The horseman from Tumbarumba will be virtually unknown at Royal Randwick amidst the TAB Highway contingent on Saturday.
And so will the fact that in 1989 Graham Byatt rode the winner of the historic Grand National Steeplechase at Flemington on the mighty Sir Agrifo.
“It was a long time ago mate, started riding at ‘Tumby’ apprenticed in Benalla and once in a lifetime at Flemington – only second time in Sydney with a runner, have to rustle up a suit,” quipped Byatt.
Byatt now rides work, trains just two horses including the promising Allaboutroy ($11 on TAB) into Saturday’s TAB Highway and makes ends meet as a Riverina barrier attendant.
“Sir Agrifo was an old marvel, ran in five Grand Nationals, won two over the ‘4800m’, weight carrying record of 70kg, retired him at our place at ‘Tumby’ and he lasted until he was over 30 years.”
Certainly, Amy McLucas who rides Byatt’s promising dual Riverina race winner Allaboutroy will be exceedingly more familiar to the Sydney racing fraternity than Graham.
McLucas is the winner of five Highway races, numerous other city winners and the focus on her recent move to the Waterhouse and Bott stable.
“I’ve had some success with Amy back home, a good rider that little girl, that’s why she’s where she is now,” said the former jockey and trainer of a small team since 2019.
“I booked Amy weeks back when I couldn’t get Danny Beasley after he won on him; Danny said he’d planned a family holiday to Japan.”
The hoof beats were in the background at dawn trackwork at Wagga Wagga where Byatt spoke while riding and leading another to the wash yard.
He expanded on speedy Allaboutroy with 57kg vitally less Amy’s 3kg claim as a three-year-old into a $120,000 Class 2, 1200m flyer.
“When he won so well with Danny on the heavy last start and that strong form line around his second to Acapella Sun, we planned for this.
“I mean it got us only late by a neck, won a Highway off it and then only just got beaten in a decent benchmark 78 in town last Saturday. Pretty smart horse.
“So, we’re as good a form line as it gets for this I reckon.”
Before leading all the way at Wagga Wagga last month, Allaboutroy, a Supido three-year-old hit the front and was beaten only in the last few strides by the Matt Dale-trained Acapella Sun at that track in early May.
“Only had the four starts, always tough for a three-year-old conceding experience and weight to the older horses but we’ve claimed the 3 kilos, drawn well and he’s a natural speed horse with upside.
“Danny said there’s plenty of improvement still. So we thought the time was right with the form he was in. And while he’s eligible for that level of prizemoney.
“Lot less cash and more weight if we stay home for another race.”
Meanwhile, Sir Agrifo won the time-honoured classic since 1839 with an equal weight carrying record of 70kg with Byatt.
“Over 4800m carrying near the grandstand and far tougher obstacles back then than now, guarantee you that. Every jumps jockey has their share of falls and injuries. I’ve had mine.”
As resilient and tough as an outback barbed wire fence are jumps jockeys: “Can’t have any fear. Eventually I had to retire because of serious injuries.
“I originally switched to the jumps for a living when I got too heavy for flat races. I rode for David Hayes when he was starting out and my last ride was in a big steeple at Oakbank.
“Then for years worked in a trucking business, still rode work for Tumbarumba trainers and decided to take out a training licence in 2019 with a few for mates.
“I still ride my own work, this three-year-old is by far the most promising we’ve had. He’s two from four so we’re coming up for a decent crack.”
– Racing NSW