Durban - Rachel Venniker made history this week when she became the first woman jockey to be booked to ride in a 126-yearold premier horse racing event.
Venniker, 21, will compete in the R5 million Hollywoodbets Durban July stakes on Saturday. Multiple Gr1 winning trainer Joey Soma, booked the young jockey when he drew gate 14 Red Saxon in the 18-horse field.
Venniker, a second-year apprentice at the South African Jockeys Academy, said she was in disbelief after hearing the good news: “I have always wanted to be a jockey. Everyone was a little sceptical because girls in the country haven’t always done well in the sport.
This has always been a dream of mine to race in the Durban July.” Her foray into horse racing began when she was 14 and by 19 she was accepted by the academy. A tad taller than other jockeys, Venniker, who stands 1.68m, said regardless of her height or size she was determined to race. “My size was against me.
I’m taller and heavier than others, but I decided to do it. Renowned jockey and trainer Michael Roberts, known as Muis, has helped me greatly and working with him has been marvellous.
“It does take a lot of your time and you must look after your weight, but I would encourage people to never give up on their dreams. If you put your mind to it, you can do it,” said Venniker.
Roberts said he was proud of Venniker’s achievement: “Rachel has been in the academy just over a year now and I took her on as my stable jockey because she is an incredible jockey. “Racing is very tough, but she has come through and surpassed expectations. She’s holding her own with the boys.
“I will continue to guide her ahead of the July. She grasps concepts easily and learning quickly. She’s very dedicated to her job and we go through a lot of races with her. She is quite a strong girl, and she has a good relationship with animals,” said Roberts.