Racing: Setting her sights on Melbourne Cup

Apprentice jockey Courtney Barnes rides Knightonthetown at White Robe Lodge at north Taieri yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Apprentice jockey Courtney Barnes rides Knightonthetown at White Robe Lodge at north Taieri yesterday. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Melbourne Cup Day at Wingatui is another opportunity for diminutive Courtney Barnes to enhance her reputation.

The 18-year-old apprentice jockey has made a promising start to her career, with 13 wins from 135 rides. She has eight rides at today's meeting.

Barnes is quietly confident of doing well in the opening race on Knightonthetown. The gelding has had one win from 23 starts but has improved with two second placings this month.

Barnes rode her first winner (Cheap Date) in March, shortly after accepting her apprenticeship with Brian and Shane Anderton at White Robe Lodge.

Her grandfather, Mick Didham, rode his first winner in 1945, and her great-grandfather, Arthur, was also an accomplished jockey.

Barnes had not planned on following her relatives into the sport despite her love of horses.

"When I was younger, I didn't think I wanted to be a jockey.

"But I did some work during the school holidays and it kind of happened from there, really."

Her mother was not impressed.

"You fall off riding around the track during training, sometimes, but I haven't had a bad fall."

Barnes got a "wee bit nervous" before a race, "but once I'm on the horse, I sort of forget about it".

Melbourne Cup Day at Wingatui should be fun, but the teenager would like to ride in the Melbourne Cup proper one day. More immediately, though, she is chasing the title of top apprentice jockey in the South Island.