Golden girl: King fair chance to trump rivals
IN one of the few sports where women compete equally with men, Rachel King will be the only female jockey with a ride in the $7.5 million Golden Eagle (1500m) at Rosehill Gardens.
King has the mount on Fasika in the Golden Eagle, a race with such massive prizemoney it ranks behind only the $14 million The Everest and $8 million Melbourne Cup as the richest in Australian racing.
No female jockey has ridden in The Everest but King has secured a ride in the inaugural Golden Eagle after partnering the Joe Pride-trained Fasika last start when a close second behind The Inevitable in the Silver Eagle.
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"I only came out of my apprenticeship 12 months ago and to be getting rides in races like the Golden Eagle is a huge vote of confidence,'' King said.
"Joe and the owners have been fantastic to me. After the first time I rode Fasika, I knew I was standing in a little bit. I would have completely understood if they wanted to offer the ride back to Kerrin (McEvoy) or another jockey.
"But the morning after the Silver Eagle, I had Joe and the owners on the phone asking if I would ride her in the Golden Eagle. She is a live chance, too, she is not a 100-1 shot.''
King's booking for Fasika in the Golden Eagle comes in a week where gender became an issue in racing after Linda Meech lost the ride on Thought Of That to Mark Zahra in Saturday's Victoria Derby at Flemington.
Thought Of That's owner, Brae Sokolski, has been heavily criticised on social media for his decision to replace Meech even though she won on the three-year-old last start in the Caulfield Classic. Sokolski said the negative comments he has received are "water off a duck's back to him".
But Melbourne Cup-winning jockey Michelle Payne called Sokolski a "pig" on Twitter, a post she later deleted before copping a $1000 fine from Racing Victoria stewards.
Meech then fanned the flames of controversy in a post-race interview during the week when declaring she hoped Thought Of That was beaten in the Derby.
It's an owner's prerogative who rides their horse but some feel Meech was harshly treated because she is a woman.
Understandably, King didn't want to comment on the Derby debate but she has an interesting take on female jockeys and their place in Australian racing.
"Part of the reason I ride in Australia and not Europe is that I like the way we (women) are classed as jockeys,'' she said. "We are not looked on as female jockeys against male jockeys.
"I feel I have been given a really, really fair go here. I don't think there has ever been a time I have been taken off because I'm a girl or anything like that.''
King began riding in England where, ironically, her career stalled due to lack of opportunities.
She came to Australia on a "working holiday" a few years ago and has never looked back, becoming Sydney's champion apprentice two seasons ago and winning her first Group 1 on Maid Of Heaven in the Spring Champion Stakes last year.
King has the chance to win the inaugural Golden Eagle on Fasika, who has firmed into $18 behind easing favourite Arcadia Queen at $3.20.
"I don't see the barrier 11 as a negative,'' she said.
"If someone asked me before the barrier draw I might have said between one and six to make life a bit easier but with speed out wide there will be a bit of pressure. All the horses in the race are good horses so I won't be worried to get on the back of any of them.''
King said Fasika will improve off her Silver Eagle second and is adamant the mare will be better suited out to 1500m.
"The first thing I said to Joe after the Silver Eagle was that it was a super run from Fasika but I was even more excited to see her over a bit further,'' King said.
"She gave me the feel that she will love the extra ground. She relaxes so well in her races and I don't see why the 1500m will be any problem for her.
"This mare has a heart as big as herself, she is a lovely horse and gives you everything.
"When I rode her in the Silver Eagle, she had a month between runs and only trialled four days before the race. There were a few things stacked against her that day and she only got run down near the line.
"She gives me the feel that now, with that run under her belt, up over this trip she is ready to run the race of her life.''