Johnathan Parkes has wasted no time getting back in the groove after a much-needed break from riding, as he works his way closer to a significant milestone.
Parkes resumed riding at Otaki last Thursday after a six-month break and was back in the winner’s circle on Sunday when guiding Kabugee home for Te Akau Racing in a three-year-old 1200m event at Awapuni.
It pushed the 34-year-old a little bit closer to one of his major career goals.
“My first goal is to get to 1000 career wins. I’m six away from 1000, so it would be nice to tick that off the list,” Parkes said.
“It was satisfying just to get the first one back at Awapuni, and good to get one for Te Akau as well. They have supported me for a long time.”
Parkes had a decent season in 2021-22, with his 40 victories including the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) aboard Asterix. But as the new season came along, he found himself in need of a break.
“It’s good to give the body a break. Towards the end I was getting a bit stale from wasting,” Parkes said.
“With the break I’ve definitely come back better. I’ve come back with a hungrier mindset.”
Parkes didn’t move away from racing completely during his time away, spending a good deal of time riding trackwork. But he did get to do some things he hasn’t had much of an opportunity to do since he’s become a jockey.
“I didn’t really do much travelling as such, I just chilled out and caught up with family and friends,” he said.
“But I also for once had a Christmas without work, which I haven’t done for years and years, which was really good. That was almost like a holiday on its own.”
In his first week back Parkes has been riding at 58.5kg and has been taking his time returning to a riding weight he is happy with, but he expects that to lower over time.
“This last few months I’ve been looking forward to getting back. I actually wanted to get back a little bit sooner but I had a fair bit of weight to drop,” he said.
“I’m at 58.5kg this week, and I’ll probably be 57kg to 57.5kg next week. As time goes on I’d like to be riding 56.5kg, that’s my normal weight.
“I had to lose a lot of weight to get to where I am now.”
Parkes said he’s been making sure he’s kept fit with running at the gym. On his first day back he took his first mount, Jerricoop, within a length of victory, though he admits it wasn’t especially easy.
“My first ride back was over 2100m in a maiden on a wet track at Otaki and my legs were a little bit jellyish, but that’s probably to be expected after being off for so long,” he said.
“Other than that, it’s been really good.”
Parkes was back into full swing at today’s Foxton trials, riding 10 horses and scoring wins aboard Tikemyson in a maiden 1200m catchweight, Papa Surf in a maiden 850m catchweight, and veteran Deerfield in an open 1000m catchweight.
On Wednesday he rides two horses for Te Akau at Hawera – Merlotti in a Rating 65 1200m contest, and Luxembourg in a Rating 60 1600m event – while his mounts for the weekend at Hawke’s Bay are set to include Diamond Thief in a Rating 65 1400m race, Subtle Point in a Rating 75 2200m, and the Tony Pike-trained Whiskey Neat in a Rating 75.
Parkes said that alongside reaching the 1000-win mark, his goal is to get himself back in the groove enough to help him gain some good mounts when the new season begins in August.
“I think it will be good, and I will get my eye in, and I’d like to have my weight ready and set to go for spring,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to it all and carrying on again.”