Collett is back at Kranji

New Zealand woman jockey Alysha Collett has four rides at Kranji tomorrow on her return to Singapore racing.
New Zealand woman jockey Alysha Collett has four rides at Kranji tomorrow on her return to Singapore racing.TNP FILE PHOTO

New Zealand woman jockey puts her injury behind because she likes riding in Singapore

While some would consider a career switch after a horror race fall, it did not scare New Zealand woman jockey Alysha Collett from continuing the competitive sport dominated by men.

This is not because she does not have a back-up plan. She has - as a race presenter. After all, she is well qualified for it.

In fact, while recuperating from her back injury suffered in a race fall at Kranji nine months ago, Collett worked as a trackside television presenter in New Zealand.

But, now that she has fully recovered, the lure of the turf - and, yes, Singapore - takes her back to where she left off.

She is making her comeback to Singapore racing with four rides at Kranji tomorrow - Beauty Luck in Race 2, Atlantic Fox in Race 3, Alwrich in Race 4 and Hidden Promise in Race 7.

Asked why she is returning to a place that left her bedridden with a bruised back for several weeks - not to mention going under the knife twice - the plucky Kiwi lass said without batting an eyelid: "I really like Singapore. Some jockeys don't, but I do - and that's why I'm back.

"When I was lying in my hospital bed, I was only focused about getting better, but coming back to Singapore was always at the back of my mind."

When here last year, things went quite well for Collett - 11 winners from 181 rides - until the fateful incident. She was just about to complete her six-month licence when she hurt her L1 vertebra and her right heel in a race fall on Oct 14.

She was riding the Michael Clements-trained Drone in a 1,000m race on the Polytrack, when her mount blundered 200 metres out while running into restricted room between two horses (Thunderstruck and Racer King).

It sent her crashing to the ground. Both jockeys Vlad Duric (rider of Thunderstruck) and Daniel Moor (on Racer King) were later suspended for careless riding in the aftermath of the incident.

Taking a tumble from a racehorse comes with the territory for the daughter of New Zealand trainers Richard and Judy since she started riding as a little girl.

But Collett, 25, did see the appeal of another career in racing during her recovery - not because the injury took its toll on her.

"After my fall, I went home shortly after. There was nothing else I could do," said the winner of about 380 races, including a Group 1, four Group 2s and 14 in Group 3 and Listed races.

"During that time, I worked in the racing media as a TV presenter. I worked three times a week - did previews, live raceday presentations and post-race reviews.

"I really enjoyed it, and for a while, I thought that could be an interesting career choice if I didn't return to race-riding."

After her second surgery in April to have the rods from her back removed, she regained her fitness and just wanted to get back to riding horses.

She said the rods and screws were inserted to stabilise the fractured vertebra but they restricted her movement. She could move a lot better after the surgery.

The rehabilitation followed, after which she started riding trackwork for various trainers in June. She had her first race rides after she got clearance from her doctor.

"In 40 rides, I rode four winners, including a double (July 24) before I left, which could not have been a better send-off," said Collett, who did some trackwork and won a trial on Thursday, a day after her Singapore work permit was approved.

"The TV work was great and that's a string in my bow, which I can use one day when I stop riding. But, for now, I just want to get back to race-riding and Singapore is where I want to be right now."

Collett had kept an eye on the Kranji racing scene after she left and was excited to land in Singapore again last Sunday. She noted that some things have changed but the hot and humid weather hasn't.

"It felt great to ride around the track again, but that heat on the Polytrack wasn't as great," she said.

"There are a few new faces among the jockeys as well, so it'll be interesting. We'll see what happens."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 03, 2019, with the headline 'Collett is back at Kranji'. Print Edition | Subscribe