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By Graham Potter | Monday, June 17, 2024

Zac Lloyd was back into the normal routine today, in his own words, “back at trackwork and trials, right back into it, just working hard ... keeping it going day by day.”

There is no let-up in racing, but the difference this morning was that Lloyd returned to work as a Group 1 winning rider after his celebrated success aboard the Bjorn Baker trained Stefi Magnetica in the $3 million Stradbroke Handicap ... a memory that will stay with him and the Lloyd racing family forever.

And the good thing is, when it happened, he was able to savour the moment.

“I really enjoyed it. I went past the line and, after a couple of strides, I thought ... damn, I’ve just won,” said Lloyd.

“It was crazy ... and then, on pulling up, Mark Du Plessis, who has been a lifelong friend of mine ... Dylan (Gibbons) ... Tyler (Schiller) ... they were all there to high-five me on pulling up.

“I really enjoyed the canter coming back and seeing everyone ... and then, when I got off my horse, the first few people I was greeted by was my boss James Cummings and my parents.

“Then Dylan, and others, came across and gave me a big hug. It was so good to share that moment with good friends. It was very, very nice of them.

“So, yeah, I was able to take it all in. I enjoyed every moment.”

“I had to talk my parents into coming to the races. They hate going to the races. The only race meetings they have been to of mine, I think, were my first ride, The Everest, the Melbourne Cup and this one. It takes a big occasion for them to come.”

As it turned out, proud parents Jeff (Zac’s manager and mentor) and Nicola Lloyd wouldn’t have missed it for the world, although Jeff wasn’t particularly at ease in the early stages of the race, where, by his own admission, because of the way the race unfolded from the break, he thought that the two hour tactical discussion he had with his son on race-day morning had instantly become ‘a waste of time.’

That fact was confirmed by Zac Lloyd.

“I had a plan going out there and after fifty metres my plan was out of the window ... and I just had to ride the race. We weren’t anticipating as much tempo as there was,” said Lloyd.

“Obviously from the barrier, it made it trickier, and I had to go back to the inside which looked to be the inferior going on the day, so she was made to earn it, which she did because she is a very good filly.”

After racing all of ten lengths off the speed early on, Stefi Magnetica cut the corner and accelerated sharpy in the early part of the home straight to already hit the front with 280m still left to run, but she would not have a moment’s peace from there to the line.

“When I went back to the inside, she really travelled underneath me. I only really moved on her between the 300m to 250m mark, and she was already in front. She’s done it all by herself before that.

‘I was obviously trying to get her out to the better going over the last 200m.

“I think she is much better chaser. She is very competitive. She really wants to win, so I wanted her to be next to that horse because I thought she would try harder, but Bella Nipotina was probably not the horse I wanted to see there, because she is such a good mare.

“Like I said, my horse had to earn it.

“She really deserved the win,” said Lloyd deflecting credit to Stefi Magnetica ... and even in the moment of his greatest personal success to date, Lloyd also didn’t forget to thank those who had helped get him to where he is today as he recalled a question he once asked that would be life-changing for him.

“I was suspended at the time and I went down to Sydney from Queensland to ride some work for Annabel Neasham,” explained Lloyd. “Darren (Beadman) was at the trials for Godolphin. I knew him from Hong Kong, so I was speaking to him a lot at the trials and I sort of asked him, how does an apprentice get to work for Godolphin?"

The rest as they say is history.

“Yeah, it’s really been life changing move," acknowledged Lloyd. “Obviously, being apprenticed to Godolphin is a dream. Riding good horses gives you confidence to ride other horses. It’s been great.

“It is probably the best apprenticeship anyone can have ... working with James (Cummings) and Darren (Beadman) and ‘Dizzy’ Appleby ... they have been fantastic in propelling me to heights I didn’t even think I could reach.”

Not to mention the constant presence of the unwavering support of Zac Lloyd’s family ... both professionally (through Jeff’s mentoring and management skills) and personally (you would struggle to find a stronger support base than the Lloyd family).

For all of that though, make no mistake, landing the apprentice jockey role at Godolphin is no guarantee of success.

Being backed by Godolphin is a great opportunity, but only total commitment, hard work and an appetite to continually improve and refine riding skills will be good enough to keep the apprentice in what ultimately is a demanding system.

Lloyd has done all of that ... and more ... but it has not been easy.

A little over a year ago Lloyd was battling against a rash of suspensions when the combination of his competitive nature and relative inexperience sometimes got the better of him.

It led to an undesirable stop, start hinderance to his career ... but he has long since shrugged that off and come out all the stronger at the other end.

“Yeah, that was not ideal. I was lucky that I still had a claim when I was getting suspended, so when I came back trainers were still putting me on because of my claim," stated Lloyd with admirable honesty, not dodging, but owning that relativlly turbulant part of his journey.

“If that happened now it would be a lot harder to keep my momentum up but, luckily, I’ve learnt and matured as a rider.”

And you have got to remember that Lloyd is still only twenty years old.

So, taking everything into consideration, it would be fair to say that nobody is more deserving of that glittering new entry on the resume than Lloyd ... an entry that can never be taken away or repeated ... a first Group 1 win!

Hard earned. Well deserved.

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So good
So good
Lloyd with his boss James Cummings, who was the first to congratulate the young rider after he dismounted
Lloyd with his boss James Cummings, who was the first to congratulate the young rider after he dismounted
Lloyd with his father ... now both Group 1 winning riders
Lloyd with his father ... now both Group 1 winning riders
Lloyd with his good friend and rival Dylan Gibbons ... now both Group 1 winning riders
Lloyd with his good friend and rival Dylan Gibbons ... now both Group 1 winning riders
Jeff, Zac and Nicola Lloyd

Photos: Graham Potter and Darren Winningham
Jeff, Zac and Nicola Lloyd

Photos: Graham Potter and Darren Winningham
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