Mark Purdon pauses then smiles as he reels off the list of drivers for Saturday morning work at All Stars Stables' Rolleston base.

"This one will surprise you," Purdon chuckles.

It sure did.

"David Walsh" is not the first name which comes to mind when guessing who might be jumping in the sulky behind group one-winning pacer Piccadilly Princess.


So what exactly is the jockey with the most wins in New Zealand playing at? The answer: upskilling.

Walsh, 57, has been out of action since he was forced to have an operation when riding in Mauritius in August.

Walsh first had to deal with diverticulits, which affects the colon and bowel function, about three years ago, but it flared up again during his riding stint on the island nation in the Indian Ocean. He also had his appendix removed at the same time.

"I was in quite a bad way but I've come right. But I've got to have another operation sometime in the near future.

"I've been told I could ride a little bit but be very careful but certainly not raceday. I thought it's better to be doing this [driving] than trying to get on their back."

Walsh, who eclipsed Lance O'Sullivan's record of 2359 New Zealand winners at Marlborough in April 2014, applied for a stipendiary steward role early in the year, but missed out. He sees the mornings at the country's leading harness racing stable as a ideal way to learn more about the standardbred code.

"I thought it can't hurt to have a bit more knowledge about how the trotting side goes, with the gear and what all the bits and pieces are and if you drive a few, you can get a better understanding," he said.

"Mark was kind enough to let me come out. I've done a little bit of it in the past but only very spasmodically, but it's great. Even though the horses overall are quieter [than thoroughbreds], horses are horses and they have the same wants and needs." Walsh is still keen to pursue a steward's role when one becomes available, but hasn't ruled out a return to riding either.

"It's 50:50 but I'm not making any decisions until I've had my next operation and I know how I feel and where I'm at," he said.

"In the meantime, I can apply for the stewards' thing and if that comes about, I've got a choice. It's good to have two or three irons in the fire."