Flemington trainer Nick Ryan shares Ollie’s incredible moment
In July 2020, Flemington trainer Nick Ryan clinched his first-ever stakes victory in the Listed VRC-CRV Winter Championship Series Final with Sircconi, a highlight of the trainer’s career. On Saturday 16 December in Perth, however, he added an even bigger highlight – Damien Oliver’s incredible win on Munhamek in the Group 3 Damien Oliver Gold Rush.
It had it all, and as Ryan commented afterwards, “you couldn’t script it”, as Ollie stormed to victory in his final-ever ride that will go down as one of the jockey’s best, and Ryan’s biggest so far.
As Ollie takes his final bow after his incredible career, we learn a little more about Flemington’s Nick Ryan, whose training career is only on the rise.
OLLIE BOWS OUT A WINNER!— SKY Racing (@SkyRacingAU) December 16, 2023
A remarkable ride sees Munhamek take out the Damien Oliver Gold Rush... INCREDIBLE!🙌🐐🏆 pic.twitter.com/EyhazINeRd
Ryan had always known that he wanted to be a jockey.
He spent his childhood around the Flemington stables as his grandfather Charlie Connell worked for Tom Hughes Senior.
He already had a strong racing pedigree, with his father B.J. Ryan an ex-jockey and his stepdad Jeff Gordon a bloodstock agent.
Ryan began riding at Oaklands Pony Club as a four-year-old knowing there was only one thing he was going to do when he grew up: become a jockey. He left school at 14 and started his apprenticeship at Flemington with Robert Smerdon.
He became only the third apprentice to win the Melbourne Jockeys’ Premiership, following in the footsteps of the luminaries Geoff Lane and Darren Gauci in 2004/2005.
In a full-circle moment, his association with Damien Oliver began 20 years ago in his apprentice days, when he says Ollie was “very good to me.”
“He was number one for Lee Freedman; I did a lot of riding for Lee as I was basically number two and he was very influential on my career,” Ryan told Racing.com.
Ryan enjoyed stints in Hong Kong and Singapore, but it became obvious to him that he couldn’t continue in the saddle, as he was too heavy.
When he left the riding ranks at 22, Ryan said he struggled.
“It’s well documented that I lost my way. I was quite lost during this period. I didn’t think about coming back,” Ryan said.
His love of the horse never wavered, but as he couldn’t ride them, he walked away from the industry.
He didn’t have a plan to get back into the industry, but it managed to find him. After five years away from racing, Ryan started to help Albury trainer Brett Cavanough break horses in.
“This got me back around the horse and from there, it grew legs. I got my NSW trainers licence and started training at Albury. It didn’t take much to rekindle the passion,” he said.
“I bought a couple of horses to trial at Caulfield and Ciaron Maher grabbed hold of me and told me to stay, which I did for 12 months.”
Ryan returned to Flemington, where it all started for him, in 2021.
“It’s been big for me getting back here as it’s where I did my apprenticeship and where my grandfather trained. To have 32 boxes now at Flemington is very satisfying.”
He is supported by a dedicated team, including his mother, Deb Gordon, who has had an association with racing her entire life. “I was only eight years old when I began mucking out boxes at Flemington. Dad was foreman for Tommy Hughes for 20 years before taking out his own licence. By the age of 10 I was riding one horse and leading two down Ascot Vale Road into Flemington every morning before school! I worked for auction houses and later managed Nick when he became a jockey.”
Her role as office manager at Nick Ryan Racing is a busy and fulfilling one. “No day is the same in the office and I handle enquiries and issues from A to Z. We have 45 horses on course at Flemington and the same number again in the paddocks and much of my day is answering any inquiries from the owners.”
It is clear that with his racing lineage, the support of his family in the business, and a determination to excel, Ryan, who has now achieved the biggest win of his career with the help of Damien Oliver, is sure to be a standout contender to watch.