11:51am Friday 13th May 2011
By Steve Carroll
RIGHT from the outset, Natalia Gemelova stresses that she loves her job. In fact, it’s a phrase she repeats – several times – throughout our ten minute chat in a York coffee shop. She loves it enough to return after having a baby.
She loves it enough to plough on having only enjoyed 43 rides last season.
In short, she loves racing.
It’s a good job she does because it is a difficult world for the type of jockeys whose names don’t end in Dettori, Moore, Turner, Hughes or Hanagan.
It’s a road involving lots of travelling, long hours and, often, with poor prize money at the end.
But, as she repeats, Gemelova loves her job.
“It’s difficult for everybody and I am not feeling sorry for myself,” she said. “There are plenty of people in the same boat. You just need a bit of luck and a bit of support. You have to try your best, keep your head down, and hope it works out. It’s not easy for anybody.
“There are more jockeys, less horses and less prize money.”
Malton-based Gemelova continued: “You have to go down south to get the rides. You have to take a chance and it is very expensive. I am skint now because I keep going down south so much. But I had to do it because it was the only way I was going to get on.
“Luckily, David (O’Meara, Nawton trainer) has given me a chance this year, which helps, but I still go down south. For me to get to Kempton or Lingfield is a £90 turnaround. So your riding fee is gone. I won a 0-75 the other week and I got £142 in prize money. You can just do the maths. I’m not complaining. I love my job and that’s why I keep doing it but, to be fair, making money is getting harder.”
Gemelova was born in Slovakia but grew up in Norway and was an apprentice there. Following winters with the likes of Ian Balding, at Kingsclere, she came to Britain, eventually moved north, and has been in North Yorkshire for nearly a decade.
It hasn’t always been plain sailing. She enjoyed her best year in 2007 when recording 13 victories. Last year, from just over 40 rides, she triumphed on six occasions.
“It took me a long time to get going in this country,” Gemelova concedes. “But I love the challenge of it and the harder it gets the more I want it. I love my job. I love the horses.
“I am hoping to pick up more rides, more northern contacts this year. I am hoping to ride more winners. Last year wasn’t bad. I’m proud of that. I only had 43 rides but had six winners.”
Dedication is the key for Gemelova, who told trainers who might be interested in her services that she was probably now, at 30, at the peak of her powers.
“I’m hoping to improve myself again,” she said. “You need to improve yourself all the time. I want to do the best I can. Doubling the number of winners would be good. I want to double the number of rides.
“I was very weak as a youngster and I didn’t really strengthen up until I was 24 or 25. Maybe I didn’t mature, mentally, until the last year or two – probably because I had a daughter.
“I feel a lot stronger now, and mentally a lot stronger, than I did. That’s a shame because I could have done with this when I was younger. It depends how many chances you get as well.
“It’s hard to improve when you are only getting a ride now and then. You have to try and pick up as many rides as you can and getting on better horses also improves you.
“You have to be good in a lot of ways. You have to be diplomatic, determined. It’s not just about being a good rider. You have to be a good talker, you have to know your horses, know your form.
“You have to be dedicated.”
CLASSIC glory awaits Malton horse Wootton Bassett on Sunday.
Richard Fahey’s star colt, who was unbeaten in five races last season, returns to the scene of his greatest triumph in a bid to scoop the French 2,000 Guineas.
Wootton Bassett is among the runners in the Poule d’Essai des Poulains at Longchamp, where he gave Fahey and jockey Paul Hanagan the first Group 1 races of their careers when winning the Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere last October.
Having not been ready in time for the 2,000 Guineas at Newmarket at the end of April, this French test has been on the cards since and Musley Bank-based Fahey is in confident mood.
“He did a scintillating piece of work last week,” he said. “It was the best bit of work I’ve ever seen on my home gallop. He looks marvellous. He’s in really good nick.”
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