Daily beep tests at her Mount Gambier ‘halfway house’ have served dual purposes for Victorian jockey Jessica Eaton, who will ride in South Australia from today.
On Thursday, Eaton finished her 14-day self-isolation in a rented cottage, after deciding to break up the long drive from Melbourne to Adelaide with a South East stopover.
Each day she has been putting herself through the notorious beep test challenge, a 20-metre shuttle-run exercise used to gauge an athlete’s aerobic capacity (VO2 max). In addition to being a boredom-buster, the test is helping Jessica prepare for her local riding stint.
“(The isolation) is obviously boring, but it’s not too bad,” she said.
“My driveway is about 20 metres long, so I’ve turned that into a beep test and I try to do that every day.
“I think it’s a good way to push myself to my limit and work on by PB every day. It’s certainly better than nothing.”
The 26-year-old apprentice has linked up with Murray Bridge trainer Michael Hickmott. She intends to stay for at least three months and says the decision to cross the border was motivated by the lure of “more opportunities”.
“Obviously with COVID-19 it’s very tough in Victoria; field sizes are small and we’ve got a lot of talent in Victoria,” she said.
“While I’m still claiming I just want to maximise opportunities and keep improving my craft as much as I can.
“In the past I’ve come over to South Australia quite a lot on Saturdays and I’ve ridden a fair bit for Michael, plus I’ve seen him at the Victorian sales and we get along quite well.
“When Michael heard that I wanted to come to South Australia he approached me and asked if I wanted to join his team and it seemed like a really good idea.”
Jessica, who has 129 career winners to her credit, including 25 metropolitan winners, can claim 2kg in metropolitan races and is looking forward to racking up some local winners.
“I’ve ridden a fair few winners in South Australia and I’ve had a bit of luck on locals and Victorian horses, so hopefully I can continue that,” she said.
“There’s a lovely team of female riders that I know well, and they all ride really well, so it won’t be easy slotting in, but I’ll be working hard and doing my best.
“I realise I’m on a time limit when it comes to completely outriding my claim, so even if I can get my claim to one and a half (kilograms) I’ll be very happy. If I’m lucky enough to lose it that will be unreal, but I just want to keep chipping away at my claim.
“For now, it’s a three-month plan, but I’ll see how things go and I’m definitely open to staying longer and making the most of my time while I’m an apprentice.”
Jessica says her patience is among her best traits as a jockey.
“I think I’m calm and I can read a race quite well,” she said.
“Going to Singapore (late last year) and riding over there has really help mature me as a rider and helped me learn to evaluate a race quite quickly.”
Jessica is a natural lightweight and can ride at around 50kg. Her Victorian bosses were John and Chris Meagher and her apprenticeship ends in March 2021.
Managed by Brady McArdle, she has six rides booked for Murray Bridge today.