Gatu glowing after Te Rapa win

When it comes to days in the sun, Swedish apprentice Victoria Gatu will never forget today’s Te Rapa meeting.

Gatu, who is in her first season as an apprentice with the Chris Wood stable at Cambridge, broke through for her first professional win when guiding the stable representative and first-upper Bob Valdez to a game victory in the Video-In-Print 1400.

“It’s my first ride since I came back from a holiday at home in Sweden,” said Gatu (27). “I went home for a couple of weeks and it’s winter over there. The only daylight you get is from 9am to 3pm and it was cold. It was great to get back here and get the longer days and sunshine.”

Mind you, even if there had been a shower of rain or a winter blast at Te Rapa, it wouldn’t have taken the smile off Gatu’s face as she urged Bob Valdez to an upset win.

Bob Valdez is better-suited over ground than the 1400 metres and, though Gatu did finish second on him at the recent Cambridge trials, the five-year-old was allowed to start at odds of better than 34/1.

“He’s a character and the win was a bit of a surprise, though he had been galloping well in his work,” said Gatu. “It was a thrill to finally put my head in front at the finish. I’ve had a lot of placings, but just couldn’t get the win. I’ve had about four or five seconds and a lot of thirds, too.”

Gatu was having her 29th raceday ride in New Zealand when successful on Bob Valdez. Her list of placings on Bob Valdez’s stablemates include three seconds (one when beaten a head at Matamata) and a third on Margarita Time, a third and a fourth on Lady Chaparral and a second in her first New Zealand ride, on Master Power when beaten a long head by Kaap Kruis at Hastings on August 6.

Gatu has been past the winning post first on one previous occasion, but that was four years ago when riding as an amateur in Spain. “I was just riding for fun back then, but now I want to make a career of it,” she said.

Gatu doesn’t come from a racing background and it was her aunty who persuaded her to shift from her home (three hours drive north of Stockholm) to England and enrol in the racing school at Newmarket.

“It was a beginner’s course for people who had never sat on a horse,” she said. “I got a job working for Marcus Tregoning at Lambourn and at the time he was training Sir Percy (winner of the 2006 English Derby and a recent shuttle sire to Rich Hill Stud at Matamata).”

Gatu shifted back to Sweden and had a couple of rides as an amateur before spending six months in Italy and three years in Spain, where she had about 20 rides in amateur races.

It was later while taking a break from riding trackwork in England that she stumbled on a website advertisement for a job with Wood.

“I love to travel and I like racehorses and New Zealand looked an interesting country,” she said. “I knew there was racing here and I emailed Chris about the job and he told me to come over.”

Gatu arrived in New Zealand 11 months ago and obtained her apprentice jockey’s licence in time for the start of the current season.

“I’m so happy here,” said Gatu. “Chris has been a great help. He’s put me on good horses like Lady Chaparral and Master Power.”

Wood was obviously thrilled for both Gatu and the connections of Bob Valdez today. And making the day even better for the stable was the fact stablemate Bravado capped some consistent form with a win in the previous event, sponsored by Wood.

Bravado, owned by Dick Karreman, was runner-up at New Plymouth in the leadup to the Chris Wood Racing Stables Maiden and was ridden today by Trudy Thornton.