JustHorseRacing.com.au writer Michael McGill interviews jockey Samantha Clenton. View the interview below.
You grew up in Herons Creek. Did you grow up in a racing family?
No however we grew up with a horse background. Mum and Dad had horses and I grew up around them and we had show horses.
How did you get involved with the Industry?
I always wanted to do it. My sister started riding work in a racing stable and I would tag along on a Saturday morning and it all progressed from there. I eventually started riding work once a week and it all snowballed.
Where did you start your apprenticeship?
I started off with Tas Morton and did a heap of trials with him and also did nine months with Tracey Bartley while I was doing my trials. It was a big learning curve. I then came back to Marc Quinn who I actually kicked my apprenticeship off with and started race riding with him. I then had close to two years off then came back and went to Tim McIntosh in Muswellbrook and had a lot of success there. Kris Lee then offered me a loan and I ended up progressing down in Newcastle.
Tell us about your first race ride on Twilight Courage in 2011.
It was at Port Macquarie and she ran second. A horse called Just at Sea won the race and won it well. She was a horse I rode in work and Marc Quinn was really good to give me the ride. She then won her second start and I was on her. It was Queen of the North Day at Port Macquarie. It was my first winner and I can remember it as clear as day.
You mentioned you walked away for two years. Was that due to weight issues?
It was due to weight and I needed to mentally grow up. I also got hurt during that time and broke my arm and my leg doing stupid stuff. I broke my leg playing touch football and broke my arm falling off a pony at home. I still rode a bit of work and in a few trials. I still had an interest in it.
Did you come back with my determination to give it a real hard crack?
Yes definitely. I came back really wanting to do it and I was really happy just poking around the country and riding a few winners. Things then snowballed from there and I have had good opportunities since then.
It must give you a great deal of confidence having so many female jockeys around you like O’Hara and Costin?
Yes it does. It helps us all. We all help one another. And it is great to have Kathy and Winona there as they are good competitive riders in Sydney. Kathy had a wonderful carnival and it all helps. We have Tegan Harrison up in Queensland and she is a leading rider and then Lucy Warwick over in Western Australia. They are all helping the females progress in racing.
You have kicked plenty of goals already in your career. NSW Country Apprentice Premiership, Bill Wade Medal, Best Newcastle Strike Rate and Newcastle Apprentice Premiership. What do you put it all down too?
I have had a lot of great support. A lot of things I would never have dreamt about. Even this season I could not be any happier. Kris Lees has been a wonderful help. I went to him when he was not really keen on having any apprentices and he offered me the time. The support I get from him is unbelievable. He has even given me a crack in Listed and Group races. I could not ask for anything more.
Talking of Listed races you recently rode your first Stakes winner on Howmuchdoyouloveme in the Takeover Target Stakes. Tell us about that ride.
He is a funny old horse to ride these days. You have to have him comfortable or where he is happy. It probably was not the prettiest of rides but he got the job done and he won well. I am looking forward to the winter carnival with him. He is a good old horse.
It must give you a lot of confidence knowing stables like Chris Waller are offering you rides?
It is good to have the support of all the stables. Between Chris Waller and John O’Shea and the like I get a few rides every now and then and it is great to get their support.
Pat Webster is a great mentor for the apprentices. How much has he helped your career?
Pat has been there. He has helped me out a lot. I have even had a couple of rides for him too. He is always good and there for support. If I question him about anything he is always honest and truthful and does not beat around the bush. And that is what apprentices need; someone who is there to tell them the truth and not tell them what they want to hear.
You are ten months away from coming out of your time. Is outriding your claim a current goal?
I would love to outride my metropolitan claim. It is a goal to work towards so I definitely want to do it.
Great piece of horsemanship recently when you jumped over the fallen Brenton Avdulla. Was that something you learnt in your pony club days?
I think it was all good timing between the horse and me. I didn’t want to ride over the top of him and I tried to avoid him as much as I could.
You have struck up a great partnership with Clearly Innocent with four wins from five rides. Was it a bittersweet moment to watch him win the Country Championship Final?
It was good to see him win it and sitting on the sideline watching it all happen was rewarding in the end. I finally get to partner him in the Luskin Star Stakes over the Scone Carnival so things are looking good there. I have a lot of time for the horse and the owners and always love riding him when I can.
Is there anyone else we should be keeping an eye on in the near future?
Waitandwatch trained by Angela Davies. He is a good horse and will go through the grades.
Any advice for young girls looking to become apprentice jockeys?
You just need to make sure you want to do it. It is a tough gig but it is all very rewarding in the end.
What is the best part about your job?
I love riding. I have a passion to ride horses. Riding and being competitive is a bonus on top.
And what is the hardest part?
Being a female rider, it is never going to be easy for me. It is definitely getting easier but it is still once of the hardest parts of being a rider. My weight doesn’t help me at all either. I ride at 55kg however I am trying to get back down to 54kg and maintain it there.
Best of luck in the future Sammie.