Jason Waddell plans to be back in raceday action for the start of the new season as he awaits surgery on his right leg.
Currently one of the top 10 jockeys in the country, Waddell has been off the scene since a spate of suspensions, including a couple for his ride on Vernanme in the Gr.1 New Zealand Derby (2400m) at Ellerslie on March 2.
His careless riding suspensions, covering a total of 28 days for three separate incidents, ruled him out until April 19 and with his leg surgery date set at May 27 he has opted to undergo the operation before returning to the saddle.
"I've got a condition called compartment syndrome and the calf muscles in my right leg swell," Waddell said.
"It's reasonably common among athletes and it affected me a fair bit when I was riding at trials, getting off one horse and straight onto another.
"It just got worse and worse and the only way to fix it is to undergo surgery."
Compartment syndrome is described as a painful condition that occurs when pressure within the muscles builds to dangerous levels. This pressure can decrease blood flow, which prevents nourishment and oxygen from reaching nerve and muscle cells. Chronic compartment syndrome is most often caused by athletic exertion and without treatment it can lead to permanent muscle damage. Waddell has had an ongoing battle to keep his weight in check and the lengthy suspension took its toll, delaying his return while awaiting a surgery date.
"During my time off we also took the kids to Fiji for 10 days," Waddell said. "I'd been quite busy up to the Derby and was due a break, but had planned to be riding up to this stage then have one. The suspensions changed all that."
Compared to last season when he had 183 mounts for the entire term or the previous two seasons (119 and 293), Waddell had ridden in 345 races all within eight months.
The highlight of his 53 wins this season has been the win on Shadows Cast in the Gr.1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) at Trentham, while he has three other black-type wins to his credit this term, including the Gr.3 Wellington Stakes (1600m) on Crown Prosecutor and the Gr.3 Mongolian Khan Trophy (1200m) at Ellerslie on King Louis. "My target was for more than that," Waddell said. "I was hoping to get to double figures, but things didn't work out.
"Julius was going to be one of my best rides, but he got just beaten (a nose) in the first one (the Gr.2 Foxbridge Plate, 1200m), then he was retired after one more run.
"I had a lot of placings in stakes races and Melody Belle was a thorn in my side. She beat us in the Foxbridge Plate and I got to ride her once (in the Gr.1 Telegraph Handicap, 1200m) and that was the worst race she went. The other times she kept beating me."
Waddell's other placings behind Melody Belle were a third on Wyndspelle when she won the Gr.1 Windsor Park Plate (1400m) and a third on Ardrossan when she took the Gr.1 BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa.
During the season Waddell did renew a successful association riding for Stephen Marsh. The Group Three win of Crown Prosecutor and the Listed Wellesley Stakes (1200m) on Exuberant were two of his 14 wins for the Cambridge trainer.
"With Danielle (Johnson) out, I got a chance to ride more for Stephen again and we click well," he said.
"I rode Ardrossan for him. He was a Group One winner in the making, but he's gone to stud now."
Waddell has been told it will require a six to eight week recovery period after the leg surgery and he said he will be doing his best to be fit to ride again early in the new season.
"I should be back and ready to go when the big races come around," he said.
One particular horse Waddell is keen to be reunited with next season is the Frank Ritchie-trained Dawn Patrol.
He rode Dawn Patrol in three of his first four starts for a debut win and seconds in the Gr.1 New Zealand 2000 Guineas (1600m) at Riccarton and the Listed Uncle Remus Stakes (1400m) at Ellerslie on Boxing Day.
"I've got a lot of faith in him," he said. ''I'm looking forward to getting back on him. I know I can get the best out of him. He's a very good horse."
- NZ Racing Desk