Tumbarumba product Molly Bourke broke through for her first city winner at Canterbury on Wednesday.
Riding for Wagga trainer Chris Hardy, Bourke jumped aboard Zakeriz, offering a three-kilogram claim in the 1580m Benchmark 78 Handicap, meaning the eight-year- old only had to carry 53.5kg.
The pair jumped well from gate one and led from pillar to post in heavy 10 conditions, with Zakeriz ($3.40) winning by 6.31 lengths from the Chris Waller-trained Pretty Amazing (James McDonald, $2.25), while in third was the Matthew Smith-trained Colour Sergeant (Regan Bayliss, $3.60).
Bourke said it was a thrill to win her first city race, and she believes her mount had the race won after turning for home.
“I probably knew we had it won at about the 300m mark because he kicked away and I knew they wouldn’t run him down,” Bourke said.
“It was a good experience and having J-Mac (McDonald) breathing down my neck the whole race made me nervous, but my horse had plenty more to give in the straight and was just too good.”
When crossing the line, Bourke was astounded to learn that she and Zakeriz had won by more than six lengths.
“I actually felt like I hadn’t done anything when I won. It felt too easy and didn’t really hit me and I looked back and was wondering where all the horses were,” Bourke said.
“It seemed quiet, and I soon realised he must have put a few lengths on them, and it was a really good feeling.”
Bourke said the victory on Zakeriz extinguished the disappointment of not being able to ride the George Dimitropoulos-trained Mouse Almighty to victory at Moonee Valley last Friday night.
Racing Victoria stewards didn’t allow the apprentice jockey to ride, meaning Victorian apprentice Celine Gaudrey guided the Wagga galloper and Bourke’s usual mount to victory in the $60,000 event.
“I was disappointed after they wouldn’t allow me to ride Mouse (Almighty) at Moonee Valley, but to come out and get a winner in Sydney, and my first city win made it all worthwhile,” Bourke said.
After kicking off her career in 2020, Bourke has now ridden 37 winners, and with a city win next to her name, the 19-year-old is hoping more opportunities will come her way.
“It was awesome to win in town,” Bourke said.
“I have been to the city four times, and the time before I was just beaten by a nose that day, and it was a big thrill to come second in front of everyone.
“It definitely feels good to get that first one out of the way and to go to the next level and I just hope from that I keep getting opportunities and rides.”
Bourke’s master, Doug Gorrel believes the youngster has improved a lot in recent times and he is adamant she will continue to get better and make a very good jockey.
“She has always had magnificent balance, and she is a natural rider, and her race smarts will keep improving,” Gorrel said.
“She can rate a horse and sit behind them, and it is the nature of the beast, and apprentices predominately get put on jump and run horses, and she has been pigeonholed as that sort of jockey, but she can rate a horse and she will only continue to get better.”
Bourke’s work with the whip in hand is also improving all the time. “I think she is getting stronger with the whip,” Gorrel said.
“Because she is so small, and she holds the whip in the back hand position, the mug punter doesn’t see how she strikes them, but she strikes them okay, and she has improved in that area out of sight.”
While she is a natural in the saddle, it is Bourke’s approach to riding that impresses Gorrel the most.
“She is just a really nice kid to have around the stable and she is always happy and cheery,” Gorrel said.
“She keeps rolling with the punches and she keeps getting up off the canvas.
“It is that determination that strikes me, and I think she will make it because she wants to be a career jockey. She now just needs to work on those one-percenters like talking to owners, trainers, and fellow jockeys, but she is only 19 and that will come with age, and I think people forget she is so young as she has been around a while.”
Bourke was in action at Goulburn on Tuesday, with the youngster taking four rides, while she will be in racing at Canberra on Friday and Albury on Saturday.