Sam Spratt is not one for setting goals, but she is making an exception in the new season and also has a realistic opportunity to achieve a very notable milestone within another few seasons. The vibrant Pukekohe jockey is pleased with her results for the 2018-19 season. Going into the last racemeeting of the term at Tauranga on Wednesday, she has won 59 races (including three black type events) to be back in the top 10 on the New Zealand Jockeys’ Premiership and once again she has comfortably broken the $1 million barrier in prizemoney.
She has topped $1 million in all but two seasons for the last 12 years and in 2008-09 she beat Lance O’Sullivan’s 1989-90 New Zealand record of $3.26 million when her prizemoney haul was $3.4 million, while in 2013-14 when she reached $939,000 she spent five months in England and in 2016- 17 she won just under $900,000. “I’ve got to be happy with my results this season,” she said. “I just try and be pretty consistent each season and it’s been another solid one, even though I didn’t win a Group 1 race this season. “I’m the type of person who takes everything as it comes. I’m not huge on setting goals, but I’d love to win a race for my grandmother’s 100th birthday. She turns 100 on January 7 and my brother, Neil, and his family are coming over from England for it. It’ll be a great family get-together and it would be pretty special if I could win at that time.”
Spratt’s grandmother, Jessie Spratt, resides in a nursing home in Pukekohe and has always been one of her granddaughter’s biggest fans. “She still watches all my rides and she gets a thrill when I win one, especially a big one,” Spratt said. Spratt is also gradually closing in on 1000 wins in New Zealand, sitting on 864 wins after the weekend, and she has kicked home 82 black type winners in New Zealand. “I suppose I’ll have to make 1000 wins a goal later on,” she said. “I’ve got no thoughts of retirement, even though I say to Mike (her agent Mike Brown) every year that this could be it. Mike has been my agent for about 12 years and it’s become a standing joke between us. “I’m still fit and I can’t see why I can’t carry on as long as I’m still getting some good horses to ride and my health is good. I really enjoy it and can’t see myself doing anything else for now.”
It’s a far cry from what Spratt faced back in January 2003 at Trentham after her mount, Dragon Tiger, crashed through the running rail and the seriousness of her head injuries left her riding career in doubt with specialists telling her she would never ride again. Spratt (34) resumed the following season, but after seven wins she decided to call it quits in November 2003 then made her comeback in the 2006-07 season when linking up with Brown as her agent. “In hindsight it’s quite a good thing I took all that time off,” she said. “Really I came back riding before I should have after the fall and I wasn’t right. I haven’t looked back since then.”
Spratt rode 41 winners in her first season back and that April she also kicked home her first Group One winner, Captivate, in the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes (1600m) at Te Aroha for trainer Stephen McKee. Spratt has forged a highly successful association with McKee over the years and has recorded several milestones with the Ardmore trainer. At last count the pair have combined to win almost 200 races with their joint highlight being two-time New Zealand Horse of the Year Mufhasha. Spratt was successful in her first ride on Mufhasa as a three-year-old at Te Aroha and went on to win 12 more races on him, including the last of his 20 wins in the Group 3 Manawatu Challenge Stakes (1400m) at Awapuni in December 2012.
She was aboard Mufhasa in eight of his 10 Group 1 wins and one of the most poignant was in January 2009 at Trentham when he notched his first Group 1 win in the Telegraph (1200m). When Mufhasa and Spratt won the first of their two Group 1 Telegraph Handicap – Group 1 Waikato Draught Sprint (1400m) doubles in 2009, that term Spratt recorded her most ever wins for a season (112) to finish second to James McDonald on the New Zealand Jockeys’ Premiership. Though McDonald beat her by 13 wins, Spratt did head him off on stakes wins with 13 (including five Group 1 wins) and her record prizemoney tally of $3.4 million was almost $839,000 more than the premiership winner. “Mufhasa stands out of all the horses I’ve ridden,” Spratt said. “He came along at the right time and I was lucky enough to get on him. “That first Telegraph win on him was special and that same season I won two Group 1s for Richard (Yuill), on Gallions Reach in the Zabeel Classic (2000m) and Prince Kaapstad in the Easter Handicap (1600m). Richard was so good to me.”
Spratt became the first female apprentice signed up by Colin Jillings, who was then in the twilight of his training career and was in partnership with Yuill. Spratt’s international experience includes stints in Australia with Mufhasa where among her placings were a a couple of thirds in the Group 1 George Ryder Stakes (1500m) at Rosehill, while in 2014 during her five months in England she rode out for Richard Hannon junior and recorded a few placings from limited opportunities on raceday.
On her return from the UK, she was straight back enjoying Group 3 success in the Gold Trail Stakes (1200m) at Hastings on the McKee-trained O’Marilyn, on whom she had won the Group 1 Manawatu Sires’ Produce Stakes (1400m) before her departure to England. Over the past couple of years Spratt has won the 2017 Group 1 New Zealand 1000 Guineas (1600m) on Hasahalo and the 2018 Group 1 Thorndon Mile (1600m) on Stolen Dance and in the 2018-19 season she has won the Group 3 New Zealand Cup (3200m) at Riccarton for the second consecutive year, following up Gobstopper’s 2017 win with victory on Bizzwinkle.