Hemsted claims ‘very special’ Merriwa Cup for Julia Presits

Julia Presits guides the Carlos Antonio-trained Hemsted to victory in Saturday’s Merriwa Cup. Image: Alexandra Stares Photography.

Julia Presits had contemplated retiring from race riding. The 30-year-old Swede took a three-and-a-half-month break after competing at Newcastle on Boxing Day.

Spending time grooming dogs and doing house renovations on her newly purchased property in Muswellbrook, Presits admitted that she was close to hanging up the boots to take up her dream of training alongside her fiancé and popular amateur hoop, Leandro Ribeiro.  

That changed after Presits started working for esteemed Scone-based trainer Luke Pepper. 

“I had a little break after we moved and did some dog grooming,” Presits told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.

“I put my apprenticeship on hold and wasn’t sure if I would come back to race riding as we bought this property near Muswellbrook to train horses. 

“Then, I started working for Luke Pepper and Cam Crockett in Scone. Luke asked me why I wasn’t race riding, and he convinced me to take my licence up again and finish my apprenticeship.”

After returning to the saddle at Wellington earlier this month, it didn’t take Presits long to return to the winner’s circle, and it was a memorable win for Muswellbrook trainer Carlos Antonio.

Riding Hemsted, owned by Ribeiro and Julia’s father, Tommy Presits, the eight-year-old won his 12th race in the Jerry’s Plains Cup Benchmark 58 Handicap (1500m) at Muswellbrook on Sunday, April 21. 

Then, on the six-day backup, Hemsted had his 99th start and recorded career win 13 while taking his earnings over $300,000 when taking out the Merriwa Cup (1350m). 

Racing as well as ever, the Exceed and Excel gelding was a popular winner as Leandro and Tommy watched on with joy as Julia greeted the judge first.  

“It was very special,” Presits said. 

“Dad’s been here in Australia for two months now because we’re renovating, and he’s going home tomorrow.

“He was here for the Muswellbrook win when we won the Jerry’s Plains Cup, and six days later, we won at Merriwa, and with dad there, it makes it extra special.”

The Muswellbrook galloper didn’t enter the Merriwa Cup as the favourite, either, starting at $6.50 on the third line of betting, while the Marc Quinn-trained Crowie’s Shout was the $2.30 hot pot.

Presits said she was confident her old stager was capable of a big run but didn’t hold any high expectations. 

“He is an older horse, and sometimes he can put in a good run and then won’t run well for a few starts,” Presits laughed. 

“We knew he could win if he woke up on the right side, but we didn’t go there expecting him to win and were just happy to get the result.”

Presits has been around Hemsted for a lot of his career. 

Initially trained by James Cummings when racing for Godolphin, Hemsted has been around the traps, spending time with David Joice, Adam Wadick, Toby Edmonds, Garry Neale, Carl Spry, Natasha Hall-Antonio, and Connie Greig before making his way back to Carlos Antonio. 

“I liked him since the first time I met him when we worked at Godolphin when he was a baby, and I followed him when they sold him,” Presits said. 

“He went to Queensland for a bit, and Leandro and my dad bought him; he’s like part of the family.” 

For Presits, winning on Hemsted has been great, and she’s keen to keep up the excellent form while she continues to ride. 

She rode a winning double at Merriwa, also triumphing on the Lea Selby-trained Invincible Faith ($17) in the 1000m Benchmark 45 Handicap.

“It’s been great, and I feel like I’ve done the right thing by coming back,” Presits said.

“I will ride for a bit longer, but it won’t be too long, and I’ll see how I go.”