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Northern sunshine the tonic for apprentice Jenna Edwards

By Jordan Gerrans

After riding track work in a number of different states around Australia over many years, Townsville’s newest apprentice hoop Jenna Edwards was not sure if she would ever officially become a jockey.

245932755-6398743890199172-1441409274433860498-n.jpgStarting her apprenticeship in South Australia, the 23-year-old feared her career was going nowhere at times.

A move to North Queensland has done wonders for Edwards’ ambitions, re-starting her apprenticeship with the Sarah Acornley stable and making her debut at Ewan last Sunday afternoon.

Edwards started riding track work as a 14-year-old for her mum, Kaye Edwards, before gaining experience in South Australia and the Northern Territory, where she spent time with Acornley and her husband Carl Spry – who has been dual-licensed as a trainer and a jockey across his career. 

“Once I started my apprenticeship, it was such a long process in South Australia and I think Carl was still my biggest supporter, he was the one I would always talk to for help all things racing,” Edwards said.

“In Adelaide, I thought it was just not going to happen, becoming a jockey, I was very unhappy and when Carl asked me to come to Townsville, it made sense.

“It was an easy decision because while I was not sure if I was going to be an apprentice, I just wanted to ride track work, do something I like and be happy again.

“I got the apprentice stuff rolling again and it has gone from there.”

Spry, who has relinquished his training duties of late to focus on his riding, believes Edwards has become an asset to the Cluden Park stable.

“It has worked out well with Jenna moving to Townsville about nine months ago,” Spry said.

“She always wanted to ride but never knew if she get the chance to do it as things just were not falling into place for her.

“She did everything right on her first ride for Johnny Manzelmann the other day.”

246283574-6398743663532528-5260025729251184308-n.jpgEdwards’ journey to her first ever race ride in Queensland was delayed earlier this year after she suffered a collapsed lung following a fall but was not on the sidelines for long.

She actually also started an apprenticeship in hairdressing through school but found it “boring” and quickly returned to riding track work, which led towards her career as a hoop.

After riding in trials and jump outs to gain experience before her debut last Sunday, Edwards did not quite understand what she had achieved until moments before the gates crashed open in the Benchmark 65 Handicap on board Quart Pot for Manzelmann at Ewan. 

“It was surreal actually,” Edwards, who worked for trainer Sue Jaensch in SA, said.

“It did not really hit me or sink in until I was cantering to the barriers, I realised then that it was here and I had finally got there.

“When I was a kid, I was horse mad and wanted to be a jockey, but I went off it a bit and had a few injuries.

“Growing up, I saw the good, bad and ugly of racing, I suppose, I saw how relentless it was but I always loved riding track work for my mum.

“I fell in love with racing again eventually.”

The Spry and Acornley team have great trust in Edwards' abilities as she looked after their stable for a lengthy period when they went away on holidays during their days in Darwin.

Edwards makes the trip to Richmond this weekend with a number of solid rides as she looks to build her confidence before stepping up to TAB grade.

“We will just target the non-TABs for now, we will not rush to the TAB circuit just yet,” Spry said.

“Hopefully she can get a few wins under her belt and get a bit of confidence.

“We will just keep chipping away.”