Stacey Edwards has grown up with horses but it is only thanks to a new initiative to get children interested in a career in the racing industry that she is set on becoming a jockey.

“When I did my first pony race, I really wanted to be a jockey after that, and it’s made my dreams come a bit more true and possible,” she said.

The 13-year-old from Casterton, in south-west Victoria, came first in the small pony final in the National Pony Racing Series last Saturday at the Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, riding Napoleon.

“I nearly cried before I raced because I was so nervous,” she said. 

“I was happy to even get there, let alone win — it was a very close finish.”

Stacey Edwards says her pony Napoleon can be a handful but he loves running fast.(ABC South East SA: Eugene Boisvert)

Careers in spotlight

Like many youngsters in regional areas, Stacey had competed in pony club and showjumping events but never really considered horse racing as an option despite her mother being a trainer and her sister a jockey.

The National Pony Racing Series, launched last year by Thoroughbred Industry Careers, held taster days and then training days at major metropolitan racecourses such as Morphettville earlier this year.

Thoroughbred Industry Careers was founded in 2019 after research showed there was a low awareness of careers in the horse racing industry, even among those already involved with horses.

“We’re communicating and engaging with children who are great horse-riders and showing them our world, the racing world, and saying, ‘Did you know you can do all these different jobs?,'” founder Lindy Maurice said.

“Because in the racing industry, we want great people looking after the horses.”

Thoroughbred Industry Careers founder Lindy Maurice congratulates Stacey after the race.(Supplied: Darren Tindale)

While in Sydney, the finalists also attended the elite Godolphin stables and were given an insight into other jobs connected with racing apart from being a jockey, which is dependent on having a low weight.

“If you love horses and you have a passion for them and you want to do something that you’re passionate about, there’s something for everyone,” Ms Maurice said.

Excitement in Casterton

Children can become apprentice jockeys at 16 in most states, but Stacey’s mother, Kaye, would like her to finish year 12.

The chair of the Casterton Racing Club, Mark Davis, is looking into whether Stacey could lead out the horses in the Casterton Cup next month.

“She’s made the town buzz with the excitement of it all,” Mr Davis said.

About 1,600 people live in Casterton, in south-western Victoria.(ABC South East SA: Bec Whetham)

Stacey said it was good to promote horse racing in a town where football was the main game.

“The whole town of Casterton pretty much has been so good cheering me on to the end and I couldn’t have done it, to be honest, without Casterton,” she said.

“They helped me get there, doing little things or helping us just as much as they can – it was so, so good.”

Stacey is a member of the Millicent Pony Club, in South Australia, the state she represented in the final.

The large pony final was won by Emilia Savage from New South Wales.

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