Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Weekend Herald and Herald on Sunday.

Racing: Sam Spratt, third time lucky?

Jockey Sam Spratt relaxing at home in Pukekohe. Photo / Dean Purcell
Jockey Sam Spratt relaxing at home in Pukekohe. Photo / Dean Purcell

Sam Spratt - who has battled back from severe head injuries and learned to walk again - is on a mission to win New Zealand's richest horse race.

The 31-year-old mum was told by doctors she would never ride again after a fall from a racehorse when she was just 18.

But Spratt has made a remarkable recovery and will today bid to become the first female jockey to clinch the New Zealand Bloodstock Karaka Million at Ellerslie.

The Aucklander has come close in the $1 million race before - she finished second in 2010 and came third two years ago.

This time she is determined to sprint into the history books, riding highly rated 2-year-old filly Tennessee.

Her preparations went well yesterday when she won the Wellington Cup on Mister Impatience at Trentham.

"Being the first woman to win the Karaka Million would mean such a lot to me," she told the Herald on Sunday.

"It has been frustrating to almost do it a few times in the past.

Spratt thought her promising career as a jockey was over when she was thrown from the horse she was racing, Dragon Tiger, at Trentham in Upper Hutt when she was a teen.

She has no memories of the accident but has seen footage of the moment when her horse was suddenly spooked and jumped the railing, catapulting her into the air. She landed headfirst in barbed wire, resulting in serious head injuries.

Mister Impatience ridden by Sam Spratt after winning the Wellington Cup. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Mister Impatience ridden by Sam Spratt after winning the Wellington Cup. Photo / Mark Mitchell

"Doctors didn't expect me to pull through never mind walk again," she said.

Spratt was determined to keep riding and attempted a return to racing after just six months. But she suffered a major setback when a horse kicked her when she was feeding it, rupturing her spleen.

"After that, I stopped riding for four years before deciding to give it another go ... within three months I had won my first race and I never looked back."

Spratt has now clocked up 701 wins and won almost $16m.

- Herald on Sunday

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