Dieting jockey a heavy favourite

HEAVYWEIGHT Rockhampton jockey Darryl Johnston's self-imposed starvation for three days was the nucleus for his feast of three winners at the Callaghan Park TAB races yesterday.

Johnston, 21, said he shed 4.5kg to let him ride his winning treble of Joe Dirt ($1,70), Silver Sail ($4.00) and Royal Reform ($6.00) at their handicap weight of 57kg.

"I haven't eaten since Friday, but I don't mind making the effort and wasting if the rides are worthwhile,'' Johnston explained.

In recent months, Johnston has rarely had a race ride but over the last few weeks he has re-applied dedication so much that he is a regular trackwork rider for a large number of horses each morning.

Tall for a jockey, Johnston normally strips around the 61kg mark but "pound for pound'' he has no peer among Central Queensland jockeys.

Despite restricted opportunities because of weight, Johnston rather remarkably claimed the Rockhampton apprentice and jockeys premiership three seasons ago.

In all he had five rides yesterday, finishing second on Exemplify (59kg) to Bro (Justin Stanley) in the Class 6 (1200m) as well as third on Tycoon Ted (61kg) behind Quartpot (Dale Evans) in the XXXX Open (1400m).

Johnston could afford a feast for a king last night as he earned $1672.50 in riding fees and percentages from his five rides.

Pocket-hercules Joe Dirt, turned out in magnificent order by trainer David Vale and groom Bobbie-Jo Vale, romped home winning the Class 3 (1100m) in the class record time of 1min 04.97sec.

In his three previous starts for owners Stephen and Sharon Coome, former Victorian Joe Dirt has been placed on each occasion handicapped on 61kg and 60kg.

Under the set-weights conditions of the Class 3 Plate, little Joe Dirt was a standout with just 57kg, but the manner of his win suggested he could have carried much more and won just as easily.

In a muddlingly-run Class 6 (1200m), Brisbane jockey Adam Best was trapped wide throughout on unplaced favourite Stipend ($2.00) so he was pleased to atone later on short-priced Leverage ($2.50) in the Maiden (1600m).

Leverage is prepared by visiting Ipswich trainer Ray Turgeon who is assisting in the operations of Rockhampton's Tom Bourke stables.

Bourke is enduring serious health problems and was hospitalised again this week with the likely view of being flown to Brisbane for treatment.

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