Wilmien “Mina” Fourie cruises home in her first ever race ride on the Alyson Wright-trained Tribute To You (Picture: Candiese Lenferna Photography).
Wilmien “Mina” Fourie took a giant leap towards her dream of becoming a jockey when winning on the Alyson Wright-trained Tribute To You in her first ever race ride last Sunday at Hollywoodbets Scottsville.
Mina displayed what looked to be a natural riding style and her apparently excellent tactical awareness was the result of doing her homework properly.
She said, “When I went down to the start I was with all the other guys who were in a bundle and I felt the ground was really sticky, it wasn’t great. So I turned around at the 600m because everybody had kept telling me to have a look at the course. So I went over to the middle of the course in line with the 8 gate that I was jumping from and I felt the ground was much harder there, so in the race I thought I would just stay out there. The horse was not pulling me and I just relaxed. I had watched the replays of his race when Keagan de Melo won on him at HWB Scottsville and Keagan only asked him to run at the 250m mark. So I was just waiting and waiting.”
The four-year-old Wylie Hall colt appeared to be far out of his ground at the halfway mark, but by the 100m mark the picture had changed completely. He powered past the horses on his inside to win going away by five lengths.
Mina had thus made an immediate impression.
She had won the first battle in the build up to the race by getting down to the necessary weight.
She said, “My weight has always been a bit of a stumbling block, but it is 58kg now and it not going up.”
She has spoken to riding masters about joining the South African Jockeys Academy (SAJA) and will be having a meeting with the powers that be at the Academy at the end of the month.
Kevin Wright, Alyson’s husband and a former Zimbabwean champion jockey, was instrumental in getting Rachel Venniker into the Academy and has also thrown his support behind Mina.
Kevin has advised that she join the Academy first and then work with the specialist dieticians available there on her weight, which will need to be at a reliable 53kg if she is going to start her riding career, bearing in mind she will be getting a 4kg claim in the beginning.
Alyson is confident she will be accepted and said, “They will be mad not to take her … everything is there.”
Mina only started riding horses in 2019.
She said, “I did showjumping for a while.”
She continued, “Then my Dad started helping a lady supply grass to all of the trainers. I always used to go with him to visit all of the racehorses. I then really fell in love with one particular horse from the Paul Lafferty yard, Drogarati. I said I really would like to ride him. So Mr Lafferty said to me ‘Ok come one afternoon and we will see what you are capable of.’”
Mina started off with quieter horses and was soon ready to ride Drogarati.
She recalled, “The first time I sat on that horse it was just really amazing.”
Mina then started workriding for the Lafferty yard.
She could not get enough of racehorses and on top of workriding she continued to accompany her father on his grass deliveries to Summerveld.
Her passion for horses paid dividends because eight months into her stint with Lafferty they were delivering grass one day to the Wright yard when Kevin asked her what her plans and goals were.
She recalled, “I replied I really want to become a jockey. He then said come and ride for me and I will help you. So the next morning I started riding for the Wrights. My riding has improved so much receiving advice form Kevin. So now I am workriding for the Wrights, for Wendy Whitehead, for Michael Roberts, for Glen Kotzen and for just about everybody.”
Mina not only has a natural riding style, but also has the natural strength to hold horses.
She said, “In the beginning I was scared I wasn’t going to be strong enough, so I did a bit of gymning. But I am really glad that I am just naturally strong enough to hold the horses.”
Rachel Venniker has of course been a huge inspiration to Mina and they have become good friends. Rachel also offers a lot of advice on everything from race-riding to strength exercises.”
Mina is not sure where her next ride will come from as there are a lack of workrider races in KZN and she added, “I can’t go to the Vaal or Turffontein just yet.”
She is very grateful to all of the trainers and jockeys at Summerveld. She said she had been given nothing but support and had not encountered any negativity from any quarter.
So there might soon be a second female jockey taking South African racing by storm.