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By Stathi Katsidis | Friday, October 15, 2010

Stathi Katsidis rode the most winners in Australia last season. His results included a shared Brisbane Jockeys Premiership, the third time he has lifted that title. ‘Through the rider’s eyes’ - the personal blog of the champion jockey Stathi Katsidis - will appear on HRO every Friday, race-riding commitments permitting.

NB - Get Stathi’s great money making TIP at the bottom of the blog.

My riding mentality and performance since I returned to racing after being out of action for eighteen months has been quite a transformation .

A major problem that I used to have was SUSPENSIONS. You can’t ride winners on the sideline. So when I came back I made a point of making sure I would avoid suspensions as much as possible

For example, the stewards ask jockeys to give two horse lengths clearance when you are shifting ground. At one point in my career I would often shorten down that margin to get in from a wide alley quicker, and I’d get suspended.

During any twelve month season I would be on the sidelines for at least three months with suspensions … and that’s just from normal careless riding!

On average for careless riding you serve two weeks, I would get probably five or six of these, that’s up to twelve weeks. A quarter of your wages gone!.

You just can’t do that as a rider and get a roll on. If you are riding consistently you’ll eventually pick up a nice team of regular horses to ride.

That was one of the reasons why I was able to ride so many winners last season because, when I was shifting ground, I would keep my horse balanced and shift slowly and try to make sure I gave enough room.

If you shift ground on your horse quickly you can unbalance your horse and lose ground yourself as well as possibly getting suspended.

I did get two suspensions and they were welcomed in terms of the fact that it allowed me to have a break from a really vigorous racing schedule.

A popular Brisbane journalist once said to me, I can’t understand why jockeys take holidays without being suspended or injured, because with the amount of racing we do, you are just naturally going to be suspended or hurt.

I hate getting suspended so I’m careful these days, but sometimes you are caught in a position where you’ve got to mix taking care with a touch of measured aggression.

You can’t just give your position away.

For example, take the last suspension I picked up which was in Melbourne. There was minimal interference caused when I was on Shoot Out winning second-up.

At around the 700m mark I was four deep on the best part of the track with cover. I had horses pushing out on my inside trying to get into my good position. I just let Shoot Out lay his shoulder into those horses to hold my position.

Now I am not exaggerating when I say this, I probably moved THREE INCHES.

The horse directly to my inside became a little unbalanced and we bumped slightly. No one lost any ground.

I thought I deserved a reprimand that day and not a suspension.

My brain makes calculated racing decisions fast, but these days I let my actions go a bit slower, because I think if you think fast and act fast, you are some chance of getting suspended.

I try and tell the apprentices, some of whom are going very well at the moment, but getting suspended regularly, you might get in from your wide alley or you might get out when you’re trying to get a clear run by shifting quickly, but if you just take your time things will go smoother and you'll be able to ride more horses.

I suppose it comes down to making a decision quick enough to be able to get in a good position slowly so that your horse is balanced.

The apprentices and other riders seek advice from me all the time. Even when I was in the papers for all the wrong reasons, I was still a good rider and people still used to get my advice.

I still seek advice myself from lots of different people.

Glyn Schofield is a great jockey and when I watch the replays of Sydney it amazes me at how quickly he can change hands with the whip.

He can be hitting a horse in his left hand and the very next stride he has the whip in his right hand prepared to hit. (It is worth watching on the replays). I asked him to show me how he seems to do it so easily.

At the start of my comeback to riding I'd go to Deagon apprentice school because I hadn’t ridden for eighteen months and I was trying to tweak my own style, especially when the new whip rule came in.

I was trying to get in practice, so I was helping myself by helping the apprentices.

I was telling them to do things and I was thinking, I should probably do that myself. You try to teach somebody something and you go to the races and realise I was telling this kid to do something and I wasn’t doing it myself, so we were all learning.

The whip rule is interesting. I’ve haven't offended under that rule here in Queensland. I did offend once in Sydney … I hit a horse two times too many and it ran second. It got beat a nose. ($200 fine).

The Turnbull (on Shoot Out, when narrowly beaten by Zipping and Shocking) was my first whip offence in Melbourne. That was my second whip offence ever.

I said to the Stewards I have an exceptional record with the whip rule.

Terry Bailey (VRC chief steward) laughed and said, "That's what all the jockeys tell us.” In my case the good record was actually true.

The main reason that I have a good record is that I very rarely use the whip in the forehand. I mainly use the backhand motion (when using the whip backhand you can use it as many times as you like within reason).

In the Turnbull you will see that Zipping was able to push me out at about the 500m mark. I tried to hold Zipping in but his pushing out was causing Shoot Out to get unbalanced, so to balance my horse for the run home I had to move out.

Nick Hall made his run from the 600 to get going early. I didn’t make my run on Shoot Out properly until inside the 400.

Shoot Out does have a habit in Melbourne of laying in. He started laying in on top of Zipping and, when you are using the backhand motion, you need room to hit your horse.

I gave Shoot Out about two backhanders and then he shifted in to Zipping, so I only had about a foot in terms of whipping room … and you need about two feet with the whip for the backhand motion … so I moved my whip to the forehand motion where you can keep the whip close to your body and still hit your horse.

So, that’s why I had to use the whip in the forehand. I was only three hits over. There’s been way bigger offences, but it was a Group 1.

I did get fined $500. I thought that was fair under the circumstances. They want to send a message that they don’t want this happening in the good races.

(Nick Hall the rider of the Turnbull winner Zipping was fined $3000 for his whip indiscretion. It was the second time that Hall had been fined under the whip rule when bringing home a Group 1 winner).

Flemington is such a long straight … it’s over 500m once you fully straighten … so you know there’s a big possibility of a lot more infringements at that track.

It's difficult to keep count the number of times you hit the horse and stay focused on the job at hand.

You guesstimate, but I don’t have to worry about counting that often because you can hit them as many times as you like with the backhand.

As far as my own staying power is concerned, riding so much last season did take its toll on my body. Absolutely.

I have taken things a lot easier the last couple of months. I'm concentrating on being as fit as I can without stressing my body, by continually riding light.

I love having a lot of rides still, but I’m not pushing myself as hard as I was last season.

But, having said that, I’m probably different from most people. I don’t mind riding in Melbourne on a Saturday and then coming back for rides at the Sunshine Coast on Sunday.

Not many people will do that, but I enjoy doing that. I really love riding a lot and it keeps me focused and it keeps all my reflexes sharp.

I also find that the more I ride the closer I get to optimum performance. It's a great feeling to be in that much talked about "ZONE".

I get a lot of time to sleep at home. I don’t ride a lot of track-work, so that’s a bonus.

I only ride track-work when someone calls me up and says, "can you come and gallop this horse. It goes really good and I want to get your opinion.”

I go to the trials most Tuesdays, and then ride generally Wednesday through to Sunday, so not many quiet days.

Race days I need three to five hours for weight preparation before the races and two hours after the races for body recovery as well as weight preparation for the following day.

My natural body weight is 58 to 60 kg when I'm fit and healthy.

People see me riding 53 kg and sometimes 52 kg, and think why can't he ride my horse this week at that weight.

Like most jockeys my natural weight is ten percent higher than the riding weights. So all year round I stay on a sensible diet to keep my weight around 55-56 kg, then I sweat in the bath to the weight I have to ride.

I lose 2 kg the night before the races and 1 to 2 kg the day of the races.

I take various different vitamins to keep me at my strongest. I've been doing this for a long time now, and my body is used to it.

I get to the races feeling very well. If someone that wasn't used to losing this amount of weight did this they wouldn't feel very well.

You can only keep your body that low for so long. I was able to do it for twelve months and I’ve giving my body that little bit of a break now. I want to be at my absolute optimum for Shoot Out.

So the last fourteen months have been a massive, positive transformation for me and it has taken me to the next level of my riding career.

I can’t wait for the next chapter.

Now a little bit about Michael Katsidis - Aka Katsidis The Great!

I get asked a lot about my brother, how is he going and when is he fighting.

For those of you that don't know, he is a boxer, and currently holds the lightweight (61.25 kg) WBO interim world boxing title.

Currently he is in Thailand preparing for the toughest fight of his career.

He is fighting in Las Vegas on November 27 against Juan Manuel Marquez . (Marquez has had two great split decision fights with the very popular Manny Pacquiao).

Marquez and my brother have very similar fighting styles. They both keep moving forward and throw a lot of punches.

This fight will be very fast paced with loads of action. We will be able to watch it in Australia, We may be able to get it on at our homes or worst case scenario, go to the pubs and clubs to watch it.

Now I know that a lot of people that read this, like a bet. So here is a great tip.

My brother is around $3.00 in most markets to Marquezs’ $ 1.30 - that is for him to win by any way possible … great price for a two horse race!

It is definitely a fifty - fifty fight. Michael is as good a fighter as Marquez if not better. He just doesn't have the recognition yet.

Happy Punting

More articles

Showing off the spoils of victory

... Stathi Katsidis
Showing off the spoils of victory

... Stathi Katsidis
... Michael Katsidis
... Michael Katsidis
Horses that gave me my two biggest successes since I returned to race-riding ... Shoot Out
Horses that gave me my two biggest successes since I returned to race-riding ... Shoot Out
... and Military Rose
... and Military Rose
Winning on Shoot Out second up. I thought I deserved a reprimand that day, not a suspension.
Winning on Shoot Out second up. I thought I deserved a reprimand that day, not a suspension.
I got fined $500 in the Turnbull. I thought that was fair in the circumstances
I got fined $500 in the Turnbull. I thought that was fair in the circumstances
In good company:

Michael with the legendary Oscar De La Hoya
In good company:

Michael with the legendary Oscar De La Hoya
Michael gets busy ...
Michael gets busy ...
... and again!

He faces the toughest fight of his career in Las Vegas on November 27.
... and again!

He faces the toughest fight of his career in Las Vegas on November 27.
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