Life Lessons: Sam Spratt, Jockey

I'm up at 5 most mornings to track ride - which is training for both me and the horses. I'm usually home by about 8.30 for breakfast and then 3-4 days a week I head off to either ride races or trials around the country. On the other days, once track riding is finished, I'll try and have a nap and then spend as much time as possible with my son, Cody.

I don't really get embarrassed too easily; I'm a pretty lighthearted person. Two weeks ago I rode my horse round the track at Ellerslie wearing my underwear on the outside (as part of Ellerslie's Lindauer Twilight Summer Series).

Six years ago I was thrown off a ride, Dragon Tiger, at Trentham. We had raced to the front of the field but he tried to jump the barrier; I was thrown off, landed on my head and was knocked unconscious. I took three years off riding and still have only vague memories of the entire year following the fall. It set me back in my apprenticeship, but three years ago I started riding again and I'm happy to be doing well again now.

People often just gawp when I tell them I'm a jockey. Most of the time people think it's pretty cool - I guess I'm the right size for a jockey so most people aren't so surprised when I tell them.

I have a very sweet tooth, I eat too many takeaways and I love cafe food.

I don't really watch my weight but I don't eat much on race days - I usually have pancakes for breakfast. I ride at 50-51kg. I'm a natural lightweight and, to be honest, don't have to watch my weight too much. If I have to ride light I just eat loads of fruit and stay off the carbs.

I had always fancied being a jockey. A friend knew a trainer, Charlie Faulkner, and he gave me a ride. After being carted twice around the track I thought "wow, cool" and the bug bit.

I crack my bones all the time. I guess it's a bit of an occupational hazard. All the riding and holding onto the reins makes for a few kinks here and there, so I crack my bones to keep loose. I need to stay loose and relaxed to ride.

I've never had therapy and never would. I've got a really close-knit family and the people I work with are like family too. I guess I'm a pretty normal, balanced person, but if I need any help I've got lots of people around me to talk to.

My first memory is riding my first pony, Snowball. I would have been about 3 at the time. He was a grey pony and even at that early age I can remember hooning around, pushing him to run as fast as he could.

I wish the fashion police would ban guys wearing flat, peaked caps - I just don't get it.

* Sam Spratt leads the national jockeys' leaderboard so far this season. She will ride in the $2.2 million Telecom Derby today, which launches Auckland Cup Week, and the $1 million Stella Artois Auckland Cup on Wednesday, both at Ellerslie Racecourse.

- NZ Herald

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