Eight months since moving back to New Zealand from Macau, jockey Andrew Calder has quickly re-established himself as a strong addition to the Kiwi riding ranks.
Calder, who spent seven years riding in Macau, has won 15 races since his return in May, including one at Group 2 level. “I’m staying with my father-in-law, Richard Collett, so I’ve been riding work for him and showing up to every trial and race meeting in the northern area and slowly building up contacts,” Calder said.
“I was gone for quite a long time, so you do lose your support, but most of the trainers have been quite receptive. When I came back in winter, it was a little bit slow. I was just getting one or two rides a meeting, but since the tracks have firmed up I’m getting a lot more support. The apprentices aren’t getting as many rides and trainers are using senior jockeys more.”
Calder said that being able to ride as light as 54kgs has provided a number of opportunities to gain rides.
“The other riders have been great too,” he said. “There’s good comradery between us all and they’re a great bunch, so I’ve fitted right back in with them.”
While Calder is enjoying the Kiwi lifestyle and home-cooked meals, he does miss some aspects of life in Macau.
“The travel in New Zealand is a big thing that I’ve had to get used to again,” he said. “I used to love having the one track in Macau, which was walking distance from where we lived, and all our race-day gear just stayed on course.
“I went to Macau for a change of scenery at the time, and I enjoyed getting a bit of overseas experience to boost my expertise. I went over there for three months and ended up shifting over there. My wife Natasha and I never expected to stay as long as we did but we really enjoyed the lifestyle and financially it was quite lucrative for us.”
Calder said that, although racing in Macau has been in decline, there were a number of advantages to working in the former Portuguese territory. “There are more overheads as a jockey in New Zealand. With tax, ACC and travelling expenses, it does add up,” he said. “Tax in Macau is only five percent. That’s quite a big difference to 33 percent in New Zealand.”
He has no plans to head overseas again as he is enjoying setting up a life for his family in Pukekohe with Natasha and 18-month-old twin boys Tye and Jax. “I’m really settled here now and I’m going to make a conscious effort to improve and get into a better spot on the premiership,” he said. “I will just work on getting winners and making contacts.”