Racing: Life of apprentice to change for better

Blue Diamond Stakes unveils a miracle for unlikely Adelaide trio.

Miracles Of Life wins the Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield. Photo / Getty Images
Miracles Of Life wins the Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield. Photo / Getty Images

In the barrier stalls at Caulfield on Saturday, at this rare moment of racetrack reckoning, Lauren Stojakovic whispered a line to Miracles Of Life that could have been plucked from the pages of National Velvet.

Stojakovic, the 29-year-old apprentice jockey from Adelaide, the one the narks and traditionalists had mumbled should have been politely stopped at the border, explained to her tiny mount the significance of the possibly perilous journey ahead in Victoria's richest 2-year-old race.

Stojakovic told "Barbie", the filly backed into Blue Diamond Stakes favouritism ahead of the Darley giants, partly on a wave of sentiment, that "this next minute, for us, is the difference between being good and great".

A little more than a minute later, after gently and flawlessly piloting her mount from barrier one, regarded as a trap for this young player, Stojakovic returned to scale a teary-eyed victor, reported the Herald Sun.

Trainer Daniel Clarken later plucked his tiny, previously unheralded jockey from the ground and held her in a long embrace. Three of Stojakovic's four sisters stood by, shaking with pride and wet with tears.

A week earlier Black Caviar had continued her ruthless demolition job of Australia's best colts and geldings.

In a sense, Stojakovic's Blue Diamond Stakes victory was the continuation of a theme; that the sport of kings, where women were once kept at bay by a white line in the members' enclosure, no longer has a glass ceiling.

While Stojakovic was a proud conquerer on Saturday, her emotion, and the wild applause that swept across the course as she and Miracles Of Life ambled back to scale, suggested this was different to Black Caviar.

Forget the political correctness. Stojakovic was a girl on a man's mission. Thirty-three jockeys rode at Caulfield on Saturday and just one took up residence in the female jockeys' room.

Until a month ago, Stojakovic had only twice slipped across the border and could hardly have been less visible, riding at Mildura and Swan Hill. Some years ago, she rode at Birdsville.

Even those who cheered for Stojakovic on Saturday were privately mumbling she should have been dumped for a more experienced - read male - rider.

Miracles Of Life, small and from an insignificant state, and pitted against multiple runners from stables so big they operate globally, would have been a standalone story if not for the tale of her jockey.

Post-race, it was all about Stojakovic.

Clarken was overcome with pride, for both his girls.

"She caned them,"he said, wiping away tears. "She [Miracles Of Life] has changed my life and she's changed Lauren's too.

"That ride was amazing, 10 out of 10. This will change her career. She struggled to get a ride in Adelaide."

Stojakovic said later that her mount was "indeed a miracle of life", that her moment, smashing the boys in one of the feature events at Caulfield, was surreal.

Sometimes one short word sums up everything.

A reporter related to Stojakovic what she had just achieved.

She wiped a tear, had a little think, said "wow" and skipped down the tunnel and back to the emptiness of the female jockeys' room.

- NZ Herald

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