KINGSTON –– History was created last week in Jamaica when for the first time in the country’s horse racing history three females –– Natalie Berger, Andree Powell and Mellisa Ward –– graduated among 17 apprentices from the 2015 Jamaica Racing Commission’s (JRC) Jockeys’ Training School.
Twenty-one students originally started the course last February. However, four riders subsequently left the programme. The remaining 17, all former exercise riders, received their certificates for successfully completing the six-month course and are now eligible to begin race riding this Saturday.
Powell, who gave the valedictory speech, said that her fellow graduates had progressed well in what initially were demanding circumstances.
“It is somehow hard to believe that six months ago we set foot into the Jockeys’ Training School to embark on a new career, it seemed like a blink of an eye,” she said.
She added: “At the start of our training we were a little sceptical. We had been selected and were taken out of our comfort zone and into a new environment with new rules, new instructors and new friends.
“Some of us realised right away that things would be different and tried to adapt while others held onto old values and refused to let go; however, in time, progress was made and individuals conformed. This moment is a happy one, very happy one in our lives, it is a time when a new chapter unfolds and the beginning of many accomplishments we hope to achieve.”
Ward said that she was looking forward to the challenges ahead. “Honestly, I am excited and amazed. I really wanted to cry but the tears wouldn’t come. I am looking forward to the years ahead and I hope that all my brothers and sisters will do well,” Ward said.
Berger said that her dream was to become a jockey and that she was happy to make that all important step towards her goal. “I am really happy right now. Words really can’t explain the feeling. This is my dream to become a jockey and I am happy that I am heading into that direction,” she said.