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By Darren Winningham | Friday, April 13, 2018

You know it is not always all about what is going on in the city – the big smoke – where the lights are bright, the wins are high profile and we can watch all of the races on television.

There is an on-going back story ... away from those bright lights which is every bit as important to the core fabric of racing as the big city triumphs.

Take the story of Sheriden Tomlinson for example.

This weekend, whilst most of us will be fixated on the nearest television coverage of the four Group 1 races at Randwick and watching Winx win her 25th consecutive start, this young man will be making his debut as a jockey at a Noorama, a town and track unfamiliar to most of us – but for him it will be a memory that will last a lifetime and feature as part of a hopefully long and successful career.

I have managed to do some research on the Noorama track – this is one of their major meetings of the year. The Club has been going 52 years this year and they race on the dirt!

Over the past few weeks WINNO has been following the progress of Sheriden, a young man working hard to fulfil his dream of becoming a race day jockey. He is an ageing 18-year-old. He turns 19 next week on the 19 April.

This impressive young man tells me that he was born in England – a pommy! Can you believe it!

He moved to Australia with his parents when he was six coming to South East Queensland and setting up camp in the northern suburbs of Brisbane.

Twelve years later and he has linked up with the very astute trainer Les Ross. He has worked hard to make the transition from stable-hand to strapper to apprentice jockey to race rider ... and he succeeded in doing just that.

He proudly boasts, “I have been with Les now for two years and he has taught me everything I know”.

(I asked Sheriden did he know his boss is a great and very competitive lawn bowler – to which he responded, “No, I didn’t”. I said you need to quiz him mate and get some tips on lawn bowling. He played with WINNO and a few others at the recent Media Awards and we nearly won the tournament!)


So, from stable-hand to strapper to apprentice jockey to race rider – how did that all unfold? Where did it start?

“Well Dad bought some shares in a race horse and I used to go along to the stables with him," answered Sheriden. "People around the stables used to say to me I would be able to be a jockey because my size would help me. You know you listen to them, but I never thought I would get this opportunity I kept shrugging it off”.

Throw in the fact that his first experience of a horse in the paddock one day at Toowoomba wasn't the greatest and you can see why he wasn't rushing into it.

“I was out in the paddock, Like I was only 14 and the bloody horse chased me and ran after me." explained Sheriden. "I cleared a six-foot fence with one jump to get away from it. At that point I feared horses.”


But life moves on and Sheriden eventually took a leap of faith entered the industry. He was granted his apprentice jockey licence around six months ago. He has been riding in race trials and work for Les, has a healthy respect for the thoroughbred horse and is eager to learn his craft in the coming years.

But, for now, he has put the hard yards in and Les has determined it is time for him to make his race debut as an apprentice jockey.


After work on Friday he headed home to pack his kit – his whip, saddles, racing goggles before heading to Noorama. That's 914 kilometres by road from Brisbane - with his parents going along on the journey to watch their son ride!

It must be a proud and special moment for parents Glen and Lisa Tomlinson to know that first-up, in a five race program Sheriden has been successful in gaining a full book of rides – yes you heard it right ... five rides for trainer Wayne Baker.

I hope he has packed plenty of weights as one of them is scheduled to carry 64.5 kilograms – but I suppose with his 4 kilogram claim he gets in well with 60.5kilograms!


Now despite the twelve-hour trip out there (that's one way) at the end of the last race there will be no time for celebration.

It will be back to packing up that kit and heading straight back to Brisbane – such is the work ethic of this young man.

“I have to be back at work on Sunday morning," said Sheriden.


Now there is one final pressing question.

In recent months Sheriden has grown this thing, well it is facial hair above his upper lip, that I have been teasing him about and calling it “the 1970’s porn star look”.

We had a gentleman’s agreement that I would make every effort to come and watch him at his debut meeting as long as he shaved it off and turned up clean shaven for his rides! True to his word he has shaved it off – he is all set to make his debut – but no WINNO!

But rest assured I will be there soon when he grabs some rides closer to town.

Good luck on Saturday Sheriden. It will be a wonderful time for you, your family and all your friends!


So, finally, whilst we are all watching the televisions or cheering the horses on at the track wherever you just stop for a moment and spare a thought for Sheriden Tomlinson and all of the young riders throughout the country like him who start off their careers with no fanfare at all, far away from any spotlight.

They are busy doing the hard yards to ensure that the next generation of jockeys will be ready when racing needs them ... and that is no small contribution!

Credit to all of them.

**Sheriden will be legged up aboard his first official starter Double Dollars around 1.30pm. Can he taste success in his first ride?

How good would that be!

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Sheriden Tomlinson
Sheriden Tomlinson
Sheriden the strapper
Sheriden the strapper
... with champion jockey Jeff Lloyd
... with champion jockey Jeff Lloyd
Looks like he is clean shaven here ... or maybe it is just the lighting
Looks like he is clean shaven here ... or maybe it is just the lighting
Texting WINNO

Photos: Darren Winningham
Texting WINNO

Photos: Darren Winningham
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