By Jordan Gerrans
After almost three-and-a-half hours spinning gallopers around the Gold Coast track, champion jockey Cyril Small heads for the exit of the stables towards his car.
He thinks his morning is done just before 7.30am, with the track soon to close.
The multiple Group 1-winner has plans to get back to his Tallebudgera Valley farm to start work on everything he needs to complete there.
A voice rings out as he is nearing his car and it is local trainer Sharyn Chirnside, who needs a filly of her's worked as the track work rider who she had organised was suddenly unavailable.
With club staff needing to prepare for jump outs and the track about to close for morning work, the 63-year-old makes sure Chirnside isn’t left in the lurch.
“This morning I was the last one on the track at 7.30am,” Cyril said not long after.
The great Small does not get as many race rides as did at the peak of his powers – highlighted by his association with champion gelding Vo Rogue – but it is still as busy for the stalwart of the game.
“I used to always be the first here in the morning and last to leave in years gone by, with my best effort of 21 horses in one morning,” he said.
He has always prided himself on his work ethic, Small reckons if there is work to be done then you may as well just get stuck in and complete it.
The bright lights of feature triumphs with legend Vo Rogue are long gone but Small’s love for the industry – and the horse – still remain.
He has worked six days a week for the Edmonds stable on the Gold Coast for the last five years and co-trainer Trent Edmonds describes his track work rider as a “loyal servant to the sport”.
At his advanced age, most would understand if Small wanted to take it easy at the track and just ride quiet horses, but that is not his style.
“He rides gallops, he rides yearlings, he will ride basically anything,” Trent said.
“At his age, that is massive, it is a big thing. He has nerves of steel.
“He just has that love of the game; he enjoys educating the young horses and likes to gallop good ones when the chance arises.”
The Edmonds barn earlier this year retired Group 2-winner Vanna Girl and Trent explains that if not for Small’s persistence, she would not have reached the heights she did.
The top mare was troublesome in the early stages of her career and the experienced hoop worked closely with her to settle her attitude and Vanna Girl went on to claim more than $500,000 in stakes for her connections.
While Small works on a full-time basis for the Edmonds’, he will also give a hand to other trainers, such as Chirnside.
It was young filly Super Sweet that Chirnside needed the veteran hoop to ride on this morning in question and the Gold Coast trainer credits Small for her calm nature.
“Cyril is great for her because every emotion you feel goes straight through to her so Cyril is wonderful, because he is so easy going and a happy fella, nothing phases him and that translates to the horses he rides,” Chirnside said.
“I love him riding her because he gets to teach her everything.
“It is amazing to see that he is still riding.
“It is irreplaceable to have his experience and knowledge, what he comes back and says after riding my horses is enormous.”
While Small’s race rides are few and far between in 2022, Chirnside rewarded Small with the booking in Super Sweet's debut run earlier in April.
He will happily take race rides when they offered – like making the long trip to Bundaberg a few times in recent years - but he will not actively chase them like he once did.