Camille Houlgatte is the definition of hard work and persistence.
Originally from France, the 28-year-old has been in Australia for the best part of a decade, learning the tricks of the trade while working for prominent Newcastle trainer Paul Perry.
“I’ve been in Australia for just short of 10 years,” Houlgatte told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“To be honest, I was in a sink or swim situation, and I was 19 and thought I’d go and give it a try in Australia.
“I started out with Paul after I got the contact when I was overseas, and it was the best decision of my life.
“Paul gave me that chance and he is now like a dad to me, and Nathan (Perry) is my guardian angel and just like my big brother.”
After kicking off her career as a teenage stablehand, Houlgatte is now riding professionally, with the four-kilogram claiming apprentice ready to make her mark on the race track.
“I sort of worked my way up. I started as a stable hand, and a very mediocre trackwork rider,” she laughed.
“Paul taught me the ropes and eventually I was able to start my apprenticeship.”
Houlgatte had her first race ride in November last year but had only two more rides before she was kicked in the abdomen by a horse in a stable accident the following month.
She had surgery and spent two weeks in hospital after sustaining injuries to her kidney and bowel before returning to the saddle in July.
After this injury-interrupted start to her career, Houlgatte’s first winner arrived on the Paul Perry-trained Captain Wise at Scone on July 25.
While she admitted there had be some trying times, Houlgatte was just happy to be back in the full swing of things.
“First of all, I couldn’t get my apprenticeship until I got my citizenship, and that took a long time and when I got it, Paul signed me off straight away,” she said.
“I had that injury, but to come back and get my first winner; it was amazing and now I am back on track and rolling.”
The Frenchwoman has been around racing long enough to appreciate what it means to be an aspiring jockey, having already gone through the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but that wasn’t deterring her, and she was simply thrilled to be undertaking her apprenticeship.
“I’ve been in the game a long time now, and I sort of know the ins and outs a bit, but it is quite amazing to be given the chance to ride and be a main participant,” she said.
“I am not the sort of person that gets my hopes up, but I will keep working hard to see how far I can take it, I’ll never take it for granted, and l’ll keep going and see where I can go.”
Today, the apprentice will travel to Inverell for what will be her first full book of rides.
“It will be nice to feel like a real jockey on the day as I have never had that many rides before,” Houlgatte said.
“I would say the better chance out of my rides is Indian Thunder, but I will treat them all the same and give them the best chance,” Houlgatte said.
To check out Houlgatte’s full book of rides and the Inverell fields, readers can click here.