Callaghan to Doomben: Zoe White's Rocky road to the top

Zoe White gives a five-finger salute after one of her favourite horses Conca Del Sogno won at Callaghan Park.
Zoe White gives a five-finger salute after one of her favourite horses Conca Del Sogno won at Callaghan Park. MATT HARRIS

RACING: Zoe White has been to hell and back, both figuratively and literally.

Now she's knocking on the door of the state's best jockeys.

After being discovered by the late Carly-Mae Pye on a high school work-experience trip, White soon found she was made for the saddle.

But tragedy struck both White and Rockhampton racing, when Pye lost her life in a jump-out in 2014.


In late 2015, White suffered a horror fall of her own. She was thrown from her horse in a Thangool race meet, sustaining major damage to her face and jaw.

"I had never had any racing experience until I met Carly-Mae. I was at her place and she thought I'd make a good jockey because I was so light," White said of her beloved mentor.

"I had done pony club and horse shows but nothing to do with racing at all.

"Carly got me started, I owe it all to her."

READ: The win would mean so much to Tim Cook.

READ: Courageous Zoe back on track after horror fall.

READ: Is move to 'big smoke' on the cards for Zoe?

Since that fall of her own, White finished tied first with Adrian Coome in the Callaghan Park premiership (Coome wins on a count back) and the best apprentice jockey in the state.

She said the recognition was great and she spoke with pride at how well she returned to the scene.

"I don't remember the fall, so in my mind it didn't happen, that makes it easier," she said.

"I'm not scared of horses. Oh it was very painful though. My back still hurts but you just have to push on.

"It was a surprise to do so well this season. I hit a flat spot and thought I was done. But was able to pick it back up. I really put the head down.

"Adrian will win if they do a count back but I am sticking with that we tied."


Rockhampton boom apprentice jockey Zoe White will head to Brisbane stables come September.
Rockhampton boom apprentice jockey Zoe White will head to Brisbane stables come September. Chris Ison ROK240216csales1

For the teenage White, there are two horses close to her heart. Conca Del Sogno who she won seven straight races on and Pantalettes who saw her win the Carly-Mae Memorial Race on late last year.

White was barely able to stand after completing the race and was brought to tears, rushed with raw emotion.

Adding further to White's credentials, she has recently gained her metro license, and will now be able to ride mid-week races at Brisbane's Doomben and Eagle Farm.

She has been part of Tim Cook's stables for two years now but will have an emotional farewell when she joins leading Brisbane trainer Tony Gollan.

READ: Our Boy Malachi farewelled in Rockhampton.

READ: Carly-Mae Pye's spirit rides on at Caulfield Cup.

For her trainer and friend Cook, also the partner of Carly-Mae, it is a move he feels she must make.

"Zoe has come a long way and is really starting to mature now," he said fondly.

"She does everything she has been asked to do and is just a good kid. I can't say a bad thing about her.

"It has been a roller coaster ride for her but she has had a lot of support and she will go far."

So far, White's determination has been top shelf. She rises at 2.20am each day and does track work twice a day, five times a week.

Cook says the next two years will make or break her career.

"She can go a long long way if she gets off to a flying start," he said of the challenges ahead.

"She has had a bit of a growth spurt so the next two years will be very telling for her. Hopefully the weight is something she can maintain.

"But to go forward, she has to go, she has my blessing of course. If it doesn't work out, she can come back to Rocky and be a force here."

Topics:  callaghan park doomben eagle farm racing queensland rockhampton tim cook tony gollan zoe white

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