Siena Grima kept up the recent trend of apprentice jockeys winning at their first race meeting when securing a maiden victory at Deepwater on Saturday.
The 21-year-old kicked off her career riding for her boss Melanie O’Gorman and finished fourth on Juke Joint in the 1350m Maiden Plate.
Grima then had to wait until the last race on the card, where she rode for Inverell trainer Ridge Wilson.
Jumping aboard Jakat, the four-kilogram claimer had to work for the win, but in a tight finish, they emerged triumphant in the 1350m Benchmark 50 Handicap.
“I wasn’t 100% sure if I had won it when we crossed the line,” Grima told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“It was quite a tight margin, and then all the jockeys rode past me and congratulated me, and that’s when I knew I had won.
“I could have cried; I was so proud of all the work I had put in and so excited that I managed to pull out a win at just my second ride.”
Grima explained how it came to be that she was riding for Wilson at Deepwater, with her partner and fellow jockey Jarrod Woodhouse playing an integral role.
“My boss Mel was willing to go wherever, and Juke Joint was ready to go, and the steward mentioned it would be a great start at Deepwater, being a non-TAB and someone easy to begin,” Grima said.
“Mel was happy to go there, and Ridge then messaged my partner, Jarrad Woodhouse, and he was happy to put me on a really great horse, and I was just so lucky the way it turned out.”
Sydney-born but raised in Kempsey, Grima has always been around horses.
While not from a racing family, she was into show jumping and toured the rodeo circuit before being introduced to the sport of racing.
“It’s funny because I show jumped from a very young age and did some rodeo, but my family sells hay, and they sold hay to a racehorse trainer one day, and that was my introduction to it all,” Grima said.
“I started volunteering to do some stable work, and I was doing boxes for a month, and then I was told there were no trackwork riders in Kempsey, and that’s how it started.
“The trainers there were great, and they were happy to let me learn, and I fell in love with it.”
Interestingly, racing wasn’t Grima’s initial career choice, with the clever youngster accepted into veterinary studies at Charles Sturt University.
At the end of the day, the thrill of riding fast and racing to win won Grima over, and she was soon working with Tamworth trainer Troy O’Neile before kicking off her apprenticeship with O’Gorman.
“I always wanted to be a jockey since I was a little kid but never thought I’d be able to do it,” Grima said.
“I love to help animals, and I was going to study to be a vet, but I met Troy O’Neile, and he told me to come up here and have a bit of a go, and I was with him for 12 months before Mel offered me an apprenticeship.
“She’s been good to work with, and it’s been especially good to work with a female trainer.
“Plus, she has good connections, and she has said if I ever want to go to Sydney on loan, she’ll help set it up and have me riding with a good trainer.”
Grima has taken to riding, flying through her trials and hitting the ground running with her win at Deepwater.
“I only had about 29 trials,” Grima said.
“It flew by, but at first, I felt like I struggled for six or seven trials, but after that, I was able to think during my trials, and it all fell into place.
“Talking to the stewards, Kyle (Blanch), was really helpful, and when he was happy, he let me go and was happy for me to ride at Deepwater.”
Linked with the O’Gorman yard, there will be plenty of opportunities for Grima, and she wants to focus on learning her craft.
“My goal now is to just improve from here, focus on reading the races, get a better race brain, and make sure my position and riding improve from here,” Grima said.
“I’d love to get to the metro and be a metro apprentice for my last year, but I’ve still got a long way to go.”