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Lloyd family working towards riding goals

Thu 16 December 2021

By Jordan Gerrans

Overlooking Surfers Paradise beach on Queensland’s Gold Coast is a luxurious family home dedicated to the betterment of two apprentices jockeys.

Lloyd brothers – Zac and Jaden – call the apartment home, with father Jeff – a legend rider from all around the world before calling time on his career – and mother Nicola – the backbone of the family.

It all happens in that Main Beach complex for the Lloyd’s.

Jeff booking and managing the boys’ engagements, watching replays of their own rides as their dad critiques their efforts as well as re-watching some of the superstars of the riding game – including James McDonald – to pick up an extra trick or two for their kit bag.

With almost 100 Group 1 winners under his belt, Jeff is on hand at track work most mornings on the Gold Coast, as well, helping guide his sons along with their individual masters.

When Jeff called time on his career in the middle of 2019, Nicola thought she would get a bit more time for herself with her husband, but he quickly jumped into his next stage of his life in the racing industry.

“I thought that when he retired, I would be sipping cocktails on an island somewhere,” Nicola said with a laugh.

“But, he seems to be working harder than ever.

“When Jeff was riding in races, he would only go to the track two times a week and now he is in there six times a week, as well as spending his time on the computer, looking at form, watching trials and replays – as well as making calls.

“It is a full on team effort, the boys are always helping each other and they are their greatest supporters of each other.

“As a family, we all do it together, it is lovely as we enjoy the highs and lows together.”

For Nicola, she is enjoying having the entire family together after Jaden spent time riding in Victoria earlier in his young career.

According to Jeff – the boys each mirror one of their parents.

They are different in their own ways but both have a burning desire to succeed.

Jaden is like his dad, Jeff thinks, having a competitive nature but acts casual while Zac is more outgoing – like his mum – competitive and not scared to show it with his heart on his sleeve.

On most race days mornings the boys will crouch around Jeff’s computer, going through their replays together as well as doing their form.

Jeff has already done the form, he did it a few days before when he booked his son’s rides, but they will go through it together.

“It is rewarding,” Jeff said.

“I am lucky to have two boys that want to do what I did – with the same passion I have, I never forced them into doing it, they always wanted to do it.

“I could not ask for anything more really.”

Before going to on to ride across the world, Jeff did not grow up in a racing family and never had the technology his sons do these days to be able to learn and understand new concepts so quickly.

“After every meeting he will call me and Jaden over and discusses our rides and where he thinks we are making mistakes,” Zac said.

“Just on Sunday morning of this week, he made us watch vision of James McDonald riding four winners in Sydney.

“You can get a picture in your head of what the best jockeys are doing and try and replicate that in a race, he is a very big help to both of us.”

While Jeff is enjoying retirement, Jaden’s master Maryann Brosnan, who Jeff also rides work for, notes that he is at the stables before almost every other staff member most mornings, such is his desire and commitment.

While Jaden and Zac are both mature young men, Brosnan believes having Jeff around keeps their mind on the job.

“When Jeff is here, he keeps an eye on them,” Brosnan said.

“It is wonderful, they are very lucky boys to have him.

“I am sure there are lots of apprentices out there that would love his guidance – but in saying that, the boys are very good in their own rights, they need to stand up on their own right as riders, as well.”

Passing on his decades of knowledge within the industry having ridden in 11 countries, Jeff says he loves to see growth in the boys through their conversations – describing it as “rewarding”.

“Every winner, I get more pleasure out of watching them win than I ever did winning myself, it is very satisfying to be able to do this,” Jeff said.

“It is the first full season for them together in Queensland, it is important for them to start it off well.

“They are both very competitive, Jaden has started the metro season off well and he is riding really good, which is going to lead to more opportunities.

“Zac has moved to the provincials earlier than expected, we threw him in the deep end a bit and he is improving on the back of that.”

Being able to ride work for the same stable – Brosnan’s – gives young Jaden the best lead in to how he should rider her gallopers on race day from his old man’s assessments.

“He knows his horses of by heart and he gives me advice all the time,” Jaden said.

“He is a big part of my career and I would not be doing as good as I am right now, if it was not for him.

“I started riding and really loved it, it was not something I wanted to do early days but once I committed to it, I was 100 per cent in and I have not looked back since.

“I am loving every second of it, I love the competitive nature of riding while improving all the time.”

After a few worrying moments in the early days, Jeff has full confidence in his boys ability now.

“It was nerve racking at first putting them on horses that you know that they are not going to be able to manage, but they have to learn somehow,” Jeff said.

“That is 500 and 600 kgs horse just bolting flat out with them and you just have to hope they get off the horse in one piece, having learnt – you try and protect them all the time.

“Being their father, I do not know if I was the right person to do it because I always wanted to hold them back so they would not get hurt and then lose confidence.

“I always thought in the beginning, I was looking forward to them being able to get on a horse and they will be ok if something out of the ordinary happens – which is where I am at now.”