No regrets as Hercock makes the most of comeback

By Dennis Ryan

19 Apr 2023

No regrets as Hercock makes the most of comebackKate Hercock continues her run of autumn form as she brings home Pure Incanto in the feature sprint

A top-20 place on the jockey’s premiership and a special home province win last weekend has convinced Hawke’s Bay jockey Kate Hercock that she made the right call three years ago to relaunch her career.
Hercock’s win on the Janelle Millar-trained Pure Incanto in the Listed Power Turf Sprint took her current season tally to 34, which equates to equal 16th place on the jockeys’ table. Just lately she’s been on a roll with four wins Woodville on Easter Monday and the Ashurst-Pohangina Cup at Awapuni later the same week.
That’s a significant lift on last season’s 29 wins and 27th place after she had returned from a hiatus of several years with nine wins in 2020-21.
Hercock had turned 40 when she made the decision to reapply for her jockey’s ticket as a complement to the trainer’s licence she had held since 2012. Various injuries, including fractures to her back, face and both arms, had forced her to the sideline after 10 years in the saddle headed by 56 wins as an apprentice in the 2003-04 season. That third placing on the apprentice table to Michael Walker and Jason Waddell remains her most successful season on the score of numbers.
After recovering from the injuries that spelt what she thought was the end of her jockey career in 2010, Hercock returned to her first equine passion, showjumping, as well as taking out her trainer’s licence.
“I really enjoyed that time away when I decided to put racing on the back-burner, it did me a lot of good with a really smart showjumper and catching up on old friends on the show circuit,” Hercock told RaceForm this week.
“I was training a couple of racehorses and doing pre-training work from our property at Otane, and when I was having trouble getting riders on raceday, I said to Mum I might as well get my licence back.
“My weight had crept up and I had to lose 10 kilos, but I felt I stood a good chance of making a success of it, especially with the ranks of senior jockeys in the central districts being so thin.”
That was in late 2020 and Hercock took time to find her groove, but she broke through for her first comeback win the following March at New Plymouth, on a horse trained by Woodville-based Shane Brown.
“That meant a lot riding a winner for Shane, who has had my back from the very first day of my comeback. He had promised to support me and has kept his word right to the present day.”
One of the most significant changes Hercock confronted was the tighter controls on whip use, something that she has an interesting take on.
“It did take a while to adjust, but in a way it was probably easier being off the scene when they made the biggest changes. I knew what the new rules were before I got back riding, whereas the jockeys that were riding at that time had to make the adjustment as they went.”
During her initial stint as a jockey, Hercock had notched her first black-type win on the Howie and Lorraine Matthews-trained Taikorea in the 2007 Wanganui Cup. The four stakes races during that period have since be added to by another seven, including three this season, on Pep Torque in last October’s Feilding Cup, the Marton Cup in January on Soldier Boy, and the Power Turf Sprint on Pure Incanto at Hastings on Saturday.
“Winning a feature race on the first day back on my local track after Cyclone Gabrielle meant a lot,” Hercock said. “With everything that’s gone on down here, it was bloody good.
“We were lucky out where we are, but there are lots of friends and so many others who weren’t so fortunate – some of the stories were just heart-breaking.
“That was my first win for Janelle (Millar), which was great after the soundness challenges she’s had with Pure Incanto. I know how hard the training game is, the work that has to go into each horse, so every win is deserved.
“Without the support of trainers I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing, and I’m so lucky to have people like Shane (Brown), Guy Lowry, Stephen Nickalls, Bryce Newman and others prepared to put me on.
“My family have been great supporters too, my Aunty Rose (Sellwood) helps me with my bookings, Mum is always there and now my niece Taylah, who is my late brother Jason’s daughter, is getting involved.
“And there’s my old mates from the early days up north, people like Lynsey Satherley and Trudy Thornton. We go back a long way and it makes me smile after I’ve ridden a winner when I get the texts saying well done.”