Many jockeys turn their hands to training on retirement from the saddle. It’s a natural progression after a lifetime working with horses.

A case in point is Brett Mathews, who for 20 years, rarely rode outside of Kalgoorlie.

Last season the 35-year-old was given a dire warning by doctors.

He was told to hang up the saddle or his health would be at risk.

Years of dieting had ravaged Mathews’ body and forced him to retire.

“After being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes it wasn’t a hard decision to give up riding,” said Mathews.

“I couldn’t keep going and putting my body through it anymore.

“It was taking its toll and I was feeling terrible for most weeks.

“It’s a lifestyle I don’t want to get back to anymore.

“It’s just not worth the trouble and putting your body through it.”

Mathews’ transition from jockey to trainer has been almost seamless and he is eyeing more success in Sunday’s XXXX-Gold Kalgoorlie Cup (2300m).

In his first season he could not have dreamed of the impact he would make.

He got off to a flying start when he trained a winner with his first ever starter, Daradale, at the season opening meeting in March.

He has also shown skill to turn around the fortunes of maidens Leica Hussy, Pegatego, American Lord and Dyna Bear.

Mathews has prepared 12 winners, a high strike rate with a small team of horses. He is in a battle for second place behind Peter Fernie in the trainer’s premiership.

Mathews’ claimed his biggest scalp when Western Blaze scored an upset win in the Coolgardie Cup (1760m) on September 6.

The Hard Spun gelding, given a daring ride by Shaun McGruddy, held local pride when he defeated Perth gallopers Drive West and Young Lionel.

It was the six-year-olds second win at his fourth start for Mathews after he took out the Goldfield’s Tattersall’s Cup (2325m).

“It was my greatest thrill in racing to tell you the truth,” said Mathews.

“I thought he had his work cut out against the Perth horses.

“I thought he might just be a few lengths off them.

“But I couldn’t be happier with the way things are going.”

Mathews’ said his early success had been somewhat unexpected.

“It certainly has happened a lot quicker than I imagined,” he said.

“I didn’t doubt my ability because I know all the ins and outs of racing.

“But it’s been a pleasant surprise.”

Mathews’ first season accomplishments have not gone unnoticed, with a range of owners sending overtures.

“I’ve had increased interest from a number of people,” said Mathews.

“It’s nice to have the attention and I guess it’s recognition for the work I have done.

“I have around eight horses in work at the moment but I’m looking to expand for next season.”

Mathews can give his profile another big lift when he sets Western Blaze for an historic double.

The six-year-old, a half-brother to Perth Cup (2012) champion Western Jewel, will target the XXXX Gold Kalgoorlie Cup (2300m) on Sunday.

RWWA: Julio Santarelli