Leading New Zealand jockey Samantha Collett hasn’t been idle during the country’s near two-month lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just two days into lockdown the Matamata hoop decided to follow her passion and enrolled in an interior design course.
Interior design has been a growing passion for Collett, which was heightened last year when she was furnishing her new property, which she owns with partner and fellow jockey Shaun McKay. “I have been very passionate about interior design for quite a while and it’s something I have always wanted to get my teeth into and it seemed the perfect opportunity to get cranking on that,” Collett said.
“I am into my second assessment now and I am really enjoying the change. I have enjoyed having to sit down and apply myself to something totally different. “It has been really good for my mind, I have enjoyed the new challenge.”
The pragmatic rider is looking ahead towards a career beyond racing and she hopes this course will lead her down a path to one day owning her own interior design business. “I would like to say I could ride forever, but that’s not going to happen, so I have been able to do this online,” she said. “Ideally, in the grand scheme of things, I would like to eventually start my own business. I have always been intrigued by interior design and the more I have got into it the more I have wanted to learn.”
While Collett is enjoying the course, she admitted that sitting in front of a screen for an extended period of time has not come easy to her. “I do struggle sitting down in front of the laptop for a long period of time. It’s something I am not used to,” she said. “I try and set aside time during the day, after I have come in from trackwork and farm jobs, to get my teeth into the study.”
Collett has also enjoyed spending some quality time with partner Shaun McKay on their 20 acre property, something she said they have not been able to do much of prior to the lockdown. “I quite enjoyed the time off. It has been refreshing, but obviously a bit of a financial strain,” she said. “Shaun and I are pretty lucky that we have got plenty to do on our farm to keep us busy and I have got horses here to ride.
“Our work schedules had been pretty hectic prior to the lockdown and Shaun and I have been here a year now, so the place has been developing slowly. It’s been quite nice to have some time together here to appreciate the place. “We are lucky that we can mentally and physically keep in a great space with what we have got here and having each other.”
Collett said she was fortunate to be able to keep fit and continue riding during lockdown. “I was lucky enough to still be able to exercise horses at Dad’s (Jim Collett) because he has his own track at his place. “Doing that and riding my own sport horses at home has kept me quite fit. “I always like to keep busy and keep fit. It’s a physically demanding career, so I try not to let myself get too out of shape. I’m always that way inclined, to always be doing something.”
Collett had been enjoying a good season in the saddle prior to the lockdown, having amassed 72 wins, including victories in the Group 1 Levin Classic (1600m) aboard Travelling Light and the Group 1 Auckland Cup (3200m) on outsider Roger That. It was Collett’s second consecutive win in the two-mile feature after she won last year’s edition aboard Glory Days, her first Group 1 victory as a jockey.
While pleased with the season, Collett admitted to being a little bit frustrated that she didn’t get the opportunity to attain her season goal. “I really wanted to get to 800 winners by the end of the season and I am 15 off that, which is frustrating,” she said. “The season itself has been fantastic with the two Group 1s. They were quite chalk and cheese with one of course being an upset (Roger That) and the other one was pretty special to me. The filly of Ben’s (Foote, trainer) she is really smart.”
The Auckland Cup is quickly becoming one of Collett’s favourite races and she said the team at Ellerslie do a great job in promoting the sport. “I love winning races at Auckland, the team there do such a super job promoting the sport and getting the atmosphere there, which as a rider is a real buzz,” she said. “We would like to see more people at the races, so hopefully that is one thing the team can work on.”
While Collett has been in the top-tier of the Kiwi jockey ranks for some time, she said a riding career across the Tasman doesn’t entice her and she would rather make plans for a career beyond racing. “I am at the point in my career now where I think how much longer am I going to ride at this pace,” she said. “For me to make a move to Australia is not really in my interests in terms of having to start from scratch again. “I would sooner put my effort into being a business woman of some description.”