Fiona Sandkuhl capped off a triumphant return from injury at Albury on Saturday, with the apprentice jockey riding a winning double on her home track.
Teaming up with Seymour trainer Dwayne Reid in the opening event, Sandkuhl rated Black Messiah ($5.50) in front, and the pair hung on for the gutsiest of victories in the 1175m Maiden Handicap.
Three races later, Sandkuhl rode for local trainer Kym Davidson, giving Overrun ($3) the perfect run behind the early leaders before taking the inside running and pulling away for a comfortable win in the 2000m Class One/Maiden Handicap.
“It was good to get the ball rolling again finally,” Sandkuhl told NSW Country and Picnic Racing.
“It’s always difficult to get things started again when you come back from injury.”
Indentured to Mitchell Beer, Sandkuhl was involved in a trackwork mishap in July, with an innocuous finger injury leading to a frustrating three-month stint on the sideline.
“I was just riding one at trackwork and came off, and I possibly got my finger caught in the reins, and then I got stood on and broke my finger and had some soft tissue injury in the leg,” Sandkuhl said.
“The finger was the main issue, and I needed surgery. It took a while for them to pass me to go back to track work.
“It is really difficult to get your foot back in the door, and the most challenging thing was going home and working on the ground and being unable to ride.
“Still, I’m grateful that it has healed 100%, and it’s been a slow burn, but hopefully, after Albury, I can get on a few nice ones and keep it going.”
The Albury-based jockey is looking forward to spending the holidays closer to home, but first, she heads to Wagga on Friday, and the 1.5kg claiming apprentice has booked a few excellent chances.
Riding for the Doug Gorrel stable, the 23-year-old jumps aboard Military Manoeuver (gate 8) in the Benchmark 66 Handicap (2000m), Dream Inherit (gate 3) in the Ted Ryder Cup (1600m), and Sorry Sunshine (gate 12) in the Benchmark 58 Handicap 1400m).
“I rode Sorry Sunshine last time, and it ran a really nice race to run third; hopefully, at Wagga, it runs a better race over 1400m,” Sandkuhl said.
“With Military Manoeuver, last start, we got held up on the fence and barely got out after coming off a win and, hopefully, we can get a better result.”
Now 56 wins into her career, Sandkuhl admitted it had been an up-and-down road but one she was committed to.
“It’s a funny thing racing; one day, you love it, and you hate it the next,” Sandkuhl laughed.
“It’s so easy to have a good run, but equally as easy to have a bad run and give a couple of horses some bad rides.
“It’s definitely a rocky road, but hopefully, I can get back to riding more winners.”
After the holiday break, Sandkuhl plans to ride at Corowa on December 30.