Eloise Drews will call on a good grounding in the sport of racing and a few more than handy mentors when making her picnic riding debut at Bedgerabong on Saturday.
Based in Scone and working for former picnic hoop and leading country trainer Luke Pepper, the 22-year-old will at least know what to expect when jumping into the racing saddle in two events on Saturday.
“Luke’s the best, and I couldn’t wish for a better boss,” Drews told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“He has helped me so much, especially with him being a picnic jockey and riding overseas; he’s helped me with everything.”
Riding for Janelle Galea, Drews will jump aboard Stratum Fantasy in the Maiden Plate (1100m) and Japingka in the Bedgerabong Bracelet (800m).
“Going into my first race, I’m excited but nervous,” she said.
“Luke sat me down yesterday, and he gave me a pep talk and told me what to do, and Nelly has given me so much advice.”
When asked how she got her first rides for Galea, Drews explained that she is good friends with the family, including fellow picnic jockey Sebastian Galea.
“I’m actually really good friends with Nelly’s son Bashy (Sebastian Galea), and I went out and strapped for her at Wean and we got quite close, and she has been really helpful,” Drews said.
“Since then, we’ve remained in touch, and she has given me every opportunity I could have asked for, and I’m really grateful.”
Born and bred in Scone, Drews has always been around horses.
Her mother, Rebecca Drews, has spent the past 13 years at Yarraman Park, and growing up, Eloise was friends with Molly Northam, which led to an introduction to racing.
“One of my best friends was Molly Northam; her dad is Rod Northam. Molly told her dad to let me ride, and I did, and I fell in love with it,” Drews said.
“At the time, I was Rod’s foreman, and he didn’t have the space for me to ride, but after I got a taste for it, that’s all I ever really wanted to do, and I ended up leaving.
“I was freelancing for a bit, and then Luke moved here to Scone, and I was his first worker, and well, he threw me in the deep end, and it was a matter of sink or swim, and I was lucky enough to ride for him and learn a lot.
“Then I left for the UK about a year ago and did a stint in England, and when I came back, Luke’s was overstaffed, and he couldn’t take me on, so I started working with Carlos Antonio in Muswellbrook.
“That’s how I eventually got approved; he was eager for me to take out my licence, and he sent me around on as many as he could at the trials, and that’s how I got my approval to start picnic racing.
“Then I got over driving to Muswellbrook, and Luke had a spot open up, and I joined his team again.”
Drews wants to one day commence an apprenticeship, but she is taking baby steps as she looks ahead to her picnic riding debut at Bedgerabong.
“I’m just a trackwork rider at the moment, and hopefully, one day, when I’m light enough, I might be able to do my apprenticeship,” Drews said.
“Right now, I’m happy to be a trackwork rider and ride at the picnics.”
On Saturday, Drews will make the trip with her family and the young jockey is keen to get to as many picnic meetings as possible if the opportunities arise.
“Mum has got weekends off, and if she is happy to share the driving time with me, I’m happy to go wherever we have to go,” Drews laughed.
Saturday’s meeting at Bedgerabong will be a belter, with the $11,000 Bedgerabong Picnic Cup (1400m) headlining the program.
For more on the meeting, click here.
For the Picnic Champion Series leaderboard and information, click here.
For the 2024 NSW picnic calendar, click here.