Donna?s talent shines in double

TEENAGE Central Queenslander Donna Carrigg will long remember the spring of 2005.

For as long as Donna, 17, can recall, she yearned to be a jockey ? not just any jockey mind you, but one of which her father and grandfather would be so very proud.

Sadly for Donna, both men, her father Michael, a former leading amateur jockey in Victoria and her grandfather Albert, a gifted horsemen, passed on in recent years.

However, if there are grandstand riders in the sky, both men would have been chuffed watching the Sky-Channel coverage of last Tuesday's Rockhampton races.

In a few short hours, Donna cemented her future as an apprentice jockey with the "sky's-the limit'' future through a winning double on the Dave Vale-trained Joe Dirt and King's Mirror.

Better still, that night before an appreciative audience, Donna was named the Rockhampton Jockey Club's star apprentice jockey for the 2004-2005 racing season.

In a change from tradition, the Rockhampton Jockey Club, to its credit, rewarded the resident Capricornia apprentice who had ridden the most winners for the season at Callaghan Park racecourse.

While recognising that senior Brisbane-based apprentice Gavin McKeon was the premier apprentice through a long tally of winners, Rockhampton Jockey Club executive-manager Bruce Slattery said the club wanted to give incentive to a local apprentice coming through the ranks.

"It was more of an encouragement award which the club thought was fitting for a local apprentice,'' Slattery said.

Who could argue as, in an era where country apprentices are as rare as "hen's teeth'', every tool should be used to whet their appetite for success?

Donna herself recognises she has been fortunate to be guided by two mentors ? Yeppoon trainer Allan Jenkinson and now Rockhampton's Maurice Stafford to whom her apprenticeship papers have been transferred.

"Allan Jenkinson taught me a lot for which I am grateful,'' Donna said.

However, now that she is Rockhampton based, Stafford has implemented an edict for Donna that has already paid dividends, resulting in Tuesday's double.

"Donna starts riding my horses at 3am and I insist she stays back at the track until 8am and rides work for everyone who needs a horse ridden.

"I've told her to go and ask trainers and not to refuse them. I told her it doesn't matter how slow the horses may feel but one day that trainer may get a top horse which could work in her favour,'' Stafford said.

Stafford was an apprentice whizz kid in Rockhampton, winning three Callaghan Park senior jockeys premierships ? 1962/63, 63/64 and 64/65 as a junior jockey.

Before relocating to Brisbane in the 90s, Stafford shared premier trainer's honours in Rockhampton in 1985/86 before winning the trainer's premiership outright in 1988/89.

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