Focus on country racing fires Tenterden jockey Jess Gray to stellar comeback in the saddle

Taj StubberAlbany Advertiser
Leading country apprentice Jess Gray accepting her award.
Camera IconLeading country apprentice Jess Gray accepting her award. Credit: Simon Merritt / Western Racepix

Tenterden jockey Jess Gray says the thrill of fast paced racing on dirt tracks is a key reason for her success since returning to the saddle last year.

Gray topped off her stellar season by being announced as the leading country apprentice at the 2020-21 WA Thoroughbred Country Racing Awards held last Friday.

The 25-year-old was also named the leading country B apprentice jockey at the WA Apprentice Jockey Awards held earlier this month.

Gray said focusing on country racing had helped reignite her passion for racing.

“I’m loving being back in the saddle,” she said.

“It was mainly my weight that made me take a break before and now I have come back with the sole focus of riding in the country, and that’s where I’m happiest.

“I just love the fast pace and the dirt tracks, it’s just a different atmosphere.

“I love the feeling of winning, nothing beats that. I don’t love the wasting (food) so much, that part’s not that great.

“It’s a great lifestyle and getting to travel and seeing so many parts of the State and getting paid to do it is fantastic.”

Leading Country Apprentice Jess Gray.
Camera IconLeading Country Apprentice Jess Gray. Credit: Simon Merritt / Western Racepix

A large portion of Gray’s winners came from host trainer Darryn Pateman and she was at her best riding on the dirt tracks across WA.

In the 2020-21 season Gray scored 29 victories and accumulated a big portion of those at Broome, Derby, Port Hedland, Roebourne and Carnarvon.

“Darryn has been great to me and really supportive and a really good boss to work for,” she said.

“Life could not get any better at the moment, I’m really looking forward to the future and I’ve had a great past year.”

Gray began her career in 2017 and after a break of almost a year, returned to the saddle in July 2020.

With racing now finished in WA’s north she has been riding in Darwin.

She won the 2020 Junction and Moora cups along with the Mingenew Sprint this year.

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