After serving a four-meeting suspension, Alice Springs apprentice Lek Maloney can make it a winning return at Pioneer Park on Saturday.
The 20-year-old will partner the Greg Connor-trained Flying Yishu as the four-year-old gelding strives to turn the tables on Paul Gardner’s in-form Red Wraith – aiming for three straight wins – over 1200m for the three and four-year-olds at 0-66 level.
Flying Yishu carried 60.5kg as a -166.67 favourite with Dan Morgan in the saddle before finishing 3.5 lengths adrift of Red Wraith (56.5kg) in second place in a Class 2 1100m for the three and four-year-olds on October 14.
Come Saturday, Flying Yishu, the son of Flying Artie, will lump 56kg due to Maloney’s 3kg claim, while Red Wraith will carry 58kg.
Red Wraith also has the outside gate in the six-horse field.
Maloney was banned following the October 1 meeting when he jumped aboard the Russell Bell-trained Delago Lad in the mounting yard and headed to the barriers minus his safety vest.
It was only after stepping out on to the track that Maloney realised his error before heading to the barriers.
He alerted Delago Lad’s strapper before Bell and the Stewards were advised.
Consequently, the race was delayed as the safety vest was conveyed to the barriers for Maloney.
It has been confirmed that Maloney had the safety vest on his shoulder when he weighed out, but inexplicably forgot to put it on when he returned to the jockeys’ room to prepare for the race.
“It was a pure accident, normally you would have the safety vest on when you weigh out,” Connor said.
“Lek knew he had infringed – there was nothing sinister at all.
“If he had said something 10m before leaving the mounting yard he could have pulled the horse up and put the vest on and it probably would have been fine.
“The fact he rode the horse on the track with no vest was the issue.
“In Lek’s defence, once he realised that he had left the vest off he basically said that he wasn’t going around when he got to the barriers.”
It capped off an unfortunate period for Maloney as he was fined $300 for using his mobile phone in the jockeys’ room during the September 24 meeting.
According to Connor, Maloney’s master, the apprentice is looking forward to his return this weekend.
Apart from partnering Flying Yishu, Maloney will ride last start winner Quanapirri Bay and Bold Tropic for Connor – he is also booked to ride Excuses Excuses for trainer Lisa Whittle on the five-event program.
“It’s good to see Lek back, he’s fired up and confident to go again,” Connor said.
“Hopefully, he has learnt his lesson – he’s all keen-eyed and bright-eyed to go.
“We’ve sat down, we’ve been through the replays and we’re smashing it all out as we prepare for Saturday.”
Maloney, the son of Alice Springs Turf Club chairman Andrew Maloney, kick-started his career in October last year and from 139 starts boasts 15 wins – nine at Alice Springs, three at Kununurra, two at Darwin and one at Tennant Creek.
His best day in the saddle occurred on September 24 at Pioneer Park when he landed his first treble.
Connor has plenty of faith in Maloney with the apprentice booting Flying Yishu home to victory in his first two Alice Springs starts in July.
That was followed by a narrow second before Morgan partnered the horse three weeks ago.
“The horse does do things wrong, he’s a little bit of a bugger that way,” Connor said.
“Two starts ago, he was last out – he was just slow away, missed it by about five lengths and lost by half a length.
“He’ll probably have this run and one more.
“I’ve been targeting the TROBIS races and it’s paid off so far.
“The time he ran when he won over 1400m (1.22.83) is a good horse’s time, it was a good time.
“But that Red Wraith, he’s been flying.
“You get one out of the box every now and again.
“I think the Gardner’s have got a pretty nice horse there.”
Meanwhile, Connor, who has started the season with five wins, has farewelled some well known horses in recent times.
“Yeah, we’re happy, we’re ticking over,” he said.
“I’ve retired a few horses – Miles Prower, Toffiato and Chopsticks.
“I’ve bought a couple of new ones just recently.
“Bought another Flying Artie on Wednesday in Filthy Rich.
“Michael Beattie, the Clarence River Jockey Club CEO at Grafton, seemed to think that this horse might go alright up here.
“I bought one off Brisbane trainer Lawrie Mayfield-Smith the other week called Luskin Hero, who is by Kaphero.
“I picked him up reasonably cheap considering his ability.
“I bought him as a sprint horse next year and if he turns up he’ll certainly be competitive around here.”