The Duke of Gloucester Cup (2100m) is a coveted race for New Zealand’s amateur riding ranks and Hamilton jockey Michelle Northcott was delighted to get her hands on the silverware at Trentham on Saturday.
Partnering the Buddy Lammas-trained Madam Zara, Northcott wasn’t full of confidence when she jumped aboard the daughter of Zed, who was fresh-up on the Heavy10 surface, and punters agreed, letting her drift out to $30.80 winning odds.
However, the five-year-old mare belied those odds and lapped up the heavy surface to run out a 2-1/2 length victor with a duly elated Northcott in the saddle.
“I was over the moon to get that win,” Northcott said.
“It was a great training effort from Buddy to get her to run 2100m fresh-up in the Trentham mud with 66.5kg on her back. She loved the mud.”
The win was Northcott’s ninth in 24 seasons, and her first in seven years, and she was pleased to break her dry spell in the coveted race.
“It is one of those races that we amateurs strive to win. There is a bit of history about it,” she said.
“There are a few (wins) that are always going to be sentimental to you, but it is definitely right up there.”
Northcott has had a lifelong involvement in racing and her interest in the industry was piqued when she was a child.
“My uncle Max used to train and had a New Zealand Cup winner and a Northern winner,” she said.
“I started when I was still at school just pre-training horses for him out on the farm. I then started working for racing stables and ended up with Gary (Rogerson, partner).”
Northcott began to work for Gary’s father, renowned trainer Graeme Rogerson, and when he diversified into training trotters, Northcott decided to add a further string to her bow.
“Graeme (trainer, Gary’s father) got into trotters, as well as gallopers, so I got an amateur license for that as well,” she said.
“I have had 21 wins as an amateur as well as had a saddle trot win. I drove a winner in Italy in the Women’s World Champs, that was pretty cool.
“It was about 10 years ago when I went to Italy, but I am still the only New Zealand amateur to have won a race in Europe.”
Northcott said she enjoyed her time in the saddle in the monte trots, where she has also been victorious.
“People always reckon it is going to be way harder to ride a trotter, but if you get on one that trots and does everything right, it is actually easier on your body to ride a trotter (than a galloper),” she said.
“A good trotter is amazing to ride. You feel them drop and go, it is the most amazing feeling.”
Northcott has also enjoyed training a few of her own runners over the years.
“I always only have one or two in work,” she said. “Most of them probably hang around for too long and they end up as pets.”
While Northcott enjoys riding, she takes great delight in watching her daughter, Bailey Rogerson, compete on the track as an apprentice jockey.
Rogerson began her career in the saddle alongside her mother in the amateur ranks and Northcott believes it is a great launching pad for prospective professional jockeys.
“She (Rogerson) started out in the amateurs with me, that was really exciting,” Northcott said.
“It is a great place to start out, there have been a lot of people that have come through the amateurs like the Colletts, Sarah Macnab, and a lot of jumps jockeys.
“It gives them a good opening into riding on raceday."