Caulfield Cup 2020: Jockey Jye McNeil’s new son could be his biggest fan as dad chases win

Rising star jockey Jye McNeil is winning plenty of new fans in racing but there are none bigger than his baby son, born on the horses’ birthday.

In Australia every horse has its birthday on August 1 and it was also the day that McNeil’s partner — fellow jockey Jess Payne — delivered little Oakley into the world.

Payne went into the early stages of labour the day before, a Friday which was the last day of the racing premiership season, a day on which McNeil was keen to ride at Geelong to try and seal the Victorian jockeys’ premiership.

The timing worked out just right and McNeil was able to ride and won the premiership, with bouncing baby Oakley arriving the following day.

This week, 25-year-old McNeil has plenty of pressure on his young shoulders as he rides Caulfield Cup contender Chapada on Saturday.

The Caulfield Cup promises to be a family affair for Jye McNeil, partner Jess Payne and baby Oakley, plus dogs Ollie and Bester. Picture: Racing PhotosSource:Supplied

Chapada is rated a $21 chance after racing his way into the Caulfield Cup, winning the golden ticket into the famous $5 million race with victory in last Saturday’s Herbert Power Stakes.

But the birth of his baby son — in the middle of a COVID pandemic which has meant neither set of grandparents have yet been able to visit Oakley — will still be more of a magic moment even if McNeil does happen to win the Cup.

McNeil is juggling being a new father with forthcoming Caulfield and Melbourne Cup goals — and making it work with the help of his much-loved partner.

“It’s so funny how it all worked out as my son was born on the horses’ birthday — I’m sure I won’t ever be able to forget his birthday,” McNeil says.

McNeil, wife Jess and their 11-week old son Oakley. Picture: Racing PhotosSource:Supplied

“I was fighting it out with Stacky (Daniel Stackhouse) for the riding premiership and Jess went into the early stages of labour on Friday morning which was the last day of the racing season.

“I had five rides at Geelong and I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to make it to the races but he held off long enough and ended up arriving the following day.

“His birthday is an easy one to remember — it could be an omen.

“The races now actually catch his eye a little bit, which is quite interesting. He seems to like sitting up and watching them.”

Due to COVID, McNeil found himself kicked out of the hospital soon after his son’s birth and it was tricky in the first few days of his boy’s life that he was only able to see the newborn between visiting hours of 5-7pm.

McNeil is loving being a father — even though he admits his partner generally does the lion’s share of the work.

He has pulled back his riding commitments to some extent to be the best father he can — although he can’t wait to have his first ride in the Caulfield Cup on Saturday.

McNeil’s first Melbourne Cup ride also beckons, booked for the ride on the Lloyd Williams-owned stayer Twilight Payment for the first Tuesday in November, the galloper trained by 2017 Melbourne Cup winning trainer Joseph O’Brien.

“I can’t wait for these big rides but, becoming a father, I’m not riding as much as I was before and now I am generally having two or three days off a week which is a lot better lifestyle for me,” McNeil says.

“It‘s been a bit tough for Jess and I that our families can’t visit (because of COVID) and they haven’t met our son as yet.

Chapada takes out the Herbert Power Stakes at Caulfield this month. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“As for my riding, winning my first Group 1 last year (on Kings Will Dream in the Turnbull Stakes) was the start of a good season for me and it helped develop all the opportunities and put me in a good position to capitalise on those opportunities.

“I‘m happy to accept that my story got lost a little bit that day because the amazing story of Kings Will Dream coming back from injury to win, that was a better image for racing than me just winning a Group 1.”

While McNeil is generally as cool as a cucumber when he rides, he has been getting hot and bothered off the track in recent weeks.

McNeil is loving being a father, but admits Jess generally does the lion’s share of the work.Source:Supplied

He enlisted the help of fitness guru Brett Peatling to shed some kilograms to ride at the lightweight of 50.5kg in the Caulfield Cup.

McNeil was slated to ride Orderofthegarter but when that horse couldn’t beat a runner home last Saturday, the connections of Chapada were quick to come calling to book in-form McNeil for the Caulfield Cup.

“Probably about 90 per cent of my (weight-loss) preparation has been boxing and then there’s working on my core strength and a couple of other things as well just to top it off,” McNeil says.

“I didn’t realise how hard boxing was until I decided to have a go at it, it’s insane.

“The more I was doing it the more I‘m enjoying it and I’ve got better at it.”

Chapada has drawn barrier 16 for his Caulfield Cup assignment.

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Sky Racing News Update: 14th October 2020

Sky Racing News Update: 14th October 2020.

Originally published asJye puts baby boy first, but a cup wouldn’t be half bad

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