The term journeyman may be a well-worn sporting cliché but it seems a perfectly apt way to describe Nigel Seymour.
A 25-year-career in the saddle which he described as being 'beyond expectation' has taken him to ride on over 100 tracks around Australia and having notched his first stakes winner in nearly 20 years - a period Seymour describes as a 'long while between drinks' - he could be on the verge of his greatest achievement.
The 42-year-old partnered with flying Rockhampton filly Better Reflection (Better Than Ready) to win the Listed Calaway Gal S. at Doomben and is now set to ride her in this month's $2 million Magic Millions 2YO Classic at the Gold Coast.
All of that must have seemed a world away when a couple of years ago, he effectively hung up his saddle as chronic injury took its toll.
An invite to ride in New Caledonia of all places, sparked his passion once again.
"I've had to battle a lot of injuries the last few years. I'm getting a bit older. I pretty much gave the game away two years ago. I got a call to go overseas and at the time, I wasn't riding, I thought I’ll go back and see how the body copes. So far I haven't stopped yet," he said.
The Rocky road to revival
It was a return home, of sorts, that has clicked his career into action again. Twelve months ago, he arrived in Rockhampton, a town he knew from his youth when his family was following the riding career of his father Wayne.
"I did grow up here as a young fella. I spent quite a number of years from age 7 or so as part of my dad's riding career," he said.
He has ridden 41 winners (at around an 18 per cent strike rate) since his arrival. That's more winners than he had combined in Australia over the previous five seasons and he has become one of the premier riders at Callaghan Park.
A flying filly
A couple of months ago he was asked to trial a 2-year-old filly called Better Reflection for local trainer John Wiggington.
"Horses are all different, but it had been a while since I had ridden a horse which rides as smooth as Better Reflection." Nigel Seymour
"The first day I rode her was in her trial and I was quite impressed with her that day. It was quite obvious that she was fairly handy. She won her trial quite well, but you can never tell.," he said.
"Horses are all different, but it had been a while since I had ridden a horse which rides as smooth as her. It still doesn’t tell you the depth of her ability and I guess at the moment, we still don’t know. Things are looking up for her I suppose."
Seymour admits he has been taken aback by the improvement Better Reflection has made in her two starts.
"When you are taking out Listed races at your second start, it is a little bit surprising. To go from a 2-year-old race at Rockhampton to a higher than city grade race, it was a pleasant surprise," he said.
Racking up the miles
Having ridden everywhere from Broome to Bathurst, from Eagle Farm to Elwick, Charleville to Colac and Winton to Warrnambool, the prospect of riding a leading chance in a Magic Millions 2YO Classic doesn’t faze him.
There is no doubt it's a remarkable journey which has led to this opportunity.
"My apprenticeship started in Orange in NSW. I then had a little bit of time with Ronnie Quinton and I ended up finishing my last months with a fellow called Jack Barling at Hamilton. I rode through country Victoria for Terry O'Sullivan and Barbara Marshman and got some good rides in town," he said.
Picking through the records, the highlights of that era in the late 1990s was a couple of Listed wins in the Hobart Cup and the Bagot Hcp with a Tasmanian galloper called Future Shock (Strathmore Lad) and a G3 Tokyo City Cup win in Adelaide with a horse called Western Magic (Western Symphony (USA) for trainer David Hall.
"I am getting more out of racing than I ever expected from it." - Nigel Seymour
The 19 years since those says have seen him cover 100,000s of kilometres to racetracks all over Australia but he never got back to the heights of a stakes win until last month.
While the journeyman lifestyle can be a hard one for a jockey, he wouldn't have had it any other way.
"It was always my dream as a kid and it is one of those things that has never really let me down.," he said. "It's always been there for me, it’s been exciting. I am getting more out of racing than I ever expected from it."
"It’s just a dream. I wanted to have a go at it, and it’s been fantastic."