Saluting Shane Scriven. Why we’ll miss a true heavyweight on and off the track.

September 15, 2012

Can you imagine not eating for the last 30 years? Bar the odd grain of rice and teaspoon of fish.

Every kilo counted, every day. Where a big meal could actually stop you doing the job you love.

Ask Shane Scriven. Group One winner. Career jockey. Heavyweight.

You might have to wait a bit to get an answer. I’m guessing Shane is spending every waking hour shoving carbs into his mouth. Making up for lost time.

He retired this week. One of Queensland’s most successful hoops. Punter’s pal. An inspiration to hundreds of young jockeys, who’ve picked up tips from one of the best.

For over three decades, he did a job that his body wasn’t suited to. Too damn big. Yet he forged ahead, because that’s what you do when you’re a natural horseman.

I feel for our racing heavyweights. The blokes who more often than not ride with the number one saddlecloth.

There are times when the planets align, and the fridge is locked, and they drop a few kilos. But it never lasts. That constant battle with the scales.

Think of the great Roy Higgins. Amazing that he rode as many winners as he did, given his size.

Steven Arnold has ridden more topweights than anyone. My mate Chris O’Brien, who does as many bike rides as Anna Meares to keep his weight down. And then there’s Scrivo.

I don’t know him. But I feel like we’ve been friends for years. A jockey who did the right thing by owners and punters alike. He was always trying. Knew no other way.

Those of us with heads stuck in the formguide are always wondering if a topweight can carry the load. Especially in big races. There’s an art to cuddling horses carrying the grandstand. Get it wrong, and they’re no chance.

Time and again, Shane Scriven got them home. Somehow convinced them that it wasn’t REALLY that much weight. Just a bit further. Beautiful balance. Old fashioned strength.

He’s famous for his association with another old marvel, Scenic Shot. I can’t  remember ever backing them in their many victories. More fool me.

But I backed plenty of others with Scrivo up top. Those bread and butter Saturday events, that keep the game ticking over. Just when the experts had decided something couldn’t possibly win with so much lead in the saddle, away he’d go.

Then there were the comebacks. After becoming the size of a small house, that fighting instinct would kick in. A punishing few months, breaking his body down, and he’d be back.

He pinched a whip at Ipswich one day. In the straight, not the jockeys’ room. The stewards suspended him. I would have given him a medal. Winners grab whips. Losers let them go.

There was a lovely tribute to Shane this week from our top racing journo, Bart Sinclair. Look it up and have a read. His piece in the Courier-Mail let slip that they’ve been mates since the jockey was a gangling teenager. Fair to say that was many moons ago.

It’s a mark of both men that the relationship is as strong as ever. Both doing their job with expertise. Not taking things personally. Something that doesn’t always happen today.

I hope Scrivo isn’t lost to racing. He’d be great out on the track doing the post-race interviews, as the horses come back to scale. It would be done with a grin and a cheeky line or two.

Just make sure his mount has a padded saddle. The little bloke won’t be little for much longer. He has three decades of meals to catch up on.