Young female Apprentice Jockey Rachel Venniker won her first race at Hollywoodbets Scottsville aboard #kznbred Calulo, a Toreador filly bred by Spring Valley Stud who also happened to give Mfanelo Zuma his first winner.
Owned by Ralphs Racing, Calulo is trained by former international Champion jockey Michael Roberts – who has given Rachel both of her wins as a Work Rider and apprentice Jockey.
20 Year old Rachel told Turf Talk: “I was born and bred at Summerveld, and lived my whole life in a house five minutes from the training centre, before going into the academy. My parents owned a couple of racehorses over the years, but we are more of a show jumping family. My grandparents and parents both did jumping, as did I.
“My parents are hugely supportive and have been behind me the whole way
“I got involved in racing when I was fourteen, mainly because I was looking for a showjumper. I went to look at a horse in the care of (then KZN trainer) Craig Eudey, and he suggested that I should try coming to ride some work. I took that advice and things were set into motion.
“I liked it from the start. And the more work I rode and the stronger I got, the more I realised I wanted to become a jockey, though at the beginning the idea of going into training had also been an appealing idea.”
And her win on Enjoy The View moved things further along.
“That was probably my most exciting day in racing so far. Especially as I was trying to get into the academy at the time, and I knew winning that race would strengthen my case.”
Rachel is in the academy as a ‘special apprentice’, where the parameters are amended somewhat for a student who is older and has some race riding experience. Hence while in her first year, she is already riding in (and winning!) races.
Both Lyle Hewitson and Diego de Gouveia have passed through under similar circumstances. And the latter is a particular role model for Rachel.
“Lyle Hewitson is someone I particularly admire. I love the way he handles everything, and he’s a perfect role model.
“Before I won the workriders race on Enjoy The View he talked me through exactly what I should do on the day and gave me so much confidence. He helped me a LOT!
“Stuart Randolph and Serena Moodley have both helped me plenty right from the start. I’ve always looked up to them as well.”
“I ride a lot of work for Mr Michael Roberts, and he looks after me. He’s been a mentor to me right from the very start. Wendy Whitehead, Garth Puller, and Mike Miller are the other yards I mainly ride work for.”
Going into the final race on Sunday she was quietly confident about her chances on Calulo.
“I knew she would run a good race, as she was working very well. She’s a lovely ride as she travels well and gives you confidence. But it was a wide-open event.”
And she expertly produced the daughter of Toreador at just the right time to surge past far more fancied Soiree and win going away by a length and three quarters.
“In the short term my goal is simply to ride as many winners as possible. But ultimately I would love to ride overseas, like Hong Kong or England. Obviously at the moment that is just a dream, but you have to start somewhere.”
Outside of racing Rachel has a few other interests: “I play as much sport as possible – I run and go to gym, and the apprentices play quite a lot of squash – we have a little club going. Gabriel Pieterse plays a mean game.
“I’m quite an arty person – I paint portraits and surrealistic stuff – they’re quite dodgy! If I hadn’t come to the academy, I might well have been studying art now.”
The confident but not brash young lady has a long road to travel, but can hopefully be a trailblazer for other female riders in SA.
-extract Turf Talk