A cursory glance at the state of play on the national jockeys’ premiership for this season will bring a smile to the face of those pundits looking to what the future might hold for the New Zealand riding ranks. Apprentice riders currently hold seven of the top twenty places including the top spot with Cambridge-based apprentice Ashvin Goindasamy.
Sitting in 15th place is Te Akau Racing apprentice Chelsea Burdan who had a red-letter day at Te Rapa last Wednesday when winning three races on the seven-race programme. In just her second year of race-riding, nineteen-year-old Burdan has made steady progress since kicking home her first winner aboard Lady Zeraph when making her debut in September last year.
She ended the season with 10 wins and has already added a further seven to her credit this season, including Wednesday’s treble which allowed her to cross off another personal milestone. “It felt good because I got to cross off a goal by riding a double and it got even better when I rode a treble,” Burdan said. “I’ve definitely improved a lot and got stronger in a finish. It’s been coming along quite nicely and I’m probably seeing the benefits of being patient in my first year and not taking too many rides.”
Te Akau trainer Jamie Richards believes Burdan has a big future in racing, based on what he has seen from her to date. “Chelsea is going really well,” he said. “She’s working hard at it, doing plenty of riding and a fair bit of travelling into the Central Districts, as well. She’s really starting to get there now, learning from the mistakes she’s made and putting horses in good positions. “I really think she’s an apprentice that over the next couple of years can come through to be one of the leading apprentices in New Zealand, and she’ll have a bright future if she continues to work hard.”
Another in Burdan’s corner is Central and Northern Riding Master Noel Harris. “She’s a standout, is hungry to succeed and she’s trying really hard,” said Harris, a Hall of Fame jockey with over 2000 wins. “She’s got a will to win and she’s a quick learner. She’s listens, wants to better herself and succeed, and I just love that in her.
“I know most apprentices are in a hurry, but she’s one of those girls that if you point out what she’s doing wrong, she’ll correct it straight away. “Many of the apprentices can get a bit down when they’re not getting rides, but it’s all a part of learning. And, it just takes a winner or two to get noticed and things turnaround. “A lot of our apprentices are riding well and getting winners throughout the whole country and it makes for good competition.”
Te Akau principal David Ellis is proud of the record riders of the calibre of Vinnie Colgan, Opie Bosson and Samantha Collett have gone on to achieve after getting their starts at the Matamata-based operation. “Te Akau has a great reputation and history with apprentice jockeys and consider it an important part of the racing industry to not only produce quality thoroughbreds but also to back its young people and develop skill sets in our staff and young riders,” Ellis said.
“We’ve had champion apprentices and given many of them, including Chelsea, their first winning rides. What she achieved when riding three winners in a day is a real feather in her cap and shows the benefits of how hard she’s worked and her will to win. “She claims three-kilos which a great asset, especially when our horses start getting up in the weights, and we’re proud to have her in the Te Akau team. “She’s got a good attitude and wants to succeed, and that’s the name of the game.”