Rachel King jokes seven years ago she couldn’t even find Queensland on a map, now the English-born jockey has a chance to win its greatest race with the state’s premier trainer.
King will ride Vega One in the Group 1 Stradbroke Handicap (1400m) on Saturday, marking a huge step in her journey after she first came to Brisbane in 2014 as Gai Waterhouse’s trackwork rider.
Only new to Australia, King was sent to Queensland by Waterhouse for a week which turned into three months in what was an eye-opening trip as to the size of Australia.
“I didn’t even know where Queensland was,” she laughed.
“I had been in Australia for about three months and we got in the float and I asked the guys how long to get there and they said ‘sometime tomorrow’ – I was shocked.
“I did the winter carnival for Gai and we had a heap of winners – Almalad (JJ Atkins) and Cosmic Endeavour (Tatts’ Tiara) won Group 1’s.
“I wanted to be out there riding them but I was doing all the work in the mornings, I was up here for about three months.
“I didn’t take enough clothes, Gai said we were going for a week and it ended up being three months.”
While she had originally been booked to ride boom horse Ayrton on Saturday, King was quick to change tact when the three-year-old failed to qualify after getting rolled at short odds in the Fred Best Classic a week ago.
With Jamie Kah committed to returning home to Victoria, King saw an opportunity aboard Vega One and now she is looking to grab it with both hands.
“I was watching (Ayrton race) in Sydney and I saw at the top of the straight how he was going and I thought he wasn’t going to sprint well,” she said.
“I had just ridden in a race and I rushed in to watch it and then when he got beat I thought ‘oh well it happens.’
“By the time I had left the races my manager said he had been on the phone to a few different people.
“By the next morning it was apparent that Jamie probably was going to go back to Melbourne and was unlikely to be able to come back so it was there.”
King had her first hit out at Eagle Farm on Saturday with four rides which included a third aboard Rocha Clock.
Currently sitting third in the Sydney jockeys’ premiership, King has given up plum rides to make the trip north but is hoping to make it all worthwhile in the $1.5 million Stradbroke.
“A lot of the time I haven’t come to these sort of carnivals because I get really good rides in Sydney because everyone else is away,” she said.
“This time I wanted to take the opportunity so when I knew I was coming up for Stradbroke Day I was keen to come up a week earlier.”
King will also ride Brandenburg in the $1.2 million Q22 on the day.
Originally published asKing’s Queensland odyssey in Stradbroke
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