Refreshed after a couple of weeks away from the racing circuit, I’m back in the saddle this weekend as the industry returns to the major tracks.
Following jockeys can be just as exciting as following a horse. When you back one early in their career to be a star and it pans out, you are a genius.
But so many fail to meet their potential. Here’s five to watch this season.
Jamie Kah took South Australia by storm in 2013 when she won the South Australian jockey premiership in her debut season as a 17-year-old. Her form in Adelaide had her on par with some of the best apprentices of the past decade and her future looked brighter than the sun.
During the summer of 2013-14, Kah ventured over to Victoria to ply her trade where she was apprenticed to Mick Price. She had her chance to present her wares in front of the nation’s glaring eyes but things turned out more difficult than expected.
Arriving in Melbourne as a 0kg claiming apprentice, she was against Melbourne’s top senior jockeys fighting for rides. Support from Price was limited due to the stable having five other regular jockeys.
Kah produced good rides in Victoria’s country scene but her lack of profile among larger Victorian stables severely limited her opportunities despite her excellent riding technique.
Deflated in Victoria after a period of sustained success in South Australia and her apprenticeship coming to an end, Kah opted to return to her home state determined to win the South Australian premiership without the aid of a claim.
Can she do it? I would not bet against her.
Twice Victoria’s leading apprentice, Katelyn Mallyon is about to enter the toughest season of her career. It is the year which will either make or break Katelyn’s career because she will no longer have an apprentice’s claim.
The 20-year-old is 18 metropolitan winners away from losing her claim. It is the time that has taken the careers of so many apprentices before her.
Mallyon has shown serious determination over the past year having returned from a broken back which she sustained from a fall. It enabled her to extend her apprenticeship until April 2015 but will ride most of the next 12 months without a claim.
For a jockey with such a light frame, her ability to push out her horses has not gone unnoticed and enabled her to link up with potent stables.
Her alliance with the emerging Ellerton Zahra stable has her in a position to pick up some excellent rides even without her claim. It has also been notable that dialogue with John O’Shea is open after Mallyon was named for a Godolphin ride last week before the horse was scratched. Robbie Laing is another noted supporter of her.
Mallyon’s ability to win two apprentice titles in Victoria, the toughest State to get rides, signals a very bright career if she can maintain her form throughout the season when she loses her metropolitan claim.
Rewind the clock six months and the life of Chad Schofield would be vastly different to the Schofield we find today.
It’s been a tumultuous time for the youngster who shocked the world by piloting Seamus Award to the 2013 Cox Plate as an apprentice.
Since then he has lost the backing of his master David Hayes, been through the drama of losing close family friend Nathan Berry, and had a nasty fall which kept him out of the saddle for three months.
That combination of unfortunate events would rock any jockey, let alone one just 20 years old.
As a gifted young rider, Schofield has the ability to take on Melbourne’s best jockeys but first he must regain his confidence because without it, a jockey is nothing.
Without the support of the Hayes (and Dabernig) stable, Schofield can expect to clock plenty of mileage travelling throughout Victoria as he builds relationships as a freelance rider. He has already secured the plum spring carnival ride on Go Indy Go but don’t be surprised if he drops off from his remarkable 2013-14 season.
Returning to Australia for his first full season since 2010, Tye Angland will give the Sydney riding ranks a big shake up over the coming season.
Angland departed Australia to compete on racing’s fiercest stage as a 20-year-old and matched it with some of racing’s sharpest in Hong Kong. While he never reached the lofty heights of Douglas Whyte or Zac Purton, he admirably finished fourth behind the duo and Joao Moreira.
Arriving back in Australia permanently just prior to the new season, Angland was quickly snapped up by Chris Waller. Few endorsements come higher than riding for Waller and as expected, Angland quickly rolled out consistent winners. It shot him to the top of Sydney’s most in-demand hoops.
Angland is the best smokey to take out the Sydney premiership.
Of the jockeys on this list, Nash Rawiller will be the hardest to watch because he will be overseas for most of the season, in either Japan or Hong Kong.
The three-time Sydney premiership winner ventured to Japan before the end of the Australian season (which cost him a fourth premiership) but has had limited success in the three months he has been there.
He heads to Hong Kong in September and will only be flying back to Australia for a limited number of rides during the spring carnival.
His performance in Hong Kong will provide an insight into where he stands on the world stage.
A rider with unrivalled strength in Australia, Rawiller’s technique is dramatically different to top Hong Kong riders Douglas Whyte and Joao Moreira. The top Hong Kong jockeys over recent years have had the benefit of riding as low as 53kg, 3kg less than Rawiller’s minimum.
Without a Melbourne Cup to his name, Rawiller lacks the international profile he deserves. If he can bring his Sydney success to Hong Kong, he will cement his position as one of the world’s best.