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Late bloomer Sprie in search of maiden win

IMG-3944-1.jpgBy Jordan Gerrans

With his first son on the way, apprentice Zac Sprie knew he had to get the ball rolling on his riding career if he was going to provide for his expanding family.

Knocked back to be a part of the apprentice jockey program in Victoria, Sprie last year relocated to the Sunshine State to chase his dreams of becoming a race rider.

The 21-year-old made his debut at Goondiwindi last month and goes searching for his first ever winner in the saddle over the next two days with four rides at Dalby and a full book of five at Esk.

As a teenager in high school, Sprie had no idea what his future would hold but eventually decided on a career as a jockey, despite never sitting on a horse or having anyone in his family with racing experience.

Sprie’s young son Crown is driving his ambitions to be a successful hoop in Queensland.

“My fiancé and I had a baby on the way and I needed to get rolling in my life so I decided to come up here, I realised quickly that I had a family to raise,” Sprie recalled.

“I had to do it for my baby and my fiancé.

“My fiancé is still learning about all the racing stuff, she is still green and does not know much about it, but she is so supportive.

“We are learning together and growing as a family.”

Rookie hoop Sprie finds himself in a similar position to that of star apprentice jockey Kyle Wilson-Taylor a couple of years ago.

Wilson-Taylor was knocked back to be apart of the apprentice program in Victoria before establishing himself as one of the up-and-coming jockeys in Queensland.

Sprie’s family moved to the Gold Coast in his final year of school around three years ago and having no clue what he wanted to pursue post school, he volunteered his time down at a stable at Aquis Park.

After seeing an advertisement to be an apprentice rider with Victorian Group 1-winning trainer Greg Eurell, he relocated back to Victoria to work for the top stable.

2a1d8b64-2b8a-4750-bbc3-19647d83ce17.jpg“I found the passion to be a jockey halfway through Year 12,” he said.

“I just thought I would just go for it being a jockey, I wasn’t that switched on at school so I decided to chase that, being a jockey.

“My parents laughed at me when I first told them as I had never had any experiences with horses and neither had my parents.

“It was a stab in the dark to have a crack at it.

“The first horse I ever rode was a racehorse.

“I liked going to the pub to watch the races with my dad growing up, I always enjoyed that, and being small as well it sort of worked out.”

From laughing at his “far-fetched” decision just a couple of years ago that was “out of his comfort zone”, Sprie’s parents are now his biggest fans.

“They are beside themselves and can’t believe the job that I have got,” he said.

“They want to come to every single race meeting I go to, they have been fantastic.

"They were out at Goondiwindi the other day and are coming to Dalby this week.

“They are still talking about Goondiwindi.”

Sprie has been working at the Eagle Farm stable of former champion hoop Chris Munce for the last month and takes two rides for his boss on Friday at Dalby.

The apprentice jockey says he still gets starstruck walking into Munce’s stables at times, describing it as feeling like he had won the lotto being able to work and learn from such an experienced rider.

Sprie is hopeful his first winner can come this week, with nine opportunities across Friday and Saturday.