Sam Collett is still on cloud nine after her first Group One victory on Saturday, when victorious aboard Glory Days in the Gr.1 Auckland Cup (3200m).
Collett was overwhelmed by all the congratulations for her achievement, but she hasn’t lost focus on her next couple of goals for the season.
The popular Matamata jockey is just seven wins short of reaching 700 career wins in New Zealand and she is also in pursuit of breaking the century of wins for the season, something she did for the first time when taking last season’s New Zealand Jockeys’ Premiership with 132 wins.
“I’m well on the way to 100 again (with 72 wins),’’ she said. ‘’Another goal for later on is to get to 1000 wins. That would be really special. I could relax then.’’
For now, though, Collett, the busiest rider in the country, is revelling in the thrill of not only recording her first Group One win aboard Glory Days, but also doing it in such a time-honoured race as the Auckland Cup.
‘’It still hasn’t really sunk in,’’ she said. ‘’It’s been a bit of a wind down, but I’ve only managed to watch the race once. I didn’t get a chance to see any of the replays on course. Everything was going on.
‘’It was amazing all the people who came up and congratulated me, plus all the texts and emails I’ve got. My phone went dead on the way home from the races answering all the messages.”
It was also the Auckland Cup in which her parents, Jim Collett and Trudy Thornton, created history 28 years ago when becoming the first husband and wife jockeys to quinella such an important event. Her father got the win on Star Harvest, beating her mother’s mount, Shugar.
Collett was only a year old when that racing history was made and over the years both her parents have become multiple Group One winners. She had yearned for the day she, too, could experience her own Group One thrill, and that desire surfaced again last Saturday when rival jockey Opie Bosson set a New Zealand record for the most Group One wins with a double on Yourdeel and Melody Belle.
‘’When Opie broke the record I wondered what it would feel like to win just one of them, then I came out in the next race and did it. It’s the greatest feeling ever.’’
Among the crowd to congratulate Collett was Denny Moroney and he recalled her as a fresh-faced teenager winning on her first ride, Zergar, for his son, trainer Mike Moroney, at Matamata in December 2006.
‘’I won that day by six lengths and Mr Moroney senior reminded me how I’d come a long way since then,’’ Collett said. ‘’It means a lot to me, all the people who have supported me over the years since I was apprenticed to Mark Walker then Linda Laing. There are so many people to thank.’’
It was as an apprentice Collett also got her first sniff of Group One success when entrusted with the ride on the warhorse Sir Slick. Her first ride on him resulted in a second in the 2009 Gr.1 New Zealand Stakes (2000m) when nabbed late by Mac O’Reilly.
‘’I was lucky to get on Sir Slick,’’ she said. ‘’I even got to ride him in the Doncaster Handicap (Gr.1, 1600m) in Sydney and twice in Brisbane, in the Hollindale (Gr.2, 1800m) and Doomben Cup (Gr.1, 2000m).’’
Though unplaced in each of those Australian assignments, Collett did win the Gr.2 Awapuni Gold Cup (2000m) and Gr.3 Tauranga Stakes (1600m) on Sir Slick and was third on him in the 2010 Gr.1 Easter Handicap (1600m). Since then she has picked up other Group One placings with the closest being a second on Packing Eagle when beaten a head by Start Wondering in last year’s BCD Group Sprint (1400m) at Te Rapa.
Collett will continue her busy schedule riding throughout New Zealand in search of more winners and maybe one day will get another tilt on the international scene.
‘’I rode at the World Jockeys series in Japan last year which was a huge thrill and I’ve ridden in Macau and Inner Mongolia as well as Australia a few times. Maybe one day I’d like to try my luck in Singapore,’’ she said. “For now, I just want to keep riding winners.” - NZ Racing Desk