All in the family

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FIFTEEN-year-old Brandon Stockdale was born to be a jockey.

His father, Sale-based trainer Frankie Stockdale, 40, knew he had seen something special when his son Brandon, just new to walking, was being led across a paddock aboard a pony when it bolted.

“I have never seen anything like it,” Frankie said.

“The pony was going flat out and the little kid was clinging on.

“He didn’t fall off until the pony stopped.”

Brandon Stockdale was destined to ride.

His grandfather Bill Stockdale was a trainer and horse-breaker.

His grandfather Mario Farrugia has been training horses in Gippsland for 50 years.

His father Frankie rode on the flat when 17 and then switched to jumps racing where his wins included both Grand Nationals and an Australian Steeplechase.

His mother Julie rode at picnic meetings and once won four races at Omeo and his aunt Kerry Farrugia was a top-class jockey.

Brandon, who turned 15 on January 25, is among the latest crop of aspiring jockeys to be inducted into Racing Victoria’s apprentice jockey training program.

The group underwent a stringent selection process to gain entry into the four-year program which offers specialist learning in racing riding and other areas such as performance analysis, sports science and medicine, media, finance and business skills.

The program was designed to prepare riders for the rigours of life as a domestic jockey and develops individuals as high performance athletes for an international career in racing.

Apprentices are under the guidance of RV’s jockey coaches retired jockey Matthew Pumpa and trainer Matthew Hyland, jockey wellbeing and safety officer Ron Hall and dedicated athlete development and industry careers advisor, Melissa Weatherley.

Brandon is hoping to have has first race ride in August or September.

In the meantime he is out of bed before 4am to work in the stables and ride track work.

It is a requirement these days for youngsters to be aged 14 before being allowed to ride track work.

He travels to Melbourne to attend the apprentice jockey program three days a week, finds time for regular schooling at Sale College and to go to football training because he was selected in the Gippsland under 16 representative team.

Frankie Stockdale said Sale College had been helpful in allowing Brandon some

“catch up” time when he missed classes because of race meetings, trials or thoroughbred sales.

“Times have changed from when a boy wanting to be a jockey spent all of his time with the horses,” Frankie said.

“The apprentice college was not even a dream when I was that age.”

He said Brandon was a natural horseman and when he started to ride he would be the stable jockey.

“I will put him on all of my horses because I know he is going to be something special,” he said.

“He is very strong and good at any sport football, soccer, boxing but he lives for racing.”

Frankie Stockdale served his apprenticeship with his uncle, trainer Alan Douch, but became too heavy to ride on the flat within 18 months.

He rode with great success in jumps races until his mid-20s.

He trained his first winner (Summer Dream) at Bairnsdale in August, 2010, and now has 30 horses on the books at his Sale stable and 13 are in work. Most of them are young and unraced and he has high hopes for two or three.

“I want to earn a name as a maker and seller of young and tried racehorses,” he said.

“I only buy well-bred horses who look to have potential.”

So far the best of his purchases was Unique Quality who finished third behind Sepoy and Hallowell Belle in the group two Danehill Stakes.

Sale Turf Club chief executive Wayne Pollock said the local racing community had followed Brandon since he first showed he would walk in his father’s footsteps.

“We are happy that he has been given the opportunity by RVL to prepare for the start of his career,” he said.

“The Sale Turf Club will acknowledge his graduation.”

In the meantime Frankie Stockdale has a more immediate event to look forward to he and his wife Julie will be parents again in May.

Then Frankie shared what had been a secret.

“This time it’s a filly,” he said.