Waddell making the most of lockdown limitations

Jennifer Eccles
Jason Waddell salutes as he brings Jennifer Eccles back to the winner’s enclosure after she took out the Group 1 New Zealand Oaks (2400m) at Trentham last month Photo: Race Images – Peter Rubery

Leading New Zealand rider Jason Waddell is counting his blessings as he adjusts to a radically altered daily routine that has come about due to the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown that New Zealand finds itself in at present.

With local racing currently in limbo and not likely to start up again until July, Waddell has had to turn his undoubted talent for guiding finely-tuned thoroughbreds to Group 1 glory to the more sedate but equally as taxing task of finding multiple activities to keep his two young children entertained on a daily basis.

Not that he is complaining as he has found the situation a richly rewarding experience that has further strengthened an already tight family bond. “I’m fortunate enough that the weather has been great and I’ve got a large section that the kids can run around in,” Waddell said. “We’ve built a few forts and huts, painted letterboxes and things like that while, like most parents, I’ve spent countless hours googling to try and find activities to keep us all occupied.

“My wife has been working morning shifts at her job so I’m in charge from the time the kids wake up until mid-afternoon. “Spending all this time I’ve really noticed that the bond I have with my kids and especially my son has really increased, which is just wonderful. “There are just so many positives that I’m truly thankful for.”

Waddell, who was enjoying his most productive season in terms of stakes race success with eleven Group and Listed wins on the board, admits the current break has come at a good time for him. “This has probably been my best season to date and especially in the big races,” he said. “It was a slow start as I missed the first part and two Group 1 races but my manager Ted McLachlan told me the other day that there are nineteen Group 1s in New Zealand and I’ve ridden in eleven of them for 11 top-five finishes.

“The big races that I’ve won have been for quite a few different trainers so I’m really thankful for the support that I have received. “I copped a suspension after the New Zealand Oaks (Group 1, 2400m), which was run just before the lockdown started, so I wasn’t going to be riding for a while which has meant the timing of what we’re all going through now has been quite good although it is not an ideal situation for the Industry.”

Waddell won the Oaks aboard star three-year-old Jennifer Eccles with the filly set to take her place in yesterday’s Group 1 Australian Oaks (2400m) at Royal Randwick before travel restrictions put paid to that plan.

Waddell believes Jennifer Eccles would have been a real winning chance in the race had it been run on a dry track but felt she would have not been able to show her best on the Heavy8 surface that prevailed on the day. “She’s a super filly and I’m in love with her but I just think the wet track would have tripped Jennifer Eccles up yesterday,” he said. “Ability wise, she is as good as them, if not better, but the wet track would have done her in for sure.”