McDonough’s Hunt For Glory

By Abby Delucyk

It’s not every day you hear that a 27yr old has made the decision to start her jockey apprenticeship. But for a determined Sarah McDonough, this career switch is a long time in the making.

After 12 years working in the horse racing industry, Sarah McDonough’s love of horses has transpired into a life-long career. Her sheer dedication has taken her to places she didn’t even was possible.

Originally from South Australia, Sarah doesn’t remember a time when she wasn’t horseback. She grew up at Pony Club and on the equestrian scene with eventing being her main discipline.

Having competed since she was 9, McDonough accumulated an extensive trophy cabinet. She won the State Championships at every grade of Pony Club and represented South Australia twice at the Interschool National Championships in 2011 and 2012.

Her introduction to the racing industry came through a conversation she had with childhood friend and talented jockey, Jamie Kah. 

“I was 15 at the time when Jamie asked if I wanted a part time stable hand job at John MacMillan’s stable. I worked 3 days a week before school and occasionally help strap on Saturdays and Wednesday if I could get the time off school.

“After I finished school, I started working full time in the stables where I continued to strap regularly and learnt to ride track work,” McDonough said.

As Sarah unlocked a new passion with riding, she took the leap and booked her ticket to England where she worked for Australian trainer Jeremy Gask. “This was such a good experience as I learnt a different way of doing things and a different racing style.”

With international experience under her belt, Sarah returned to home soil where she went on to work for numerous trainers across Australia, including Tony McEvoy, all while completing University.

Sarah even had a stint in Alice Springs where she rode trackwork and worked part time as a Clerk of the Course throughout their Cup Carnival. “I really got serious about becoming an apprentice when I was in Alice Springs, but it was a little hard for me to complete my Certificate III up there”.

After leaving Alice Springs, Sarah found her way to Scone where she worked for Cameron Crockett for 18 months. Most would recognise Sarah as a regular face at the races strapping and then working as a Foreperson for Crockett for a short period until she resigned in May 2022.

“I did take great pride in taking a team of the horses to the races and representing the stable. But I came to Scone with the mission to be an apprentice and at the end of the day it is what I want to do, and I’ve always just done what everyone else wants me to,” Sarah said.

In a twist of fate, both McDonough and Gask have found their way to Scone and joined forces again in June 2022. “Jeremy is very good to work for as he has created a great, relaxed environment on the farm. I’m glad I have now been able to work for Jeremy all these years later as a much more mature person and rider.” she said.

Despite McDonough working on the ground for years, she always had a burning desire to hop in the saddle.

“It wasn’t until I learnt to ride trackwork that I decided I really wanted to ride but, didn’t quite believe I was good enough for it. Being an apprentice is something I have always wanted to do but haven’t gotten the opportunity until now.”

McDonough’s scratched this ‘itch’ to ride last year in November when she finally received her apprenticeship with her master, Jeremy, in which she says was “a long time coming.”

“Jeremy was the one that gave me a chance to start my apprenticeship as one day we were on the truck, and he bought up wanting an apprentice. I just remembering saying, “What about me?”,” Sarah said.

“I started my Certificate III when I first came to Scone but had to put it on hold for a while when things weren’t quite heading in the direction of being an apprentice jockey. I’m really thankful for Scott Thurlow and the team at the Team Thoroughbred NSW Training Academy for their patience throughout the journey and I wouldn’t have got to this point without the support.”

With 14 trials already under Sarah’s belt, she doesn’t only look up to Jamie Kah as the catalyst for her career but also as an inspiration in terms of riding. 

“I think every female jockey aspire to be like Jamie as she is the pinnacle. Watching the jockeys in Sydney is something you aspire to be like, but I also look up to local jockeys such as Aaron Bullock and Brooke Stower because we ride against them regularly,” Sarah said. Regardless of how McDonough performs in the saddle, her determination will always be her success as she preserves to pursue her dream of riding.

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