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Pietro takes the long road

By Tony McMahon

Those famous words of question from the play Romeo and Juliet believed to be composed around 1596 by William Shakespeare could easily be applicable to Rockhampton based jockey Pietro Romeo.

Now Rockhampton based, Pietro Romeo, 34 of Italian descent before growing-up in England has seen more of the Australian countryside than most of the people born here.

Quite frankly his road-trips intermingled with a plane flight on May 5 are nothing short of astonishing or to quote Pietro “a mission” to fulfil three riding engagements in Tennent Creek, NT which is indeed mind boggling.

On that occasion, the jockey drove the 696kms to Brisbane and then flew to Alice Springs, NT a distance of 2506Km from the Queensland capital.

“From there I hooked up with Wayne Kerford who drove me the 500kl or about 4hours and thirty minutes to ride at Tennent Creek”, Romeo said.

That extraordinary effort deserved a better outcome for his three race rides with the best finishing second.

After the return trip was repeated Romeo was back on the road to Mackay later that week.

Based at the Sunshine Coast before moving to Rockhampton last December, Romeo estimates he has driven at least 30,000 kilometres or even more to race meetings since then.

Just over the last three months he has driven from Rocky to ride at Aramac; Charters Towers; Longreach; Barcaldine; Wondai; Winton; Julia Creek; Townsville; Alpha; Springsure not forgetting “little” Saturday drives to Gladstone; Emerald and Mackay.

“I made the move to Rocky as I realised there was a shortage of lightweight riders who can make 54kg here. Logistically speaking it was better off for me to relocate here than fly-up for the races. As well I had and have made many more good contacts in the Central West for their Saturday race meetings”, he said.

Currently, Pietro is second placed in the Queensland country jockey’s premiership behind Mt Isa based Dan Ballard.

Actually, Pietro is a late starter to jockeying as he “had never been on the back of a horse until I was 21”.

Growing-up in England he pursued a career in accounts and changed from pen pushing and computer keyboards to saddles and horse pushing so to speak, come by chance.

“I was going to be made redundant with the accounting firm and my step-father had some racing contacts. He arranged riding lessons for me near where we lived north of London and from there I was bitten by the horses and racing bug”, he explained.

“I was accepted into the British Horse Racing School at Newmarket and did a nine weeks course there and it was tough and like boarding school. Some 16 of us entered and only four fulfilled the course’, he recalled.

After completing the course, he moved to Brighton riding trackwork before having an 18 months riding stint in Wales.

“I rode my first race winner at my 12th ride in Wales and later on moved to Australia in about 2009 and rode track work at Rosehill before later race riding again”, he said.

Sometime later his journeyman travels set in and from bases at Port Macquarie and Kempsey he rode throughout the regions of NSW.

Then after a 12 month stay at the Sunshine Coast he hit the road again and now calls Rocky home.

However, back to the question, Romeo, Romeo where art thou Romeo?

“After riding in Rocky today (Friday) I drive to Emerald after the races and spend the night there before about another 3 plus hours to ride at Barcaldine today (SATURDAY). I’d drive right through but there are too many Kangaroos around out on that road at night. It’s only a small drive really”, he said seriously.

On yeah – try 632km from Rockhampton and then turn around and clock-up the return trip on Sunday.

Then at about 4am Monday, Pietro will be riding track work at Callaghan Park.

Indeed, this Romeo deserves to take centre stage in the hardest role of all - jockeying!

PICTURE: Rockhampton jockey Pietro Romeo clocks-up the kilometres on and off the highways and racetracks of Central and Western Queensland. Photo: Tony McMahon.