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Leading Queensland jockeys duke it out for a great cause

By Jordan GerransR3-Weboughtazou-David-Vandyke-Ryan-Maloney-9.jpg

Premier Brisbane hoop Ryan Maloney hopes a glut of jockeys stepping into the boxing ring can provide those suffering mental health demons a positive outcome.

The Group 1 winner took on impressive youngster Jag Guthmann-Chester on Saturday evening as part of the “Fight For a Cause” concept at the Royal International Convention Centre at RNA Showgrounds.

Fight For a Cause partnered with the Mental Awareness Foundation, who support charities that are working directly with communities who are implementing strategies to raise awareness of depression and mental illness, while supporting the preservation of life.

While Maloney could not overcome the fast and energetic Guthmann-Chester in the show-piece fight of the night, the 35-year-old believes there is more to it than a win or a loss.

Just before Maloney moved from Melbourne to Queensland, the experienced rider detailed his battle with mental health in the middle of 2018, following his suspension after testing positive to a banned stimulant.

“It is a great cause; me, myself having dealt with mental health issues before in my life,” Maloney said post-fight on Saturday evening. 

“There is still a lot of stigma around it and I think people look at it as a pisstake sometimes.

“Knowing that a lot of people have gone through similar mental health battles as me, hopefully the money raised from this event can go to a great cause and we can save a few lives.”

Former Australian professional boxer Corey McConnell, who trained the group of jockeys over the last couple of months before the fight night, declared the Maloney-Guthmann-Chester bout as “on another level” than the rest of the fights.

In the other bouts involving Queensland riders, Sheriden Tomlinson got the better of fellow apprentice Adin Thompson, Melea Castle was too strong for Wendy Peel while leading jockey James Orman defeated Allan Chau.

McConnell, who was ringside for much of the night, was proud of all the hoop’s efforts, not just on Saturday evening, but across the 10 weeks of training leading into the finale.

He described the Tomlinson-Thompson match-up as a “barnstormer”.

“It is raising money for mental health, which is a big thing these days and it is great these jockeys get behind it,” McConnell said.

“The mental pressure these jockeys go through every day, every time they throw a leg over the horse, there is big pressure on them.

“They have worked hard for a good cause; they have really worked their backsides off and I am proud of all of them for their effort.”

Maloney, who is second in the Queensland metropolitan jockeys’ premiership this season, has ridden on some of the biggest stages in Australian racing.

But he says stepping into the boxing ring on Saturday evening, accompanied by loud music, darting lights, smoke machines and everything that goes along with professional boxing was an entirely new feeling that he had never experienced before.

He described it as a level of pressure and intensity he was yet to experience on a racetrack, declaring it was not for the faint hearted.

“It was a bit surreal to be honest, I have never entered in a combat sport before but to rock up here with the music, smoke machines and hundreds of people, I had to make sure I did not lose my head in the moment,” Maloney revealed. 

“Once you do get in the ring, it is all blocked out and you do not notice the atmosphere, you are locked in.

“Jag was a worthy opponent, we gave it our all, but he came out on top - credit to Jag.

Maloney had a great sense of pride being able to fight Guthmann-Chester, explaining it was an experience he always wanted to tick off his bucket list.

There was no rest for the talented boxing jockeys, with Orman, Thompson and Peel all fronting up to ride at the Sunshine Coast on Sunday afternoon, just hours after their bouts ended in Brisbane.