Comeback jockey Kate Hercock says she’s found the secret to success in the saddle for her: don’t think about it too much.
Hercock returned to the riding ranks last season after several years on the sideline, dating back to a fall in Macau at the beginning of the 2010s, and the 43-year-old has made a solid job of resurrecting her career.
The daughter of experienced horsewoman Jeanann Hercock won her first two rides at Hastings on Saturday, guiding Call Me Jack and Manhattan Jazz to wins at double-figure odds, taking her win tally for the season to 28.
Though she hasn’t approached her best win tally of 56, achieved in 2003-04, her three black type victories and stakes earnings of more than $708,000 are career-best figures, and her winning strike rate is the second-best of her career.
“I used to put so much pressure on myself last time around and never enjoyed it,” she said.
“But it’s a whole different ball game this time around. I just make sure I enjoy it, otherwise I wouldn’t be there, and I’m doing much better because of it.”
Hercock said self-doubt has been a major difficulty during her riding career, and she’s learned that the best way to deal with any imposter syndrome issues is to think as little as possible.
“I worry about what other people think, and I never think I’m good enough,” she said.
“My mum always says ‘why do you think that, you ride for good trainers and people put you on good horses and I don’t understand why you get yourself so nervous and wound up’,” she said.
“It was a big season, riding in the Derby and the Auckland Cup in my first season back, but I was thinking ‘why do they want to put me on’?
“I know I shouldn’t think like that, but once I get out there I do my job to the best of my ability, and everything’s fine.”
Hercock’s two winning rides on Saturday both came on horses that looked like they were under pressure a long way out. But she persisted aboard both, and got the results.
“It was the heaviest Hastings track I’ve ever ridden on, and it was hard going for all of them,” she said.
“I’ve had some riders say ‘I don’t know how you can keep pushing them’, but I said ‘they keep going, so I can’t stop and I just keep riding them, and sometimes they keep going well enough that they can run a place or even win.”
The Tim Symes-trained Call Me Jack hadn’t won for nearly two years and wasn’t supposed to be running in an open handicap, but it worked out well.
“He was on the ballot for the Rating 65 so he had to run in the open handicap, and he went out and won,” she said.
“We wanted to get him a little bit of a ratings boost so he could get into fields, but after he won the open handicap we were all a bit worried about him going up too far, and we’re relieved he only went up eight points to 63 and he can still start in a Rating 65.”
Manhattan Jazz was a horse Hercock and trainer Dean Howard had some time for but he’d run greenly on his first two starts, finishing unplaced.
“He’s a lovely big horse, but just weak,” she said. “He’s probably another six months away but he handled the track, which is the biggest thing. I was lucky enough that the horses in front kept stopping and he just ploughed on past them.
“He’s going to be a lovely three-year-old and four-year-old. He’s got a fair bit of ability.”
Hercock also trains horses from her base in Waipukurau, south of Hastings. She has 13 in work at present but may look to concentrate on a smaller number in future.
She said her biggest problem with over-thinking these days is when she rides horses that she trains.
“I probably get myself into trouble because I’m trying that little bit harder on them because I know them so well that I over-think everything,” she said.
“Sometimes I’ve just got to go out and enjoy it and think that they’re somebody else’s.”
Hercock said her best rides for the rest of the week could be Speed Call in a Rating 65 1600m event at Woodville on Thursday and Metallo in a Rating 74 at Trentham on Saturday.
“Metallo’s the coolest horse, and Lucy de Lautour’s one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life. Hopefully he goes a nice race.”