Horse Racing

Thirst for work brings rewards for King

ONE of racing’s most difficult traverses for a young rider is to come out of an apprenticeship and compete with the ranks of senior jockeys.

Many promising apprentices have fallen into the abyss after finishing their time. Some never make it out and are lost to the sport forever.

Others find the discipline of an apprenticeship like a security blanket and when that is lifted they struggle to cope. Rachel King was determined not to become another statistic.

She steeled herself to make the transition to the senior riding ranks at the start of this season as seamless as possible.

King had won the Sydney apprentices’ premiership last season but came out of her time on August 1. Her mantra was to work hard – harder than ever before.

“I’ve seen it enough and heard about it enough that apprentices coming out of their time can be a little bit lazy,’’ King said.

Rachel King has made an impressive start to life as a senior jockey. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“Some might have felt they didn’t need to get up for trackwork every day. But I still ride trackwork five or six days a week, just as I was doing as an apprentice. I felt it was important to have that work ethic and stay focused.’’

King rides work mainly at Randwick but gets out to Warwick Farm more regularly now, particularly as she is getting opportunities from the all-powerful Godolphin stable of trainer James Cummings.

At Royal Randwick on Saturday, King has three rides, including two for the Cummings stable, Spectroscope ($8.50) in the Robrick Lodge Filante Handicap (1400m) and Beacon ($5) in the Chandon S Sprint (1000m). Spectroscope, a former French galloper, won his first two Australian starts, including the Group 3 Doncaster Prelude 18 months ago but hasn’t won in 11 starts since. He resumes off a couple of easy barrier trials and will appreciate the forgiving track surface.

Beacon is a promising sprinter who ran well first-up on a heavy track behind stablemate Esperance earlier this month. He has a good second-up record and looks a good winning chance.

Rachel King’s good form has been noticed by James Cummings’s powerful Godolphin stable. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

King is also riding in-form mare Royal Stamp ($13) for trainer Marc Conners in the Cellarbrations Handicap (2000m). She has been on the mare’s back her last five starts for wins at Rosehill and Kensington. At her most recent run, Royal Stamp closed late for fourth to Cosmologist at Randwick.

King also has four rides at the Canterbury meeting tonight — and significantly they are all for different trainers. The Gai Waterhouse-Adrian Bott stable have King on Terminology in the Total Canteen Handicap (1100m), she rides Crete for Anthony and Edward Cummings in the Featherdale Plate (1550m), the Scott Singleton-trained Poet’s Advocate in the Kia Evening Star (1250m) and Jarrod Austin’s Inanup in the Caterez Handicap (1100m).

Terminology is King’s best winning hope at the opening of the Canterbury night racing season and is rated the $2.40 favourite.

The promising three-year-old filly is still winless after four starts but showed considerable potential last season including her second to Sunlight in a Magic Millions lead-up on the Gold Coast. She looked sharp winning a recent Randwick barrier trial and is primed to break her maiden on Friday night.

“I have a lot of trainers who are very supportive of me and that is another reason I try to ride work for as many as possible,’’ King said.

King’s dedication and desire has paid off. She has started her senior riding career in sensational style, is currently nestled among Sydney’s top 10 jockeys on the premiership standings, rode a treble at Randwick last week and has also achieved what many riders never experience — the thrill of a Group 1 winner.

And it helps when your partner, Blake Spriggs, is also a jockey. He’s been there, done that.

Rachel King and partner Blake Spriggs are great supports to each others riding career. Picture: Brett CostelloSource:News Corp Australia

“Blake has been a great support for me,’’ King said. “This is a tough sport, one minute you are flying high, the next you are down at the bottom and Blake understands. So, when one of us has a good day, we can celebrate together but when one of us has a bad day, we both know what the other is feeling.

“It is hard to explain to people outside of racing but having Blake there makes it easier.’’

King is aware that it doesn’t get any tougher for a jockey than in the cauldron of Sydney racing. Some of the world’s very best riders base themselves here and competition is fierce. King realises she has to back her own ability and can’t be intimidated by the reputations of her riding opponents.

“You can’t let it get too you, but also you have to rise to it as well,’’ she said. “I’ve got to keep trying to get that little bit better, keep improving all the time, and try to learn from these top jockeys. They are up there with the best in the world so I’ve got to use that to my advantage. I watch and learn.’’

Spriggs is King’s main confidant – although there are boundaries. “Once we get home after the races we try to have a life,’’ she said.

Rachel King won her first Group 1 on the Mark Newnham-trained Maid Of Heaven in the Spring Champion Stakes at Royal Randwick . Picture: AAPSource:AAP

“We would drive each other mad if all we kept talking about was racing. Kerrin McEvoy is one of the most approachable people in the jockeys room, and Tommy Berry has always helped me along the way.

“Hughie (Bowman) couldn’t have been happier when I won the Group 1 and came up the next week when he saw me to shake my hand and say well done.

“But all the jockeys are great, they will help you as much they can, they are very supportive.’’

Earlier this month, King rode the Mark Newnham-trained Maid Of Heaven to win the Group 1 Spring Champion Stakes at Royal Randwick, her first major and a significant moment in any jockey’s career.

“The Group 1 win has sunk in now, it is a very good feeling, very special,’’ King said.

“To win a big race like that has given me a bit of a kick along. It proves to everyone I can do it. To win a Group 1 and then to ride the treble last week just gives you that confidence and others that confidence that I can compete with the best.’’

Aqua D’Ivinia defies host of setbacks

AQUA D’Ivina is not the most robust of mares but she keeps beating the odds, including life-threatening illness, to forge a promising racing career.

The talented Aqua D’Ivina takes another significant step towards turning potential into performance when she contests the La Boheme Pinot Noir Rose Handicap (1800m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

Trainer Matthew Smith has a good opinion about the mare’s emerging ability — but he’s an even bigger admirer of her fighting spirit.

Aqua D’Ivina cheated death earlier this year when she was struck down with a severe bout of colic. Smith admitted it was “touch and go” whether the mare would survive her ordeal.

Aqua D’Ivina had scored an impressive win at Randwick back in January and Smith was planning an autumn carnival assault with the promising mare when near-disaster struck.

“I remember Aqua D’Ivina had given us a couple of signs that she wasn’t happy about something,’’ Smith said. “The initial tests we did on her suggested it wasn’t colic but that was what it turned out to be.

Trainer Matthew Smith has high hopes for Aqua D’Ivinia. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“One minute she was okay then next minute she’s being rushed to surgery. It was life-threatening there for a while, touch and go. We were just so thankful she pulled through.’’

Part-owner Christine Cook gets understandably emotional when talking about Aqua D’Ivina’s plight.

“After what this mare has gone through, anything she does now is a bonus for us,’’ Mrs Cook said. “We were so lucky that Matthew (Smith) picked up on it so quickly but I do remember seeing photos of her after surgery and how sad she looked.

“Some horses don’t survive what she had, others don’t get back to the races but she has this toughness about her that is amazing.’’

Aqua D’Ivina has made a complete recovery but didn’t race again for more than seven months. Smith an astute horseman, has carefully and strategically managed the mare’s comeback to the point where she is on the verge of a potential Melbourne spring carnival campaign. Smith said Saturday’s race at Randwick will decide Aqua D’Ivinia’s immediate racing future.

She has also been entered for the Cellarbrations Handicap (2000m) where she is fifth emergency but it has always been Smiths intention to start her in the 1800m race.

“I was actually happy to run in the 2000m race but just felt at the weights the 1800m would suit her better,’’ Smith said. “She gets a bit of weight relief, she’s worked great this week and has thrived through her preparation.’’

Winx – Beyond compare2:15

Science behind Winx’s dominance

Aqua D’Ivina goes to Randwick in winning form after proving too classy for her rivals at the Warwick Farm midweeks last start. She has made a promising start to her race career with three wins from her six races and is yet to miss a top two placing.

A beautifully-bred mare, Aqua D’Ivina is by former champion Pierro, winner of the 2012 juvenile triple crown including the Golden Slipper, and out of 2007 Futurity Stakes winner Aqua D’Amore. She was purchased for $150,000 as a yearling at the Magic Millions Sale. “We have needed to be patient with her early,’’ Smith said. “She’s not a robust filly, only lightly-framed, and was always quite immature

“But with time, she has lengthened and developed. She is not overly tall but is a nice athletic mare now, she’s well put together.’’

Smith said tomorrow’s Randwick race will determine whether Aqua D’Amore is given her opportunity in the Group 2 $300,000 Matriarch Stakes (2000m) at Flemington on November 10.

“If she was to run well it will tell us whether she is ready for a trip to Melbourne,’’ Smith said. “The Matriarch Stakes is the race I said to her owners might be a chance for the mare at the start of her preparation.

“Her program designed to bring her to that race steadily with a 1400m race, then 1600m and now 1800m. I’m also mindful that if she pulled up one day and was a little jaded I’d send her straight to the paddock but she is going really well so far and I’m looking forward to see how she goes (Saturday).’’

Originally published as Thirst for work brings rewards for King


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