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Star apprentice re-writes history in Emerald

By Andrew Adermann

Apprentice hoop Elyce Smith has etched her name into the record books after riding six winners on the same program at Pioneer Park in Emerald on Saturday.

The 22-year-old equaled the national record for most wins by a female jockey on the one card, sharing the feat with Jade McNaught who rode a six of her own in Perth last year.

The Rockhampton-based jockey’s wins came aboard Summer Lea ($1.55), Fidereus ($4.40), Addicted ($1.60), Burden ($4.60), Fastnet Flyer ($4.60) and Mono Lad ($2.50).

“I had a fairly good idea that I could have a good day, on paper the horses looked to have every opportunity, but I didn’t want to get too excited as everyone in racing knows things can go pear-shaped pretty quickly,” Smith said.

“I was just hoping to take it race by race and thankfully it unfolded very well.

“It’s definitely the highest achievement for me in my career, it’s pretty hard to top six winners and a second.

“I don’t think I’ll ever experience something like that again, it’s probably a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I just tried to let it all soak in.”

Five of Smith’s six wins were atop Glenda Ball trained horses, who set her own record for most wins trained in a single meet.

A remarkable day for the ladies was capped off with winning rides from Sonja Wiseman and Natalea Summers, ensuring that the entire card was taken out by female jockeys.

“Sonja and Natalea are really hardworking girls, and they deserve the credit just as much, so it was really nice to be able to ride the card with them,” Smith said.

The Central Queensland jockey has only been riding since 2017, and is apprenticed to her father, Fred.

Despite a relatively short career on the saddle, it was almost over before it began for Smith following a horror fall behind the barriers at Thangool in September 2018.

Smith suffered a fractured skull, punctured lung, broken collarbone and broken ribs after her mount unexpectedly took off, leaving her in the Intensive Care Unit for 10 days.

“The horse just took off and I didn’t land in a very good spot,” Smith said.

“I did consider (not riding again), it gave me pretty bad post-traumatic stress and I didn’t want to ride again or get on a horse so the racing return was never really in the picture.

“I slowly built confidence back up on the horses at home and once the PTS left, then the love of racing came back and I got back to riding.”

Smith returned to the saddle four month later, however she could soon be lost to the sport once more as she closes in on graduating from university with a degree in teaching.

“I graduate in November and always wanted to have a degree behind me,” Smith said.

“I never went into racing as an apprentice seeing it as a long-term career, it was always just once you do the apprenticeship to then progress to the next stage of your career.

“I would be able to have my weekends back, have a family and this career will help me do that.

“There’s always the option to ride on the weekends or teach part time and ride part time, that’s an area to look into and something I will consider but I don’t have any set plans yet but we’ll see how it pans out from here.”

For now, Smith is just happy to be racing at all, after the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to shut down the industry prior to the introduction of Racing Queensland’s regionalised racing model. 

“Without the zoning, we wouldn’t be able to race and I think it’s a great initiative Racing Queensland has put in place,” Smith said.

“There’s always going to be a few teething issues but overall it’s a great opportunity and a great idea.

“Before they brought in the zoning, my Dad and I were preparing for the worst - we were preparing our horses in the event of a shutdown with what we were going to do with the horses but when the zones came out it saved a lot of people’s jobs in the industry.”