Former explorer enjoying jockey life

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An urge to see the world more than a decade ago was a lifechanging experience for Canterbury jockey Tina Comignaghi. The Argentinian native was backpacking around New Zealand, and like many travellers, decided to get a job in order to replenish her funds.

Growing up riding horses, Comignaghi found herself a job working with thoroughbreds and her new employers urged her to look into a career as a jockey because of her diminutive stature.

“I was backpacking around New Zealand and I found a job with horses and they told me I was the perfect size for a jockey, so I had a crack at it,” she said. “I grew up on a cattle farm in Argentina, so I was riding around the farm bareback mainly and then I got into show jumping and dressage. “I went back home after a year here and then I came back to sign-up as a jockey.”

Through all that time Comignaghi has been with Balcairn trainers John and Karen Parsons, who she said has become her adoptive family. “I have been with John and Karen since the start and I am still there. I haven’t changed at all. They are like a part of my family,” she said.

The 31-year-old has recorded 173 wins, six of those at stakes level, over her seven years riding in New Zealand and with 22 victories to her name this term, she is on track to surpass her previous best of 48 wins last season.

There have been a few highlights this season for Comignaghi, but two stand out above the rest. “Riding Matchmaker in the Canterbury Belle Stakes (Listed, 1200m) was one of my highlights and riding four winners at Greymouth (on Monday),” she said.

Comignaghi enjoys riding on the West Coast and she is looking forward to continuing the circuit at Reefton on Thursday. “I find it a lot of fun,” she said. “There are not many tactics involved, it’s more just going as fast as you can, and they are very tight tracks. The atmosphere is really fun. I really enjoy it.”

She will have eight rides on Thursday and rates Fishermans Blues as one of her leading chances in the Birchfield Coal Mines (2000m). “I am riding a few for Kevin Myers and Michael Pitman and they should be good chances,” she said. “Fishermans Blues should go a very good race, he ran second the other day.”

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Comignaghi said her main aim is to break the 50 wins in a season barrier for the first time. “I just want to beat my tally from last season,” she said. “I’d like to get 50 wins for the season.”

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