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One last meet, then all meat

Jockey Stewart returns to Australia for three-month break, family and sausages

Ronnie Stewart is taking time off while trying his hand at a different way of bringing the bacon home.

But it does not necessarily mean the 40-year-old Australian jockey is hanging up his boots.

His last 2023 Kranji meeting is on Dec 2. On Dec 6, he flies back to his native Adelaide with his young family to trade his whip for a cleaver for at least three months.

Stewart has answered the family’s call to work at their wholesale smallgoods shop in Morphett Vale.

Smallgoods is an Australian term that refers to processed meat products like ham, bacon and sausages.

“Dad’s reached an age where he wants to retire. With Singapore racing closing next year, he asked me to try my hand at his business and see if I like it,” said Stewart.

“I’ve got two sisters, one in South Africa and one’s not interested. I’ll be working pretty much like a butcher. My dad’s very hands-on.

“I was meant to leave earlier as it gets busy at Christmas, but I wanted to stay on for the Gold Cup.”

But, Stewart could not rewrite history with a record fourth Group 1 Singapore Gold Cup. Relentless ran eighth to Lim’s Kosciuszko in the handicap classic on Nov 11.

The last Singapore Group feather to his cap was actually El Dorado’s third Gold Cup win on Nov 11, 2011 (after 2008 and 2009).

Barring a one-day visit in 2017, Stewart only returned full-term in 2022 and 2023, winning 51 races.

He felt he could have done better without injuries and work permit snags outing him for three months.

He has 10 last rides to improve his tally of 261 winners – and one to end a 12-year-old trophy drought.

Lightweight hope Bestseller might well turn back the clock for him in the $110,000 Group 3 Colonial Chief Stakes (1,700m).

“Bestseller drew well and galloped good,” he said. “A Group win at my last day would be nice.”

Should the new job not cut it for him, the name “R Stewart” may still pop up on a racecard.

“I took that three-month leave of absence to give the butcher job a go,” he said. “But I wouldn’t rule out a comeback next year, even if racing’s closing here.”