TWO years ago, Peter Robl exited racing in disgrace. He was hit with a year’s disqualification that looked certain to end his fairytale rise from bush racing to group 1 events.
Robl and fellow leading Sydney jockey Blake Shinn were banned from racing for 12 months after revelations the pair bet more than $300,000 over the previous two years.
With a ballooning waistline in his time away from the track, it seemed the penalty would become a life ban instead of just one year for the former Victorian country jockey.
But Robl was determined not to let a foolish lack of judgment conspire against his ambitions in racing.
Today at Randwick, Robl, 40, has rides in three of the four group 1 events on the program.
He is understandably elated at the origin of two of the three rides. The all-conquering Gai Waterhouse and Australia’s greatest horse trainer, Bart Cummings, are using Robl today.
”I wouldn’t have thought back then that I would be riding in group 1 races, let alone for Bart Cummings and Gai Waterhouse. You don’t even dare dream about it,” he said.
”I will stick my head in and do a couple for Gai [in trackwork]. It can end up in a ride here or there and this one is the Epsom. ”I have done a bit of riding for Gooree [which owns Wild And Proud] and that helped get the ride, I think.
”Gai has thrown me a bone with a bit of meat on it and it would be great to turn it into a group 1 winner.”
Duet, Robl’s ride for Cummings in the Flight Stakes, has only had three starts but there is something to like about the filly.
Robl has only been on her once, when she was runner-up at Canterbury at her second race start. ”She should have won that day and her run first-up was just as good,” he said.
”She went for a jog and canter at Kembla [last start] and won as she liked. She is a smoky and we have Bart on our side, which is a big advantage.”
But Robl makes no secret of the fact that’s it’s been a long and tough journey back to the heady heights of today’s meeting at Randwick.
”I’m a bush jockey from the Victorian border but I’m not scared of hard work,” he said.
”No one has ever died of hard work and we have the best job in the world [being jockeys]. We get very well paid and I couldn’t think of anything worse than sitting in front of a computer in an office all day.
”My two main stables have been David Vandyke and Anthony Cummings, who have been tremendous in helping me get back to where I am now.”
Robl’s best group 1 ride of the day comes for Vandyke aboard Lamasery in the Metropolitan, in which he is pressing for favouritism. The stayer, whose legs spend as much time in buckets of ice as they do wheeling around the track, holds a special place in Robl’s heart and the jockey steered him to victory in the Hill Stakes last start.
”David is a wonderful bloke and has done a great job with this horse,” Robl said. ”Everyone knows the story, but when I galloped him the other morning you wouldn’t know he had a problem.
”He felt better than before the Hill Stakes and I know David will have him 100 per cent ready to go at Randwick, and he is the sort of guy you want to win a group 1 with.”
Robl spends a lot of his time at Randwick riding for his main trainer, Anthony Cummings.
The hard-working hoop sees today’s meeting at Randwick as a genuine career-defining moment.
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