Ad

A passion that burns bright

18 May 2022 Written by Celia Purdey

Jason Benbow is dedicated to racing. He not only loves his job as a jockey, but also the National Jockeys Trust, where he volunteers any spare time he has to bring awareness to this important organisation.

Like most professional jockeys, and many in the racing industry, Jason Benbow’s day starts early. “I was up at 3.30am riding trackwork and trials at Pakenham for Peter Moody, and now I’m on my way to Moe where I have a couple of rides today. I’ll probably get home at about 7.30pm.”

It’s a long and tiring day, but for Benbow, 36, he wouldn’t have it any other way. “I love my job. I am so lucky to work with horses every day, and it is definitely the best part of it. You can’t replace it.”

Born into a racing family, Benbow’s father Bennie was a jockey for many years, before his love of thoroughbreds led him into the trainer’s circle. Up until a few years ago, he was a trainer at Traralgon, so it is a world that Benbow has always been a part of. “I grew up riding ponies and horses, and I just loved it,” he said.

Now a father of three daughters, Benbow laments that they don’t have the same opportunities as him, living in the countryside with horses at their disposal. “My wife and I had similar upbringings as she grew up in the equestrian world and was also around horses, but our lifestyle now and where we live just doesn’t allow for our girls to have the same experience.”

Having a Group 1-winning dad however does mean that they are never too far away from an equine athlete, including some absolute stars of the sport. “When my eldest daughter was just 18 months old, she got to sit on the back of Black Caviar. Not a bad first-ever horse to sit on!” Benbow laughs.

Apprenticed to Peter Moody at age 18, Benbow has had a long and happy working relationship with him and his team. “Peter is like a father-figure to me. He and Sarah have always been so welcoming and loyal, which I think shows the true character of people.” Since Moody has returned to training, Benbow realised just how appreciative he is of the team that was created by the stable.

“Luke Nolen and I were basically with Peter from day 1, and it has been an honour to watch the evolution of everything. Everyone plays a role, although I truly believe the stable staff are the real heroes. They are there every day, rain, hail or shine.”

Racing not only provides Benbow with employment and satisfies his love of the horse, it also presents opportunities he would never have dreamed of, including starring in Hollywood films. “When Ride Like a Girl was auditioning for the jockey parts, Chris Symons encouraged me to give it a go. I decided to do it for a challenge, and to show my girls you can try anything. I was successful, and was cast as Kerrin McEvoy! It was a great experience, and Kerrin and I had some good laughs about it.” 

The other great thing to come from racing for Benbow is his association with the National Jockeys Trust. It was a fall in 2008 that introduced him to the work of the organisation. “I felt sorry for myself after that fall, and wanted to get involved somehow and make a difference. I was so career-driven, but was suddenly stopped in my tracks. I needed something to put my energy into, something to fill the void.”

His volunteer role with the NJT began, and has evolved over the years. “I don’t really have a title. Nathan Rose and I work closely together, and I guess you could say it is an event management role.” He created the popular annual NJT cricket match, and organises events such as the luncheon at Flemington this Saturday, on National Jockeys Trust Race Day.

“We are of course there to raise money, but also to shed a little light on what the Trust does. Jockey camaraderie is one of the best parts of this job, so to see that carry on for the past jockeys who are supported by the Trust is so special and unique.

“We also can’t do this without the support of the industry and clubs like the VRC. We are so appreciative of their contribution.”

Visit njt.org.au to find out more about what they do, or to donate.

FAST FIVE

Best part of your job?

Definitely the horses, but also the jockey camaraderie. It’s a tough way of life sometimes and you have to have a passion for it, but the community makes it easier. I am also proud of the equality in our sport between men and women. We really promote a world where gender doesn't matter.

Most challenging part of your job?

Finding and creating opportunities. You are your own salesman and there is a lot of hard work behind the scenes to get to that minute or two on the racetrack. It is just the tip of the iceberg, and things may not go your way because of many variables.

Favourite horse?

Dad’s first city winner was a mare called Quiccolo, but her stable name was Chloe. We bred from her and she had a foal called Mookcollo, who I won a race or two on. Sadly, Chloe contracted colic and died. It was heart wrenching for us because dad only had a small stable, and every horse was like a pet. I actually ended up naming one of my daughters Chloe after this special horse.

Favourite racing moment?

My personal career highlight was winning the 2004 Cantala Stakes on Sky Cuddle, trained by Peter Moody. I was only 18, an apprentice and it was my first Group 1 race. A more low-key moment that stands out though, was one day in the mounting yard at Moonee Valley. Luke Nolen was riding Black Caviar and I was on another horse in the next race. We were awaiting instructions from Peter, when one of Black Caviar’s owners handed him the lucky dollar, which was a thing they had when Black Caviar raced. Peter twirled it around and dropped it. All three of us just froze, and there was dead silence. If you were superstitious you would have been very worried, but Luke and Black Caviar went out and won by about five lengths, so that was a relief!

What do you do to relax?

It is a madhouse at home! Between the kids and my wife running her own baking business, Baked by Floss, from home, there is always something happening. I play golf whenever I can. My wife would probably say too often! I see many parallels between golf and racing, as it teaches you to relax and control your emotions. You just have to deal with any mistakes and move on.

Advertisement