FRESH from riding her first ever winner at Berrigan at the weekend, apprentice jockey Chynna Marston can’t wait to debut on her home track at the Griffith Cup – but if you can, spare a thought for her family.
After all, it was only six years ago her passion landed her in hospital, in a coma and on life support after a horrific showjumping fall.
Not long after that, a horse flipped over on her at the Junee show, breaking six of her ribs, her sternum and her collarbone.
But if you think a few bumps and bruises would act as a deterrent for this blonde bombshell, think again.
“It’s dangerous, but I love it. You just do the things you love, don’t you?” she said.
“Mum’s a lot better now. It’s been good to have her support now, compared to before.
“She still worries, and of course she gets nervous and concerned with the safety aspects, because a female jockey was only killed a couple of months ago in Darwin.
“It’s probably one of the most dangerous sports in the world. It’s the only one where an ambulance follows you. We can’t race without one. It’s pretty serious.”
Fortunately, her mother was in attendance as the now 22-year-old rode her first ever winner, Russell Hogan horse Benny’s Jet, at Berrigan on Saturday in the R. Saunders Memorial (1300m).
Marston also took local trainer Gino D’Altorio’s Out In The Third and Imposing Vain to second and fourth-placed finishes respectively.
Currently working under D’Altorio after a stint as an apprentice with leading Wagga trainer Trevor Sutherland – who she said taught her “basically everything” – Saturday’s Griffith Cup can’t come quickly enough for Marston.
“It’s going to be really exciting to have the support of all my family and friends. I’ve never had that opportunity, so I’m really looking forward to it,” said Marston, who is likely to win starts in all races, bar the main event.
She readily acknowledges she doesn’t look or sound like a typical jockey.
“I get that all the time,” she said.
“Basically, I’ve ridden horses all my life but typically racing is a male-dominated industry.
“There’s a few girls getting around now and a few girl apprentices, which is good to see.
“It’s a tough, hard industry and you have to be physically and mentally prepared for it.”
D’Altorio has known Marston ever since she was knocking around in the local pony club as a youngster.
From there it was a natural progression to showjumping, but after those falls, she pushed her passion to one side for a few years.
The Griffith trainer is glad it wasn’t for good.
“From what she’s shown, she has all the attributes to be a good jockey,” he said.
“Time’s going to tell. We’ve always been friends but a couple of years ago she moved around a little bit. When I found out she was coming home I signed her up.”
Marston explained it was her love for horses that brought her back to what she admits is a dangerous but thrilling pursuit.
“I gave up riding for a few years but came back just breaking in and educating a few. A local trainer a few years ago just needed someone to ride trackwork,” she said.
“I hopped on and had far too much fun, so I moved to Wagga and started my apprenticeship and started race riding in Moruya.”
Aside from racing and her part-time law and business management courses at university, Marston is also currently trying to set up an organisation with her mother that she hopes will give “recycled racehorses” a second life.
“A lot of racehorses head to the knackery and they don’t get another chance, because people have a preconcieved notion that thoroughbreds are off their faces and unmanagable, which is absolutely the opposite – they’re the best horses,” she said.