It Takes A Team

5 min read

Welcome to TDNAusNZ’s ‘It Takes a Team’, brought to you in conjunction with Thoroughbred Industry Careers. Here we highlight and celebrate some of the heroes of our industry. The strappers, riders, studworkers and people behind the scenes of our champions. The people who are up late into the night foaling or up at the crack of dawn to trackwork, working tirelessly to keep the industry running.

In today's edition we speak to a young apprentice jockey who started her career on breeding farms and travelled around the world before starting her apprenticeship. Wendy Peel has been an apprentice jockey for 12-months and it is proving a very successful career change.

Wendy Peel - Apprentice Jockey

TDN: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, how did you get started in the industry?

Wendy: When I was 16 I began working for a small owner/ breeder, Karen Irwin, on a thoroughbred stud farm in Denman NSW, preparing yearlings for the sales. Having grown up with horses and ridden all of my life competing in show-jumping and eventing I have always had a passion for horses and I knew from day dot my career was going to be based around horses. Starting in the breeding industry has given me the best foundation and education for what I do now.

Apprentice jockey, Wendy Peel

TDN: What made you want to change from the breeding side of the industry to becoming a jockey?

Wendy: I spent quite a few years doing yearling preps and sales in Australia, New Zealand and Europe. I did spend a little bit of time riding out in England, it is absolutely beautiful riding out in Newmarket!

Safe to say my track riding days started when I was in New Zealand preparing yearlings for Wellfield Stud, then I began riding some track work in the mornings and I became really hooked on it. After returning to Australia I finished the sales season then worked in Sydney for Gai Waterhouse. I started my apprenticeship with Peter Robl and am now based in Tamworth with trainer Sue Grills.

I just love the racing side of it. Don’t get me wrong, it all starts on the stud farms, but when they get to the track that’s when you see the real product and they are lovely animals to work with.

Wendy Peel working at the Tattersalls yearling sale in Newmarket

TDN: Do you miss working in breeding?

Wendy: Yes, parts of it. The sales are what I miss the most. Just catching up with everyone and especially the Magic Millions sale is my favourite. The first yearlings of the year are sold and it has a real buzz about it, hopefully I can try and get up there for a couple of days next year.

TDN: You must be spending a lot of time on the road, how many km’s would you say you’re clocking up a week?

Wendy: The hardest part about my job is the driving. The last few weeks have been very busy - a couple of times I’ve hit around 2000km in a week. On average 1000km give or take in a week.

Wendy riding trackwork for Ron Quinton

TDN: What’s your biggest goal as a jockey?

Wendy: I would love to be considered as a jockey who rides in town regularly successfully. My dream is to win the Melbourne Cup and the Magic Millions 2YO race.

You can only keep dreaming about goals, and hopefully one day they will come true.

TDN: What’s been your biggest career highlight so far?

Wendy: It is hard to say, I’ve had some recent success with the Rodney Robb trained Thermosa winning 3 of his 4 career starts. Another special horse to me is Baroque Girl, she's a Peter Sinclair trained mare, I’ve won 3 on her from 4 rides too.

The best days I’ve had riding to date would be riding a treble, especially on Tuesday at Armidale. One was for my master Sue Grills, another for local trainer and friend Michelle Flemming and Baroque Girl finished off the day with a win, giving me my second treble! It was a very special day for me.

Wendy on a winner at Louth races

TDN: What’s the toughest aspect of being a jockey?

Wendy: Probably taking the lows when they come and trying not to get too caught up on all of the gossip and rubbish that goes with it. I just try to stay positive and focused.

TDN: What’s your favourite part?

Wendy: Riding winners. Riding for trainers and connections who really support you and believe in you, it gives me great satisfaction to repay them by riding winners.

I honestly love these beautiful animals and it is an honour to be able to do what I love every day.

TDN: Do you have any mentors you would say have really helped you along the way?

Wendy: Yes, there are quite a few people who have helped me, some of the boys in Sydney when I first started doing my trials helped me a lot, Blake (Shinn), Tim (Clarke), Tye (Angland) and many others.

As of recently since moving to Tamworth I really have listened to Cody Morgan’s advice, and I am constantly trying to change things and to improve my riding style. My master Sue Grills, I cannot thank her for supporting me and allowing me to travel so much to take rides.

TDN: Do you have any advice for anyone looking to take up a career as a jockey?

Wendy: Have a go, find the right trainer who you think would be suitable for you, listen to what people have to say - you are never to old to have a go.

I’m 26 now and have been race riding for just over 12 months, however I have no regrets for what I did prior to my apprenticeship. Anyone considering becoming a jockey can call me for a chat, I am happy to help where I can.

Wendy aboard Squared at Narromine Races