Farr records first NZ win

Emily Farr broke through for her first New Zealand win at Avondale yesterday, but she won’t be getting many more opportunities before she returns to Wales.

Farr caused an upset at Avondale when guiding 40/1 longshot Cash Kingdom to his first win in more than three years. Both Cash Kingdom’s previous wins had also been at Avondale and this latest success was a complete surprise for all concerned, particularly his Pukekohe trainer Bev Ritchie.

“Mrs Ritchie was so excited after the race,” said Farr. “She told me before the race the horse wouldn’t like the track. But I just let him do his own thing and he won well.”

It was Farr’s 12th ride in New Zealand and easily surpassed her previous best placings, which included a fourth on Ann Browne’s Ima Star in her first hurdle ride and a fourth and a fifth on Desperado.

The Welsh-born 22-year-old has just three more weeks in New Zealand before heading back to complete her studies at the Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England.

“I’m combining a bio-medical course with an equine course and coming to New Zealand was part of a year placement,” she said. “I had a few choices were to go, but New Zealand sounded good, especially as I wanted to ride over fences.”

Farr hails from South Wales (“20 minutes from Cardiff”) and has been with horses all her life. Her parents, Shan and Ross, were both champion amateur riders in England and Wales then became successful point-to-point trainers.

Farr spent eight years showjumping, from the age of eight. “My parents gave up training to follow me around the country,” she said. “I rode in Ireland, France and all through England and Wales. “I got a few golds and was third at the Horse Of The Year Show in Birmingham (England) as a 12-year-old.”

Though Farr enjoyed the showjumping, she was determined to ride at point-to-points. “Mum wasn’t keen on me doing it and we had a bit of a family dispute, but I got my way in the end. They started training again and I went around the countryside riding their horses.”

Farr rode seven winners at point-to-point meetings in Wales and rates yesterday’s win as a professional jockey right up there with winning for her parents. “The horses I rode for Mum and Dad were horses they bred so it was special winning on them,” she said. “It’s great to win a race here and hopefully I can win more before I go home.”

Farr came to New Zealand in mid-September last year and initially worked at Chequers Stud for the Campin family. “I rode the racehorses for Mark, Chris and Jim,” said Farr. “I used to ride Kisses, Royal Queen and Aston Martin.”

Farr was planning to return home last March, but top jumps jockey Shelley Houston persuaded her to stay and try her luck riding over fences.

“That’s when I plucked up enough courage one Sunday to ask Craig Thornton for a job,” said Farr. “I’d heard what a top rider he was and how well he’d done in America and that he’d won the big steeplechase in Japan (Nakayama Grand Jump).

“He took me on and he’s been a great help. He’s taught me a lot and made me a better rider. Between him, Shelley and Shaun Phelan I’ve learned so much, not only riding in races but also trackwork. “

One of the big changes for Farr has been riding in steeplechases in New Zealand. “The fences are a lot different from home,” she said.

Farr is this week taking in the atmosphere of Grand National week at Riccarton and during her stay in Christchurch she hopes to ride trackwork for some of the trainers, including Paul Nelson.

“If I pick up a ride down here on Wednesday it will be a bonus,” she said. “Unfortunately I won’t be here for Saturday’s meeting. I have two rides at Te Aroha on Friday so I’ve got to go back north.”

Farr has impressed several jumps enthusiasts with her ability and she says there is a chance she could return next year. “I’ll get my studies out of the way, but I’d love to come back,” she said. “It’s been a great experience.”