Mark the name Tayla Wenn in your racebook as a jockey of the future.
The 17-year-old Te Aroha College student scored a dream win on her home racecourse in her first-ever trials ride last Tuesday.
‘‘It was pretty exciting,’’ Tayla told the Piako Post after returning from trackwork for her dad, Scott Wenn, at the family property in Racecourse Rd on Thursday.
Thoroughbred racing is ‘‘in the blood’’ of the talented teenager. Scott Wenn follows in the footsteps of his father, Terry, as a Te Aroha trainer.
Scott also regularly rides in an amateur jockeys’ series, this year finishing third overall.
His sister, Michelle Wenn, is a successful jockey now based at Cambridge.
Tayla’s other grandparents are leading Te Aroha trainers Keith and Dale Opie, who work in partnership with son Gavin.
When she was three, Tayla carried little buckets around the stables. She graduated to ponies at nearby Te Aroha Hack & Hunters Club, then at 15 began riding trackwork for her father.
Through the college Gateway work experience programme this year, Tayla was able to complete full trackwork sessions – 5.30am to 11am.
Prior to this she had to finish trackwork at 8am and then leave for school. Her trials riding, due to begin in winter, was delayed because of a through a broken thumb and tonsil trouble.
Prior to last week’s trials debut at Te Aroha, Tayla had several jump-outs (where horses get used to the starting gates) at the Matamata track.
One of her regular mounts was Miss Zeta, which she won on in her wonderful trials debut last Tuesday.
The Piako Post spoke to Tayla in the birdcage before the 800m event where she was a ‘‘little bit nervous’’ but totally focused on the job at hand. Dad’s advice: ‘‘Good luck’’.
Scott Wenn said the key to race riding was instinct. ‘‘You make things happen.’’
Miss Zeta missed the start and Tayla had plenty to do. Scott said the horse had trialed like this before, starting slowly and motoring home. For Tayla it was ‘‘all a bit of a blur’’.
Experienced racegoers in the birdcage were impressed with the performance of the youngster, a 47kg girl guiding 400kg of muscle.
When the Piako Post caught up with her last Thursday, Tayla, who rides trackwork six mornings a week, was heading to apprentice school at Cambridge.
The three-hour sessions, held every two months, are compulsory to meet racing industry standards for aspiring jockeys.
She needs at least 20 trial rides, which are subject to assessment by stipendiary stewards, before getting a raceday start.
This will hopefully take about six months, with her next trials outing at Cambridge at the end of the month.
In year 12 at Te Aroha College, she wants to ‘‘stay at school as long as I can’’ before pursuing her dream as a professional jockey.
Tayla planned to watch yesterday’s Melbourne Cup while at the day’s Ellerslie race meeting with her family, then review the tapes of her trials performance at Te Aroha.
Beside her on the couch was going to be her dad, still every bit as excited as Tayla about last week’s first-up win.
‘‘More than proud,’’ said Scott, with a wide smile, as we bid goodbye.
- Piako Post