for Jim Marconi. Jim had some top horses in his stable back in that era, including Rancho Ruler and King Marauding.
I had a stint working for Gary Carson and then I went to Tasmania where I worked for Charlie Goggin.
I finished my apprenticeship riding for Raymond Goldsmith. I outrode my whole claim when my apprenticeship was finished. I was stood down from riding by the stewards when I was 21 years old.
From 1250 rides in my career I’ve rode 123 winners, but I’ve had long stints on the sidelines. I’ve got a 9 per cent winning strike rate during my entire career and 26 per cent for the place. I think they’re pretty good sort of figures.
Luke, I take it the reason why stewards stood you down would be related to your addictions. Is that right?
Yes, it’s been a battle. I understand that I’ve made mistakes and let people down during my life, but those things are in the past.
I often think back now and ask why I got involved in drugs and part of that relates to a prescribed drug called duromine I was taking to keep weight off.
I was hooked on duromine as I was having problems with my weight and out of the blue, a friend suggested to me one day to try speed because it was better. I ended up getting hooked on speed and then tried all other types of drugs.
I was sent to prison in 2005 and spent two years inside, firstly at Barwon and then at Port Phillip.
The charges I was sentenced to prison for centred around drug offences.
Did you learn much about yourself while you were in prison?
Yes, I kept my nose clean. I thought I’m in here now, so I’ve got to keep myself busy. I did a lot of courses and studied while in prison – I just wanted to learn.
I did kitchenhand courses, first-aid courses and drug/alcohol courses.
I was released from the Beechworth Correctional Centre in 2007.
I caught a bus and then train back to Melbourne and was back on the drugs again.
I wanted to give the drugs away completely but fell into another hole. I was lucky Des O’Keefe, who was in charge of the jockeys, got me back on track.
The late Mark Primmer was also a great help when I moved to Warrnambool.
I’ve been off drugs for the last three years and I’m really proud of the fact.
I’m a better person now for the experiences which I’ve encountered during my life. I’m in a wonderful relationship with Brooke and I’ve got my faith in Jesus.
I’m not saying it’s been easy, but I’m in a great space now. I’m fully focused on my fitness. Physically, mentally and spiritually everything is going really well.
I’ve been drinking Carlton Zero for the last three months and that’s really helped me.
Have you sustained many injuries during your riding career?
I’ve had my fair share of injuries, funnily all the injuries relate to trackwork accidents not race falls.
I broke a bone in my neck, five ribs and punctured a lung when I was 38-years-old in a trackwork accident in Queensland.
I’ve also broke my right shoulder blade and broke my right foot.
The injury which has caused me great concern has been my little left finger. I’ve had a few operations to fix it, but it would not heal. It’s been an ongoing problem but it’s right now.
Luke, you won a race on Tough Vic at Mortlake on Saturday but got suspended for the ride. The suspension must be disappointing?
Yes, it is disappointing but that’s racing. I did the wrong thing and the stewards had to suspend me. It was wonderful to get back in the winners stall on Tough Vic. He’s one tough horse.
I’ve got three rides at Alice Springs on Melbourne Cup Day. I got a call out of the blue to go there to ride because there’s a shortage of jockeys up there with so many meetings being run around Australia.
The suspension means I’ll miss riding at Warrnambool on Thursday, but I’ll be back for Hamilton next Tuesday.
Who would be your greatest fan?
That’s an easy question. Has to be my mum.
She lives up in Queensland and is battling breast cancer.
She’s in good spirits and was over the moon that I rode a winner at Mortlake.
Luke, have you received plenty of support from local owners and trainers since you moved to Warrnambool?
Yes, I’ve been very lucky.
Trainers including Daniel Bowman, Quinton Scott, Alan Peterson, Tammy Good, Adam Chambers, John Brooks have been wonderful. I ride a lot of work for Jenny Smith. She’s been another trainer who has been very supportive.
Luke, thank you for being so honest and frank about your life. I hope you have great success in your future endeavours.
Thanks for your kind words. I’m giving everything my best shot now.