Adelaide rider Kayla Crowther is poised to join the select band of apprentice jockeys to outride their city claim.
Kayla needs just two more winners to notch her 80th metropolitan winner and automatically shed her current 1.5kg city allowance, despite having almost a year remaining on her apprenticeship.
The 21-year-old rode a double at Morphettville Parks last Saturday to continue her outstanding 2019/20 season, during which she has booted home 41 metropolitan winners to sit third on the SA metropolitan jockeys premiership table, behind only Todd Pannell (56 winners) and Jason Holder (47 winners).
Kayla admits the looming landmark evokes mixed feelings.
“I definitely always wanted to outride my claim and it’s probably come up quite quickly,” she said.
“So I’m excited, but I’m nervous because obviously I won’t have any claim…”
To use a cricketing term, Kayla currently has her eye in, as evidenced by her ice-cool winning ride on Almadrava in the final race at Morphettville Parks last Saturday, when she waited for a gap to appear at the 200-metre mark before bursting through to post her second victory of the day.
She says the feeling of being ‘in form’ is difficult to define.
“Oh, it’s good – you ride very naturally I think,” she said.
“When you’re in good form, you just seem to make the right decision every time, whereas when you’re a little bit out of form, you might not make such good decisions.”
The Almadrava ride – a pearler that could easily have been a howler – was a perfect illustration of what Kayla describes as “extra patience”, even though she concedes building that trait remains a work in progress.
“I actually wasn’t that worried in the run, I just kept saying ‘Just relax, you’ll get a gap, you’ll get a gap’,” she said.
“That doesn’t necessarily means it’ll happen, but I think when you ride a bit calmer, relax and be patient, it seems to work out in your favour.
“So I try to just wait those few extra seconds, instead of panicking and trying to get to the outside and running up another butt, then have a gap opening on the inside and be pulling in back there.
“It’s really hard to do and I can’t do it all the time – but the elite jockeys can.”
TRSA Apprentice Academy supervisor Briony Moore described Kayla’s looming milestone as “an enormous achievement”.
“Only a very small percentage of apprentices are able to do it,” she said.
“Kayla has been given a lot of opportunities on quality bloodstock in her short career, but has had the ability and drive to make the most of it.
“She has great balance and is a very calm rider. I have no doubt she has a big future in the saddle – with or without her claim – and I’ll be sad to see Kayla finish up at the apprentice academy as she is always willing to help and offer advice to any of her colleagues.”
Kayla says losing her claim at provincial level has led to a relative lack of non-Saturday rides, however she remains grateful for the support of her master David Jolly, plus Phillip Stokes.
Her immediate focus is knocking off the last two winners to eliminate her claim, but beyond that?
“I just want to cement myself into the senior ranks,” she said.
About jockeys’ claims:
Apprentice jockeys all start with a 4kg ‘claim’ – meaning whatever horse they ride carries 4kg less than it has been allocated.
As their careers progress and their tally of winners increases, their claims are incrementally reduced.
Claims vary, depending on the respective level of racing: country, provincial and metropolitan.
For example, South Australian apprentice jockey Sophie Logan can claim 3kg for metropolitan rides and 2kg for provincial rides, but cannot claim for rides at meetings classed as ‘country’.
Kayla Crowther currently claims 1.5kg for metropolitan meetings, but cannot claim for either provincial or country meetings. She has a career tally of 78 metropolitan wins and her current 1.5kg claim will disappear when she reaches 80 metropolitan wins.