APPRENTICE jockey Dylan Gibbons has developed a strong affinity with the Manning Valley Race Club , having ridden back-to-back trebles at the Bushland Drive track.
Late last month, Gibbons had five rides at Taree, winning aboard Excelness for his boss Kris Lees, Fenech for Kim Waugh and Belrose Express for Joel and Wayne Wilkes.
Fast-forward to Monday and the 19-year-old had another treble, taking four rides before winning aboard Luz Long for Graham Payne in the 1400m Maiden Handicap and Zaru for Matthew Robinson in the 1000m Maiden Plate.
Gibbons again teamed up with Kim Waugh in the 1300m Benchmark 66 Handicap when guiding the impressive four-year-old Fenech to victory.
"It's funny - I had my first race ride there, I had my first double there and my first treble, the only milestone I didn't have at Taree was my first winner," Gibbons laughed.
The Newcastle product is well versed with the Taree course though, having spent time there in the early stages of his apprenticeship.
"When I first start riding, I spent a month riding with Wayne and Joel Wilkes, who were massive in getting me going, so I know the track pretty well," Gibbons said.
"It's a nice track to go to, it's not too far of a drive and even when they get a bit of rain, it handles it well and plays pretty fair - it's a very good track to ride at Taree."
The young apprentice kept up his good from at Tamworth on Tuesday, booting home another winner, this time for Bob Milligan when Being Naughty crossed the line first in the 1400m Benchmark 58 Handicap.
"I had four rides at Taree and got three home and then had another four rides at Tamworth and got another one home, so it was a good couple of days," Gibbons said.
Gibbons, who kick-started his career in July last year when riding Star Raider to fourth at Taree, has since ridden 66 winners this season, and while he initially set modest expectations, he is eyeing the possibility of outriding his country claim in his first full season in the saddle.
"I didn't expect to have this many winners," Gibbons laughed.
"When I first started, the first two or three months went by as a bit of a blur, but once I kept an eye on my stats, I thought, 'if I can keep this up, 50 in my first season would be terrific'.
"I ended up getting the 50 right away, and now, I might even end up knocking of the full country claim."
While the youngster has ridden most of his winners for the strong Kris Lees stable, Gibbons has been spread around to other leading trainers.
"I have ridden 14 for Kris, the other main two would be Nathan Doyle, who I have ridden nine for, and Cody Morgan, who I've ridden eight for.
"I've also ridden winners for Todd Howlett, Kim Waugh, Luke Morgan, Adam Duggan and Joel and Wayne Wilkes.
"Plenty of those trainers are the best in our area and it's good to be getting into the right camps."
The apprentice was certainly bred into the racing game and has the joy of riding against his old man, Andrew Gibbons.
"I'm a Newcastle boy, born in Warabrook and I grew up in Thornton and I was born into racing," Gibbons said.
"I've known no different and grew up going to the races and loved it before I could remember."
The younger Gibbons enjoyed riding against his accomplished father, but he admitted when he was in the saddle, he had his eyes on the prize.
"It's good going out and having him there, and I love riding with him, but when you are racing, you have too much to think about with what you're doing and trying to win for connections," Gibbons said.
"For 99 times out of a 100, I am asking him where his finished. Unless he has gone close to me or beaten me, I couldn't tell you where he was because I need to focus on doing my job."
After am electric start to his career, Gibbons will be taking on more and more provincial meetings in the coming weeks and months.
"Dad and Kris are very good. We all talk about certain things, and we were all about holding back from the provincials, and now in the last week, I've committed to full time provincials," he said.
Gibbons was setting his sights on one day being a regular at metropolitan meetings, but he expected that he had a long, hard road ahead of him.
"I'm a very competitive person, and I've always had the mindset of wanting to be the best, but it's a slow process," Gibbons said.
"I want to be the best and I want to ride in the city but that is something that will come in due time, but right now, I want to try and be the best in this area and I'll see where it takes me."
Gibbons will now get a few days off, before another busy weekend of racing.
"It's a bit light on this week, I get today, tomorrow and Friday off then I have Newcastle on Saturday, Hawkesbury on Sunday, Monday off and Scone on Tuesday," he said.