How parenthood has changed the ways of gun jockey Sydney-based jockey Brenton Avdulla

Brenton Avdulla’s priorities have changed. Parenthood can do that to a person.

The star jockey is a fierce, brave competitor, as intense and driven as any of his rivals, but he has a different perspective on his career and life goals these days.

Avdulla gets a reminder of what is truly important every time he returns home after riding trackwork or from race meetings and is greeted by the smiling face of his 18-month-old son Hunter.

“A few years ago I would take ‘work’ home with me but these days I leave the races at 5pm and that’s where it stays,’’ Avdulla.

“Hunter is waiting for me to come home and he’s excited to see me.

“Even the mornings are different. When I ride trackwork, I’m up at 3.30am and getting home about 7.30am. I might be looking for a little ‘kip’ but Hunter is just starting his day and wants to play.

“Being a father is very enjoyable, I wouldn’t change it for anything.’’

But in a sport where the constant demands on a jockey can be onerous, it has forced Avdulla to confront the often difficult task of getting his work-life balance right.

Only three years ago, Avdulla was Sydney’s premier jockey with 92 wins. He also won the provincial and state titles the same season and is the only jockey to achieve that feat.

Avdulla rode in nearly 900 races during 2017-18 to secure the three premierships. This season, he will ride in about 600 races.

Brenton Avdulla looks on after winning the Midway Handicap at Royal Randwick Racecourse on July 17, 2021 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

“When I won the premiership, at that point of time in my career, I didn’t have a child, there was just (wife) Taylor and myself, and I concentrated on my riding,’’ Avdulla explained.

“Then after the premiership season, I got to ride in Japan which was a great experience before Taylor and I did a lot of international travel, spending six weeks in Europe.

“With Covid, it’s a different world so I’m glad we got to travel when we had the chance.’’

Avdulla is cognisant that Sydney’s deep pool of riding talent means hard work is the only option but since becoming a father, he has reduced the number of race meetings he rides each week.

“I try not to ride Sundays but in saying that, I am riding this Sunday (at Gosford),’’ he said. “I still do as much trackwork but it’s also about opportunity.

“Three or four years ago I was one of the main riders for Godolphin, one of the main riders for the Hawkes stable and Chris Waller was giving me a lot of support.

“But these days I struggle to get a ride for Godolphin, the Hawkes stable still put me on but Tommy (Berry) is top dog there, Chris Waller still supports me but he obviously has James (McDonald) as his number one.

“So, you lose some support but I pick it up with other stables like John O’Shea, Kris Lees and Joe Pride. It is how it is, I suppose that is life in general.’’

At Rosehill Gardens on Saturday, Avdulla has eight rides for six different stables with Lees booking the jockey for Rustic Steel and Ventura Ocean, and trainer Matthew Smith securing the rider for Ashim and Montabot.

Brenton Avdulla wins on Lord Zoulander at Royal Randwick last week.Source:Getty Images

His other mounts are unbeaten Concocted (Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott), Adamas Prince (Edward Cummings), Lucicello (Waller) and Kirwan’s Lane (O’Shea).

Avdulla will finish 2020-21 with just under 100 winners including Group 1 successes on Lion’s Roar in the Randwick Guineas and Kolding in the All Aged Stakes.

The O’Shea-trained Lion’s Roar is among a number of talented and emerging gallopers Avdulla will have the opportunity to ride during the spring carnival later this year.

They include the Pride stable duo, Private Eye and Fasika, who are due to barrier trial at Warwick Farm on Friday, Gary Portelli’s promising unbeaten filly Sky Command and the Waller import Wicklow.

Avdulla says he is excited by his big-race chances going into the spring carnival and reiterates it is Group 1 wins and not premierships which motivate him these days.

“The way I look at it I’m 30 and I’ve already achieved basically everything I set out to do,’’ Avdulla said.

“I’ve won a Sydney premiership, ridden Group 1 winners and ridden winners overseas.

“I suppose you reassess your goals every year and I still have the drive to ride and be successful but I’m not there to try and ride every day and win premierships.

“I’m still there to ride winners every time I turn out and to compete at the carnivals but I don’t have goals to ride 180 winners a season, or anything like that.

Brenton Avdulla wins on Wicklow at Rosehill Gardens in June. (Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

“My goals are to give my horses the best ride possible and to try and ride Group 1 winners.’’

Avdulla says he has a stubborn streak and has made a career out of proving people wrong.

When he decided to become an apprentice jockey, Avdulla had never ridden a horse. At the time, he was told he was too “big” to be a jockey and his career in the saddle would be short-lived.

More than 15 years later, Avdulla has ridden nearly 1300 winners including nine at Group 1 level and more than 100 stakeswinners.

He’s firmly established as one of the sport’s leading jockeys and has earned the flattering nickname of “The Gun”.

“It has stuck,’’ Avdulla said of his nickname. “I suppose it’s better than some of the others you can get called.’’

Avdulla, who seems closer than most to finding that elusive work-life balance, revealed his wife is expecting their second child in December.

“Taylor and I don’t know the sex of the baby,’’ the jockey said.

“Hunter was a surprise and we want to let this be a surprise. There is not many surprises in life anymore so this is very exciting.

“Everyone says the grass is greener on the other side but we are very lucky here in Australia with our racing, our lifestyle – it’s the best place to raise a family.’’

Originally published asParenthood changes gun hoop Avdulla’s mindset

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