From family farm visits to chance meetings at morning trackwork, there have been many sliding doors moments that have led South Australia’s newest apprentice, Lizzie Annells to her debut race start at Jamestown this weekend.
Her journey towards a career in the saddle began unbeknown to her when she was young kid visiting a family farm.
“My great auntie and uncle owned a sheep farm and they had an ex-racehorse board there. I never had anything to do with horses previously but I befriend him and became determined to ride him one day. I soon started riding lessons at age 12 but unfortunately he passed away before I was able to get on him.”
“I continued riding at pony school until I was 15 but never really got anywhere with it, I just enjoyed bush bashing around the paddocks and messing around with friends.”
A couple years later, Annells finished Year 12 and started a farrier/blacksmith apprenticeship.
“I loved doing that apprenticeship and got through almost a year of it but I was facing a difficult time in my life and had to drop out.”
“After that I transferred into the trackriding course as it was cheaper and I still felt the need to complete a course. From there I fell in love with riding racehorses and my instructor found me work experience at her stable and it all went from there.”
Indentured to experienced trainer Gordon Richards, Annells career in his care happened with a bit of luck by a chance meeting at morning gallops.
“I was watching gallops one morning and the track staff asked about my riding. I explained to them I needed more time and help so I wasn’t really going anywhere. I didn’t realise Gordon was behind me. We didn’t even know each other, but he came to me the next day and said “Want to be an apprentice? Alright see you in two weeks” and we haven’t looked back.”
“He threw as many jump outs and trials my way as he could, I jumped out White Kaps four times just for the experience.”
Strathalbyn based trainer John MacMillan has also been a big help to Annells in particular through the earlier stages of her career in the industry.
“He gave me a million jump outs before I started trials and always talked tactics even though jump outs are pretty basic. He’s put me on the majority of his trials and always gave me as many chances to learn as possible.”
It’s not only our trainers that have been a lot of help to Annells in the early stages of her carer but also some of our best and most experience local jockeys have taken her under their wing.
“I look up to jockeys like Todd Pannell and Jason Holder. Todd has such a controlled and smooth position, for a taller rider, he gets so low and encourages the horses to stretch as far as they can.”
“Jason has been a bit of a mentor to me. He’s incredibly patient in his riding and can read a race a mile out. I often ride out on gallops with him and he usually lets me pick which horse I want to ride. Instead of just correcting me, he asks questions that prompts me to get the answer right which lets me learn from it.”
While the path to a first race start has taken a bit longer for Annells than some others, it has only made her more determined to make a good impression in the saddle.
“Anything new can be scary and I know the new kids on the block have only one chance to make a good impression on the racing world.“
“I’m just ready to get down to business and put my training to the test.”
The down to earth debutant is keeping her expectations realistic ahead of her first race start.
“I just want to be competitive at the provincial level.”
“I’ve not got a Melbourne Cup campaign in my plans any time soon. I’d just like to get to a point where I can jump on any horse and be confident in my ability to ride it and give it the best chance to perform well.
“There are so many country and provincial cups coming up over the spring and later in the year so I’m working hard to earn a ride on those big days.”
Annells will get her chance to shine aboard four rides on Jamestown Cup Day, including a ride for her boss in the Cup and who knows where her things could head after that!