Ballard boots home another winner

Mt Isa's Dan Ballard lives and breathes country racing


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The Ballard clan are proud country racing folk and Dan, second from right, is the 2018-19 premier country jockey.

The Ballard clan are proud country racing folk and Dan, second from right, is the 2018-19 premier country jockey.

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The Mount Isa-based Ballard just loves the bush and won't be leaving any time soon, if ever.

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SOMETIME last century someone said you could take a boy out of the country, but you'd never take the country out of the boy.

For Dan Ballard, crowned last weekend as champion country jockey for a fifth time by Racing Queensland, few truer words have been spoken.

Same goes for Bevan, call my Billy, Johnson, the trainer from Miles who was rated the best in the business in Queensland country districts in 2018-19. As well, his stable star Fab's Cowboy, winner of 32 races including 10 in the past season, has been named Queensland's best country runner.

The Mt Isa-based Ballard just loves the bush and won't be leaving any time soon, if ever.

"I have a great life here," Ballard said.

"It's remote and I know it. I don't do the maths on how far I travel but by the end of the season, which goes for nine months out here, it seems like you have driven around the country a couple of times.

"That's part and parcel of being a country rider and the tyranny of distance is not unique to the north-west but a little more acute out here than it is in some other country regions in the state.

"I have a fantastic job. I am an auto-electrician by trade.

"The Huddy family (Graham and Linda) were generous enough to afford me the opportunity to do an apprenticeship as an auto-electrician with their company when I moved back to Mt Isa after finishing my (riding) apprenticeship.

"That has been a rewarding career path for me. It's one that I am able to maintain as well riding.

"More than that, my family and I are settled out here in a wonderful community."

But don't be fool enough to discount Ballard as some bushie, who thinks he can jockey.

Because he can ride like the wind as proven in the seemingly endless stream of eye-popping statistics.

He ended the latest racing season with 57 wins and 51 placings in 155 rides, giving him a strike rate of 36.8% and a startling first three finish rate of 69.7%.

"It's what I set out to do each year," Ballard said of winning the country premiership.

"if you have a little bit of luck in running and you are on the right horse you can win big races and those achievements are great.

"But I think premierships are only won through consistently turning up and riding well and I take a great deal of pleasure from winning premierships because it means I have been turning up week in, week out and doing a fair job for the connections I ride for.

"I am very lucky to ride for a handful of people out here who are wonderful supporters. Jimmy Jackson is another. I don't get a lot of rides for him because he has a really small string but my strike rate for him would be very healthy.

"It is very satisfying when I get to ride a winner for them."

Despite his various successes in 2018-19, Ballard points to a losing assignment as his season highlight

"I just got beat on a horse called Fab's Cowboy in the Country Cups Challenge final in Brisbane December and that was a great thrill," he said.

"I have been back out in the country for 13 or 14 years and you begin to doubt whether or not you can hold your own with the city riders and it was nice to go down there and acquit myself well. The old horse ran a really honest race and I took a great deal of satisfaction from that.

"He deserved to be country horse of the year. I was really humbled the Curran family gave me the opportunity to partner with him in both runnings of the Battle of the Bush and the country cups final.

"I haven't had any affiliation with the horse and it was very generous of them."

It's what bush people do. They stick together because, well because they're country, and they'll never change....

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