Little Miss Magic

The Jockey who jumped horses in mid-stream s

Fresh New Face. Jockey Vicky Minott is taking the racing world by storm

Professional jockey turned television presenter Vicky Minott says the toughest part of her dangerous and fast-paced job is dealing with our obsession with stereotyping women. And she is referring to her life in the saddle – not the unnerving heat of the studio lights in front of the cameras!

One of only a handful of ladies to make it through one of the most highly regarded jockey training facilities in the world, the petite and prettily modest 26 year old, rode before she could walk and was always destined to be around horses.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing.

“I had to be coaxed to go to Pony Club as a five year-old, as I didn’t enjoy it at first. But it all clicked one day, and I have never looked back!” she said with a twinkle in her blue eyes.

Vicky, who graduated from the world-class South African Jockey Academy in 2008, had her first race ride two years earlier and surpassed many of her male counterparts by riding fifty winners in a very short period of time.

In what is a first for SA horseracing, Vicky was recently contracted by the sport’s dedicated satellite television channel, Tellytrack, as a TV presenter based at the Western Cape Racecourses Kenilworth and Durbanville.

Her keen and educated eye for the most majestic of four-legged  athetes ,will assist viewers and racing enthusiasts in determining their choices. While an exciting and thrilling spectacle, the sport of kings relies heavily on the lifeblood of betting turnover for its prosperity.

Vicky has retained her riding licence and her plan is to run her two inexorably intertwined careers parallel to each other – and she readily admits that jockeys do ‘have some spare time on their hands as they get out of bed at sparrow.’

“I want to keep my hand in and close to the heartbeat of the game, as nothing can up personal fitness like race-riding. It also keeps me within the action and maintains that level of trust and camaraderie with my colleagues that can only add value for my end-users, the  all- important punting public,” she says with a broad smile.

A professional jockey whose services  were in demand by local racehorse trainers , and one of only two riders in the lady jockey room in the Cape, Vicky more than holds her own in a physical male-dominated game. Has she any thoughts on, well, let’s call it chauvinism?

“ I don’t recall anyone of the guys ever being rude or nasty but no quarter is given when the stalls open. In a race it is each guy for himself. But I suppose the male is naturally threatened by the female of the species!”  she joked.

Vicky underwent an operation in March of this year that changed the course of her professional life forever.

“I had time to reflect on many aspects of my life while my ankle was suspended in mid-air.  I love race riding and the lifestyle that goes with being a professional jockey. We follow a strict and healthy diet and fitness regimen, and I get to spend time with my beloved horses. But I thought that I may want to start a family one day and also need to consider that the unpredictability of the game means that you are on cloud nine today, and could be injured tomorrow. That’s not being dramatic – it is just a reality and occupational risk,” she says.

The Tellytrack position came knocking at an opportune time, and for Vicky it arrived as a bolt out of the blue – but a well directed and sweetly timed one at that!

How does she cope with the increased demands on her time?

In a typical day, Vicky’s life normally always involves her exercising a few horses at the Milnerton training centre.  A gym workout, whether it be Pilates, cardio or a session with her personal trainer. She brushes up almost daily on current racing information as there is a race meeting every day in South Africa. She also likes work in her garden, a passion and interest kindled early on by her grandmother.

For her presenting role she also goes off to the studio to view recordings or prepare for the next big racing event. She may even travel out to training establishments or stud farms to conduct interviews or oversee the filming of footage.

Vicky’s day ends off by taking her two ‘children’ for a run on the snow white sands of Cape Town’s famous  Bloubergstrand beach.

Vicky  lives on her own in the popular West Coast suburb and the two ‘kids’ are her beloved soul-mates – a border collie cross Mishka and Nelly, a sausage dog.

“ I love my animals. Dogs, much like horses, never judge and hold grudges. The evening beach run is our bonding time and the backdrop of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean make the experience so therapeutic-even if the wind is blowing,” she laughs

When taxed about a man in her life, she laughed and said that she was just too busy and ‘the master of her own destiny for now’.

We asked about that sterotype thing that she mentioned earlier:

“It is quite fascinating considering the dual roles of those stereotyped outlooks. The  various perceived liabilities of being a woman  that ruled my career in race-riding, appear to be the assets that have kick-started my new role in front of the camera.”

She laughed when adding that it was quite ironic  that when she wore her jockey cap nobody was particularly interested in listening to her opinion. But now that she had stepped  in front of the camera, she was viewed (excuse the pun, she pleas!) very differently.

“Suddenly what I say and opine counts a little and I have people coming up to me and saying ‘well done’ and ‘keep up the good work.’ That is heartening and I appreciate any feedback, as it helps me to grow in the position. I know I have plenty to learn,” she said maturely

Has the Vicky wardrobe undergone a metamorphosis?

“No not really,” she says shyly.

“I always paid attention to my public image in terms of trying to project a professional external picture, but the overall vanity thing has never been important to me. I have always focussed on the principle that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty. But that said, I understand the importance of looking good. It makes one feel better and from that flows the confidence  necessary to be a winner.”

The petite auburn-haired refreshingly new face of Cape horseracing admitted though that she spent more time preparing for a working day now!

“ I could get ready for races in under half hour previously. Now I spend over an hour titivating and adding the finishing touches. It’s all quite a lot of fun!” she suggested with a broad smile.

Vicky is adamant that the new-found adulation and attention by the racing public will not be going to her head.

“Race-riding thoroughbred horses is probably one of the most dangerous and exhilarating experiences on earth. But sitting in front of the cameras and getting that countdown to going live in front of millions of people, doesn’t rank too far behind. It is the adrenaline rush without the danger. The biggest risk is making a fool of myself. But that I can handle!” she giggled.

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