Kevin Sweeney takes a break at Canberra's Thoroughbred Park last October.

Kevin Sweeney takes a break at Canberra's Thoroughbred Park last October. Photo: Jay Cronan

Jockey Kevin Sweeney turns 60 on Saturday, but he's not looking for a break, just another Kit Kat.

The oldest active jockey in the ACT and NSW couldn't tell you how many times he's been in the barriers or how many thousands of winners he's ridden, but Sweeney does know there's precisely 45.5 grams in four fingers of his favourite chocolate wafer treat.

You get more of an adrenalin rush on a horse, to feel the power of a good horse is something not many people know about 

Kevin Sweeney

''I've got a sweet tooth, it's one of my downfalls,'' Sweeney says. ''For as long as I can remember I've always had a Kit Kat on race day. Sometimes, even when I'm sitting in a hot bath at home sweating off the last bit of weight … but they weigh bugger-all.''

Kevin Sweeney turns 60 on Saturday.

Kevin Sweeney turns 60 on Saturday. Photo: Jay Cronan

The year man first stepped on the moon, 1969, was also the year a teenage Kevin Sweeney first sat on a horse.

Growing up in Sydney's western suburbs, around Blacktown, the welfare department had come knocking on his single mother's door demanding 15-year-old Kevin stop skipping school.

Instead, his mum asked for an exemption, provided her youngest son could find a job. So she sent him off to the Randwick stables of trainer Reg Cook for an interview.

''I used to say to my mum, they don't teach me to ride horses at school,'' Sweeney recalls.

''I'd never been on a horse, Reg put me on this pony and I had no idea what to do.

''But my brother and grandfather were avid race-goers. I still remember they took me to the races at Randwick one day, I would have been three or four, and a jockey, Ray Selkrig, who won the Melbourne Cup once [1961], said g'day to me as he was going out on a horse. I was smitten - from that day I wanted to be a jockey.''

Sweeney has no intention of hanging up the boots either.

His complete race records are tough to come by. But a good guide is that since 1985 he's had 10,655 rides for 1216 winners and 2193 placings. Last year he had 563 rides, more than any other year in the previous decade. He's averaged more than 60 wins a year for the past 10 years, too.

Last week, Sweeney drove more than 2000 kilometres to attend consecutive race meetings in Corowa, Nowra, Gundagai and Bega, saluting with a winner at each and a total five winners over the four days.

''I wouldn't think about giving it away until I'm uncompetitive or not getting a ride,'' Sweeney, who works for Canberra trainer Keith Dryden, says.

''Some people say jockeys don't retire, owners and trainers retire jockeys 'cause they don't put them on rides.

''You see a lot of people give it away, sit around and they end up carking it. You've been doing it so long there's nothing else you know how to do.''

Two-time Melbourne Cup-winning jockey, Peter Cook, was an apprentice with Sweeney, eventually becoming his mentor too. Cook isn't surprised to see his old mate still kicking along.

Cook, who also piloted the legendary Kingston Town to the 1982 Cox Plate, recalls he and Sweeney each rode their first winner on the same horse.

''Tawinbang,'' Cook says. ''He was a cripple, the poor bloke, had a big boofhead on him and a long neck that went from here to Elizabeth Street. If he drew the outside, he'd take everything out on the inside and then scrape along the fence and take your boot off.''

Referring to Cook, Sweeney admits, ''I wore his boot up my bum quite a few times for doing the wrong thing on horses''.

The pair grew up in a era where apprentice pranks were known as camaraderie, not bullying. Throwing pitch forks at each other, burying one another in piles of horse dung. Teaching kids to ride by sitting on hay bales, slinging mud, water and insults.

''He set himself on fire one day and done his nuts in with a cigarette lighter and fuel,'' Cook says, cackling. ''There was a bit of larrikinism going on with the other boys and fuel went onto his crotch area, which made him jump around a bit.

''I'm not surprised he's still going. If you're fit and your nerves aren't gone, why give it away?''

After 45 years in the game, these days Sweeney is the ultimate professional. ''I even gave away smoking a year or so ago and that put a kilo on me … it's hard to get off [the weight] some days, but that's an occupational health hazard.''

Sweeney was 42 kilograms for his first ride in 1969, at Kembla Grange of a horse named Prince Babu. Now he can get up to 56 kilograms, but is riding as well in the past decade as he ever has.

He won the Canberra Cup with Mooring's Melody at 49, in 2003, and won national sprints in 2005 and 2009. He won his first Canberra jockeys premiership in 1984, his last in 2012.

In 2009, at the Black Opal Preview, he rode a personal best five winners. ''That's the highlight,'' says Sweeney, who has called Canberra home since 1971.

''Sydney life never appealed to me … even Blacktown wasn't the city it is now, they didn't even have a tar road when I was there.

''When Tony Freedman, Lee Freedman's father, moved to Warwick farm, they wanted me to go with them, but Canberra's been home to me.''

Away from the track, Sweeney lives for his beloved NRL Dragons, the logo and colour adorning his helmet. He rides a Honda CB400, but nothing substitutes real horsepower.

''You get more of an adrenalin rush on a horse, to feel the power of a good horse is something not many people know about,'' Sweeney said.

''There's times you go through your lapses, you might go months without riding a winner and as you go on in years you think am I losing it? Then you go on another run.

''The young blokes spur you on, you want to beat them.''

So does Sweeney's youngest son, Josh, now a foreman with the David Vandyke stable.

''He wants to become a trainer … idiot,'' Sweeney says rolling his eyes, saying training would ''never be my go''.

''He reckons I can't retire until I ride his first winner.''

His next winner could well be his own race at Canberra on Friday.

The Canberra Racing Club has named race six the Happy 60th Birthday Kevin Sweeney, a benchmark 65 on which Sweeney will ride On Our Selection.

A warning for punters though: jockeys will be invited into the mounting yard to celebrate with birthday cake before the race. Odds are a jockey with a sweet tooth may weigh in a little heavier.