Blake Jones hopes to renew a happy association with the Wagga showground when he returns to the track on Friday night.
The Coleambally-based driver has happy memories of the venue but it’s been more than two years.
“I think last time I drove there, I might’ve driven four winners,” Jones said. “I think I had a good night there.”
That was May 25, 2014, when Jones drove four winners on the night to bring up 100 wins in a season for the first time. But the success was soured within days. After a meeting at Dubbo, Jones was disqualified for two years for presenting a horse to race not free of a prohibited substance.
He’s learnt the hard way how much he loves the sport.
“Yeah, I definitely won’t be taking it for granted,” Jones said.
Jones said playing Australian rules through the winter gave him another focus and stopped him feeling sorry for himself, as Coleambally enjoyed its most successful season in a decade. Now he’ll turn his attention to making the most of a second chance at his first love.
“I can’t wait to be back doing it full-time eventually but that’ll probably be a while,” he said.
“I just need to work hard and get my reputation back. At the moment I won’t even worry about training, I’ll just concentrate on the driving.”
Jones – who has previously spent time in Sydney and in Bathurst with Steve Turnbull and Nathan Hurst – was granted a licence to drive again last month.
After trips to Cobram and Bathurst yielded midfield finishes and a third, he enjoyed his first winner last Friday at Albury, with Rocknchaton, but only after missing on a couple of short-priced favourites.
“It was good to get the monkey off the back. I was thinking after a few drives, am I ever going to get back in there? It was more of a relief just to get it done,” he said.
It was the four-year old mare’s first win in six starts and Jones is hopeful she can give a good account again in the J & C Powderly Electrical and Renewable Energy Ladyship Pace (1755m).
“She went good last week. She’s been working good at home and he (trainer David Kennedy) was disappointed at her trial so he was a bit unsure but then she led and had an easy run and kicked home,” Jones said.
He will also drive Serene Major and Tom The Shark for Shane Hillier in later races.