Wilson ecstatic after first win

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  • October 03, 2023
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By Joshua Smith, LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

There were few smiles bigger than Danika Wilson’s at Riccarton last Saturday after the apprentice jockey recorded her first win aboard The Buffer in the Coupland’s Bakeries Mile Trial (1400m).

It was the 21-year-old’s eighth raceday ride and she said she had a feeling prior to the race that she would be saluting the judge for the first time upon her return.

“I felt a bit nervous on Friday night and Saturday morning, and I hadn’t felt nervous for any of my previous seven rides or trials rides,” Wilson said.

“I usually send my rides to all of my family members, but I hadn’t done that this time, I just sent them to my mum.

“Going into the race I thought ‘I am going to win this’. I said to Krystal (Williams, co-trainer) right before she let me go, ‘I am going to win this, I am hungry for it’.

“I couldn’t believe it when I won, I was absolutely stoked. I started crying as soon as I past the post.”

While Wilson felt an immense sense of pride and joy following the win, she also felt vindicated, having proven her doubters wrong.

At 1.72cm tall, Wilson doesn’t fit the traditional mould of a jockey and has been reminded of this in her career pursuit.

While more fragile minds would have listened to the cynics, Wilson’s steely resolve urged her to continue on her chosen path.

“A lot of people said to me ‘you don’t want to be a jockey’. Everyone doubted me because of my height and weight, so it is just so rewarding to get that win,” she said.

“I think that’s what made me want to become a jockey, because that is my personality.

“I have always walked around heavier than most, but I found things that worked well for me. I know what I am eating, I eat healthy and clean.

“If I am not riding on raceday then I am in the gym, and if I am not in the gym, I am running between 5-15km, or out for a hike up the Port Hills.”

Wilson said she also took inspiration from taller jockeys abroad.

“I think seeing the guys over in Aussie that are so tall is what gave me the drive to want to be a jockey,” she said.

“All of the girls are very small, but seeing the guys who are tall, that made me want to do it because in general, a guy is usually heavier than a female. I saw them and I thought I could do it.”

Wilson’s weight hasn’t been the only obstacle she has had to overcome, having badly broken her finger earlier this year, but she once again defied the odds.

“I broke my finger in February and they (doctors) said that I couldn’t ride for three months and they were looking to operate on my finger,” she said.

“I was back riding at the track three days later and did everything possible not to have surgery. My finger is a little bit bent now, but it is alright because I didn’t have to have surgery.”

While Wilson has always loved horses, she wasn’t born into a racing family and only entered the industry by chance when scrolling through social media looking for a job.

“I have been riding since I was four-years-old, but not competitively, I wasn’t a pony club girl or a show girl. I just had the odd hack on the family farm,” she said.

“I got my first stable job just over two years ago in Timaru. I was just scrolling through Facebook and wanted a horse job because I missed the horses.

“I started with Bruce Tapper as a stablehand and a week later he had me in the round pen on one of the racehorses and then said ‘okay, we’ll put your license through and you can be a trackwork rider’, and it has all gone from there.

“I remember my first day going around the track, I did two rounds of the track and I was knackered.

“I absolutely fell in with it from there – I love the adrenaline, I love the fast pace, and I absolutely love the horses.”

Wilson enjoyed her time at Tapper’s but felt she needed to move to Christchurch to further her riding career.

“I worked for the Tappers and Stewarts in Timaru and then I came to Christchurch and worked for Lance Robinson, and I absolutely love it there,” she said.

“I then went to Terri Rae’s for a little bit as well and I learnt so much at Terri’s. Her horses always look amazing and she does a very good job with her horses.”

“After Terri’s I came to Krystal (Williams, who trains in partnership with Ken Rae) and she has been like a mum to me. It is the family environment that I needed.

“I didn’t grow up in racing and I don’t have family here in Christchurch. Krystal has not only taken me on as an apprentice, but she has made me family as well. That has helped me so much.

“They have got some very nice horses and some very nice young horses coming through as well.

“We have got 25 horses down here at the Burnham stable, so I am kept very busy, which I love. They are very good trainers.”

Inspired by her first win, Wilson said she wants to make a real go of riding as a career and has already pencilled in some goals she would like to achieve before season’s end.

“I have a goal to get 10 wins by Christmas, and getting a ride in a stakes race would be huge for me,” she said.

“By the end of the season I’d ideally like to a two-kilo claimer and to hopefully go up north next winter and potentially base myself at the Ruakaka stable for the winter.” – LOVERACING.NZ News Desk

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