TOMORROW’S Colin Browell Memorial Handicap holds special significance for Bendigo jockey John Keating.
Browell and Keating forged their riding careers together in Bendigo in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
From early morning trackwork at Bendigo to riding together at Flemington, Browell and Keating went through the highs and lows of life as a jockey hand-in-hand.
Browell’s life was cut short when he died on February 16, 2005, after a long battle with leukaemia.
Browell’s family and the Bendigo Jockey Club has honoured Colin’s memory each year since with the running of the Colin Browell Memorial Handicap.
“When we were apprentice jockeys we were the only Bendigo jockeys riding regularly in Melbourne,’’ Keating said yesterday.
“We were good friends and we had a lot of good times together.
“I’m still friends now with Col’s family and they’re wonderful people.
“Just to have a ride in the race named after Col is a big thrill for me.”
Keating will ride the in-form Daryl Archard-trained Leveraction in tomorrow’s race.
“If I happen to win the race it would be one of the best moments I’ve had in racing,’’ Keating said.
“The fact I’m riding a real winning chance in the race is exciting for me.
“You just never know what could happen.”
Leveraction, formerly trained in Queensland by Stewart Mackinnon, has had 15 career starts for three wins and nine placings, including one win and two placings in three starts for Echuca-based Archard.
“Even though he’s had 15 starts he still races like a green two-year-old,’’ Keating said.
“He seems to be putting it together. His first start for Darryl three stats ago he ducked in badly in the straight and it cost himself a lot of ground.
“Then we went to Albury and everything worked out perfectly for him and he won well.
“Then last start he only missed out by a bob of the head.
“He’s the type of horse that you have to time your run perfectly.
“You can’t be left in front halfway up the straight on him because he seems to pull up. “He’s improving all the time and he hasn’t reached his full potential yet.
“We’re learning more about him every time he races and with the knowledge we’ve gathered in recent starts, I’m sure he’ll run a good race on Sunday.”
Keating will need to be at his best tomorrow, with Leveraction drawing awkwardly in gate 11.
“He has pulled in a couple of his starts when there’s been no speed on,’’ Keating said.
“We’ll see how he jumps and the pace of the race. More than likely we’ll go back and if there’s good speed on he’ll be charging home at the finish.”
The Colin Browell Memorial Handicap is race six tomorrow at 3.58pm at the Nursery of Champions in White Hills.