Millie Wonnacott completes the transition from amateur rider to conditional jockey with two rides at Perth today.
Racing TV cameras will follow the action as Wonnacott, 23, teams up with Master Burbidge in a handicap chase (5.45) and Harbour Force in a handicap hurdle (8.30). Both horses are trained by her boss, Neil Mulholland, who is based near Bath and who she says was instrumental in encouraging her to switch to the role of professional rider.
She says: “I was going to become a conditional jockey in May, but then racing was suspended. I’ve had a few nudges from my boss to give it a go.
“My first goal is to lose my 7lb claim. I’ve ridden nine winners under Rules and so need another 11 before the claim is reduced to 5lb.”
While riding as an amateur Wonnacott struck up a winning partnership with the Mulholland-trained Fingerontheswitch, gaining her first ‘Saturday’ win on that horse at Kempton in January, finishing a close second on him in Doncaster’s Listed Sky Bet Handicap Chase and then gaining her first Cheltenham Festival spin. She describes those moments as highlights to date, although she came within one winner of taking the national novice women’s point-to-point title in the 2018/19 season when finishing runner-up to Jess Bedi. She did at least have the consolation of taking the award in Devon & Cornwall.
Wonnacott rode 13 winners from 60 rides in point-to-points and was successful on her sole start in a hunters’ chase when scoring on Heaney, owned and trained by her mother Claire, at Exeter in April last year. Currently working full time for Mulholland and on the books of agent Dave Roberts, she says: “I rode in point-to-points for five seasons and gained some good experience, but I was lucky to ride nice horses.”
Footnote: Wonnacott finished third on Master Burbidge (17/2) and then won on Harbour Force (7/1).