When he went over the finish line a dashing winner of the $25,000 Awapuni Hurdles on Ho Down on Saturday, Central Districts horseman Jonathan Riddell wondered if a life-changing decision he'd made 12 months earlier had perhaps been the wrong one.

Seventy minutes later, he was sure that decision had been right.

Yesterday, he was wavering again.

Riddell, previously a highly talented flat jockey, took to jumps riding more than a decade ago when his weight got out of control.

Eighteen months ago, he managed to claw his weight down to just squeak out a few flat rides with big weights, which he mixed with riding over fences. He did it tough at the lower weight scale on the flat.

But not so tough that when he crashed heavily on the Paul Nelson-trained Just Not Cricket at Trentham last July he pretty much turned his back on jumps riding.

Breaking two ribs, a collarbone and puncturing a lung on one fall off a usually very safe jumper was enough to make him shy away.

"Lying in a hospital bed with tubes sticking out of you gives you plenty of time to think about things and about your young family."

Riddell was tempted to take a couple of Paul Nelson jumps rides earlier this winter, but shied away to keep himself injury-free to ride class 3-year-old The Hombre in a Queensland campaign aimed at last week's A$500,000 Queensland Derby.

Nelson himself advised Riddell to stick to the flat, albeit temporarily.

That looked a good decision when The Hombre won the A$125,000 Rough Habit Plate in his Queensland debut and the Nelson-trained No Rush'n lost rider Tommy Hazlett at the second fence of the Waikato Steeplechase at Te Rapa.

Early last week, Riddell initially resisted the offer to ride No Rush'n in Saturday's $25,000 Manawatu Steeplechase and stablemate Ho Down in the Awapuni Hurdles, but relented when Paul Nelson, this time, insisted.

There was real significance in the punch in the air Riddell provided as he and Ho Down went across the finish line in front after a typically superb ride.

But two races later, reality checked in again when No Rush'n crashed at the fourth fence, being brought down by the fallen Finito.

Riddell was at his self-effacing best yesterday.

Asked if any injuries had surfaced yesterday morning, Riddell said of his first race fall in a year: "Not sure yet. I've got to go to hospital tomorrow morning for a ECG, I think my heart might have given out."

He said he could see the fall unfolding when Finito fell as his horse was approaching the fence.

"I knew it was coming - there was only one stride left and there was no hope of getting out of the way.

"By the time I'd got to the fallen horse I'd probably talked myself into falling."

There was a lot of confidence from both Nelson and Riddell that both No Rush'n and Ho Down could win on Saturday.

Riddell's only niggling thought was about himself. "After his run at Ellerslie last start, Ho Down was a certainty, but I didn't know how I was going to go.

"I told Paul that. I told him I might have the 'shits'."

Riddell, getting almost serious, said he was still throwing his jumps riding future around in his head yesterday.

"Maybe I'll just ride in the red and black [Nelson] colours.

"I was excited going into Saturday's rides and it felt good winning on Ho Down, but I can't say I enjoyed it overall. We'll see what happens."

Riddell is desperate to avoid any time-delaying injury that will keep him from partnering The Hombre when he comes back from his spell, after his Queensland campaign.

He describes the trip as "a magic month", despite The Hombre weakening out of the placings late in the Queensland Derby.

Riddell says he has an open mind on whether the performance had anything to do with one race too many in the campaign, the first try as far as 2400m or the very firm track.

"It could have been any of those.

"He was a beaten horse at the 800m, but he really impressed me with the way he kept fighting on.

"The way he felt at the 800m I thought he was going to drop right out."

Tommy Hazlett may have fractured a bone in a heel after coming off Riverlea at the same fence that claimed No Rush'n and Riddell.

"I won't know until I see a specialist this week," said Hazlett yesterday.

"After sitting in the A & E in Palmerston North for 6 hours on Saturday night I just said give me some painkillers and I'll go home."

JONATHAN RIDDELL
* First jumps ride in nearly a year produced a golden result.
* The second, a bit more than one hour later, produced a shocker.
* The highly talented horseman again faces re-assessing his riding options.