Chelsea Hillier Is Taking The Racing Scene By Storm

By Abby Delucyk

“I was just a kid who loved horses and lived on a farm.”

Rising NSW Apprentice jockey Chelsea Hillier may be from a small rural country town, but she is making a big impact on the racing scene.

Growing up in rural Barraba, Hillier has been surrounded by horses her whole life.

“We have always had horses growing up as Dad is a jockey and mum loves to ride.”

Although Chelsea was an active member of Barraba Pony Club, she never competed in any specific discipline and simply enjoyed riding and being around horses.

Her passion for horses was forced to sit on the backburner as her family relocated to Glen Innes and went on to attend Fairholme College boarding school in Toowoomba.

It wasn’t until Chelsea finished school that she could invest her time into racing. Reuniting with her passion, Chelsea stayed in Queensland where she started on the ground with trainer Brian Smith.

Although Chelsea enjoyed this experience, she had a burning desire to learn to ride trackwork and decided to move back home to Glenn Innes to ignite this dream.

She picked up where she left off and started riding trackwork for local trainer Paddy Cunningham. It was here that Chelsea put in the hours to learn the ins and outs of riding.

“It was since riding trackwork that I always had in the back of my mind to become a jockey. I always was that little bit too heavy so I resigned to the fact I could never be a jockey,” Chelsea said.

Chelsea was on a roll with her riding practice before this came to an abrupt holt after she sustained a bad injury from a routine morning ride on a Coffs Harbour beach. This saw Chelsea sidelined for 12 months.

With this forced time off, Chelsea decided to relocate to Sydney. When covid hit, Hillier used this time to strip some weight and become a jockey for popular trainer, Mark Newnham.

“The weight aspect is really challenging part for me as I am not naturally a lightweight and need to stay on top of this. The mental side of being a jockey is also a challenge as you have to remember to stay true to yourself,” Chelsea said.

As the weight stayed off, Chelsea has continued to excel in her riding career and has since moved to Scone to ride on behalf of Rod Northam. A career highlight for Hillier was when she scored at Treble in front of a home crowd at Deepwater earlier this year.

“This was a pretty big achievement for myself considering I was so heavy and just the journey I took to get here. I really look up to Craig Williams as an inspiration for riding but also as the person he is. He really gives back to the sport, and I admire his kindness,” Chelsea said.

Paying tribute to her families’ support, Hillier mentions “I have been bought up in a way that nothing is easy, and you have to work hard for what you want. I would love to be able to ride in Sydney one day and just be the best rider I can be.”

With hard work being ingrained in Hillier’s DNA, it’s no surprise that she is an apprentice to watch this season.

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.

Amanda’s Forging Her Own Path To Victory

By Abby Delucyk

From winning Off the Track series with her thoroughbred to establishing herself as a female trainer, racing is well and truly ingrained in Amanda Davis-William’s DNA. 

Leading the way for other females within the industry, Amanda is following in the footsteps of her mother, Tina Williams, who is a small Wyong based trainer by creating her own stable of winners. “Being a female and a small trainer in this industry is quite special as I get to prove that we are just as capable as men and are strong enough to do it without a man,” she said.

Davis’s passion for female inclusion in racing has been influenced by the strong females she is surrounded by. Such females include popular Wyong trainer, Kim Waugh, who Amanda is employed with full time as a Work Runner. “I really love working with Kim as she is always very good with giving advice and great to talk to. I really take in what she does and try to reflect it in my own training,” Amanda said.

Amanda riding Recife Beach at the Thoroughbred Spring Fair.

Amanda’s love for horses was established from a young age as she says she was “born straight into a saddle and was sitting on a horse before she could walk.” This passion intensified when she participated in Pony Clubs up until she was 15. During this time, she became captivated by the beauty of the show ring which led to her venturing into the show world. Through finding her talent in this discipline, Amanda grew her competition team by collecting off the track Thoroughbreds who helped her secure ribbon after ribbon at competitions around NSW. “I loved how showing was something mum and I could do together,” Davis said.

Having the luxury of witnessing her mother become a racehorse trainer, Amanda made the decision to transition from the showring to the racetrack. “I always dreamt of becoming a trainer but was always happy and content just riding trackwork. This all changed when I got badly injured 4 years ago which forced me to think hard about what I wanted to do in the future. It gave me the push needed to become a trainer,” Amanda said.

“It is pretty good to have a mom as a trainer as it provides me with a lot more encouragement and I think being a daughter of a female trainer is very important in this sport. We are very competitive so I want to beat her in races, but I also know I can turn to her if I need help or guidance,” Davis said.

Typically, some people may feel the pressure associated with following in a family member’s footsteps in the same industry, but Amanda admits she’s never experienced this. “I never felt that pressure with mum but instead look to her for advice. The best thing she ever told me was, if you want to keep a level head in the racing game you need to be realistic with where you are at with your training and prep.”

With this advice in the back of Amanda’s mind she made the leap and applied for her trainer’s license, which she received within 5 months. Just 2 weeks later, Amanda had her first taste of success when her horse, G’day Poopsie, ran first at Wellington in March 2021. This horse has continued to provide Amanda with success after running first at Taree in January of this year.

Balancing this, Davis also doesn’t sugar-coat the life of a trainer and instead shines light on the challenges that trainers face. “I think a big challenge is owners coming and going. As a small trainer starting from the ground up, it can be hard to attract big owners and gain connections within the industry,” she says.

Despite being a full-time trainer, Amanda is still very much active in the equestrian world. Her proudest achievement was when she was crowned Off the Track series winner at the Thoroughbred Spring Fair in 2021 on her OTTB, Recife Beach, who was formally trained by Kim Waugh.  

As Amanda’s life revolves around racing, organisation has become a top priority as her race day prep looks a little different to others. “I always get ready the day before, so I get all the gear and equipment packed and make sure to iron the silks. I then check the horses but as I have to work in the stables in the morning, I have to make the call early before scratching’s. It’s so busy that I usually don’t have time to stress and instead trust that the horses are ready,” she says.

Amanda’s dream would be to train a city winner but for the mean time she narrows her sights on having a stable with more than 20 horses in work. “I am also huge on rehoming and would love to be able to help make sure that when her horses retire, they get a good life after racing,” Amanda concludes.

Jasper Franklin: 2022/23 Rising Star Series Winner

Jess Del Frari won the final Rising Star Series Heat at Goulburn on February 16, saluting the judge with Bobby’s Secret for trainer Melissa Harrison.

Despite placing 2nd in the final Heat, Jasper Franklin extended his pointscore and has been crowned the 2022/23 Rising Star Series Champion.

Franklin accumulated 33 series points over the 16 Heats, which included a victory at Taree on December 18th.

“It was one of my goals to win this Series after trying hard to compete last season but didn’t have much luck,” Franklin said.

The 19-year-old ensured he had every chance to win and travelling was not an issue.

“I was having to travel 6 hours or more from Coffs Harbour to Scone, Tamworth and Warwick Farm,” Franklin said.

“After the first two heats I saw myself in a winnable position but was mindful that to beat the likes of Dylan Gibbons and Tyler Schiller that I would have to travel a bit.

“Once I won the Taree heat (December 18th) I started to believe I could win this.”

The Rising Star Series, which was launched in 1999/2000, is open to NSW and ACT indentured apprentice riders and has an honour roll including Jenny Duggan, Mikayla Weir, Andrew Adkins and Sam Clipperton.

Racing NSW Head Jockey Coach, Corey Brown, said the Rising Star Series is a good launching pad for apprentice jockeys to further their careers.

“I think it’s a really great concept for the kids,” Brown said.

“It’s pleasing that they all get involved and bounce off one another throughout the Series.

“The feedback that I’ve had from all apprentices this year has been promising and it’s just been a great competition for all riders.”

Attached is the Final pointscore and updated Honour Roll.

The Young Girl Captivated By The Racing Industry.

By Abby Delucyk

At the age of 15, teenagers typically get their first job in a café or retail. But Tjanara Bolt changed this narrative when she secured her first job mucking out boxes for the legendary Gai Waterhouse.

Bolt grew up riding in the picturesque Hunter region on her uncle and auntie’s property which homed off the track Thoroughbreds. Despite this, she never competed in equestrian sports.

“I still remember the first time I rode a horse which was such a great but painful experience as my body wasn’t use to riding yet,” Bolt said.

Her love for horses has never wavered. Throughout the years, she balanced her school life around her weekend stable hand job at the Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott stable.

“I started to understand what working was like and was earning money for my independence. I always wanted to work with horses growing up so when I moved to the city, the stables were the closest thing I could get to this dream,” she said.

After earning her stripes with Gai Waterhouse, Tjanara moved on to Mark Newnham’s stable where she developed her skills before her journey led her to Chris Waller’s Rosehill stable.

“I just emailed my resume and experience to Chris’ stable and got the job through there. Working for someone so high up in the racing industry is a really good experience and I have learnt a lot through the opportunities he has given me.

“I love how I can have one on one time with each of the horses and also be hands on with them,” she said.

Her favourite horse in Waller’s stable is 4yo gelding Mighty Willie, who was the first male horse she strapped and believes he has a promising racing career ahead of him.

Despite the love she has for her job, Nara doesn’t shy away from discussing the challenges involved. These involve early mornings and hard physical labour of having to prepare the horses.

Nara also faces the challenge of being a female in a male-dominated industry, as she says; “People think that females aren’t able to do the work but when you prove them wrong, it makes you more confident.”

Although the work is tough, Nara’s favourite aspect of her role is travelling around NSW to take different horses to race meetings such as her favourite track, Kembla Grange.

Her love for travelling also fuels her dream of wanting to go international to experience racing in various countries and become a qualified racehorse trainer.

A New Generation Of Scorse Arrives

By Abby Delucyk

Embarking on his journey to continue the Scorse name, apprentice jockey Lachlan Scorse was off to a flying start when winning his first trial on his late grandfather’s (Alan Scorse) horse ‘What Could Be’.

Lachlan’s involvement in the racing industry is no surprise as his father is Mathew Scorse who is a jockey himself, riding over 298 winners and his mother Lara who was a Foreperson and now a track supervisor at Newcastle Jockey Club.

However, Lachlan’s biggest influence is his grandfather Alan Scorse who trained over 250 winners and rode 1478 winners within his time, being inducted into the Hunter & Newcastle Racing Hall of Fame.

Unlike others within his family, Lachlan didn’t grow up riding but instead rode for the first time when he was 16 and it instantly became natural to him. “I really enjoyed the racing side and wanted to learn to ride. Through the help of Pop and Dad I finally gave riding a go,” Lachlan said.

Although his last name may have gotten him a start in the industry, the young Scorse has put hours of dedication into learning the ins and outs of riding such as riding trackwork before school while completing Year 10.

Lachlan Scorse. Photo: Bradley Photos

“I think the hardest bit of riding is the expectations as a lot of people think that you get it straight away, but they learn quickly that it takes time. It’s something you can’t rush.

“I have been pretty lucky to have help from some really good people like pop and dad which has gotten me to this stage quicker than usual.

“Pop arranged for me to go to Tamworth which I rode and worked for trainer Luke Morgan for 3 months. Then, with the help of my dad I spent 4 months working and riding for trainer Peter Snowden at Randwick,” Scorse said.

With the steppingstone to becoming a jockey being trackwork riding, Newcastle trainer and friend of the family, David Atkins offered Lachlan an opportunity to ride trackwork for him and an apprenticeship.

“I think Dave is strict but fair as he gives you opportunities but doesn’t let you get carried away. He has a way of explaining things, making it uncomplicated and without any stress.

“I look up to and respect Dave not only as a trainer but also as a mentor. Through Dave’s horseman skills, I have learnt a lot about horses and have a deep understanding about them,” Lachlan admits.

Lachlan describes his favourite aspect of riding as “the thrill of when you get to your top speed and that adrenaline rush. I’m a competitive person so this side of it is something I also like, plus you get to meet a lot of good people through it as well,” he said.

Not only does Lachlan experience the thrill of riding, but he also enjoys strapping winners on race days such as strapping group 2 winner ‘Promitto’ for David Atkins.

Paying tribute to his late grandfather, Lachlan said: “My pop is someone I look up to as a mentor in terms of riding but also just as a person. I am proud to continue the Scorse name and do the family proud. I think having this name in this industry is an advantage but what you do with that advantage is your choice.”

For now, Lachlan’s ambition to become a trainer in the future is on the backburner as he looks to keep building his skills as a jockey, ensuring it is “One step at a time”.

*This article originally appeared in the February 2023 edition of the Racing NSW magazine

Franklin set to be crowned Rising Star Series Champion

Jasper Franklin is poised to be crowned Rising Star Series Champion when he ventures to Goulburn for the final Heat on Thursday (16 February).

Franklin heads into the final round boasting a 7-point lead from nearest rival, Shayleigh Ingelse.

Regardless of where Franklin places, or even scratched, he will secure a minimum of one point which should clinch his first Apprentice Series title.

“I’m stoked to be heading into the final Heat as the Series leader,” Franklin declared.

“It was one of my goals to win this Series after trying hard to compete last season but didn’t have much luck.”

The 19-year-old ensured he had every chance to win and travelling was not an issue.

“I was having to travel 6 hours or more from Coffs Harbour to Scone, Tamworth and Warwick Farm,” Franklin said.

“After the first two heats I saw myself in a winnable position but was mindful that to beat the likes of Dylan Gibbons and Tyler Schiller that I would have to travel a bit.

“Once I won the Taree heat (December 18th) I started to believe I could win this.”

The Rising Star Series, which was launched in 1999/2000, is open to NSW and ACT indentured apprentice riders and has an honour roll including Jenny Duggan, Mikayla Weir, Andrew Adkins and Sam Clipperton.

Grafton hosted the first Heat of the 2022/23 Series on November 2nd and 45 apprentice jockeys have already contested the 15 Heats run across New South Wales.

Racing NSW Head Jockey Coach, Corey Brown, said the Rising Star Series is a good launching pad for apprentice jockeys to further their careers.

“I think it’s a really great concept for the kids,” Brown said.

“It’s pleasing that they all get involved and bounce off one another throughout the Series.

“The feedback that I’ve had from all apprentices this year, especially the frontrunners Jasper and Shayleigh, has been promising and its just been a great competition for all riders.”

The final Rising Star Heat will be run as Race 5 at 3:55pm at Goulburn on Thursday.

Points are awarded for each Rising Star Series Heat on the following basis: First Place – 7 points; Second Place – 5 points; Third Place – 3 points; Fourth Place – 2 points; All other placings – 1 point.
In the case of a dead heat, the effected placing’s points shall be added together then divided by the number of dead heaters.

Making A Name for Himself: Blake Ryan

By Abby Delucyk

The legacy of the Ryan name continues to live on with respected horseman Gerald Ryan passing on the baton to upcoming trainer and son, Blake Ryan.

With no choice in the matter, Blake’s first memories of life were at the racetrack. “I think we went to the races more than we did school. My first memory of the races was being at the stand at the top of the straight at the 1991 Melbourne Cup which Let’s Elope won. It was incredible. Mum also took us out of school to go and watch the major races at the local TAB.”

As the offspring of a multiple Group 1 winning trainer, Blake remembers fondly poking around the stables before and after school or loitering around John Hawkes’ Stables in Victoria when his dad was training there. “It was these times that I didn’t think I was learning anything and just mucking around but now I look back and I was gaining so much knowledge.

“I think it’s good to have someone like that as your father as someone to learn off and gives you a leg up in this industry. Once you work out what you want to do, they teach you what not to do.”

His introduction into the industry came in the form of race calling with a young Blake being found by the track recording his race callings on a tape recorder at the ripe age of 8. “As a young bloke I really got into race calling by starting off with barrier trials for the Gold Coast Turf Club when dad was training there”, Ryan said. His break came when he became the TV director for the newly created TVN, in which he directed sports television and found success behind the microphone.

After leaving TVN in 2012, Blake was eager to get back in the saddle and live out his childhood dream of becoming a jockey just like his Group 1 winning father and grandfather, Les Coles. Blake scratched the ‘itch’ of being a jockey by making his debut in the Cootamundra picnic races on Armidales Pride which was trained by Leslie Bryant. His time in the saddle lasted 2 and a half years, with Blake riding 30 winners from 150 rides before his size restricted his chance of riding professionally.

With his jockey and media ambitions completed, Ryan decided to venture out into the world of racehorse training on his own accord. “I came to the decision one day that it was something I wanted to do but was definitely scary as I had 2 young children and covid lockdowns started happening. The thing I was scared about the most was doing my license interview even with people there that I’ve known for 15 years.”

Kick starting his career in the racing industry, Blake never felt the typical pressure associated with taking after his father in an industry that he is so highly regarded in. “He gave me no false evidence that being a trainer would be easy. He watches every runner and gives his opinion on each, being able to give advice at 7pm or 4am.” Not knowing any different due to witnessing his father’s efforts, Blake has been trained from a young age to cope with the tiring hours and stresses of the job as he ensures “If you don’t do the work, you won’t succeed.”

His first success came in the form of his first runner ‘Devine Future’ who was gifted to him by his father and co-trainer Sterling Alexiou. Through Blake’s training, this previously unplaced 5yo mare won her maiden at Orange and ended up concluding her career having won 2 races with 6 placings.

However, Blake’s proudest moment was in May 2021 when ‘Momack’ gave him his first city win at Rosehill Gardens in the midway. “Each winner has their own story which you get a kick out of for what its taken them to get this way.”

Momack winning the Midway at Rosehill Gardens. Credit: Steve Hart

Starting out with 1 horse and 5 pretrained ones gifted by John O’Shea, Ryan has grown faster than he anticipated. “We have grown so much that we now have 35 horses on the books with 6 staff and international clients.”

Now, Blake has ventured out to lease a new 5-acre property which includes 26 boxes, a horse walker, and an equine pool as well as completing his Certificate IV in Racing (Racehorse Trainer). “I just wanted to build the quality of the stable and get results for people to see. We just need 1 good horse to walk in and we will be ok.

“The best advice dad has given me is ‘Don’t think it’s going to come easy and if you work hard enough in life, the success will come’.”

Corey’s Back In The Groove

By Ray Hickson

Corey Brown’s career in the saddle didn’t end the way he wanted but the premiership winning jockey has found his groove in his role in guiding the next generation.

In an ideal world Brown, 46, would still be entrenched in the Sydney riding ranks. The desire to compete with the likes of James McDonald and the most envied jockey line up in the country is still there.

A serious back injury suffered in a race fall in 2019 left Brown wondering what his future looked like after being told his riding days were over.

Now, he’s just under a year into a position with Racing NSW as Head Jockey Coach, and head of a team of experienced former jockeys, charged with ensuring the future is bright for the emerging young men and women who share his passion for racing.

He complements that job with his gig as a presenter for Sky Channel meaning he always has eyes on what the apprentices are up to.

“Being a jockey has been my life. Since I was 14 I’ve been sitting on a horse’s back,’’ Brown said.

“After I broke my back I was praying and hoping I’d get back to riding and after 14 or 15 months they said I’d never ride again.

“Mentally, it was very challenging. I had a lot on my plate. Then Sky Channel wanted me and that was a bit of an outlet to get out of the house and start doing things again.

“When this role came along it was a bit of a saviour. I’m not saying I don’t know where I would have ended up but it just came at exactly the right time.

“I’ve always taken a keen interest in the apprentices, even when I was riding I used to always say I’d love to have my own academy. It was quite fitting when the job came along.”

Brown, the Sydney Jockeys Premiership champion of 2001/02, says he isn’t the ‘office job’ type so is in his element when he’s on the ground.

Corey Brown. Pic: Steve Hart

What he’s excited about is the chance to not only be a mentor to future jockeys but pass on his experience from just under 30 years in the saddle, 49 Group 1 wins and almost 2500 race victories via day-to-day guidance and intensive sessions at Apprentice School, based at Scone run through the Team Thoroughbred NSW Training Academy.

And it’s not just about riding. It’s about presentation, diet and a life conducive to being the best.

“I haven’t moulded the job to where I exactly want it at the moment,’’ he said.

“They’re all at different levels so we teach them different things. Not just the riding side.

“Things like taxation, life skills like ironing and cooking. How to watch your weight instead of running to McDonalds and grabbing a burger. How to cook a piece of meat or fish, showing them a small bit of preparation isn’t that hard. Blend that with the right balance of fitness training and exercise – stay healthy and be ready to compete.

“I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve gone to the races and seen apprentices with unironed shirts or silks. It’s not just the riding side of it, it’s how to deal with people.

“You’ve got to know how to handle yourself, handle media and the stewards room. This time around for the third and fourth year (apprentices) I had a real estate agent with a broker there.

“Every avenue we can go down to teach them something about everyday life as well as their riding we will do.”

It’s important to note that Brown is part of a big coaching and mentoring team across NSW who are dedicated to the same goal.

Fellow ex-jockey Rodney Quinn and retired trainer Pat Webster oversee the metropolitan and provincial areas, Jamie Whitney covers the South East, Dale Jeffries the Central and Western area, Brad Clark in the Southern District, Scott Thurlow on the Mid North Coast while Cameren Swan (Lower Hunter) and John Powell (Northern Rivers) are recent additions to the team.

“I’ll be watching as much as I can, the days I don’t go to the races I’ll be at home watching every NSW meeting,’’ Brown said.

“If I don’t pick up on something, I get the apprentices to text me and we go over it.

“I’ve got a great team behind me and it’s great to know their ability to comment on things, they know what they’re talking about.

“And we’re about to appoint someone to work under me to deal with the off track stuff.”

There’s no shortage of promising riding talent in all corners of the state and Brown tells them all the same thing.

They can be successful. They can be the next James McDonald. But they must want to learn from their mistakes and get the most out of themselves in all aspects to get there.

“The more exposure you have the easier it becomes and my biggest thing with them at the moment is dedication, commitment and hard work,’’ he said.

“You might have all the ability in the world but your ability isn’t going to take you to the top. I’ve told them all, there’s not one thing you’re going to do that I haven’t already done.

“I tell them if you need a hand with anything, if I haven’t already picked up on it, just come and ask and we’ll sort it out.

“There’s some really nice riders out there. I’m really happy with the likes of Amy McLucas who has started to get a kick along, Tyler Schiller is about to finish, it’s great to see the kids really starting to shine as they’re about to enter the big league.

“We’ve got the Dylan Gibbons’ and Zac Lloyd’s, and beneath them there’s a kid there I reckon I won’t even have to polish, Braith Nock, who hasn’t had a race ride yet. (Since printing, Braith rode his first winner at his first ride).

“Just watching him at the Academy and on horses now in barrier trials and on the equisizer. There won’t be a lot of teaching going on, he’s almost there. It’s exciting and I love seeing it.

“But I haven’t been in it long enough at the moment to claim bragging rights on anyone.”

If any of the budding stars of the saddle share the same passion for racing as Brown, or can have that passion rub off on them, then the apprentice stocks can only get stronger.

It’s still a little bittersweet for the former jockey. Even though he’s come to terms with the fact that his life has taken a different path than what he’d planned he admits he misses the competition and the camaraderie.

“What I miss the most about racing, it sounds weird, is the brotherhood,’’ he said.

“I’ve been in the jockey’s room since I was 15, basically five days a week on average, I spent more time with them than my own family.

“Still to this day when I walk into Racing NSW I feel like I’m ducking for cover, every time I walked in there previously as a jockey it was because I was in strife.

“Once it’s in your blood, I don’t think I’ll ever not have that competitive spirit. I love watching the races because I love to think ‘I would have done this or that’.

“It didn’t end the way I wanted it to. Having this job is as close as I can get to what I love without being out there.”

Anna’s Hot Seat In The Saddle

By Abby Delucyk

With even the slightest knowledge about the racing industry, anyone would have heard of the apprentice jockey taking the world by storm, Anna Roper.

From riding six winners over three days to riding more winners in NSW than any other jockey at the start of 2022, this young jockey’s life has taken an unexpected turn.

“Ever since I can remember I have ridden horses, as my older sisters and Mum always rode so I learnt a lot from them,” Roper said.

“I got my first pony when I was four called ‘Willow’ and he was super naughty and always dropped me, but we learnt a lot together.”

From Mangrove Mountain Pony Club where Anna grew up riding, she went on to learn dressage for some time before moving to show riding where she competed in high-level competitions.

“I had an awesome horse called ‘FBI’ who was a superstar and I could do all disciplines with him.”

After some time in the saddle, Anna moved on from dressage to eventing where she found her calling. Her dedication to eventing led her to win the National Inter School Championships in 2019, the State Inter School Title, and the Australian Youth Dressage Championships in 2016.

It wasn’t until a good friend of Anna’s parents offered her a position to ride trackwork for Greg McFarlane at Gosford in the school holidays, that a 16-year-old Anna was introduced into the racing industry.

The school holidays turned into weekends and before she knew it, she was riding before and after school. The same progression happened with her riding.

“It started as a slow canter which then went into a fast gallop and then a jump out. I remember my first jump out on a retired thoroughbred called ‘Sweat ball’ which was very interesting,” Anna described.

With her dream to get into a Vet Science course at University, Anna decided to set aside riding for six months while she focused on completing her HSC. After this year was done, she returned to riding by starting trackwork for Tracey Bartley in Wyong in the hopes of making some extra cash for Uni.

“I always thought about becoming a jockey but just thought I was too heavy and would never make the weight as an apprentice. It was always a dream idea but nothing I thought seriously about.

“Tracey was the one that encouraged me to try it as I started to lose weight while trackwork riding so I gave it a go. It’s been pretty insane since then,” Roper said.

The door opened and before she knew it, Anna discovered her new talent.

She started to turn heads early in the 2022/23 season when she began her apprenticeship and on her initial race ride at Gundagai, she rode her first winner.

“The first couple days of this season has to be a highlight as they put me at the top of the jockey premiership – above J-Mac which was pretty awesome!”

With her success on the rise, Anna’s schedule is a lot more booked than the average 20-year-old by traveling across NSW to ride six days a week as well as getting up at 3am to work in the stables each day.

“Someone I look up to as a mentor is Rachel King as she is so professional and is doing really well as a female in the metropolitan region. She is also super helpful by being more than willing to watch a race replay with me.

“There aren’t that many things I dislike about being jockey because I love it so much. It’s become such a passion that it doesn’t feel like your normal work,” Roper said.

As Anna continues to ride winners, she sets her sights on being successful in the metropolitan region as an apprentice.

“I’ll see how long my body holds up while riding but it would be incredible to win an Everest or Melbourne Cup one day.”