By Chris Scholtz
Leading NSW country apprentice Chelsea MacFarlane will move to Melbourne this week for a three-month stint with Caulfield trainer Mick Kent, just days after topping a century of career wins.
Queanbeyan-based MacFarlane brought up 101 career wins on Saturday when she won the Braidwood Cup on Ultima Chance for the Canberra training partnership of Keith Dryden and Scott Collings. The 21-year-old MacFarlane has ridden 37 winners this season including seven in Victoria.
Her 30 NSW/ACT winners this season have her in a neck and neck battle with Canberra apprentice Patrick Scorse to be the leading NSW country apprentice. Scorse has also ridden 30 NSW/ACT winners this season and will be in the box seat to claim the country title following MacFarlane’s decision to join the Kent stable. Port Macquarie apprentice Ceejay Graham lies in third place on 26 wins.
“It’s a big step but it’s too good an opportunity to ignore,” MacFarlane said of her move to Melbourne. “I’m going down for three months and hopefully longer if things go well.”
MacFarlane, who began her riding career in 2015 when she secured an apprenticeship at Queanbeyan, hails from Swan Hill in Victoria. She was a leading pony club rider and had close racing connections as her mother was a long-serving clerk of the course at Swan Hill and her elder sister Connie was a local trackwork rider.
MacFarlane moved to Bathurst to work for former jockey and trainer Peter Stanley after failing to secure an apprenticeship in Victoria and got her big break when she started her apprenticeship with Neville Layt at Queanbeyan in 2015.
Layt got her started in trials at a time when she was having trouble with her weight before she joined fellow Queanbeyan trainer Mick Smith. Smith’s wife Jo put the young rider on a diet that helped her control her riding weight.
“Jo was fantastic helping me with my diet. She’s got me eating all the right foods with the result that I can now ride comfortably at 51 kilos,” MacFarlane said.
MacFarlane, who is now with the Darren Bailey stable at Queanbeyan, is yet to ride a metropolitan winner but she has gained considerable experience riding regularly at Victorian meetings this season and travelling as far afield as Alice Springs for rides. She has ridden 16 career winners in Victoria on 11 different courses including 10 wins at Swan Hill and three at Wodonga.
MacFarlane will claim 3kg in metropolitan races in Melbourne. MacFarlane’s victory on Ultima Chance made her the seventh female rider in the last eight years to win the Braidwood Cup, joining Kayla McEwan, Annalise King, Kristen Smart, Kayla Cross, Melinda Kinny and Tracy O’Hara.
Meanwhile, Irish apprentice Aaron Sweeney took the honours at the Braidwood Cup meeting when he rode three winners on the six-race card including a double for local trainer Aaron Clarke.
Sweeney is based with Clarke at Braidwood after overcoming visa issues the forced him to return to Ireland before he could recently make a permanent move back to Australia.
The mature-age apprentice has ridden 53 winners since he began his career in Australia in 2013 and was making his mark with 27 wins in 2016 before he was forced to return to Ireland. Due to the interruptions in his career his apprenticeship with Clarke does not expire until 2020.