Already with three Group 1 victories this year, Sydney-based jockey Rachel King is keen to mix it with the best when she competes in the 2023 LONGINES International Jockeys’ Championship (IJC) at Happy Valley on Wednesday, 6 December.
British-born King will represent her adopted country, Australia, in the championship where she will battle for glory against the likes of three previous winners — Ryan Moore, Tom Marquand and Zac Purton.
Great Britain’s Hollie Doyle, joint second in the 2021 LONGINES IJC, has also had three Group 1 victories this year and joins King as the other female chasing glory in the championship.
King recently finished runner-up in Japan’s World All-Star Jockeys Series in Sapporo; picture hkjc.com
King harboured ambitions in England of becoming a jumps jockey and competed as an amateur rider at National Hunt races, had a brief apprenticeship but, as her career stalled, she headed to Australia nearly a decade ago on a working holiday she thought would last only a few months.
She rode trackwork for Bart and James Cummings before joining the stables of Australia’s ‘First Lady of Racing’ Gai Waterhouse, who thought the now 33-year-old would be best suited to an administrative role but eventually gave her an opportunity as a track rider.
It was Mark Newnham, now a Hong Kong trainer, then an assistant to Waterhouse, who convinced her to take on King as an apprentice jockey. Then when Newnham branched out on his own, Maid of Heaven provided him and King with their first Group 1 winner in the Spring Champion Stakes (2000m) in 2018.
King is now consistently on the top-10 list of Sydney’s jockeys in what is a highly competitive work place. And in August light-weight King again showed her class when competing in Japan’s World All-Star Jockeys Series in Sapporo, where she finished an unlucky runner-up.
“It was an amazing experience to be involved in and it was good fun and competitive … in the last race I only needed to run top eighth or ninth in the last race and I was going to do that but unfortunately my poor horse went wrong, so I went down by one point,” King said.
“It was a great experience and similar to Hong Kong where you have to ride against world-class riders and ride somewhere different. There are different styles so it’s good to learn.”
King said riding against the best in the LONGINES IJC provides the opportunity to improve and pick up a few tips and observations.
Riding in Hong Kong or Japan is something King believes is on the bucket list of many jockeys who are keen to challenge themselves in such highly competitive jurisdictions where they will learn different and new things and at the same time develop connections with owners and trainers.
Three of King’s five Group 1 victories have come this year, with the latest generating great publicity when she became the first female to win the G1 Coolmore Stud Stakes (1200m) at Flemington in November.
“It’s been nice to get a bit of a roll on this year and have three [Group 1s] on different types of horses and distances,’’ she said. “The Coolmore, I guess, was a good advertisement for me.”
King has the reputation of being one of Sydney’s hardest-working jockeys and rides a stack of trackwork and trials. And she openly admits to her deep love of the horse and even when she does find a little bit of leisure time, she competes in show jumping on an ex-racehorse.
“I really like to make a connection with the horses and work them out,” King said. “I like the tricky ones.”
And come race day, she has a reputation of being fiercely competitive. How competitive? “Very, yes,” King said with a laugh.