TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival: Jockeys love the Sunshine State

They now consider themselves as Queensland as XXXX beer but the prospect of Stephanie Thornton or Michael Rodd being the faces of the TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival would have been remote not too long ago.

Thornton, the up-and-coming young jockey, was carving out a career in Victoria while Rodd, who famously won the 2007 Melbourne Cup on Efficient, called Singapore home.

But both saw the light and moved to the Sunshine State in search of fresh beginnings.

Thornton moved as an apprentice jockey, searching for enhanced opportunities away from the crowded jockeys room in Melbourne.

The 22-year-old hasn’t looked back. She rode her first Listed winner in 2019, outrode her metropolitan claim last year and won a $1 million race on Gold Coast Magic Millions day on her favourite horse The Odyssey in January.

She now considers herself very much a Queenslander and has revealed she and her partner Ben Thompson, a fellow ex-Victorian jockey, recently bought a house in Brisbane’s south.

They are here for the long haul.

“I do consider myself a Queenslander now, Ben and I just bought a house so I think we will be staying for a long time,” Thornton said.

“The best thing about coming up here for me is that I have now got a good work-life balance.

“I can have a couple of days off a week and go out and enjoy things, whereas in Melbourne it is a seven-day-a week job and it’s very full on and doesn’t stop.

“There are very good races up here in Queensland and we are now racing for very good money and I see racing in Queensland only going forward from here.”

For Rodd, his return to Queensland is a case of his career turning full circle.

The launching pad for his stunning rise through the riding ranks to become a star on the world stage came in the early 2000s in Queensland when he cut his teeth in the Brisbane jockeys room.

Jockey Michael Rodd has found his way back to Queensland. (AAP Image/Albert Perez)Source:AAP

On leaving Singapore, Rodd went to Victoria to ride but his wife and two young daughters were in Queensland and, due to the coronavirus pandemic, he hadn’t seen them in almost 10 months.

“It was a bit of a turbulent time for me when I came back but it’s so great to be back with my family and on a professional level, my move to Queensland has been fantastic,” Rodd said.

“Racing in Queensland is kicking some goals, you only need to look at the trainers like Lee Freedman, John Moore and Michelle Payne who are setting up stables here.

“There has been a lot of water go under the bridge since I first rode here when I was a young fellow but the place has obviously started to go well.”

Thornton, one of the growing wave of jockeys from southern states looking to make new homes in Queensland, says the move north is the best thing she has done.

Thornton after her ride on The Odyssey in the QTIS Jewel 3YO at Aquis Park on the Gold Coast last year. (AAP Image/Glenn Hunt)Source:AAP

Like any Brisbane rider, she knows she will have to make the most of her opportunities in the TAB Winter Racing Carnival. The big carnival races are often dominated by powerful southern stables who generally use big-name Group 1 riders.

“I’d love to have some nice rides over the carnival, my goal at the moment would be to knock off a Group race as it seems to be the one thing that has eluded me so far,” Thornton said.

“When I have been in them, I have often been beaten by a nose.

“The Odyssey (Kelly Schweida-trained sprinter) has been very competitive in previous Group races up here, so hopefully he can win one for me.

“He is a bit like me – he has won Listed races and feature races but he hasn’t been able to tick that Group race off his list either.

“If (Rex Lipp-trained three-year-old) Simply Fly keeps measuring up, hopefully he is also a horse that can take me to some nice races over the carnival.”

Originally published asWhy jockeys are calling Queensland home

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