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Steph Thornton continues her dominant season

By Andrew Adermann

Star hoop Steph Thornton joined an elite group of Queensland apprentice jockeys at the weekend after outriding her metropolitan claim with a treble at Doomben.

The 21-year-old went into the meeting with 79 city winners - one short of exceeding her claim - and wasted no time achieving the feat, guiding the $4.60 shot Mount Beauty to a dramatic late win in the first event of the day.

The Victorian native starred again in the second race with a dominant ride aboard the raging $1.35 favourite Starosa, kicking away at the top of the straight to claim a six-length victory.

She rounded out the treble in the seventh after steering the Kelly Schweida-trained The Odyssey to a third straight win, all with Thornton at the helm.

Doomben

TULLOCH HOUSE Maiden Handicap 1110m

The treble means Thornton is now just three short of Tegan Harrison's record of 51 metro winners for a female apprentice in a Queensland season.

“It’s a goal that I’ve had since I started riding and had my first race ride,” Thornton said.

“Not every apprentice is able to outride their metropolitan claim so it’s a huge achievement for me, and I probably can’t compare it to a winner as a such, but it’s just a milestone that I’ve  been really looking forward to getting over.”

Despite having no claim at her disposal going forward, there’ll be no shortage of support for the gun apprentice from the state’s top trainers.

“Particularly of late, getting outside opportunities has been great – from the likes of Tony Gollan, Kelly Schweida and Chris Anderson – they’ve all been great supporters of mine and I’m very grateful for the opportunity everyone has given me since making the move up here,” Thornton said.

Mount Beauty trainer Chris Anderson was full of praise post-race yesterday, pointing to her professionalism and patience as the key to her success.

“It was a super ride from Steph from an awful gate,” Anderson said.

“She didn’t panic at all, and that’s her last ride as an apprentice officially so she’s a fully-fledged senior after today so thanks to Steph – it’s a testament to her.”

The weekend will be one to remember for the Thornton family, with older brother Damien claiming a maiden Group 1 victory with Toffee Tongue in the Schweppes Oaks at Morphetville.

Steph moved to Brisbane not even twelve months ago, where her other older, Boris, also rides.

Initially apprenticed on loan to trainer Steve O’Dea, Thornton has since made the move permanent – a decision that is clearly paying dividends.

“Racing for me is all about the right opportunities, and I came up to Brisbane because the Spring Carnival was on in Melbourne and here I’ve had great success,” Thornton said.

“It was a wonderful move for me, I’m really appreciating the support I’m getting from trainers and it’s the right place for me to be.

“I made the decision to move away from my family, my partner, my connections to come up here and give it a crack and I’m so thankful that the decision is paying off.”

The 2019/20 season has no doubt been Thornton’s best, claiming her first listed win aboard the Gollan trained Sugar Boom, before taking out the 3YO QTIS Jewel atop The Odyssey.

“It’s definitely my best season to date, and to have 48 metro riders since moving here in August, when no one really knew me as a rider, a lot of credit goes to Steven O’Dea for helping me hit the ground running and giving me plenty of opportunity to put myself out there and make myself known,” Thornton said.

“Winning the TAB Mode Plate on Sugar Boom, it was my first stakes win and my first listed win and that was a huge thrill for me to be able to get that as an apprentice as well.”

Doomben

TAB MODE PLATE 1200m

In January, she was the only female jockey in the famed Magic Millions 2YO Classic, riding O’Dea’s filly Gotta Kiss against some of the country’s best jockeys including Damian Lane and Hugh Bowman.

“It’s always an experience riding against the best jockeys that we have in Australia because you can learn so much by being around them,” she said.

“Most of the bigger names are very humble and happy to speak to you, and take that Millions day as an example, I had a really great chat with Hugh Bowman, talking to him about moving to Queensland and going where the opportunities present themselves.”

Looking ahead, Thornton indicated that it’s business as usual for her and will let her riding do the talking as she targets black-type success in the upcoming winter program.

“I just want to be able to keep the momentum going now, and no doubt it will get tougher for me not having that one-and-a-half kilo incentive for trainers to want to put me on,” Thornton said.

“I want trainers to put me on for the way that I ride and if I can keep getting the results then that’s only going to help.

“Moving forward, I obviously want to target more black-type races and now that we have a winter program I definitely want to try and knock off a couple of those races.”