Former picnic jockey Anaelle Gangotena is now making a go of it at the professionals.
The Ecuadorian, who has been living in Australia for nearly 13 years, works for her master Doug Gorrel in Wagga, and she started riding at the picnics, making her debut at Goulburn in February of 2021.
Nearly two years later, and the 23-year-old is two months into her apprenticeship, having made her professional debut at Canberra in November.
Gangotena, who has ridden 23 winners in her short career, claims two-kilograms and she was soon enough in the winner’s circle, landing her first professional win aboard the Kevin Byrne-trained Force Awakens at Cooma earlier last month.
It was a month to remember for the Wagga apprentice, who also won her first TAB race on the Rob Potter-trained Madison Point at Queanbeyan before riding her first professional winner for her boss when guiding Exaggerate to victory at Narrandera.
“It definitely was very special and obviously a bit different from riding at the picnics with the bigger fields,” she said.
“My first full TAB winner was exciting, especially being on Madison Point. I got my first win on him at the picnics at Goulburn, and I won on him four times at the picnics and to get a fifth win on him and my first full TAB win was pretty amazing.”
“With Exaggerate, I told Doug after I got back on that horse, even though it was a non-TAB, it was a special win because I had been riding the horse’s trackwork for three or four years, and he’s taught me a lot, and it was nice to get a win on him.”
Gangotena is off to Queanbeyan today, and she will ride Exaggerate again in the 900m Benchmark 50 Handicap, while she jumps aboard the Kevin Byrne-trained pair of Force Awakens in the 1200m Benchmark 50 Handicap and Rager in the 1460m Maiden Plate.
“Exaggerate has the wide gate he will have to overcome but he will run an honest race from anywhere and Force Awakens has been running some really honest races and he likes Queanbeyan too, and well Rager should be getting close to breaking through for a win,” she said.
The young jockey will then contest her first heat of the Rising Star Series at Nowra on Sunday when riding Desi Girl for Goulburn trainer Sarah Murray-Leslie.
Formerly trained by Chris Waller and Brad Widdup, the four-year-old is making her debut for the stable and Gangotena hopes she can run a good race for connections.
“It’s my first go at one of these races, and she doesn’t go too bad,” she said.
“She is a bit out of form, but you’d think coming over from town down to Sarah might suit her and she might run a good race.”
As for what the future holds, Gangotena isn’t getting ahead of herself, and her focus right now is on getting rides and learning her craft.
“At the moment, I want to see how far I can get with this,” she said.
“Hopefully I start picking up even more rides, and riding a bit more often, but at the moment, it’s about getting the ball rolling.”