The tiny township of Carinda, 70km south-west of Walgett, races once a year in July on a dirt track. Two Hawkesbury apprentices rode there for the first time on Saturday – and each landed a winner at a meeting they will never forget, for different reasons.
Chelsea Ings, 22, competing for the final time this season, scored on More Than Art ($2.50 favourite) in the Benchmark 45 Handicap (1100m) for Gulgong trainer Brett Thompson to cap easily her most successful year.
Simone Vella, 25, a recent graduate from the picnic circuit after riding seven winners, won her first professional race by taking the Carinda Cup (1400m Benchmark 65 Handicap) on Naoko ($7) for former Hawkesbury trainer Connie Greig, now based at Dubbo. Coincidentally, both winners were sired by the same stallion, Excellent Art.
Ings is apprenticed to her mother Wanda, and Vella is indentured to her husband Matt (the couple has two children). It has been a watershed year for Ings, whose victory on More Than Art was her 23rd overall and her 15th this season.
The 2016-17 season has provided her with a pair of doubles at TAB meetings (Dubbo and Cowra) and her 20th career win on Hawkesbury-trained Kingston on July 8 resulted in her country claim being reduced from 3 to 2kg. A suspension incurred at the Cowra meeting on July 15 now takes effect, and ends on Wednesday week, meaning her best ever season is over.
Vella was riding for only the third time at a professional meeting – her first was at Mudgee on July 2 – and she took great delight in winning her second race on Dubbo mare Naoko: “She has been good to me; I also won on her at the Mudgee picnics in May,” she said.
Vella also rides work for trainer Brad Widdup, who recently set up shop at Hawkesbury, and is keen to make a real fist of her riding career. She has just given up her own business making birthday and wedding cakes to focus more on her riding, especially moving to the professional ranks.
Whilst both young women celebrated important victories, that is only part of their stories. The effort they put in simply to ride at Carinda was outstanding, each covering many hunderds of kilometres to compete, let alone enjoy some success. Carinda is 573km from Hawkesbury, and 277km from Dubbo.
Both jockeys also rode at the Dubbo TAB meeting last Friday, but then took different paths to get to the annual meeting on Saturday.
“Chelsea and I drove to Dubbo on Friday morning, then stayed there that night and went on to Carinda yesterday (Saturday) morning,” Wanda Ings explained. “We came back after the Carinda meeting and stayed at Dubbo overnight before returning home to Hawkesbury on Sunday.”
Vella drove to Dubbo for Friday’s races, then went to Bathurst and stayed with a friend that night before hopping in the car again on Saturday morning and setting out for Carinda. Many jockeys regularly have to travel long distances to fulfil their riding commitments, but for this dedicated young Hawkesbury pair, it really was a “piece of cake”!