Career & Education

Fletcher hopes to inspire more female jockeys

Observer writer

Sunday, January 06, 2019

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Samantha Fletcher is one of four licensed female apprentices to pass out at the recent Jamaica Racing Commission graduation ceremony, topping the class in academics.

She told the Jamaica Observer that her decision to enter the sport of kings was no idle ploy and while she is relatively new to the sport, has begun to plan how she will attain her major objective of “becoming a champion jockey.”

Fletcher, who began riding as a licensed apprentice on September 29 and posted a third-place finish aboard Lady Budget for her apprentice master Michael Beecham, breeder, owner and trainer, has set her sights on using the current Horse Of The Year as a guiding light to advance her career.

“Firstly, the feats of She's A Maneater, who is also female, I see as an inspiration and I am endeared to follow in her footsteps with commendable performances in the saddle so as to inspire more women to come into the sport and achieve even more than I am hoping to accomplish over the next few years, God's willing,” she told Career & Education.

“From the first day I set foot on Caymanas track I considered becoming a racing jockey and my objective is to be the best I can become so as to inspire more women to get involved in the sport to add further interest and broaden the enlightenment. There are a number of other women who love the sport and would like to see more women riders taking part but I think what they need is for more women to show them the way forward on a consistent basis. This I think will engineer added attraction,” she continued.

Fletcher pointed out that the four female apprentice riders currently in the riding pool took inspiration from Georgina Sergeon, Jamaica's most successful female jockey to date.

“I first got into the sport following a friend who extended an invitation to me to one day to come to the track with him. I accepted his invitation and up to this point I have not regretted the introduction. From that day on I found the sport to my liking. After that single invitation there was no turning back as I found the day intriguing. Activities on the track with horses running in their respective races were quite captivating. Forthwith, I fell in love with horse racing to the point of becoming one of the participating riders in a race.

From then on, I began to pay my regular visits to the track and stables and I became acquainted with a few trainers who recognised my interest and would give me an opportunity to try my hand at becoming a jockey after declaring my interest and intention. I then began to work horses in the ring, then how to trot horses, hack, canter then walk them. From this introductory stage I was on my way to be where I am today. This is not the end but it is something to hold on to.

Asked what her parents thought of her participating in what is considered by many a dangerous sport, even for men, which involves riding an animal weighing in excess of a 1,000 lbs and sometimes galloping at speeds up to 36 miles an hour, Fletcher said they agreed with reservation because of an accident she had.

“They became less sure after the accident. However, seeing my determination to succeed and to counter what fear might have crept in following the mishap they consulted each other, let me have my way to complete what I started and here I am today — a licensed apprentice jockey bursting at the seams to get my career going,” she shared.

But she knows the hardest part — winning her rides — is yet to come.

“I feel confident that I can perform well enough to attract good rides, but it should take some time to get going and the sooner the better. How I knew that I wanted to make this my calling is that in the earlier stages of my preparation when the going got tough and I felt like taking myself away from the sport, it always kept calling me back and being here now shows the level of commitment and serious application that I have given the sport to succeed.

Fletcher became the first female of her batch to win a race when she booted home Copperfield to victory on Saturday, December 8. Copperfield won over four furlongs (800m).

“I must say that I feel very excited with my first win at this stage as an apprentice rider with aspirations of becoming a competent jockey. The win was especially pleasing to me as it was one that I had to work for which at one stage, looked out of my reach.

“But I am a fighter and it came at a time when I began to despair and, perhaps if I did not have that fortitude of inner strength, the single-mindedness of that abiding quality of purpose to continue to strive in this chosen field of horse racing perhaps, I would have become less focused and also less determined to continue to put in the hard work,” she said.

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