By Jordan Gerrans
Inspired and guided by premiership winning hoops Justin Stanley and James Orman, apprentice rider Liv O'Donnell is determined to not let her height stop her dreams of making it as a jockey.
The 22-year-old is in the infancy of her career as a race rider, making her debut over the last month, and goes searching for her first ever winner at Thangool on Saturday afternoon with a few solid chances.
Standing at 172cms, the Theodore product feared as a teenager she would not be able to make the grade as a hoop because of her height.
But, after conversations with experienced taller riders like Stanley and Orman, O'Donnell feels she has devised a plan through her diet and exercise that will give her the best chance to prosper.
O'Donnell spoke with the leading jockeys when she was previously based in Rockhampton and received tips and advice around what she needs to be eating and what fitness work she needs to complete to keep her weight down.
“It is hard being tall,” she said.
“But I get a lot of inspiration from people like Justin Stanley and Jimmy Orman – they are both unreal riders and they do it week in week out – which helps me a lot.
“They gave me the courage because I always worried if I would be able to make weight or not.
“Those taller jockeys inspire me to work hard and get in and do it. They have been awesome to me.”
Former world champion boxer Corey McConnell, who regularly trains jockeys in Queensland, has also been helpful towards the rookie apprentice rider, providing her with exercises she can do when at the gym.
O'Donnell is riding at 55kgs in the early stages of her apprenticeship and is hopeful of getting that down lower once she is in a regular routine and rhythm of racing riding.
Growing up as a “horse mad” kid in Theodore, O'Donnell has spent time at Rockhampton, Brisbane and Scone in her journey towards her first race rides, before recently settling in with Craig Smith’s stable at Roma.
She was not involved in racing as a youngster, first around horses in show jumping and dressage, before getting a job in the industry when she relocated to Rockhampton for boarding school.