Not resting on his laurels: Dean Yendall is happy to clock up the miles and mounts Photo: Pat ScalaJust after Dean Yendall started the seven-hour round trip for just one ride lasting barely two minutes at Caulfield on Wednesday – a winner, no less – you’re best chance of finding him would have been hunting an imported sports drink in a Melbourne Asian grocery.
The usual order is a “couple of slabs”.
“They used to sell it at home [in Horsham] at Safeway, but I must have been the only poor bastard buying it,” Yendall jokes of the Singaporean 100Plus. “They don’t stock it any more.”
Crack one open to celebrate on the way home, just another few hours on the road in Yendall’s 90,000 kilometres-a-year lot as Victoria’s country king.
There is a fair bit of thinking time in that Mazda 6 wagon – “I just say [to the mechanic], ‘I’ll see you back in three weeks'” – which points in every direction depending where the races are on any given day.
The atypical rough-around-the-edges jockey working his guts out to pay a “mortgage, bills and all that shit” is actually anything but. Scratch the surface and the lightweight specialist almost has no peer with a knife and fork – and in fast food highway stops, which have become a cursed convenience around the state.
“I have been eating too much chocolate,” Yendall confesses. “We [wife and former jockey Christine Puls] sit there after dinner when [daughter] Mia goes to bed and we would eat a whole block of 200-gram chocolate. Family sized. We can polish off the whole thing.”
And still ride the Caulfield Cup battler Magnapal at 50 kilograms – comfortably – in the $3 million classic on Saturday.
Yendall knew the ride would be in the offing with Magnapal’s regular partner Luke Currie struggling to make the impost and was straight on the phone to the horse’s co-trainer Terry O’Sullivan, who he rode a home-town Stawell Cup winner for as an apprentice.
“There were a few ‘F’ words – that’s the way he talks – and he said, ‘Luke would have no hope of making that weight and you’ll probably ride it’,” Yendall recalls of the conversation after Magnapal’s Naturalism Stakes win.
Bingo. All that travel and punching around slow ones during the middle of winter was worth something.
Eighteen months ago Yendall rode two-year-old Boomwaa at 46kg in the Lightning Stakes on a diet of bacon and eggs for breakfast, “something to help him get through the day”. It is fulfilling and infuriating in equal measure.
Fulfilling in the fact he can step into the rarefied air of the celebrated Purtons, Olivers and McDonalds for once, but equally infuriating for rivals who couldn’t sniff a rasher of said bacon and hope to ride under 53kg.
Just riding in his first Cox Plate last year on Gai Waterhouse’s Wandjina was a major milestone for Yendall. A second Caulfield Cup has rolled around 12 months on.
“It will put a cup winner on my CV, but I don’t think it’s going to help my career,” Yendall shrugs when asked about what a boilover for Magnapal, a $51 chance, will mean to him. “It will just say I rode a Caulfield Cup winner. I’ll still be known as the country rider that rode a group 1 winner in town. I’d rather do it more for the O’Sullivans.”
Twenty-one-month-old daughter Mia might have changed Yendall. After years of marriage without kids, the former one-time hothead has softened. Just slightly. Time at home with family – and leisure on the golf course – is even more precious as the regular stream of winners on race day hope to keep Yendall noticed at this time of year.
“People used to say I was an angry ant,” Yendall says. “That’s just the way I am. It’s my personality, I think. I say it how it is and I don’t hold back. I prefer to stay home most of the time now.”
Which is probably where Yendall will be a few hours after the Caulfield Cup, even if he engineers the unthinkable on Magnapal. Munching on that family-sized block of chocolate thinking about the races at Warrnambool on Sunday with the slabs of 100Plus handy.