Clayton Douglas returns aboard Midas Man last Friday night.

From the Picnics to the bright lights of Friday nights

Riding 20-odd horses in three locations is all in a day’s work for 23-year-old Clayton Douglas, but it was one of those horses in particular named Midas Man who gave the Mornington horseman his biggest thrill in the saddle last Friday night at The Valley.

Midas Man, similar to his rider, began his preparation on Victoria’s popular picnic circuit in December last year at Balnarring where he picked up $1,840 for his 6¾ length triumph, some $20,160 short of what he collected on Friday night. Douglas’ riding career began on that very circuit as a 16-year-old where he punched home 31 winners across Victoria’s countryside. Douglas’ uncle, Ray, is a stalwart on the circuit with 350+ winners to his name.

“It was a great experience to start out [at the picnics] but I also thought it might be my only chance to ride as I was too heavy for the professionals and stood at 5 feet 10 inches,” explained Douglas.

It wasn’t until jumps racing icons Fran Houlahan & Brian Johnson tapped Douglas on the shoulder to take up riding over the fences that his career over the obstacles began. His family has history in that field too, with his father Vic training three winners of the prestigious Warrnambool Grand Annual Steeplechase. Douglas, who will soon start preparing for another busy season over the obstacles, says he was ‘hooked’ on the jumping caper from the first moment he tried it and with the high weight races beginning to appear on the racing calendar again, his excitement grows.

Clayton rode some 10 to 15 horses at trackwork for Shane Nichols and Logan McGill last Friday morning at Mornington before the 1.5-hour journey to Moe, where he took three rides. Then it was another 2-hour car trip to the bright lights of The Valley.

“I was lucky enough to win a highweight race at Moe and that horse was carrying 68.5 kilograms, whereas Midas Man had 55 kilograms later that night,” revealed Douglas.

Needless to say there was plenty of lead in the saddle at Moe! Douglas is one of few riders that contests both the flat and jumping circuits, explaining he comfortably walks around at 57.5 kilograms. Well-known jockeys John Allen and Jamie Mott are others that do the same. However, the temptation of your first ride at The Valley was too much to refuse a little bit of wasting.

“I made sure I got there early and walked the track as with it’s tight corners it can be tricky at the best of times.

“The atmosphere is just awesome, riding under lights with the crowd so close, although the horse got a little stirred up on his way to the barriers… it was his first time as well,” Douglas said of his maiden riding voyage at The Valley.

Having come off back-to-back wins at Werribee and Yarra Valley, the Robert Kingston trained gelding was sent out as a $17 chance. Settling towards the back of the field, Douglas used his initiative to move into the race and a sterling two horse battle ensued all the way to the line, with Midas Man and Douglas scoring in a head-bobber.

“We were hopeful more than expecting, but he never gives in, even if he does come off the bridle.

“It was great to get the win at my first ride [at The Valley] and for a good supporter in Rob [Kingston] and a mate of mine who owns the horse,” Douglas said.

That mate owes Douglas dinner, who at the point of writing this article was a promise yet to be kept.

Midas Man claimed Heat 2 of the Summer Stayers Series and will now return on February 16 before contesting the $100,000 Final on March 2.

The evening almost reached greater heights when 30 minutes later, in the following race, Douglas finished a close second aboard Deadly Choices. As a more than suitable consolation, the self-proclaimed keen golfer was more than happy to walk away with the Drummond Golf / Callaway Ride of the Night for his efforts.