Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Stevens has Mansfield Cup on her mind

Jockey Jo Stevens is hoping for a fairytale ending tomorrow when she lines up in the Mansfield Cup.

HANNAH DRISCOLL December 27, 2013 4:15am

Jo Stevens has swapped showjumping for race riding and will be out to win the Mansfield Cup tomorrow.

When stewards announced the penalty for jockey Jo Stevens’ careless riding charge, she broke down in tears.

The 22-year-old pleaded guilty to a charge of careless riding from the Healesville meeting on December 14 and was suspended until midnight on Saturday night, a penalty that would stop her from riding at her hometown Mansfield Cup meeting tomorrow.

The stewards’ report said Stevens had allowed her mount, Bred By Ted, to shift in meaning it bumped Fontaines that was then severely hampered.

‘‘When the stewards gave me the penalty, it sounds so stupid, but I bawled my eyes out and I said I don’t want to miss Mansfield, it was the whole reason I got my licence in the first place,’’ Stevens said.

‘‘They said you can appeal it. I was umming and ahhing and after watching the replay and speaking to a few people we decided we would appeal it because the bump wasn’t that severe.’’

Stevens’ appeal against the severity of the penalty was allowed and she was permitted to resume racing tomorrow.

‘‘Walking out of the appeal room was just a massive relief. I would have been devastated to miss Mansfield,’’ she said.

Stevens has grown up around horses and although she has tried a bit of different disciplines, the majority of her career has been in showjumping.

She started riding when she was three on a Shetland pony — ‘‘my brother had a horse, so of course I had to have one, too’’ — and had her first competition when she was four years old and stuck with it.

‘‘I always wanted to be a jockey, but I was too big when I was really young, I was still too big, so I never gave it a thought, I just wanted to work with racehorses anyway,’’ she said.

Stevens has been working for Mansfield trainer Gerald Egan for three years, after working for some different trainers for a short period.

She already had a connection with Egan as she had bought some ex-racehorses from him to showjump, so when she returned to Mansfield after some time away, she got in contact.

‘‘When I was in Mansfield I thought, ‘I’ll gave him a call’. He’s usually pretty well staffed, but I thought it was worth a try and I got in. I was pretty lucky, it’s been great,’’ she said.

But it was only 12 months ago that she really took hold of the idea of becoming a jockey.

‘‘This time last year I was 78kg and I always wanted to do it and I was watching all my friends riding and I thought I’ve just got to do it,’’ she said.

Since then Stevens has shed 18kg and passed the 15 trials and jumpouts required to be qualified as a jockey, the last few on Egan’s horses.

Her first rides were on November 5 at Mansfield and in front of a home crowd she scored two wins from her first two starts on Egan’s Lightning Brom in the opening race and Ronald Tait’s The Blue Angel in the second.

Stevens described it as a fairytale.

‘‘I was running laps of the track and every time I would run down the straight I would picture in my head winning and then I thought ‘don’t be stupid, just be happy that you’re riding’,’’ she said.

‘‘I was coming down the straight and I was in front and everyone was clapping and I was thinking, ‘no way, this isn’t happening’. It was just surreal, I couldn’t believe it and the crowd was unbelievable.

‘‘(After the second win) I had to pinch myself, I can’t describe it. It was seriously like a fairytale.’’

Since her appeal was successful, Stevens originally expected to ride Legion Chief in the Mansfield Cup, but she will ride him a race earlier.

Instead in the cup she will ride Egan’s Pilot’s Lane, which is top weight.

A home cup on a first attempt with her trainer. That would be a fairytale.

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