New Zealand jockey Sam Collett has developed a strong connection with the Ipswich Turf Club since she joined the Queensland jockey ranks in November last year.
The three-time Group 1 winning hoop won her first race in Queensland on November 27 at Ipswich aboard Accardo and since then has gone on to win 18 more times at the Bundamba circuit.
Collett has been a familiar face at Ipswich meetings over the past eight months but will experience her first Ipswich Cup day on Saturday.
With 15,000 people expected to attend, Cup day is like no other on the racing calendar. Collett is looking forward to the experience and won’t be overawed by the atmosphere.
“I’m feeling pretty good about Saturday,” Collett said.
“I’ve had a fair bit of experience getting around Ipswich now so for me it’s just another race and I’ll treat it as that.
“I rode in a Doncaster, I’ve ridden in Saudi Arabia and Japan in front of big crowds but they tell me it gets pretty rowdy at Ipswich.
“As long as they’re cheering for me and not abusing me then I’ll be fine.”
Southern jockeys have had a mortgage on rides during the Queensland Racing Carnival but that won’t be the case on Saturday. Collett’s manager Cam Partington has done a great job in getting her a full book of rides including Swords Drawn in the Listed TAB Ipswich Cup.
Swords Drawn is trained by fellow Kiwis Shaune Ritchie and Colm Murray.
The six-year-old gelding was handed a visitor’s draw in barrier 13 but despite that has come in for some support since markets opened. TAB currently rate Swords Drawn a $9.50 chance after opening at $21.
Collett worked Swords Drawn this morning (Thursday) and liked what she felt and saw ahead of Saturday’s feature.
“He’s a typical stayer…he’s really only good once he gets over a trip” Collett said.
“He would have had a run in between the Gold Coast Cup and now but he had a little niggle that stopped him having that run.
“But I don’t think fitness will be a problem for him as he’s sort of been up for a while and had a good sustained preparation.
“He looks and feels really good. I did a little bit of three-quarter over 1400m this morning and then just had a little leg stretch up the straight.
“Shaune knows what he’s doing and does a really good job.”
The last New Zealand-trained horses to win the Ipswich Cup were Sculptor (2007) and Spenophyta (2006). While Collett hasn’t regularly ridden for Ritchie, the pair have shared some success together and it would please the always smiling jockey if they could combine again for a win on Saturday and write their names in the record books.
“I won a Rotorua Cup for Shaune and the same owners of Swords Drawn last year,” Collett said.
“Shaune’s not someone I’ve ridden a heap for but he’s always consistently put me on throughout my career and has been one of the few Kiwi trainers that have used me since the Kiwis have been over here.
“We had a little bit of luck together with Badgers Nuts winning last week which was good.”
Collett is booked to ride Badgers Nuts, who also worked well this morning, in Saturday’s T.L. Cooney but is unsure at this stage whether he will take his place or head to an easier Doomben assignment on Wednesday.
While the popular jockey will do her serious form for the meeting on race morning, she believes her ride Centrefire in the Listed Gai Waterhouse Classic will be suited by the Ipswich track.
“Centrefire is really well,” Collett said.
“She’s had a few runs in succession where she backed up three weeks in a row. Not that it worries her I don’t think.
“She’s drawn the one and she likes to roll along pretty quickly.
“She’s got a real short dash which will suit the short Ipswich straight. When she won at Doomben first-up it was much the same so from that gate I’m sure I’m going to be pretty handy.
“She’s so well and Chris’ (Munce) team is going super too.”
Collett currently sits second on the Ipswich Jockey Premiership, just one win behind gun hoop Jimmy Orman. That places Collett in a great position to answer the question of, “How do you ride Ipswich?”.
“Oh, I don’t know,” the typically modest Collett said.
“Whether it’s because we have a couple of tracks that are a little bit similar at home with the short straight.
“I like to ride horses that are on-speed which seems to suit Ipswich.
“Sometimes it can be hard to get back and make ground unless you make a sustained run.
“With that short corner they fan wide and you can lose ground if you’re not careful.”
A win in Saturday’s Ipswich Cup, Eye Liner Stakes or Gai Waterhouse Classic would be Collett’s third black-type win in as many weeks. The way she is riding, that is a distinct possibility.
Story: Craig Sheppard
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