Young Gun Dylan Gibbons Continues To Soar

By Abby Delucyk

After backing up last year’s breakthrough season, star apprentice jockey Dylan Gibbons has continued to soar after making the leap to the metropolitan grade and is now a leading contender to take out the 2022/23 Rising Star Series.

Currently ranking in the top 10 for the Sydney Jockey Premiership, the young riding talent has adjusted to the first-grade league perfectly well by becoming a familiar face in the city. Though he says it’s not as easy as it might look.

“Naturally the best part of being a jockey is winning but there are also hardships involved,” he said.

“The mental side of having to be at the races and get up and go can be challenging both mentally and physically. I think it’s all about having to adapt to deal with this side of it.

“As I am naturally a smaller build, I find it quite easy to manage my weight thankfully as this is also a physical challenge. I set my minimum riding weight at a comfortable weight and learnt very quickly what I can and can’t eat.”

With Gibbons getting increasingly more rides due to his good performance, his schedule is a lot more booked than the average 21-year-old.

“It’s all about finding a good balance between work life and social life. Making sure you have hobbies and things planned for days off otherwise it becomes an endless cycle which isn’t healthy for anyone,” Gibbons mentions.

However the young gun wasn’t born a star in the saddle, only kick starting his dream to become a jockey at age 16 where he sat on a horse properly.

“Riding was a bit of a shock to the system and was a whole new world. Starting to ride was a pretty cool experience and felt like a relief to start my dream to be a jockey,” Gibbons said.

With no better inspiration than his respected father Andrew Gibbons, Dylan has plenty of experience and knowledge to call upon.

“I was always obsessed with racing growing up and had a one-track mind to becoming a jockey. Watching dad ride and the excitement he got when he won was enough to get me hooked and I just couldn’t get away from it. From day one, dad has always been the jockey I look up to.

“I used to make my grandparents take me to the races every Saturday at Newcastle and on school holidays I would go with dad everywhere no matter how far,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons gave an early glimpse of his potential by scoring his first major win, a Group 3 on Festival Dancer at his home track at Newcastle last season for Matthew Smith.

Anna’s Hot Seat In The Saddle

By Abby Delucyk

With even the slightest knowledge about the racing industry, anyone would have heard of the apprentice jockey taking the world by storm, Anna Roper.

From riding six winners over three days to riding more winners in NSW than any other jockey at the start of 2022, this young jockey’s life has taken an unexpected turn.

“Ever since I can remember I have ridden horses, as my older sisters and Mum always rode so I learnt a lot from them,” Roper said.

“I got my first pony when I was four called ‘Willow’ and he was super naughty and always dropped me, but we learnt a lot together.”

From Mangrove Mountain Pony Club where Anna grew up riding, she went on to learn dressage for some time before moving to show riding where she competed in high-level competitions.

“I had an awesome horse called ‘FBI’ who was a superstar and I could do all disciplines with him.”

After some time in the saddle, Anna moved on from dressage to eventing where she found her calling. Her dedication to eventing led her to win the National Inter School Championships in 2019, the State Inter School Title, and the Australian Youth Dressage Championships in 2016.

It wasn’t until a good friend of Anna’s parents offered her a position to ride trackwork for Greg McFarlane at Gosford in the school holidays, that a 16-year-old Anna was introduced into the racing industry.

The school holidays turned into weekends and before she knew it, she was riding before and after school. The same progression happened with her riding.

“It started as a slow canter which then went into a fast gallop and then a jump out. I remember my first jump out on a retired thoroughbred called ‘Sweat ball’ which was very interesting,” Anna described.

With her dream to get into a Vet Science course at University, Anna decided to set aside riding for six months while she focused on completing her HSC. After this year was done, she returned to riding by starting trackwork for Tracey Bartley in Wyong in the hopes of making some extra cash for Uni.

“I always thought about becoming a jockey but just thought I was too heavy and would never make the weight as an apprentice. It was always a dream idea but nothing I thought seriously about.

“Tracey was the one that encouraged me to try it as I started to lose weight while trackwork riding so I gave it a go. It’s been pretty insane since then,” Roper said.

The door opened and before she knew it, Anna discovered her new talent.

She started to turn heads early in the 2022/23 season when she began her apprenticeship and on her initial race ride at Gundagai, she rode her first winner.

“The first couple days of this season has to be a highlight as they put me at the top of the jockey premiership – above J-Mac which was pretty awesome!”

With her success on the rise, Anna’s schedule is a lot more booked than the average 20-year-old by traveling across NSW to ride six days a week as well as getting up at 3am to work in the stables each day.

“Someone I look up to as a mentor is Rachel King as she is so professional and is doing really well as a female in the metropolitan region. She is also super helpful by being more than willing to watch a race replay with me.

“There aren’t that many things I dislike about being jockey because I love it so much. It’s become such a passion that it doesn’t feel like your normal work,” Roper said.

As Anna continues to ride winners, she sets her sights on being successful in the metropolitan region as an apprentice.

“I’ll see how long my body holds up while riding but it would be incredible to win an Everest or Melbourne Cup one day.”