Dylan Gibbons riding high after amazing first season in the saddle

ROOKIE SENSATION: Apprentice Dylan Gibbons returns a winner last season at Muswellbrook. Gibbons was the leading apprentice on NSW country tracks with 77 winners in 2020-21. Picture: Muswellbrook Race Club

ROOKIE SENSATION: Apprentice Dylan Gibbons returns a winner last season at Muswellbrook. Gibbons was the leading apprentice on NSW country tracks with 77 winners in 2020-21. Picture: Muswellbrook Race Club

After the first two months of his maiden season in the saddle, boom Hunter apprentice Dylan Gibbons thought 50 winners looked a realistic target.

On Saturday, Gibbons finished the 2020-21 campaign with 86, including 77 - the most of any apprentice in NSW - on country tracks.

"It's pretty crazy, riding 86 winners," Gibbons said on Sunday.

"It probably hasn't really sunk in what I've done, but it was pretty cool last night, once the season was done, I looked up the stats and I finished 31st in all of Australia and 13th in NSW, so to do that in my first season is quite unreal.

"When I started, it was looking like I could get somewhere near 50, and I thought, 'how cool would that be'. Then it just kept snowballing and I'd got to 50 with a fair bit to go.

"I had some really good supporters early on and that was even when I was still claiming three or four kilos.

"A lot of people put a lot of faith in me and I was just rapt to get results for them and just stay consistent, and keep a level head about it, and I think what's helped me keep the ball rolling."

His boss, premier Newcastle trainer Kris Lees, believes it's the best first full season from a NSW jockey since Tye Angland rode 111 winners in 2006-07. That came after Angland had 36 victories across most of the previous campaign.

Gibbons, 19, had just one ride before embarking on the 2020-21 season and he quickly built a loyal following among trainers and punters alike for composure, knowledge and strength in the saddle beyond his years.

"He's always wanted to be a jockey, but wanting to be one and being one are two different things," Lees said.

"But he just loves his racing and he's a credit to himself and his family. He's really applied himself. He's got a long way to go still but he's going the right way."

Gibbons, the son of Maitland jockey Andrew Gibbons, the NSW premiership winner in 2019-20, has already outrode his country claim (80 winners).

COVID restrictions mean he can't ride at provincial level outside of Newcastle for now but he hopes to eat into his claim once the lockdown is over, then test the waters in Sydney "hopefully this time next year".

He believed having his father as a role model had played a key role in his success.

"He's able to cop the highs and lows without batting an eyelid, and I think that was the best thing for me, just seeing how he went about it, and how level-headed he is," he said.

"And also seeing what he did the previous two seasons, riding over 100 winners. Having him there as that good role model has made it a hell of a lot easier for me."

This story Dylan Gibbons riding high after amazing first season in the saddle first appeared on Hunter Valley News.