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By Damian Browne | Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Australian Jockeys’ Association have been left with some very big shoes to fill.

Let me start by saying that Des O’Keeffe was the best Chairman and General Manager of a Jockeys’ Association I have ever seen.

He was outstanding … whether it was dealing with an injury situation (or worse) or handling something that happened or needed to be sorted out … anywhere in Australia … Des was the first on the phone, or he would even get on a plane to go and talk to the families concerned or the different parties if there was an issue.

I know he was like that with me and I know of a lot of other instances where he has done that.

Des is a very genuine person. In the job Des was very hands-on. He was very proactive. He was very approachable. He was very easy to talk to. He would fight for jockeys’ rights. He was very knowledgeable. He knew his stuff.

Des also was very good at finding the middle ground in the state-to-state discussions. I guess it is a bit like the Prime Minister having to deal with the State Premiers. Not everyone is always going to agree from the different states … because what is good for riders in one state might not fit as well for riders in another state.

It can be tricky fighting for something in circumstances where some want it, some don’t … but I always found Des to be very level-headed in his approach to those matters, which is why he was almost always able to negotiate some common ground.

It goes without saying that Des has done a lot for the jockeys in the time that he has been with the Australian Jockeys’ Association. I know a lot of jockeys are thankful to him for everything he has done.

He will be hard to replace. In fact, I think it will be difficult for anybody to replace him at the level that he did the job. I certainly wish that person well … but, as I say, these are big shoes to fill.

I just would like to thank Des personally for all he has done for the jockeys and wish him all of the best for the future.

A jockey has caught my eye.

I must admit, I know very little about him, but I have been very impressed with a young guy who has started here in recent weeks … Kyle Wilson-Taylor.

Gee, he looks to be a kid on the rise.

When he rode at the Sunshine Coast back in November … I think he was on one of Stuart Kendrick’s horses … I saw his name and didn’t think much about it. Then I watched the race and I thought … who is this kid on this horse? Gee he looks good.

I’ve watched him a little bit more since then and I’m really impressed with what I have seen.

He is obviously a very welcome addition, with his claim, to the Queensland apprentice ranks … that is for sure.

Stephanie Thornton is out of her time now. Baylee Nothdurft has been out of his time for a number of months. Justin Huxtable is in the process losing his claim with the winners he is riding, so there is a gap to be filled.

Wilson-Taylor looks to be a similar sort of rider to Huxtable … very strong, able to use the whip in both hands, very balanced and he seems to have a pretty cool head on his shoulders.

It is great for trainers and owners in Queensland to have another good option in terms of their jockey selection, particularly with an apprentice who is showing promise.

I think we will be hearing a lot more about this young rider.

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Damian Browne
Damian Browne
Kyle Wilson-Taylor wins on Flirty Deb at Ipswich on Wednesday

Photos: Graham Potter
Kyle Wilson-Taylor wins on Flirty Deb at Ipswich on Wednesday

Photos: Graham Potter
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