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Friday, 14 December, 2018

Newman relishing life in the saddle after making third comeback

Lee Newman, pictured in 2011: aiming for comeback in July
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He might not have quite reached Lazarus levels just yet, but Lee Newman is determined to make the most of his latest comeback, which began at Ascot racecourse in Western Australia on Wednesday.

Newman was crowned champion apprentice in 2000 when based with Richard Hannon snr, but two years later weight problems forced his retirement from the saddle.

A spell running a betting shop in Barbados meant his weight ballooned, but the rider shed six stone to reappear in Britain in 2010 and rode 43 winners the following year.

However, Newman's problems with the scales resurfaced 12 months later following a back injury and he was forced to call time on his career once more.

Fancying a change of scenery, the 35-year-old sought employment in Dubai, but instead headed to Australia to assist trainer Sam Pritchard-Gordon in Melbourne before heading west to Perth and linking up with Fred Kersley, responsible for saddling Northerly to Cox Plate triumphs in 2001 and 2002.

With his weight under control thanks to former rider and fitness-orientated jockey coach John Claite, Newman spied a return to race-riding, which came when he finished seventh in a 5f maiden on the Kersley-trained Rogue Empress.

He said on Thursday: "When I arrived at Fred's I needed to be a bit lighter to ride trackwork so I started getting myself fitter and lighter and found the weight was coming off well, so I felt like having a go.

"I waited a while to start riding as I'd lost a bit of weight and felt weak and underdone. I wanted to develop some fitness and core strength before I started, so I sought out John and worked out with him for a month.

"Yesterday my horse couldn't go the pace; they go really quick here over five furlongs. It caught me by surprise and the fact my horse was a bit outpaced didn't help, so I had to ride her the whole way. She did test me a bit, but it felt great to be back."

Nicknamed 'The Flying Scotsman' by a local commentator, Newman has three rides at Narrogin racecourse on Friday and five at Esperance on Saturday and is hopeful he can get off the mark.

"My long-term ambition is to make it last and make a life for myself here in Western Australia," added Newman, whose biggest victory in Britain came on Misty Eyed in the 2000 Molecomb. 

"I always have a target in mind – I don't always tell people what I'm planning to do – and usually when I've got a target in front of me I tend to reach it.

"I'm quite confident in my ability and have been well received. I've gone from taking a ride from my boss on the first day, to not picking up my phone and getting three rides for other people on Friday and five on Saturday. Hopefully I can pop in a winner and things will go from there."

Newman, who plans to break in young horses and pre-train them when his career is finally over, thinks young British riders could do worse than try life down under.

He said: "The weights are heavier out here, the money's better, the lifestyle is a bit easier and the workload is a lot less, so the theory is I should be able to last, and I'm quite confident I can.

"I'm happy and have got good friends out here. Australia is going to be my home now and I love it. I'd encourage people to come here and experience it – it's a great place to learn."

My long-term ambition is just to make it last and make a life for myself here in Western Australia

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Lee Newman
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