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Jockey James Baker out to make positive start in FNQ

11 May 2022

By Jordan Gerrans

Hoop James Baker will be aiming to put a smile on his new boss’ face when he rides at Mareeba and Cairns over the next week.

The 40-year-old Baker was set to have four rides at Cairns’ Cannon Park on Thursday afternoon in his new FNQ adventure after recently making the move north.

The well-travelled Baker has taken on the role of the Potiris barn’s new stable rider in Innisfail.

Multiple FNQ Cup winning trainer Stephen Potiris has been on the sidelines in recent weeks himself after undergoing hip surgery.

The popular trainer fell at the races and suffered two breaks, including one at the top of his femur that joins with his hip.

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He is expected to be away from full-time training duties for around three months, with his daughter Maria, who trains herself, taking on the responsibility for all their horses.

Stephen will watch some track work and run his eyes over horses as he progresses through his physiotherapy and rebuilds his mobility.

Baker will need to wait to ride his first winner for Stephen and Maria after the Cairns Jockey Club race meeting for Thursday was postponed.

The racing surface has been subjected to a major rain deluge over the past few days to the extent that there is no possibility that the racing surface will recover in time for Thursday’s race meeting to proceed at the venue, now set to be run on Monday, May 16.

He has four engagements across the Monday program at Cairns. 

Maria, who has been training herself since the 2019-20 season, says Baker has been an asset to the yard in his short time on the Cassowary Coast.

Stephen Potiris Next Racing
George Tsakissiris Next Racing
James Baker Next Racing

“He was not getting a fair go down south and we got in contact and it has gone from there,” Maria said.

“He has settled in well after being here for about three weeks now.

“All is going well so far, everything seems to be on track, which is great. He is great with the horses and he can ride.”

From the famous Baker racing family in regional Queensland, the hoop has most recently been based in Scone and Newcastle and while he loved his time in NSW, he was not getting consistent race rides and opted to head to FNQ.

“It has been good,” Baker said.

“They are great people and a great family to work for, they are laid-back and relaxed, which helps.”

James is the son of Roma-based trainer Wayne and the cousin of top provincial hoop in the Sunshine State – Les Tilley.

He started his apprenticeship with Craig Smith at Roma before going on to ride in Brisbane, Toowoomba and around Australia.

When the postponed Cairns meeting is eventually run, Baker rates Jesko – for another Innisfail trainer George Tsakissiris – as the best of his four chances in a Maiden Plate over 1400 metres.

The Dissident gelding has had one start in Queensland after previously being in the care of Colt Prosser and Bjorn Baker.

“I like him, his run the other day at Mount Garnett was a good one,” Baker said.

“He was slightly underdone on that day but he has come through that run nicely and he has been working well.”

Baker also has three rides at Saturday’s non-TAB meeting at Mareeba, two of which are for the Potiris'.