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'Queen of the Cups' hunting more glory in 2018

By Kobie O'Brien

If you attended a country race meet in 2017 and backed apprentice Emma Bell, chances are you spent more time in the queue collecting winnings than watching the races.

The newly-appointed ‘Queen of the Cups’ took country Queensland racing by storm last year, and now boasts 27 wins from 128 starts with a strike rate better than 1 in 5.

Hardly out of the money, she also placed in another 45 races at a whopping 56%, contributing to her total prize money of $218,925 in her first year of racing.

Contrary to a traditional start in racing at a young age Bell, 29, left it until slightly later to continue a dominant family affair – headlined by father Billy who has 312 winners to his name in a career beginning in 1988.

“Dad was a jockey, and mum was a jockey and now she’s a trainer, so obviously grew up with it and ridden horses all my life,” she said.  

Though only deciding to take up her apprenticeship last year, starting with a 4kg claim in the bush, it didn’t take long for punters to witness Bell’s supremacy.

In fact, she streaked away with a comprehensive victory in her very first ride.

“I can definitely remember my first ride, it was when I was down at Brissy with Pat Duff,” she said.

“It was at Esk, on one of Pat’s horses that he owns with him and his family, and it was in a 1200m maiden and I just had 1 ride for the day.

“It ended up winning, the favourite ended up bucking out of the barrier and throwing the jockey and my horse won in a photo.”

The girl from Clermont would continue her winning ways from this point on, with a stellar maiden year highlighted by five country cups and enjoying success at almost every track she rode.

Bringing home the Cup in Clermont on Mishani Gladiator, she also took out the feature races at Ilfracombe (One Grey), Muttaburra (A Dependant), Twin Hills (Sheer Persistence) and Alpha (A Dependant), stating that winning the cup in Alpha on their day or days is perhaps the most memorable to date.

“Winning the Alpha Cup is the biggest prize money race that I’ve won,” she said.

“Probably one I won’t forget too was my very first race ride that was only just a normal country race, but because it was my first one and I ended up winning it, that’s pretty exciting.

“Obviously (the) Twin Hills Cup too, that was a big one for me because Dad has won it a lot of times”.

Bell admits her favourite horse has been the Dennis O’Brien trained 10-year-old gelding, A Dependant, on which she won two of her five Cups. Bell and O’Brien have developed a formidable combination, combining 34 times for six winners.

Bell has also sparked one of the best trainer-jockey partnerships to follow in the country in the past year, getting the money for prominent trainer John Manzelmann almost 40% of the time with 6 wins from 17 rides for the stable.

This year looks extremely promising for the gun jock, if not bigger and better to say the least.

The most successful jockey of the Twin Hills carnival and Alpha Cup day looks to have booked a ticket to the provincials. However, the Hugh Bowman admirer has some unfinished business in the country.

“I’d love to win the Emerald 100, it’s a big day. You jump right in front of the crowd too so its really cool,” Bell said.

“You do a full lap of the track which is good, there isn’t too many longer races out here either.”

Emerald has been a happy hunting ground for Bell, winning 6 of 30 starts there to date, placing a further 10 times at 53%.

Impressively, she has won at 13 different tracks in her short career so far and looks likely to add to that in 2018.

As for bragging rights however, father Billy has a total of 15 country cups to his name with Emma yet to catch up to him.