Moruya-based apprentice Jade McKenzie enjoyed the biggest moment of her burgeoning career at Queanbeyan on Saturday when riding her first winner.
Teaming up with Braidwood trainer Aaron Clarke, the 22-year-old jumped aboard the in-form Artie Bee when taking out the 900m Benchmark 50 Handicap.
It was the five-year-old’s third victory on the trot, and McKenzie was stoked to bring up her first win.
“It was amazing,” McKenzie told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“It was a massive weight lifted off my shoulders. I actually wasn’t sure I got it, and I thought one of them was going to get me on the line, but they didn’t.”
McKenzie is no stranger to fast horses, with the Wagga Wagga product a barrel racer before turning her attention to racing.
The cowgirl, who loves horses, moved to Moruya for love and eventually landed an apprenticeship with Natalie Jarvis and her Thorotek team.
“My partner (Tyler Bundy) trains racehorses, and when I got with him, I came to Moruya but never really thought I’d become an apprentice; that would be too crazy.
“Then I got a stable hand job with Nat and Luke (Jarvis), then did a bit of backtrack and river riding, and they asked if I wanted to do track work.
“After I did my first gallop, I was pretty much hooked then.”
McKenzie was soon enough at the races, making her debut at the Sapphire Coast on November 7.
At just her second ride, she almost won when finishing second on the Nat Jarvis-trained Champ Profound.
Despite the close finish, her first winner would be two months in the making, and McKenzie admitted it took longer than she had thought it would.
“I was a little bit frustrated and just felt like I wasn’t going the greatest, but it was a massive relief to ride that winner finally,” she said.
Still, the young hoop is enjoying life as a jockey with team Thorotek.
“I love it,” she said.
“I love the horses, so it makes it easy, and I used to rodeo and barrel race, and that’s what I’ve pretty much done my whole life, and I’ve only stopped the last two years while I’ve been focused on racing.
“Everyone has been so good, Maddy Wright, Casey (Louttit), Nat and Luke; they have supported me the whole way and have been a massive help.”
While McKenzie would love a win on her home track at Moruya or her home away from home at Wagga, the apprentice hopes to set herself up for a successful career.
“I want to set myself up to buy a house with my partner and, hopefully, in a year or two, make it to the city if I’m going well enough,” she said.
“I always try my best; other than that, I am still working out my riding technique and whatnot.”
McKenzie rode again at Moruya on Monday and is slated to take rides at Canberra on Friday and Nowra on Sunday.