DRIVEN TO RIDE: Rockhampton jockey Pietro Romeo clocks up the kilometres on and off the highways and racetracks of Central and Western Queensland.
DRIVEN TO RIDE: Rockhampton jockey Pietro Romeo clocks up the kilometres on and off the highways and racetracks of Central and Western Queensland. TONY MCMAHON

Rocky-based jockey clocks up some serious k's

O ROMEO, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

This famous line from the play Romeo and Juliet composed about 1596 by William Shakespeare could easily be applicable to Rockhampton-based jockey Pietro Romeo.

Now Rockhampton-based, Pietro Romeo, 34, of Italian descent before growing up in England, has seen more of the Australian countryside than most of the people born here.

Quite frankly, his road trips intermingled with a plane flight on May 5 are nothing short of astonishing or, to quote Pietro, "a mission” to fulfil three riding engagements in Tennant Creek, NT, which is indeed mind boggling.

On that occasion, the jockey drove the 696km to Brisbane and then flew to Alice Springs, NT, a distance of 2506km from the Queensland capital.

"From there I hooked up with Wayne Kerford who drove me the 500km or about four hours and 30 minutes to ride at Tennant Creek,” Romeo said.

That extraordinary effort deserved a better outcome for his three race rides, his best was finishing second.

After the return trip, Romeo was back on the road to Mackay that same week.

Based at the Sunshine Coast before moving to Rockhampton last December, Romeo estimated he had driven at least 30,000km or even more to race meetings since then.

Pietro Romeo pilots Thomas the Tank to victory at Clifford Park in 2016.
Pietro Romeo pilots Thomas the Tank to victory at Clifford Park in 2016. Nev Madsen

Just over the past three months he has driven from Rockhampton to ride at Aramac, Charters Towers, Longreach, Barcaldine, Wondai, Winton, Julia Creek, Townsville, Alpha and Springsure, not forgetting "little” Saturday drives to Gladstone, Emerald and Mackay.

"I made the move to Rocky as I realised there was a shortage of lightweight riders who can make 54kg here. Logistically speaking it was better off for me to relocate here than fly up for the races. As well, I had and have made many more good contacts in the Central West for their Saturday race meetings,” he said.

Currently, Pietro is second-placed in the Queensland country jockeys' premiership, behind Mt Isa-based Dan Ballard.

Actually, Pietro is a late starter to jockeying as he "had never been on the back of a horse until I was 21”.

Growing up in England, he pursued a career in accounts and changed from pen pushing and computer keyboards to saddles and horse pushing so to speak.

"I was going to be made redundant with the accounting firm and my stepfather had some racing contacts. He arranged riding lessons for me near where we lived north of London and from there I was bitten by the horses and racing bug,” he explained.

"I was accepted into the British Horse Racing School at Newmarket and did a nine-week course there and it was tough and like boarding school. Some 16 of us entered and only four fulfilled the course,” he recalled.

After completing the course, he moved to Brighton, doing trackwork, before having an 18-month riding stint in Wales.

"I rode my first race winner at my 12th ride in Wales and later on moved to Australia in about 2009 and rode track work at Rosehill before later race-riding again,” he said.

Jockey Pietro Romeo:
Jockey Pietro Romeo: "I rode my first race winner at my 12th ride in Wales.” Kevin Farmer

Sometime later, his journeyman travels set in and from bases at Port Macquarie and Kempsey he rode throughout the regions of NSW.

Then, after a 12-month stay at the Sunshine Coast, he hit the road again and now calls Rocky home.

However, back to the question, O Romeo, Romeo, where art thou Romeo?

"After riding in Rocky today (last Friday) I drive to Emerald after the races and spend the night there before about another three-plus hours to ride at Barcaldine tomorrow (Saturday). I'd drive right through but there are too many kangaroos around out on that road at night. It's only a small drive really,” he said, seriously.

Oh, yeah - try 632km from Rockhampton and then turn around and clock up the return trip on Sunday.

Then about 4am on Monday, Pietro will be riding track work at Callaghan Park.

Indeed, this Romeo deserves to take centrestage in the hardest role of all - jockeying.



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