Sam Weatherley, last season’s champion apprentice, has had another accolade added to his burgeoning career.

The 18-year-old is currently in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, where he and jockey mentor Noel Harris are attending the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies Training and Education Conference.

In his absence last night he was announced as the winner of the Junior Sportsman of the Year title at the annual Matamata-Piako District Sports Awards. Nominated by the Matamata Racing Club, he was up against a strong line-up of young sporting talent.

“It’s great to see both Sam and racing recognised in such a way,” said Weatherley’s boss, former champion jockey Lance O’Sullivan, who was himself the recipient of the MPD Sportsman of the Year award back in 2003. “He’s a credit to his family and himself the way his career has developed in such a short time.”

O’Sullivan, who is a member of both the New Zealand Sports and Racing Halls of Fame, went on to win the 2004 Waikato Sportsman of the Year award and was a finalist for the New Zealand Sportsman of the Year title.

Weatherley’s award qualifies him for the emerging talent category at the Waikato Regional Sports Awards early next year. He is due back in New Zealand on Monday and will then have to repack his travelling kit to ride at Riccarton on the second day of the New Zealand Cup carnival on Wednesday.

His most significant mount will be the Wayne Hillis-trained Watch This Space in the Gr. 2 Coupland’s Bakeries Mile. Weatherley took his current season tally to 23 – and fourth place on the national premiership – when he rode Watch This Space to victory in the Carbine Club Trophy at Ellerslie on Tuesday.