AS EMMA Bell crossed the finish line riding Lord Darius at the Esk Races on Saturday, she not only fulfilled a lifelong dream of competing as a professional jockey, but she won the race.
Despite the odds, which at $6 the bookmakers deemed were not in her favour, the 28-year-old from Clermont took out Race Two, the 1200m CE&G Maiden.
While the sport is in her blood, given her dad Billy Bell is a well known Clermont jockey and mum Jenny is a horse trainer, it wasn't until April 2016 that Emma decided to give away her job in the mining industry to work towards her jockey license.
After finishing school Emma embarked on two university degrees- a bachelor of human movement science and then a bachelor of health and safety which led her to a job as a health and safety officer in the mining industry for seven years.
Despite always wanting to be a jockey, she was well aware of it's difficulties and wanted to make sure she had another career to fall back on.
Her family also worried about the pressure to keep under a certain weight- but so far, the gruelling track work and a healthy diet of "a lot of chicken and lettuce, and no KFC or McDonalds" had kept her in good stead.
"It's a hard profession, it's dangerous. And they were worried about me having to starve myself as well," she said.
"But it's always been something I've wanted to do, and I thought 'I can always go back to mining'.
"I've pretty much tried out every horse sport there is. And nothing matches the adrenaline and the feeling of galloping race horses."
Before racing professionally she had to complete 20 trial races, like practise races where there is no betting, which she completed in Brisbane while doing track work, mostly for trainer Pat Duff.
It was then the horse he owned and trained Lord Darius she rode at the weekend.
"He certainly wasn't the favourite, he never placed before Saturday," she said.
But the horse that was the favourite, Striking Warrior, bucked the jockey off right after starting, and it ran loose, taking the number of horses in the running down to five.
While she was sitting at fourth place coming into the home turn, she clicked him up in the straight.
"It was very exciting," Emma said.
"I could tell he was going to win."
In three weeks Emma will return home to Clermont, and compete in the Central Queensland races, like Emerald, Alpha and Moranbah.
Her next appearance will likely be at the Emerald Races on March 25.
The goal is to one day ride in Brisbane, but first the race stewards must give her the tap on the shoulder to move up from the small country races, to the Mackay and Rockhampton-size races and finally up to the big metropolitan meets.
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