Source : The Chronicle, by Ben Dorries
Damian Browne, who enjoyed a successful association with champion sprinter Buffering, reveals one regret from his career – turning down a ride on Winx.
Retired Group 1 riding star Damian Browne made plenty of superb decisions in his career but knocking back the ride on Winx six years ago wasn’t one of them.
Browne, a 16-time Group 1 winner who retired from the saddle in 2019 after a series of major health problems, is now the track supervisor on the Sunshine Coast where the Group 3 Winx Guineas will be run on Saturday.
Back in 2015, when the race was known as the Sunshine Coast Guineas, Chris Waller’s camp phoned the elite Queensland hoop and offered him the ride on a promising young filly called Winx.
Winx had won four of her 10 career starts up until then but Browne thought he had a better ride, the Mike Moroney-trained Merion.
Little did Browne know that the Guineas was to be the first of Winx’s famous 33-race winning streak and the race would one day be named after the mare of a lifetime.
Larry Cassidy rode Winx at the Sunshine Coast that day in 2015, later selling the saddle he used when he won on her to fund some backyard renovations.
Meanwhile, Browne finished seventh on second-favourite Merion and was lucky not to fall as he was crowded between runners as Winx came from last on the turn and swooped past all 17 of her rivals.
“I wouldn’t call it a funny story, but I was offered the ride on Winx but I turned it down because I thought I had a better ride,” Browne revealed.
“So I’m not a very good judge by the look of things.
“At public speaking functions, when people are asking me for tips for winners, I sometimes tell them that story and say I’m probably not the best tipster going around.
“One of the reasons I went with Mike’s horse was because I did a bit of riding for him anyway, that helped sway me a bit, and she (Winx) only had 55kg and I was going to have to waste to ride her.
“It was a bit of a regret but Hugh (Bowman) would have been on her next start in the Queensland Oaks anyway.
“If I’m dirty about one thing it’s that Larry Cassidy ended up selling the saddle for about $5000.”
It wasn’t all red faces for Browne that day in 2015 as the jockey, most renowned for his seven Group 1 wins on brilliant sprinter Buffering, won the Caloundra Cup for Waller aboard Index Linked.
Browne, who lives a stone’s throw from the Sunshine Coast track, admits he misses riding but realises he can’t go back to the profession he loved for 30 years.
He called time on his riding career in 2019 after being rushed to hospital, undergoing emergency surgery for a perforated bowel which was caused by his long-term reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs for a chronic knee injury, which had been surgically repaired 16 times.
He has since remained involved in racing in different roles, most recently as track supervisor at the Sunshine Coast after another track supervisor passed away recently.
It suits Browne as lives close by, never having enjoyed the grind of interstate and overseas travel when he was a jockey.
It also keeps him involved in the racing game that he loves but can no longer compete in.