By Brad Gray
It was a stellar twelve months for jockey Rachael Murray, and she’s got even greater ambitions for the current racing season.
“I’d really love to get to 100 winners. If I could achieve that it would be unreal,” said Murray.
“It’s been a huge year. I don’t know if I’m doing anything differently though. Just following the horses that I’ve always ridden and the trainers that have always supported me.
“It’s been a snowball of getting more rides on better quality horses and has resulted in a few more wins. Good horses make good jockeys.”
Murray ended 2016 with 81 wins and a further 116 placings which sat her 37th on the Australia-wide rankings. In the 2016/2017 season she currently has 55 wins and sits fourth behind Brenton Avdulla on the NSW Jockey Premiership while she leads the Country Premiership.
Murray had recent stints with Grahame Begg and Darley in Sydney but she now calls the Hunter Region home again having returned to Greg Bennett at Scone, who she was indentured to as an apprentice. Murray rode 22 winners from 71 rides for Bennett in 2016 at a lethal 31% strike rate.
“I was working in Sydney and travelling to all of the country meetings but it was getting too much. He (Bennett) offered me a job so I decided to go back there and give it a go. It’s a lot easier driving to the races and not being so exhausted all the time."
“The driving is very mentally fatiguing and that’s the hard part I find with the job. The riding is the easy part,” said Murray before mentioning eBooks see her through the long trips.
The stocks of female jockeys have soared over the past 12 months and although Murray is humble about her contribution, she no doubt had a significant role to play.
“So many girls have paved the way before me but I think the industry is starting to warm to us a lot more and see that horses do run well for us. It’s not all about strength. There’s a lot more to it. If you work with them (the horses), like a lot of girls do, rather than against them, I think they try harder.”
On Saturday, Murray partnered $101 race outsider Wouldn’t It Be Nice to a second placing in the Listed Canterbury Classic.
“Paul Perry has always been a big supporter of mine. We didn’t expect the horse to go as well as he did but he ran out of his skin and it was amazing really. There was quality in that field.”
“For a country girl to have a big ride like that in a big race, I can understand how Michelle Payne feels now!”
Wouldnt It Be Nice chasing home Le Cordon Bleu
In the past, Murray has been quoted as saying that she loves riding so much, she’d do it for free. And for those at Canterbury on Saturday, her beaming smile suggested as much.
“I’d do the riding for free but I’m glad I get paid for the travel!”
“I love what I do, even trackwork of a morning. Getting to watch an amazing sunset and getting to ride amazing animals, it’s fantastic. It’s just the best.”
It was that love for horses that kicked it all off for Murray at an early age.
“My parents didn’t have anything to do with horses but as a little girl I wanted to have a pony. Then I started going to riding lessons.”
“I didn’t have any interest in racing at all but when I was at university I needed to pay the bills. I became friends with Tracy O’Hara and she said come to the racecourse and start riding work. When I started riding work and loving it I got more determined and thought it’s not a bad job.”
With the Country Championship heats just around the corner, Murray is excited about the autumn campaign of Sassaby who she has ridden three times for two victories and a second.
“He’s at our stables with Greg Bennett and I have a really nice affinity with him. I love the horse and I’m looking forward to the Country Championships coming up.”