By Ray Hickson
As she soaked in the surreal feeling of her first Group 1 winner, jockey Rachel King was quick to point out it was trainer Mark Newnham who encouraged her to have a shot at riding in Sydney.
Now both are now Group 1 winners courtesy of exciting filly Maid Of Heaven who beat the boys in the $500,000 Moet & Chandon Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) at Royal Randwick.
Go back about five years and the now 28-year-old landed in Sydney from England and began an apprenticeship with Gai Waterhouse.
At the time Newnham was Waterhouse’s assistant trainer and became a big supporter of King’s ambition to make it in Sydney.
“He helped me a lot to get going, he was the one pushing me to have a go and get me started,’’ King said.
“He gave me a lot of guidance early. We were hoping it would be last weekend with Lanciato but it’s amazing, it’s really good to get it done and special doing it for Mark.
“He has never stopped supporting me the whole way through. I had my first Group winner for him the Newmarket and now the first Group 1.”
Group 1 glory, and their first, for Mark Newnham and Rachel King in the Spring Champion Stakes with Maid Of Heaven. pic.twitter.com/08h0gmXNWA
— Racing NSW (@racing_nsw) October 6, 2018
Just a few months ago King was crowned Sydney’s champion apprentice for 2017-18, a feat made even more significant given she rode about half the season without a claim.
Maid Of Heaven joined Yankee Rose (2016) as the only fillies to beat the boys in the Spring Champion and King becomes the first female jockey to win the Group 1 feature.
King said he almost lost her voice in the last 200m as she willed the filly to the line in a two horse war with Godolphin colt Aramayo.
“I did think on the turn I was going really good, she’s a big striding filly so I knew she needed space,’’ King said.
“I was confident she was going to at least run second but I was rapt she really dug deep that last 100m.’’
Newnham only started training in his own right about two and a half years ago but has quickly established himself in the tough Sydney training ranks and has bases at both Randwick and Warwick Farm.
Maid Of Heaven’s Group 1 win gives him plenty of ammunition to take into the autumn carnival as he also has the very promising Nakeeta Jane, third in last week’s Flight Stakes at just her third start, on an Oaks path in 2019.
While Maid Of Heaven only ran sixth in the Flight, the way she finished off the race told him she was looking for the 2000m.
— 7HorseRacing 🐎 (@7horseracing) October 6, 2018
“What encouraged me was her work through the line over the mile,’’ Newnham said.
“During the week she couldn’t have eaten any more. She showed us she was ready to back up.
“The only thing I said to Rachel was get her in the clear from the top of the straight and that will give her her chance.
“I’m still buzzing. Just that last 50m I had my heart in my mouth. I didn’t know whether she’d get there but the last two strides got us over the line.”
In an amusing post-script to the race, King’s partner Blake Spriggs made a dash from their nearby Clovelly home to celebrate the win and gate-crashed a post-race interview to celebrate.
He said he received plenty of cheers from the crowd, not realising what was going on, as he made a dash down the tunnel to the jockeys room.
Spriggs also rode his first Group 1 winner at Randwick’s spring carnival in 2016 on board Sir John Hawkwood in The Metropolitan.