The smile on the face of the ever-affable Samantha Collett was just that little bit wider than normal when she dismounted from the three-year-old gelding Templemore in the winner’s enclosure at Gatton back on February 23.
She then turned to Templemore’s co-trainer Nick Beck and announced proudly, “That’s my one-hundredth winner in Australia.”
The humble setting of the cosy country track at Gatton was a far cry from the scenes when Collett was winning Group 1 races back in New Zealand … in the Auckland Cup (twice) … aboard Glory Days (her first Group 1 win) and Roger That … as well as Travelling Light in the Group 1 Levin Classic.
Throw in Collett’s New Zealand Jockey’s Premiership title win in the 2017/18 season and you can see that she has a lot to be proud of, but setting goals is a never ending game if you want to stay on top of things and that is why bringing up the century of wins in Australia clearly gave Collett cause to celebrate and a moment of real satisfaction.
But another more monumental moment awaits, hopefully in the not-too-distant future, as Collett explains.
“A thousand career winners had been my goal for a while … and I’m nine off that now. Mum and dad have both ridden over 1000 winners and, if I get there, I don’t think that has been done by any family anywhere in the world before. I’m not certain, but I don’t think so.
“I know there have been a few where two family members have featured … Danielle Johnson and her dad both rode over a 1000 winners, but I don’t think a father, mother and daughter have done it.
“So, that’s been a goal of mine for obvious reasons … and I’m getting there.”
Two further winners since her Gatton success has taken Collett to within those nine winners of putting that 1000 win total on the scoreboard alongside dad Jim and mum Trudy in what would be a huge achievement for the Collett family.
And racing is very much a family matter for them.
“The season I won the Premiership in New Zealand was always a bit of a laugh between my dad and I because I rode more winners in our premiership winning seasons than he did … but he would say, ‘we didn’t have as much racing back then,’ said Collett.
“I rode 131 winners that season from 1179 rides or something like that. It was a bit of an achievement for me because I’d never been attached to a big stable as such.
“I kinda like to operate a little bit that way. It’s obviously good to have that support, but the fact that I can ride light and freelance gives me a lot of options.
“That was a pretty cool time for the family, because when they invited me to go to Japan for the World Jockey’s Series on the back of my premiership win, it was the same series that my dad had been invited to twenty-five years earlier.
“I took him with me obviously … and it was really cool because my dad had taken his dad when he went and not long after that trip my grand-dad sadly passed away.
“That trip was a very fond time for my dad and his dad, so when I told him they were going to take me to Japan for the World Super jockey Series and said, ‘do you want to come’ … he was quite emotional about it.”
Prior to relocating to Queensland on a full-time in October 2021, Collett had only ridden one winner in Australia.
“I was here for that Winter stint that year and I won on Michael Lakey’s horse Thatfridyafeeling during that time which was my first winner in Australia.
“I flew over from New Zealand mid-October and then had to do two weeks quarantine,” said Collett.
“I felt I couldn’t wait for the quarantine regulations to be relaxed … and I really didn’t mind doing it anyway, because things had been very hectic before that organising my trip and sorting out things back home.
“I was happy to use quarantine as a rest period … as a sort of freshen up before I got back to work.”
On her arrival in Queensland, Collett was under no illusions about how difficult it might be to make her mark in her new surroundings, but the fact that she brought a serious work-ethic with her as well as an outgoing, fun-loving personality, clearly was the perfect mix to quickly win over new supporters and thus create the type of opportunities that her riding talent would pounce on with relish, helping her to get where she wanted to be.
Those early meetings in Queensland must seem like light years away to Collett now … so quickly has the time past and so rapidly has her number of winners climbed.
That’s already 102 winners in Australia now. But that’s not the number most in Collett’s mind.
That number is nine … the numbers of winners left for her to ride before her career winner’s total ticks over to 1000 … and a bit of history is made.
Not certain if her smile can get any bigger on that day … but the celebration might!
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