Andrew Gibbons never thought before a month ago that he could win a NSW premiership.
So it was fitting on Tuesday at Taree that he reached his maiden state title on a horse from the team who have helped him go to the next level - Newcastle trainer Kris Lees and Australian Bloodstock's Jamie Lovett and Luke Murrell.
Gibbons started the day on 121 winners for the season and needed two to get past suspended state leader Blaike McDougall (122.5) with four days left.
He had to work overtime to push Lees-trained favourite La Girl to a photo-finish win in the third race but Jaja Chaboogie gave him an easy ride into the premiership lead in the next.
The Lees-Australian Bloodstock filly led throughout in an almost two-length victory. Gibbons won again later on the Wayne Wilkes-trained Men In Tights to go to 124 winners and an unassailable lead in the state jockeys' premiership.
"Jaja Chaboogie was a nice one to do it with," Gibbons said. "I got another one later for Wayne but it was good getting past the mark with one for Kris and Australian Bloodstock.
"Obviously Kris as a trainer is my biggest supporter, but Luke and Jamie have always been forward enough to tell Kris that they are happy to use me anytime he needs me. They've always been very supportive, even when there's a big race on, they are happy to have me on.
"Kris has been fantastic the whole season but he took a few there today that looked good things to help me get over the line, which I'm very appreciative of."
The backing of Lees and Australian Bloodstock helped the 42-year-old score a personal best season of 137 winners last season. It was his first time past 100 but he was still 30.5 short of prolific country rider Greg Ryan.
"It's something I never really thought I'd get, even though last season I ran second," he said.
"I was that far from winning it, it probably never entered my mind. Blokes like Greg ride 150, 160 consistently, and I never thought I'd get that number, so it wasn't something I thought about until a month ago when I realised I was close enough and Blaike got time.
"I'm pretty proud of it. With the amount of riders in NSW, to win more than anyone, is a pretty big achievement. It was a nice feeling."
Adding to the memorable day was the race riding debut of Gibbons' son, Dylan. The 18-year-old was fourth on the Lees-trained Star Raider, 1.25 lengths away, in the sixth.
"He gave it every chance, it just wasn't good enough," Andrew said. "He rode it perfect, which is the main thing.
"He looked good on it, he did everything right and he handled himself very well."
Gibbons believed La Girl was headed for bigger and better wins.
"She's a lot better than that," he said.
"She's very new still and she's got a very casual attitude. Once she got there, she thought that was all she had to do.
"But it's a good sign when you gap the rest of them. I think the second horse doesn't go too bad.
"There's not much of La Girl but I think she's a pretty smart horse and I reckon she'll go away and come back better.
"I don't think we'll see her around the country way very long. She's a lot better than that.
"Jaja Chaboogie just keeps improving. To go from a maiden and win a class two, and do it so dominantly ... the track played in our favour, but it was still pretty dominant.
"Men In Tights put the writing on the wall its last two runs. It got annoyed a bit in the middle stages but it controlled the race on the fence and it was too good. Wayne placed that horse well."