Spotlight on our jockeys
SPOTLIGHT ON - LEAH HEMI
We caught up with Central Districts-based jockey Leah Hemi, to learn a little more about how she got into racing, her most memorable moment on a racetrack thus far and how she likes to spend her spare time.
How did you get into racing? I used to peek through the Whanganui Racecourse fence walking home from school! One day was invited in to have a look and trot around.
Favourite horse? Dee and Gee, I was so honoured to have been a part of Peter Corbett and the late Terrill Charles' journey to winning the NZ Cup with their beloved mare. Nobody deserved it more than them.
Most memorable moment on a racetrack thus far? Wellington Cup Day 2021 - the moment a member of the public thought it was a great idea to stand on the track as the field thundered past...definitely a stand out memory (and definitely NOT a good idea!).
Past or present - one you wish you could throw a leg over? I really can’t single out any one horse. There’s so many great horses and I've been lucky enough to have ridden a small few.
When you're not busy riding winners, how do you like to spend your time? At home with my kids, riding our horses.
Which summer raceday do you enjoy most? I don’t have a favourite day, but I really love riding at the small country meetings as they usually have the best turnout.
SPOTLIGHT ON - EILISH MCCALL
Rising star Eilish McCall is currently enjoying her most successful season in the saddle to date - and long may it continue!
How did you get involved with racing? I was always pony mad as a child. I first got into racing through friends of mine who bred jumpers. I used to go watch them gallop and was always at the races come rain or shine. Being from England, it was normally raining! When I was old enough I started helping pre-train their horses and realised that I could be paid to do something that I love! The fact that I was 46kgs helped too. I went through the British Racing School as soon as I was old enough and I’ve never looked back.
What race would you love to win? That’s a hard one as there are so many prestigious races - but I think for me it would be the Auckland Cup.
Favourite horse? Blackmagicwoman, she gave me my first winner and I went on and won another three on her.
Favourite win? My favourite win would be my first win with Blackmagicwoman. It was topped off by my now husband proposing to me!
Who is your biggest inspiration in racing? Since moving to New Zealand, my racing inspiration has been Sam Collett. She works so hard and will always watch race replays with me to see what I could’ve done differently. She does it with a smile on her face too.
Hobbies outside of racing? My husband is a huntsman so when I get a chance I love to go hunting. This time of year I’m helping exercise his horses and learning 39 hounds names! And of course, I make time to shop and dine with my friends.
Finish the sentence: Summer racing is... a time for everyone to get involved and enjoy the sport.
SPOTLIGHT ON - SAMANTHA COLLETT
Currently sitting third on the national jockey's premiership, Sam Collett is amongst our top riders. Kicking home 48 winners already this season, 7 of which have been at group or listed level, Sam is enjoying another successful season in the saddle - and long may it continue!
How did you get involved in racing? I got involved through my parents - it was an easy choice!
What's your favourite part of the job? I enjoy being able to ride a horse and be paid to do it.
Most memorable moment on a racetrack to date? My first Group 1 on Glory Days (2019 Barfoot and Thompson Auckland Cup).
Favourite horse you've been associated with? Red Striker. Although she wasn’t a superstar she was my first stakes winner for my father and had a big heart for a little horse.
Past or present - one you wish you could throw a leg over? Sunline. She was one of the toughest horses I’ve ever witnessed race.
Outside of racing, how do you like to spend your time? I enjoy spending time in the garden, studying and working my own sport horses.
Finish the sentence: Summer racing is... what brings the people to the races.
SPOTLIGHT ON - LEITH INNES
Winner of four group and listed races this season, including the Karaka Million 3YO mile at Ellerslie last Saturday, Leith Innes is one in-form jock!
Best horse ridden? It's really hard to name just one, but Sacred Falls is the only horse I have a photo of hanging up in the games room. It’s great to be riding one of his sons in Aegon.
Most memorable moment on a racetrack to date? All Group 1 wins are special but winning for Chris Waller on Beaten Up in the G1 Doomben Cup was a great thrill!
Describe Aegon in three words: Loves to win.
How does one celebrate winning a Karaka Million? It was a very long day at the races and was in bed by 11pm Saturday night! We celebrated with a long lunch with family and friends on Sunday - with a few lemonades to toast Aegon.
Hobbies outside of racing? I love fishing and playing golf with good mates.
Favourite summer raceday? Ellerslie is definitely my favourite track. Karaka Million night takes some beating.
SPOTLIGHT ON - MICHAEL MCNAB
Born into a thoroughbred racing family, Cambridge-based jockey Michael McNab wanted to ride from day dot. Michael currently sits 10th on the New Zealand jockey's premiership and in terms of strike rate, is enjoying his most successful season to date.
How did you get into racing? My dad Chris McNab was a jockey before turning his hand to training. Racing was all I really knew growing up.
Most memorable moment on a racetrack? Tarzino Trophy Day 2019 - winning on Melody Belle. The way she won that day was amazing. I also rode a treble (winning on Beauty Star and Burgundy Belle), so it was a great day.
Past or present - one you wish you could throw a leg over? That’s easy! Melody Belle. I would love another ride on her.
When you're not busy riding winners, how do you like to spend your time? Sitting on the couch, watching sports. I enjoy just being at home.
Which summer raceday are you most looking forward to? New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka million night at Ellerslie.
Finish the sentence: Summer racing is... The best time of the year.
SPOTLIGHT ON - YONG CHEW
More commonly known as 'Chewie', Singapore-born apprentice Yong Chew is coming along leaps and bounds in developing his craft as a jockey.
How did you get into racing? When I was young, I used to watch my cousin ride in races. I was not very tall and thought maybe I had a chance of being like him. Once I graduated from school, my cousin introduced me to a trainer and that was the first step for me getting into the racing circle.
Favourite part about your job? Riding horses - they are so intelligent and amazing. I do not treat horses like an animal, I treat them like my friend. Even though they can't talk, I can feel what they are trying to tell me.
Favourite horse and why? I have a lot of favourite horses but one that is very special to me it Flying Sardine, trained by Mr Kelvin Tyler & Aimee Tyler. She's a case of not judging a book by its cover - she is very little but her kick in the last 100m is unbelievable. She gave me my first three winners in a row.
Who in racing do you look up to/ why? I look up to many of the senior jockeys. Mr Chris Johnson is a special one to me. He doesn't talk much in the jockey's room but if you need help is he always there. He's a real horseman - that's why they call him the magic man!
Most memorable moment on a racetrack? Riding Dr Velocious to win The Winter Classic as an apprentice.
When you're not busy riding winners, how do you like to spend your time? I spend my time in the spa pool to relax my body.
SPOTLIGHT ON - JACOB LOWRY
With racing in his blood, becoming a jockey was the obvious choice for Jacob Lowry...
How did you get into racing? I was born and bred into racing and spent my childhood going to race meetings and working for my Grandfather (Brian Anderton) in the school holidays.
What do you love most about your job? I’m lucky enough to have a career that I can call a passion, rather than a job. Riding winners for good people on good horses is what drives me.
Most memorable moment in racing thus far? Winning 10 races on Tommy Tucker, including 5 black type wins.
Flat or jumps? Flat.
Hobbies outside of racing? Occasionally I'll get out on the golf course. I’m not very good at it but enjoy the social side!
Favourite summer raceday? I always look forward to Boxing Day at Wingatui. I'm usually supported with some nice rides and have had a little bit of luck there in the past. There is always a great crowd on course, providing a good atmosphere.
Finish the sentence: Summer racing is... Good weather, good racing, good horses and good people.
SPOTLIGHT ON - DANIELLE JOHNSON
Currently dominating the New Zealand jockey ranks, more than 50 wins clear of her nearest rival, Danielle Johnson has her eyes on the prize!
How did you get into racing? My father (Peter) was a jockey and mum always pre-trained horses - it was in my blood!
Favourite horse? I find it hard to have a favourite and try to treat all horses I ride equally. I did have a real soft spot for a horse called Serious Sapphire, who is now retired.
Most memorable moment on a racetrack thus far? Winning the Karaka Million on Xiong Feng. The race and night has so much hype about it!
Past or present – one you wish you could throw a leg over? Sunline. I liked the way she could dominate a field from the front.
When you're not busy riding winners, how do you like to spend your time? Shopping, eating good food and spending time with great people.
Which summer raceday are you most looking forward to? New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million at Ellerslie, 23 January. I think it's the highlight of everyone's racing calendar.
Finish this sentence: Summer racing is... The best time of the year for anyone and everyone to enjoy our sport.
SPOTLIGHT ON - LISA ALLPRESS
Few jockeys have more stamps on their passport than Lisa Allpress, who has ridden in some pretty neat countries including Singapore and Saudi Arabia. What's more - Lisa made history in the latter by becoming the first female jockey to win a race in Saudi Arabia earlier this year!
How did you get into racing? I was really involved in showing and show jumping and met my great friend Nicole McDonald whose father was Warren Dymond. He was a good trainer in Stratford and I spent many hours at the stables helping her family. Nicole and I used to muck out, fill water buckets and hays. Sweep the concrete and then we were allowed to go ride our ponies!
Favourite horse? I have a huge respect for all the horses I ride, they are all special so it’s hard to pick a favourite. I still have Dubhdara in the paddock and hunt him when I can in the winter.
Most memorable moment on a racetrack thus far? Definitely winning in Saudi Arabia. World class jockeys. It was like a dream coming true.
You've ridden in a lot of different countries! Which has been your favourite? Singapore is still my favourite country to ride in. We all loved it there.
When you're not busy riding winners, how do you like to spend your time? I am a mum and wife so my time away from racing is always busy with the boys and Karl. We also have a farm so there is always cattle to move or thistles to grub to keep me occupied!
Which summer raceday are you most looking forward to? New Year's Day at Ellerslie
Finish this sentence: Summer racing is... the best way to enjoy friends, family and the best horse racing!
SPOTLIGHT ON - SAM WEATHERLEY
Career wins (NZ): 204
How did you get into racing? My father was a jockey and since then has turned his hand to training, so I’ve been brought up with it my whole life.
Favourite horse? Sultan Of Swing! He’s been a very good horse to me - right from the start of my apprenticeship to now - so that’s about 5 years we have been together and his career isn’t over yet!! He’s also trained by a champion and owned by champion people!
Most memorable moment on a racetrack thus far? I’d have to say winning my first Group 1 at Trentham in The Telegraph, but not far behind that was riding three winners on a big day in Sydney at Rosehill, that was pretty special.
Past or present – one you wish you could throw a leg over? I would’ve loved to have thrown a leg over Black Caviar, just to feel the speed and power that she had.
Hobbies outside of racing (can't say sleeping!): I love playing golf and try and play a couple of times a week, if I can fit it in.
Which summer raceday are you most looking forward to? Boxing Day races at Ellerslie is great, but our Matamata Christmas at the Races meeting (December 23) is pretty cool as well (and believe us when we say, the locals LOVE when Sam kicks home a winner on his home track!).
Finish this sentence: Summer racing is... very enjoyable for all involved.
SPOTLIGHT ON | Samantha Wynne
Some may say it's the luck of the Irish, we say it's Sam's passion, perseverance and love for horses that makes her the top jock that she is.
How did you get into racing? I've always loved horses and wanted to leave school, so went to apprentice school on the Curragh. I left home when I was 15 to complete the year-long course.
Favourite horse? I have too many favourites! Pinsgold has always been special to me, he was hard work but gave me my first winning ride in New Zealand.
Explain the feeling of riding a winner... The feeling of winning any race is amazing. Especially because at the start of my career, I was told to give up trying to become a jockey. Nothing beats that winning feeling.
Most memorable moment on a racetrack thus far? My first day as a senior jockey when I won the Winter Cup on Miss Three Stars. She normally has to come down the outside, but this day I cut the corner and she won by a nose. There was also an Irish camera crew following me that day, so it was shown back home which was special.
When you're not busy riding winners, how do you like to spend your time? Spending time with my dog Louis - he keeps me active!
Which summer raceday are you most looking forward to? I love Boxing Day races at Wingatui. The racing is top quality and everyone's in good spirits. It looks good fun being on the other side of the running rail!
Finish this sentence: Summer racing is... A great buzz. It's exciting racing and great crowds having a good time. That's what it's all about.
SPOTLIGHT ON | Temyia Taiaroa
Based: Central District
What inspired you to become a jockey? I was about 3-years-old when my dad and Koko (grandfather) took me to the Levin track. I used to sit on the rail and watch the horses do their work. It’s the love and passion for horses that inspire me to ride. I wasn’t the smartest (or the most well behaved!) in school. When I left school, I got a job doing groundwork at the track. After a while I started to ride with Koko and dad and from there I haven’t looked back.
Favourite horse? Credit Manager - I rode him his first trial and I’ve won three races on him since. He’s a cheeky horse, he always keeps me on my toes, but he knows when it’s race day.
Explain the feeling of riding a winner: Joy, excitement, overwhelm – especially when there is special meaning behind a win. It’s the best feeling seeing happy owners and trainers as you return to scale.
Which race would you love to tick off someday? I’d love to win any listed or group level race in New Zealand.
When you’re not with the horses, how do you like to spend your time? Spending time with my family, especially my niece who has just turned four-months-old. She can always put a smile on my face. I also love my sleep!
What summer raceday are you most looking forward to? Wellington Racing Club’s Group 1 Glory Day, 16 January, featuring two group 1 races as well as three other black type races. I won aboard Credit Manager at this meeting last year. It was my Dad’s birthday so made for a great birthday surprise! It’s one of my favourite meetings of the season.