Sarah and Sam compete for bragging rights with career-high double

By Dennis Ryan

17 Nov 2021

Sarah and Sam compete for bragging rights with career-high doubleSarah Macnab has every reason to smile after winning the New Zealand Cup on Mondorani.

The game of one-upmanship got serious last Saturday afternoon for jockey partners Sarah Macnab and Sam O’Malley when they experienced career highs within minutes of each other.
O’Malley made the opening bid on bragging rights by claiming his first feature win on the Allan Sharrock-trained Justaskme in the Gr. 2 Gartshore Tauranga Stakes. But he hardly had time to accept congratulations from his jockey room colleagues before Macnab chimed in with an upset victory on the Kevin Myers-trained Mondorani in the Gr. 3 Martin Collins New Zealand Cup.
“I managed to catch Sam’s win on Trackside just before going out to mount up for the New Zealand Cup,” Macnab told RaceForm earlier this week. “Afterwards I felt a bit mean with everyone saying I hardly gave Sam time to enjoy his big moment before I had mine!”
That’s all in jest of course, as the truth is 22-year-old Macnab and the year older O’Malley are simply pleased for each other. Both completed their apprenticeships with one of the most astute in the business, Kevin Myers, and both admit to having benefitted immensely from his mentoring.
Whanganui-raised Macnab followed a family tradition by taking out an amateur rider’s licence when she was still attending high school. She won the amateurs’ unofficial championship race, the Duke of Gloucester Cup, on Teddytwinkletoes, part-owned by her grandfather Dave Macnab, who had begun a family tradition by winning the same race three times in the 1940s.
Winning the 2016 FLAIR Amateur Riders’ Series convinced Macnab that she wanted to be a fully-fledged jockey, and after signing up with Myers her and riding 47 winners in her first two seasons, she suffered serious head injuries in a race fall at Woodville in September 2018.
“It was hard but I never lost the desire,” she recalls. “It was just a matter of allowing myself enough time, and after eight months I was able to make it back.”
Along with her own family, the Myers family has been an important part of moulding Macnab’s career, not just Kevin Myers but others such as his niece Rosie, who has not ridden since she too suffered serious head trauma in a trials fall just over a year ago.
“Rosie has always been someone I’ve looked up to as a role model,” says Macnab. “She taught me a lot to begin with and has been there to help whenever I’ve needed it.
“I caught up with her over lunch a couple of weeks ago and it was good to see that she’s doing well. I got a message from her straight away after my win on Saturday. That meant a lot to me.”
When she partnered the Kevin Myers-trained Spring Cheer, Rosie was the second in a sequence of female jockeys to ride the New Zealand Cup winner in the eight years from 2012 to 2019. Her sister Kelly, who had already won on the longshot Hoorang in 2008, added further wins on Mungo Jerry (2014) and Pump Up The Volume (2016), Lisa Allpress rode Blood Brotha in his second win in 2012, Sam Spratt completed a double on Gobstopper and Bizzwinkle in 2017 and 2018, and Leah Hemi added another on Dee And Gee in 2019.
Craig Grylls broke the gender mould on Dragon Storm last year, but Sarah Macnab put the record straight last weekend with her victory on Mondorani. “His lead-up for fourth on the first day was a very good run and I expected him to go well, but I was anything but confident on the turn,” she admits. “Kevin had told me to not hurry him, then when the time was right to get out into the better ground to make my run.
“He relaxed nicely for me, but with the ground like it was down on the inside he wasn’t enjoying it much and coming to the turn I really thought I was gone. I knew what the instructions were though, and I couldn’t believe the difference when I got him out wide.
“Everyone has been asking me why I was shaking my head as we crossed the line in front. I suppose it was because from one stage thinking he couldn’t win and then he did, and of course once again Kevin was right. He’s not often wrong you know.
“Kevin has been so supportive, I love riding his horses and it was great to get such an important win for him,” says Macnab of her 61st win in a career total of 143 for the man they call Dummy. “I also have to say what a big job Lisa Kennedy does; she’s in charge of Kevin’s stable at Santoff where Mondorani is based.”
Macnab has a busy schedule between racedays that as well as the Myers team, includes riding work at Awapuni and Foxton. “I’ve also had good support from trainers like Peter Didham and Chrissy Bambry and that’s enabled me to ride a lot of nice horses. Peter’s mare House of Cartier is one of them and Chrissy’s include Spring Tide, who gave me my first Group One second in the Tarzino Trophy.”
As for the friendly competition with her partner, points-scoring will continue to be an important and entertaining motivator. “I’ve won more black-type races than Sam and had a Group One placing, but he’s done something I haven’t, he’s won a Group Two,” says Macnab.
“But when we compared trophies from Saturday, at least I could say I’ve got the biggest cup!”