Cup success for rising picnic hoop Anaëlle Gangotena

Anaëlle Gangotena aboard Sestina for trainer, Doug Gorrel, before winning at Tullibigeal picnics. Photo: Racing Photography.

Anaëlle Gangotena is only two months and 19 rides into her picnic racing career, and already, she has won eight races, including feature events such as the Cootamundra and Tomingley Picnic Cups.

The Ecuadorian, who has been living in Australia for 11 years, has linked up with Doug Gorrel, and since then, it has been a match made in heaven, with the 21-year-old showing her worth at picnic meetings all over NSW. 

Living in Canberra, Gangotena said she just loves horses, and it was this passion that led her to becoming a full time trackwork rider.

“I just rode horse here and there, and wherever I could,” Gangotena said.

“There was a man just outside of Canberra who had a property with a few horses, and he let people come ride them when they wanted, and I would ride them on the weekend with a few friends. 

“One of my friends worked at the track in Canberra, and she got me a job as a stable hand and I worked on the weekends, and from there, I started riding track work.”

Gangotena has been riding trackwork for a bit over two years now, but started her foray into picnic riding at Goulburn back on February 27 – winning on debut when guiding the Rob Potter trained, Madison Point, to victory in 1200m Class B Handicap. 

In fact, Gangotena has ridden a winner at every meeting she has attended as a jockey, teaming up with Potter to win on Madison Point at Ardlethan and Cootamundra, whilst she has ridden another five winners for Doug Gorrel.

“My first meeting was at Goulburn – I was really lucky that it was on such a nice track, and it was a great experience to ride there and win,” Gangotena said.

“I’m really grateful that Doug (Gorrel) has taken so many to the picnics, because he has a few that he could take to the full TAB instead, but he likes the picnics, and he has really supported me through the process, and he is happy for me to ride for him.”

Gangotena’s dream start to her career has certainly been helped by the fact that she has mainly ridden horses she knows through her work as a trackwork rider.

“I have been really lucky so far,” Gangotena said.

“I have ridden horses that I know, so I know what they’re doing and because I’ve ridden trackwork on them, I do feel quite confident on them.” 

The young hoop seems a natural in the saddle, and had previously been a clerk of the course at Canberra’s Thoroughbred Park, a job that she believed had her ready for the races. 

“I just ride track work, and apart from that, I do clerk of the course work at Canberra and Goulburn, but I’ve had to step down a bit from it because I’ve been racing, so I fill in when they need me,” Gangotena said.

“It’s actually been really helpful, I’ve known for years what happens behind the gates, whereas I’ve seen apprentices struggle and not know what to do at times and I’ve been lucky enough to see what the professional jockeys do.” 

For the moment, Gangotena is taking her picnic riding career one meeting at a time and was happy to cosy up with the Gorrel stable, especially while his team was happy to venture to tracks all over NSW.

Gorrel and Gangotena will likely team up with recent Cootamundra and Tomingley Picnic Cup winner, Keep Me Posted, when they travel to Boorowa on Saturday, with the eight-year-old well on track to feature in the NSW Picnic Champion Series final at Coonamble later this year.

“I think Doug is going to take him to Boorowa next weekend for the cup there, and we will see how we go,” Gangotena said.

“He has been going really well.”

Gangotena will eventually branch out and look for more rides, but for the moment, she is just happy to work with Gorrel and other Canberra trainers.

“At the moment, I am more going to the picnics whenever Doug goes. I’m not too worried about chasing up rides, but eventually I’ll start expanding a bit more,” Gangotena said.