Stakes winner Rowena taking her chances

4 min read

Written by Paul Vettise

A land of racing opportunities is delivering for Rowena Smyth, who had no thoroughbred experience when she arrived in New Zealand.

She got her start more by chance than planning, but it’s been a successful path with the now fully-fledged jockey a Group-winning rider.

“I moved here with my Dad when I was 15 and a girl I went to school with left to do an apprenticeship and I started going along with her and from there began riding trackwork,” Smyth said. “I was with Toni Croon first and then with the McKees.”

Rowena Smyth aboard Verry Ellegant

Smyth, whose family have no prior racing involvement, is making her mark after gaining further experience in her homeland.

“I went back and worked for John Gosden and Richard Hannon.” – Rowena Smyth.

“I’ve only been back in the country for 12 months after I spent three years in the UK,” she said. “I went back and worked for John Gosden and Richard Hannon.

“I didn’t ride on race days, just riding out for them in the mornings.”

On her return, Smyth struck up a successful association with trainer Nick Bishara and rode Verry Elleegant (NZ) (Zed {NZ}) in both of her New Zealand victories before her sale to clients of Darren Weir’s stable.

The 3-year-old finished third in the G2 Wakeful S. in her Australian debut and then won the G3 Ethereal S.

Rowena Smyth returning to scale with Spirits Aubeer after winning the G3 Bonecrusher S.

Flash combination

Bishara also prepares Verry Elleegant’s brother Verry Flash (NZ) and Smyth has ridden him in all four of his career wins and that led to her next break with Group 1 winning jockey turned trainer Nigel Tiley.

“After I won on him last year at Pukekohe, Nigel came up to me and said he had a horse I could ride on race day if I did all the work on him,” Smyth said.

The horse in question was tough nut Spirits Aubeer (Spirit Of Boom), who recently provided Smyth with her first black type success when they combined to lead all the way for a convincing win in the G3 Bonecrusher S. at Ellerslie.

“He was very wayward when he was younger and ran straight through a fence one day.” - Rowena Smyth.

“He was very wayward when he was younger and ran straight through a fence one day,” Smyth said. “He has been a bit of a handful.

“He’s just very strong, but he’s getting better as he’s getting older. He is a really nice horse and the team at Nigel’s do such a good job with him.

“He is not easy, but when he comes out and does that it’s worth the effort.

“He is such a big free-striding horse, we thought if he got his own way in front, he would be really hard to catch.”

Spirits Aubeer won by two and a-half lengths despite running out in the straight.

“He is still a pretty raw sort of horse, but he has just got so much ability.” - Nigel Tiley.

“He’s quite green. He is still a pretty raw sort of horse, but he has just got so much ability,” Tiley said.

“I said to Rowena I really want you to lead if you can because I think he is a better horse when they’re chasing him, than he is when he is chasing the others. I don’t think he knows how good he is.”

“It was a great ride by Rowena. She rides him in work every day, so for her to win a Group race is great.

Spirits Aubeer winning the G3 Bonecrusher S.

Guineas target

Spirits Aubeer has now won three of his six starts and is likely to be set for a return trip to Ellerslie for the G2 Jamieson Park Auckland Guineas on New Year’s Day.

“I’d like to see him have a crack at the Guineas,” Tiley said. “I don’t see why we can’t stretch him out to a mile.”

Spirits Aubeer was bought by Tiley out of Bradbury Park’s Yearling Sale draft at Karaka for NZ$55,000 and is from the family of the G1 The Metropolitan winner The Verminator (Jeune {GB}).

Spirits Aubeer as a yearling