Wiremu Pinn is eyeing a shot at the 2018-19 champion apprentice title.
With nine wins under his belt in less than a month, including victory on his very first mount, New Zealand racing may be witnessing the emergence of a future riding star amongst its apprentice jockey ranks.
But go back a few years and the future for South Auckland youngster Wiremu Pinn certainly didn’t look as rosy as the one that lies in front of the 19-year-old now.
Pinn, by his own admission, isn’t the scholarly type, and had found his way in and out of plenty of trouble during his formative years growing up in the Auckland suburb of Manurewa.
At just 15 he was forced to deal with the death of one of his closest friends, an event that could have sent him spiralling into more serious situations without the timely intervention of a high-school councillor.
“I was seeing a councillor after my best mate had hung himself and trying to deal with all that goes with that,” he said.
“Part of the therapy was visiting a horse farm, where we could touch and be with the animals, which was something I had never done before.
“The lady there told me I had the right build to become a jockey. I kind of had to ask her what a jockey did, as my family have no idea about racing and it wasn’t something I’d ever even considered before.”
That comment set the wheels in motion for Pinn, who was put in contact with Peter Hingston at NZ Equine Training and enrolled in a course.
“From there I met Noel Harris and with Peter they recommended me to Te Akau Racing,” Pinn said.
“I started my apprenticeship and learnt a lot from so many people there, although I did manage to get myself into trouble as I wasn’t that well behaved.”
That’s when Taranaki trainer Allan Sharrock entered the picture. Sharrock, who has developed and mentored jockeys of the calibre of Michael Walker, Matthew Cameron and Hong Kong’s former leading female apprentice Kei Chiong, wasn’t expecting to take on a new project when he received a call from the northern and central riding master, Noel Harris.
“Alfred Chan was the last apprentice I had, and when he went off to Adelaide I made the decision not to take any more on,” he said. “I’d had plenty over the years and I felt I didn’t really want that responsibility again.
“Out of the blue I got a call from Harry who said he had a young fella who had basically run away from Te Akau and would I consider taking him on.
“His exact words were that the boy was as good as Michael Walker on his best days and three times as bad on his worst.”
Sharrock wasn’t convinced, and it took some encouragement from son Kane for him to view a tape of Pinn riding at the trials before he agreed to take him on.
“You could see from the video that the boy had natural talent and could definitely ride,” he said. “I gave Steve Autridge a call and he basically told me he had any amount of ability, but it was what he did off the track that needed some serious attention.
“I’m a straight-shooter and I told Wiremu that if he was going to come and work for me that I wouldn’t stand for any nonsense.
“In the end I agreed to take him as I’ve always been one to try and give back to the industry and hopefully we can develop Wiremu into an outstanding person both on and off the track.”
Sharrock is pleased with Pinn’s development so far and has identified the key areas that need to be worked on.
“What happens off the track is the main area where we need to lift his professionalism at the moment,” he said.
“He has to able to conduct himself to a high standard and that is something we are working on.
“He is definitely a natural riding talent and a lot like Michael Walker in his affinity with the horses, so it’s my job to polish the rough diamond.
“He’s got a lot of hard work in front of him over the next three years, but I’d like to think we’ve got him headed in the right direction so far.”
Pinn is quick to agree that Sharrock is a hard taskmaster, but believes he can knuckle down and has accepted the challenge to do so. In that regard he has another Sharrock prodigee to call on for help.
“Four years ago I didn’t even know what racing was about and now I have an opportunity to make a great career for myself,” he said.
“My parents are really supportive of what I’m doing and Mum sends me a text every day to see how I’m getting on.
“At the moment I’m trying to take in all the advice I’m getting and use it in my riding. I speak with Michael Walker quite regularly and he calls me after my rides to discuss how it went and what I can work on, which is a great help.
“There are plenty of others I need to thank and I was a bit embarrassed after I won my first race that I forgot to mention them. People like Stephen Autridge, Kris Shailer, Daniel Miller, Derek Nolan and of course Peter Hingston and Mr (Noel) Harris have helped so much and I don’t want anyone to think that I have forgotten what they have done for me.”
While it is still early days for Pinn, he has already set himself the goal of becoming the leading apprentice in the 2018-19 season.
“I think I can achieve the goal of winning the apprentice title next season, so I’m going to give it my best,” he said.
“I know if I work hard I will have the chance to do it, and from there, who knows where it could take me?”