Sandown win has special meaning for Michael Walker

Darryl Sherer - Monday August 7

It may have been a restricted event at a rainswept Sandown but victory on Galileo's Pearl held great significance for Michael Walker on Sunday.

Michael Walker driving Galileo's Pearl home at Sandown. Photo: Darryl Sherer

Walker drove the Mick Kent-trained Galileo's Pearl home to defeat Blazers at the end of the 2100m Tile Importer Handicap to post his first metropolitan win since returning from six months on the sidelines recovering from back and hip surgery.

"The win itself was terrific but it's even more satisfying to win on what would have been my Nan's birthday," Walker said.

"Ossalla May did so much for me and always had faith in me as a jockey so it means a lot to win on this day."

Walker has ridden the six-year-old Galileo's Pearl four times for four wins and has a special trick he uses only when necessary

"The horse is going really well and has won his last three now," Walker said.

"He's a bit funny, if you use the whip in the right hand he just does enough, if you use it in your left he finds another gear."

Walker has ridden six winners since returning to race riding on July 14 and says he understands he has to work his way back into the consciousness of trainers and owners.

"I've had a slow start to the season but I hope this shows everyone I still have what it takes," Walker said.

"My weight is coming down all the time, slowly but surely - I'm fit, I'm hungry and I want it. I'm feeling really good, finally pain free for probably the first time in 17 years."

As bad as the last six months has been, it is not the first time injury has threatened Walker's riding career.

He came close to losing his life when falling 70 metres down a cliff while pig hunting in New Zealand in 2008.

In a coma and on life support, his family were told to prepare for the worst. If he survives it is doubtful he will be able to walk or talk, let alone ride again.

But he did, winning on his second ride back at Matamata seven months after the accident.

Having won the New Zealand jockeys' premiership for the first time in 1999-2000 as an 15 year-old apprentice, Walker said his new found physical wellness has him excited about the future.

"I just want to keep riding and all I can do is work hard and take the opportunities as they come," Walker said.

"The last few year's I've ridden Group One winners when I've been injured and to be honest, I feel the strongest I have ever been.

"The way I feel now I honestly believe at this stage of my career I can be a better rider. I'm just looking for the chance to prove myself."

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