By Andrew Adermann
Michael Cahill only returned to the saddle a little over three weeks ago, but it could now be months before he gets to race against some of his regular Brisbane rivals once more.
Cahill fractured his foot after a barrier incident in October last year, and continued to ride for another 10 days without knowing the extent of his injury.
After four months on the sidelines, he returned to the track on March 7 with four rides at Eagle Farm.
At the weekend, he rode his first winner since returning, steering Minjee to what can only be described as a simply unbelievable last-ditch win, grabbing $1.80 favourite Snappy Reply on the post.
However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday may have been Cahill’s last chance to face off against the other leading Brisbane metro hoops for months to come.
Late last week, Racing Queensland announced the introduction of a regional racing model which would restrict jockeys to riding in one of five designated regions until further notice.
This morning, the designated regions where each jockey will ride were confirmed ahead of tomorrow’s first meet under the new regulations.
A number of the state’s leading jockeys including veterans Jim Byrne and Larry Cassidy, as well as rising stars Baylee Nothdurft and Steph Thornton, have elected to ride in what is known as the Metro North zone – encompassing both Eagle Farm and Doomben tracks.
Cahill, along with prominent hoops Ryan Maloney and Matty McGillivray, have elected to stay south and ride Metro South West region, where they will call Aquis Park home for the foreseeable future.
Outside of stints in Asia, the 55-year-old has resided on the Gold Coast for 25 years, but his decision to choose the Metro South West region wasn’t as straightforward as it may seem.
“When I first learnt of the zoning, I thought I should ride in Brisbane but then I spoke to my agent and had a think about it – and I do get plenty of support down here,” Cahill said.
“That, on top of the reduced travel time, were the two key factors for me really.”
The five-time Group 1 winning jockey said that the zoning model was a big positive for the industry in Queensland, and so long as everyone can adhere to the proper protocol, there is no reason why racing can’t continue.
“I think it’s a big positive, Racing Queensland are being proactive about trying to put some restrictions about movement in place and it’s a great decision for the industry,” Cahill said.
“They’ve been doing a good job at the races with trying to keep social distancing, and keeping everything clean and steralised for those on-course.
“All these travel restrictions being put in place made it feel like it was a matter of time (before racing came to a halt), but all of the protocol and hygiene practices are really good amongst the jockeys so hopefully we can keep it going.”
Cahill enjoyed a Winter Carnival to remember last year, taking home two Group 1 races aboard The Bostonian, and although it was recently announced that this year’s carnival is to be abandoned, the senior hoop was all in favour of making the tough calls.
“I think it is (the right call to abandon the Winter Carnival), I don’t think there was any other option and I think Racing Queensland made the right call,” Cahill said.
“It would’ve been a pity to see such iconic races like the Stradbroke and the Doomben 10,000 with less than ideal fields.
“No disrespect to the local horses, but it would’ve been disappointing to see those kinds of races without Australia’s elite stables and horses represented.”
Click here see the published lists for jockeys and apprentices in Queensland.