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Rachel Wasn’t Too Sure She’d Won It!

SA Champion apprentice's maiden Gr2 success

Rachel Venniker was pulling horses out in the sleepy Summerveld dawn light on Sunday morning, almost oblivious to the fact that under 14 hours earlier she was going at it hammer and tongs 550km away at Turffontein with former SA Champion rider Smanga Khumalo, to secure her groundbreaking maiden Grade 2 victory.

We asked why that champagne milestone moment had not qualified her for at least a mini lie-in on Sunday morning?

Rachel and her boss, Michael Roberts after Our Emily won the last at Hollywoodbets Scottsville on Sunday (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

“Mr Michael Roberts is the ultimate professional. He never failed to pitch for work after his many Gr1 winners. I don’t even dare ask for privileges. I flew back from Johannesburg to Durban on Saturday evening. I battled a bit to sleep as I was still on a high. But I was at work on time and had to ride at Hollywoodbets Scottsville the same day. I am doing what I am doing today, as a result of Mr Roberts’ inspiration and work ethic,” she says proudly as she chats to the Sporting Post 48 hours after her terrific success in the WSB Gr2 Gauteng Guineas.

Such is the inspiration and stamp on the 21 year old SA Champion Apprentice’ career of the legendary Michael ‘Muis’ Roberts that Rachel tells how his was the first call she received after the races on Saturday.

“Getting that call from Mr Roberts with a ‘well done and congratulations’ meant as much to me as winning the Guineas. I have been very fortunate to have had an internationally accomplished champion jockey to mentor me. I don’t forget how really lucky I am, ever!” she adds with a broad smile.

Rachel smiles after another terrific winner (Pic – Candiese Lenferna)

The Jonsson Workwear-sponsored Rachel, our only female jockey, is comfortably ensconced in a top-ten position on the national log and put the cherry on the top of a memorable day as she again beat the by now befuddled Smanga Khumalo to win the last on Gimmealight – again for Paul Matchett.

Rachel tells how she thought that Gimmealight was her likely winner on the day, and that the double was a lovely, albeit not a major surprise at all!

“She’s a lovely filly and I did feel that Eye Of The Prophet was going to make his presence felt in the Guineas. But as the day gets closer, you know how it goes, the doubt creeps in. One hears how well this one is doing, and how that one is coming along nicely. So I started thinking – hang on, this is the Guineas. The first leg of the SA Triple Crown. Get your feet on the ground – these are hard-knocking 3yo’s. This is tough. In the end, Eye Of The Prophet pulled it off. What a horse,” she enthuses modestly.

We observe that Eye Of The Prophet was some way back and Rachel tells about the run up the home straight.

Smanga Khumalo and Royal Victory race for the line as Rachel and Eye Of The Prophet slip through down the inside (Pic – JC Photos)

“I know – we were some way back. But he makes it up so beautifully. He sort of canters up to the leaders. I just put my head down and kept my crop in my right hand as he can hang a bit. That last stretch went by in a flash. I asked the guys at the pull-up. They were saying well done, you got it – but my mind flashed back to the Gr2 Umkhomazi Stakes on Gold Cup day, where they said I had won it on Sun Blushed. And we were beaten by Warren Kennedy on Swing Upon A Star. I thought, just don’t get ahead of yourself. Turffontein is also very deceptive on the line. But then the result came up and I wanted to scream yesssss!” she says with a bounce in her voice.

Rachel has been aboard at all of Eye Of The Prophet’s victories. She calls him a ‘funny’ horse but theirs has been a racing union made in heaven, since day 1.

She tells that things happened quite fortuitously.

“I was at supper with my folks at the Summerveld Country Lodge. Mr Paul Matchett walked up and said he had a horse he’d like me to ride. I turned up at his yard the next morning and the rest is history, as they say!”

About Eye Of The Prophet, Rachel says he is ‘so lovable but doesn’t like too many people’.

“That is beyond his Groom Anton, Paul Matchett and myself. A very fussy fellow, but what a fantastic horse!”

Can he win the SA Triple Crown?

“I believe he will stay the 2450m of the SA Derby. I’d like to think he will be very competitive right through the series. Mr Matchett is a veteran and knows what he is doing, so I will leave that in his hands.”

Watch the reply of the WBS SA Guineas here:

On Sunday, Rachel was back at Hollywoodbets Scottsville. She had to wait until the last to ride a winner – Our Emily for Michael Roberts.

“It’s a great game this. On Saturday I rode a double – on Sunday it was all back to the basics. But fortunately Our Emily produced a cracker to win. That was a relief, believe me,” she laughs.

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