In the past week, much-travelled jockey Jason Lyon spent a four-day period riding in Townsville, Sydney and Albury.
For the past five years it’s something the 41-year-old has pursued on a voluntary basis, but for the time being he is happy to call Albury home.
Not only has it been a busy week for Lyon, but he also tasted success in Sydney for the first time on Saturday when five-year-old gelding Mnementh won the $130,000 Benchmark 78 Handicap (1200m) at Rosehill Gardens for Albury trainer Mitchell Beer.
The race was for the colts, geldings and entires aged three years old and upwards, and although it was the last of 10 events on a Heavy 9 track, the $31 outsider thrived in the conditions.
“I rode up in Townsville on Friday,” Lyon said.
“Got a plane up on Thursday night to Townsville.
“Then I flew from Townsville to Sydney on Saturday morning – I had one ride there at Rosehill in the last race and got the chocolates.
“It was my first ever ride in Sydney, so it was a good result.
“That’s the biggest prizemoney win I’ve ever had.
“The biggest stakes win I ever had was a Group 3 race – it was the Irwin Stakes in Adelaide in 2004.
“The horse was Stand By Me and it started at $51.”
Born and raised in Whyalla in South Australia, Lyon had his first ride in Balaklava for prominent South Australian trainer Leon Macdonald in 1999.
He continued to ride in South Australia for the next 10 years, and in the past 13 years he has ridden in Melbourne, throughout Victoria and around Australia.
In no way does Lyon have any regrets and is happy to go anywhere if it means booting home winners.
“I’ve just got connections from riding all around Australia,” he said.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time now.
“I’ve only got one state in Australia where I need to ride a winner and that’s the ACT.
“I’ve ridden winners all over Australia other than Canberra, so I’ll have to get Mitch Beer to take one there to get a winner.”
Lyon, a trackwork rider for Michael Moroney in Melbourne, first headed to the Northern Territory in 2016, where he had near-instant success in Darwin and Alice Springs.
He left before returning to the NT and didn’t venture too far, and by the end of the 2017/18 season there was no other jockey who had ridden more winners than Lyon.
It was 48 wins for the season and he was the leading rider in Alice Springs with 26 winners – he finished third in the Darwin premiership with 22 winners.
On top of that he had plenty of success during the Darwin and Alice Springs cup carnivals.
“I did spend over a year in Darwin, it was good, and apart from riding at Alice Springs, as well as at the country venues in the NT, I also got to ride in Western Australia at Broome, Kununurra and Wyndham,” Lyon said.
“I then went back to back to Melbourne and got injured in October 2018.
“I broke my leg – it was a trackwork fall at Caulfield. I was out for 14 months. It was quite bad.”
Once making a full recovery, Lyon returned to the saddle and last year he somehow ended up back in the NT.
And his run of success only continued.
“I went to Alice Springs last year in April and May for the carnival and won the cup there on I Am The Fox for Garry Lefoe,” he said.
“Then I went to Darwin – won the Guineas and finished third in the Derby on Trident for Mark Nyhan, and rode five winners over the carnival.
“I then went to Broome for a little working holiday and went back to Darwin to ride a few meetings there.
“I slipped across to Townsville and rode up and down the east coast there – places like Cairns, Mackay, Ewan and Townsville, it was good.
“Then I went back to Melbourne around Christmas time and had about eight weeks out of the saddle.
“The last three months I’ve been in Albury and riding all around country NSW.
“I’ll be sticking around here.
“I’m getting a good opportunity with Mitchell Beer and obviously he trained the horse that won in Sydney on Saturday.”
Lyon hinted that he wouldn’t mind riding in places like Townsville, Darwin and Broome, as well as in South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania, on a regular basis once again, but for now he is content.
Apart from opportunity, Lyon did reveal there was a reason why he is happy to remain in Albury for the foreseeable future and why riding at the 2022 Darwin Cup Carnival may not be possible.
“I wouldn’t mind going to Darwin, but I’m unvaccinated and I can’t actually ride there,” he said.
“I’m also committed to where I am now, I wouldn’t be leaving this place anytime soon.
“They lifted the mandates in Queensland and South Australia obviously there now for jockeys.
“That’s basically why I’m here because I’m unvaccinated and the reason I had to leave Queensland.
“It’s worked out good really.”
Mnementh ($21) saluted in open company at Albury over 1175m on March 24 and finished third in the Tocumwal Cup (1300m) on April 16 as a $1.80 favourite before Beer turned to Lyon.
Starting at $71 in the $200,000 Wagga Town Plate (1200m) on May 5, Lyon got the best out of Mnementh with the gelding crossing the line in second place.
If Beer was happy with that performance, then he would have been bursting at the seams when his horse and rider got the cash at Rosehill Gardens.
He indicated that Mnementh, who has bounced back after suffering a recent bleeding issue, might now be a starter in The Kosciuszko come October, but at the same time he couldn’t hide his admiration for the affable Lyon.
“It’s just a credit to the team and I just wanted to thank the owners as well for supporting Jason Lyon and sticking with him,” Beer said on Saturday.
“He had six rides in Townsville yesterday, flew here today and he’s getting a lift home in the car and float and riding at Albury on Monday – so he’s a bloody legend.
“He came to Albury, things weren’t going great, and he lived with me for a while and got back on track and it’s just fantastic to see.
“He’s a terrific rider and a great bloke.”