Longshot Anagold hangs on to win the Ipwich Cup
MISSING half his collarbone and with his wrist held together by steel pins, journeyman jockey and medical miracle Tony Pattillo proved he can still mix it with the big boys.
Few punters gave the larrikin jockey and his mount Anagold any chance in yesterday's Ipswich Cup (2150m), but no one could begrudge the jockey an improbable win on the $41 outsider.
In recent years Pattillo has endured several major race fall injuries, including breaking his shoulder, fracturing his wrist and busting his rib cartilage.
But the 39-year-old Gold Coaster is no quitter.
With support from his wife, Terri, he has nursed his way back to health on plenty of occasions and done the hard yards at outback and regional tracks, including Casino, Lismore, Grafton and Ballina, to continue his riding dream.
The Ipswich Cup triumph was a sweet reward for all of that hard work and there was no more popular man in the Ipswich jockey's room, with rival hoops racing to shake his hand or slap his back.
"What injuries haven't I had in the last few years? It has been the longest hard road, my wife has had to put up with me stuck at home so often," Pattillo said.
"In 2010 I split my wrist open in a fall and finished up with a screw in my wrist, which is still there today.
"I was back about six months and did my rib cartilage. Then I had a nasty fall in Townsville, did my shoulder and was out for 12 months. They took out half of my collarbone.
"Terri has been my rock through it all. Today's win is just the result of my wife's faith and belief in me."
Pattillo was able to pinch the Ipswich Cup by stealing a run near the fence when most jockeys were steering wide on a track where the outside had been the fast lane for most of the day.
High Kin ($9) flew home for second, beaten a long neck, but ran out of time as Pattillo produced one of the rides of his life.
Anagold's trainer Bryan Guy chose to stay on the Gold Coast rather than make the trip to Ipswich, but Pattillo was quick to thank him for sticking by him.
"That was about my 50th ride for Bryan Guy and the first time I've ever rode a winner for him. What a way to crack it for him," Pattillo said. "I have just been lucky that some people have remembered I can ride a little bit.
"I was one of those kids, when I was 10 years old, I knew I wanted to be a jockey.
"I have always loved it but I probably forgot what the hard yards were for a while.
"Going out to some country joints and riding here, there and everywhere has been good for me."
For Pattillo, yesterday was a return to one of his greatest moments. He won the 2005 Ipswich Cup on Forest Jim and the other two feature races on the Ipswich card that day.
He was always confident that Anagold, despite some unspectacular recent runs, would help him recapture his former glory.
"I did the form and the run behind Quintessential (in the Chairman's Handicap) was pretty good," Pattillo said. "If Quintessential had started in the Ipswich Cup, she would have been a pretty short favourite.
"We were down carrying 54kg and it wasn't a pipe dream, we were a good chance in the race.
"I cut back to the fence and the heavens opened. If the gap had closed off, I would have gone home looking like a mug."