Since transferring to Victoria several years ago, WA-born jockey Damian Lane has established a reputation as one of Australia’s elite riders.
It’s been a successful transition from apprentice to senior rider for the former Sandgroper, but there were a few sceptics in the beginning.
No one questioned his undoubted talent, but homesickness, weight concerns and a lack of opportunities sapped his confidence.
The easy option for Lane and one that many of his racing contemporaries anticipated he would take was to pack his bags and return home to Perth.
No one could have begrudged a young man struggling to adapt to a competitive and intimidating environment, but fate stepped in.
Top Victorian trainers, Darren Weir, Pat Carey and the Mathew Ellerton-Simon Zahra team provided the opportunities and Lane did the rest.
He repaid them in a big way by winning a swag of big races and since 2012-2013 he has claimed more than a 100 winners in a season.
In 2014 he partnered Weir’s Trust In A Gust to win the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Charity Cup, his maiden success at the highest level.
In 2015-2016 he rode 123 ½ winners to finish sixth behind Perth rider William Pike in the National Jockey’s premiership.
Last year Lane’s international standing skyrocketed when he accepted a three month contract to ride in Hong Kong.
From limited opportunities he booted home five winners including one at the lucrative odds of $245.
For Lane the evolution was completed. A once homesick young man who was hostile to the big lights of Melbourne, was now mixing it in one of the toughest and most competitive racing environments in the world.
Lane said his first stint overseas as a rider was the making of him both personally and professionally.
“It taught me a lot, not just as a jockey, but as a person,” Lane told TABradio.
“It’s a tough place mentally and as a person I benefitted more than anything.
“You go into an environment where you barely know one person.
“At home in Bunbury or even Melbourne you know someone.
“You have to chase the rides by yourself.
“Also where it gets tough as a jockey is you basically go to the bottom of the barrel again.
“You go from going so well in one jurisdiction to somewhere you’re not heard of.
“Your record stands for something, but you are basically treated like a 4kg apprentice again.
“It’s hard to cop at first, but once you realise your place in the food chain you have to work up from the bottom again.
“The last month started to become easier and people started to find a little bit of respect for you.
“If you tough it out for long enough you can work your way to bigger and better things.”
Lane’s travel lust and international education continued when he spent a few weeks riding work in England for trainer’s Roger Charlton and Andrew Balding at Newmarket in June.
The 22-year-old’s association with Charlton was cemented last year when he rode his stayer Quest For More in the Melbourne Cup, placing ninth.
“I was going to go for a couple of months, but my visa didn’t come through,” Lane said.
“It was a good experience to see how they do things over there which is completely different.
“It’s definitely something I want to get in order so I can race ride over there.
“I think there is opportunity to learn with different jockeys and different tracks.”
RWWA: Julio Santarelli