The jumps racing scene in New Zealand has been bolstered in the past few seasons by young aspiring jumps jockeys, among them 25-year-old Portia Matthews, who continued her successful run in the saddle at Trentham on Saturday.
Matthews recorded her fifth win over the jumps this season aboard Waipukurau galloper Ian’s Legacy in the Cody Singer Memorial Maiden Hurdle (2500m).
Originally beginning her career in Waikato, Matthews now resides in Palmerston North where she works for Awapuni trainer Mark Oulaghan, after relocating to further her career as a jumps jockey.
Her passion began in the horse industry through polo with her father a professional player in England until Matthews was nine, before moving into racing when beginning her university studies at Wintec in Hamilton.
“I went through the pony club system all the way through, and did a lot of coaching,” Matthews said.
“I ended up in a racing stable (Avoca Racing Stables) that ended up as Shelley Houston’s stable.”
Houston was a top jumps jockey in her heyday, most notably her partnership with champion jumper Climbing High, and provided Matthews with her first jumping experience aboard Mokele Mbembe at the infamous Ann Browne jumps school.
“This time last year I ended up at Mark Oulaghan’s stable, and we’ve had a cracking season so far,” Matthews said.
“We have about eight jumpers, a couple of old ones that are still ticking through, three that started this year and one or two that will come on debut toward the end of the season.”
Among the debutants from the Oulaghan stable this season was six-year-old Berry the Cash, who was a winner on debut over the hurdles at Wanganui before being a close runner-up in the Awapuni Hurdle (2800m) behind Suliman.
“He’s exceeded everyone’s expectations so we’re very happy with the new ones and the old ones, who are ticking along well,” she said.
The son of Jakkalberry was leading and travelling well coming to the straight in Saturday’s Wellington Hurdle (3400m) at Trentham, before an unlucky fall at the third-to-last fence.
Despite falling in the other feature event, Matthews would’ve taken great pride in Oulaghan’s star performer West Coast taking out the prestigious Wellington Steeplechase (5500m) under Shaun Fannin.
She does all of the track-work on the classy seven-year-old, who claimed his fifth win over the bigger fences in what was predicted to be a match-race between West Coast and Champion jumper The Cossack.
Prior to the running, Matthews had great faith in their stable star, who will now head to Riccarton Park targeting back-to-back victories in the 148th Racecourse & Motor Lodge Grand National Steeplechase (5600m) on August 9.