Apprentice jockey Tayla Mitchell finished her season with a bang at Tauranga on Saturday, but it wasn’t the climactic ending she was hoping for.
The Waikato hoop was aiming to extend her lead over Kelsey Hannan in the apprentice jockeys’ premiership, but instead found herself in a situation more akin to a rodeo ring than a race track.
She was favoured to see out her season in winning style aboard the Daniel Miller-trained Yellow Jersey in the last contest on the eight-race card, however, the gelding had other ideas.
Shortly after the start he put on a rodeo-style bucking performance and Mitchell showed an incredible display in skill to remain on the horse.
“He jumped out well, I sat still on him and a couple of hundred metres after he got a bump from one of the horses,” Mitchell said.
“We started slowing down, he put his head down and I just had to sit and wait for him to stop bucking.
“When he started bucking I thought ‘this is my last ride of the season – go out with a bang’.
“Once he stopped bucking, he looked up and field was gone, so he started cantering along and I pulled him up just before the post and took him back in.”
Mitchell kept her composure in the frightening situation and said the idea of bailing never entered her mind.
“I was just trying to stay on, I didn’t even think about jumping off him,” she said.
“I wanted him to stop on his own because I knew he would, he was going in a pretty straight line, I was just nervous about whether he would slam the breaks on, I was just glad he kept going forward.
Her impressive feat was captured by TAB Trackside camera operators and her video has done the rounds on social media, attracting the attention and respect from many of the industry’s top riders.
“It (footage) has gone viral. At least it was worth it and they (camera operator) got good angles of it,” Mitchell quipped.
“It gave me a bit of a fright, but a couple of seconds afterwards I was watching the replay laughing.”
While her last meeting didn’t go quite to plan, Mitchell has been pleased with the way her season has gone, but the suspended rider admits it will be a frustrating last week to see if she can retain her premiership lead.
“It has been a really good season and everyone has supported me,” she said.
“I had a really good run with Ralph Manning, we won 11 for the season and he has helped me along the way with his horses.
“It is just a waiting game now and I’ll be on the couch watching the races over the next week and see what happens.
“I have got a four-win lead and there are four meetings left.
“It is going to be a long week. I will just keep myself busy and maybe check the results at the end of the day.”
Mitchell is looking forward to the distraction of heading to Melbourne this weekend where she will meet up with partner Wiremu Pinn, who is making quite the impression amongst the city’s jockey ranks.
“I am very proud of him,” Mitchell said.
“He needed to do what was best for his career and he has definitely done that (by moving to Melbourne). It is amazing all the support he is getting over there and it is so good to see him doing well.
“He has had his ups and downs here, so it is good that everyone respects him over there. He is working so hard I am so glad that it is paying off for him and that it has been worth his while moving over there.”
Mitchell’s riding future could very well end up across the Tasman, and while she planned on making the move at season’s end, she may delay those plans as she is looking forward to riding a couple of nice horses over the spring at home.
“I was hoping to get through to the end of the season and then go over, but it is hard when you have got some good horses coming through like Casino Princess. I think she is going to Te Rapa, so I wouldn’t want to miss that opportunity,” she said.
“But if I got the opportunity (in Melbourne) I would definitely look at it. I was riding work for Mick (Kent) over there when I went over there for a couple of weeks and I really enjoyed that.
“This time I go over I will try and ride for a couple of different trainers and hopefully get an opportunity, but I have got a couple of good horses next month that are starting their spring preps. I might only be over there for a week and then come back.”