"What good is it you winning if we can't have a bet...?"
The Australia accent echoed around Springdale Racecourse, a spear through a dinner plate. Australia's champion jockey Steve Pateman laughed at his friend's dismay. And, why wouldn't he? He got paid. The 32-year-old returned to the American steeplechase circuit this fall, a working vacation, culminating in a double at the Colonial Cup meet, Nov. 21. Pateman rode at Saratoga last summer and jumped at the opportunity to return.
Pateman partnered Cash Crop for George and Sue Sensor and trainer Arch Kingsley to win the maiden and came back for a hard-earned neck win in a division of the Hobkirk Hill aboard Dye Fore for Gill Johnston and Jack Fisher.
Pateman broke his American maiden by winning a maiden timber at Pennsylvania Hunt Cup aboard Leffingwell Lion for owner/trainer Elizabeth Korrell Nov. 1.
After his Camden double, Pateman was off to New Orleans to finish off his American jaunt before going to Ireland and then back to Australia.
"That was a real satisfying win, only a maiden but Arch and the Sensors got me out here to Saratoga last summer, otherwise I would have never come to America," Pateman said, after a three-quarter length win the opener. "I've been doing the work on the horse for the past two weeks, he was really happy at home. He had a think about it when he reached the front because he hadn't been there for a long time, he stuck to the line good. Jumped great. That will do him a world of good, confidence wise."
After the race, Kingsley mentioned the next logical spot, the Carolina Cup in the spring, for the well-bred son of Distorted Humor and Grade 1 stakes winner Cotton Blossom. Pateman won't be there, he'll be back in Australia for its opening in February.
"Right now, I'm not missing anything in Australia, the jump season finished at the end of September, so this has been great," Pateman said. "The people have been really friendly, I've ridden some nice horses, I got a good thrill riding over timber because we don't have that in Australia, I really enjoyed that, that's certainly one of my main stories going home is about the timber racing, our jump racing is pretty soft compared to the rest of the world so I want to tell them all about that."
Pateman has won the Tommy Corrigan Medal as Australia's premier jump jockey eight of the past nine seasons. Pateman became the first jockey to win the Grand National Hurdle in Australia four times in a row. Even with those feathers in his cap, Pateman respects American steeplechasing.
"It's a really good brand of racing, the ground can be firm, today it's not, the fences ride really well, they cater for good jumpers and they cater for horses learning," Pateman said. "There are quality riders, the trainers are a mixed bunch and all good in their own field, prize money is great, coming from another country, the only thing I found was the ground to be very firm at Saratoga. The rest of the fall, the ground has been beautiful."
Pateman rode Australian legend Bashboy to two consecutive wins in the Australia Grand National Steeplechase, missing the veteran's third win in a row when suspended for careless riding this year. Irish-based Ruby Walsh deputized and won the Ballarat feature aboard Bashboy.
Asked what he'll tell the Aussies at home, Pateman didn't hesitate. Jockey's wounds never heal.
"I'll tell them how the stewards don't terrorize you like they do in Australia," Pateman said, with a laugh. "I'll quickly tell them about the timber and what a good buzz I got out of that. I'll tell them there's no betting and they still get a good crowd at the races. It's a different world and I have some good stories to tell. I'd be doing nothing at home but starting at 4 in the morning and riding flat horses. I have a good season to look forward to at home and I look forward to coming back here again."