At a time when most people are curled up in bed, apprentice jockey Billy Owen is up working horses before training hard to keep his weight down.
Following this early morning regime, the talented hoop will often go to race meetings with Sydney trainer John O’Shea, riding in trials or races to earn his keep.
“I’ve had to put in the hard yards and the rewards are starting to filter through, especially now that I have got my weight back down,” he said.
Owen was originally thrust into the limelight due to his association with Canberra trainer Nick Olive and his group-winning mare, Single Gaze.
After battling weight issues, Owen was also forced to ride at the picnics and has a newfound appreciation for his riding opportunities.
“That is just how it is, you have to work hard and find that perfect riding weight,” he said.
“I wouldn’t swap what I’m doing for anything else in the world.”
The Brungle jockey has found his equilibrium since moving to the O’Shea stables in Sydney six weeks ago.
“I couldn’t have asked for things to fall into place any better in the last few weeks,” he said.
“John (O’Shea) is a great trainer and his record speaks for itself, he is the form trainer in Sydney and he is starting to give me some chances.”
This new partnership has been on show in the previous two weeks, with Owen riding home two winners at Randwick for O’Shea.
Owen won on Berdibek in the 1800m Benchmark 78 on December 28, before winning on Killer Instinct in the 1800m Benchmark 70 on New Years day.
The later of these two wins was especially fulfilling for Owen, who just got his riding weight down to 56kg.
“She was a nice ride, but I knew if I couldn’t claim my full 3kg, I wouldn’t have got the ride,” he said.
“I’ve taken my time and let my body tell me what it’s going to handle and I think that’s the main reason I’ve been able to get to 56kg and ride so comfortably after only 6 weeks.
“I really do think I can get to 55kg soon.”
The 27-year-old proved why he is becoming a popular city option for trainers, riding home his fourth metropolitan winner in the last 15 days at Randwick on Saturday.
Owen was aboard the Brad Widdup trained Rare Episode, booting the four-year-old home in the 1000m Benchmark 78 event.
The Ferlax gelding had a good sit just in behind the early leader, Clear the Beach, before showing some real tenacity to find the lead with 25m left to go and hold on for a 0.2 of a length win ove the fast-finishing Twirling Moss.
“They sort of underestimated him (Rare Episode), he had all the boxes ticked again, he had a good barrier and looked a really good chance,” he said.
“He was really game and hung on well, considering he had a tough run in behind the early leader.”
Owen was pleased to ride another good winner for the Hawkesbury trainer, and believes it might open up more opportunities down the track.
“Brad (Widdup) is a very good young trainer and I really like riding for him,” he said.
“He has a realistic attitude towards his horses and races.”
Despite being the in-form apprentice jockey in Sydney, Owen wasn’t expecting winning rides to be delivered on a silver platter.
“Trainers are only going to put me on the horses they need me to ride because of my claim,” he said.
“I know how it is, you are only getting those rides because of the lower weight, but I’m happy to take them when you get them, I just need to keep winning.”
This positive attitude and Owen’s recent good form has resulted in him earning some more city rides in the near future.
“I have another ride in the TAB Highway for John O’Shea this week for Proven Thoroughbreds and I think my form has opened up more opportunities,” he said.
Owen, who will be action at Warwick Farm on Wednesday before travelling back to Randwick on Saturday, is also near the end of his three-kilogram claim and is hoping he can tick off a few more goals before his apprenticeship expires in 2021.
“I have five wins left on my 3kg claim and then I am down to 2kg,” he said.
“Obviously to outride my claim would be the end goal, but realistically to outride my 2kg claim would be pretty awesome.”