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Kokotajlo's Perth Calling


Frenchman Julien Kokotajlo has put in the hard yards, plenty of them.

The 32-year-old has spent more than five years travelling around Australia, but he now thinks he has found his new home.

“I never felt like I was going to live in France all of my life,” he said.

“Some friends went on vacation in Australia and they all told me it was a beautiful country, so I thought I would come here with a working holiday visa.”

After he spent two years travelling, Kokotajlo realised he missed riding and wanted to get back in the saddle.

“My weight was going really well, so I started riding a bit around Queensland, Sydney and Melbourne,” he said.

“People started asking why I hadn’t got my jockey licence back.

“I did miss riding.”

Kokotajlo wasn’t born into racing, it was a sport he had a deep love for and he had the support of his family to pursue a career that fascinated him.

“My family have never been in the racing industry before, I’m the first one,” Kokotaljo said.

“When we were on vacation, every time I saw a horse in the paddock I would scream ‘horse, horse’ out the window of my car.

“My parents did whatever they could to get me on the back of a horse.

“I rode two or three times, before I decided to live my dream and go to the jockey school in Chantilly.”

The Frenchman has ridden 16 winners from 229 rides to start his career in Australia, a career that has been stop-start, especially over the past two seasons.

He spent more than 12 months out of the saddle with a serious knee injury after riding at Mornington in November 2016, before he made his comeback at Pinjarra earlier this month.

Kokotajlo said adjusting to the different styles of racing across Australia’s racing jurisdictions had also been difficult, but felt like he was learning from some of the best jockeys in the world.

“It’s a lot different,” he said.

“The tempo of the race is the most different.

“In Sydney you ride against guys like Blake Shinn and Hugh Bowman, it’s really smart and very tactical.

“Melbourne is smart but the tempo is slower.

“In Perth they will sprint for the first 300 or 400 metres then put the foot on the breaks, and get back to the fight in the last 600 metres.”

Kokotajlo has also been guided by some of the prominent figures in West Australian racing, including hall of fame trainer Fred Kersley, who described him as being “a very capable rider”.

“I was referred to him by Lee Newman,” Kersley said.

“He’s been riding trackwork for eight weeks since he has been in the west.

“I was keen to get him started as a jockey, and I promised him a few rides.”

Kokotaljo said he was thankful for the support Kersley had given him in the initial stages of his Perth voyage.

“It’s unbelievable to be in a stable like that,” he said.

“Fred is a real professional, and I learn every day from him.”

Kersley gave the Frenchman his best result in Western Australia over the weekend, with Zip Zam Zoom running third to Kiss The Breeze in the TABtouch Plate.

Kokotajlo has also been supported in his Australian venture by two of his fellow international jockeys in Newman and Mattieu Autier, who have also found themselves calling Perth home.

“I have been helped by Lee and good people around me,” Kokotajlo said.

“(Mattieu) Autier gave me my first place to live, and Trevor Andrews gave me my first horses to work every morning.”

Kokotaljo said he wanted to do everything in his power to make it as a leading jockey in Perth, a place he hopes he will be able to call home.

“I’m really happy with how things are going here,” he said.

“I do my best in the saddle every day and that is all I can do.”

Tim Walker

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