From the New Zealand Herald
Katelyn Mallyon, 20, could be earning mega dollars as a model in the United States, instead she earns about $500 a week for the dubious privilege of waking at 4am most days to ride 500kg of horse flesh at a speed of more than 70km/h around a dark race track.
All in the hope that one day she will be star of the “big show” – the Melbourne Cup Carnival.
“Yes, I actually got a contract from America for a modelling career but I turned that down, it was either that or be a jockey and I always wanted to be a jockey,” she told Daily Mail Australia. “I definitely don’t regret my decision at all, I’m living the dream.”
A dream which turned into a nightmare on May 19, 2012 – an horrific fall which could have cost her more than just a riding career.
Katelyn came crashing down from her mount, Deliver The Dream, in a Winter Championship Heat at Flemington.
She suffered a fractured spine, spleen damage, broken cheekbone, was put in a coma for four days and spent nine months on the sideline recovering.
“It was a difficult time but I’m very glad that I just can’t remember it,” she said. “Looking back on it, though, it was such a heavy fall so I was very, very lucky.
But having had her life on the line “doesn’t really faze me”.
“It would be a lot different if I remembered it, I guess.
On reflection, still no regrets.
No glitz, no glam
“There was definitely no looking back though, as soon as I woke from my coma I said to my mum, ‘when’s my next ride? What’s happening to all my horses’, there was never any concern about getting back in the saddle,” she said.
“All that time out really made me appreciate what I get to do for a job.”
She’s more determined than ever to get to the top and her competitive streak led to a suspension which ends on Oaks Day .. and she can’t wait.
“I have one ride that day, on Klishina (in the Mumm Stakes), I’m really looking forward to being out there,” she said.
No glitz and glam for this apprentice though – she’ll earn $180 for her day’s work.
An apprentice is on a basic salary of barely $500 a week but Katelyn Mallyon loves the game too much to worry about money matters or getting hurt again.
“I have had my bad fall and hopefully that’s it for me. You don’t go out there thinking that I’m going to die or anything like that which definitely can happen as we know with poor Caitlin (Forrest) and Carly Mae-Pye up in Queensland,” she said.
“It’s something that we love doing and we don’t think about it if you do start thinking along those lines than you’re better off not doing it.
“Definitely this is one of the most dangerous things anyone can do anywhere in the world, it’s the only job where an ambulance follows you around all day, after all. It’s pretty extreme.”
‘It’s in my blood’
If it’s not risking their life each time they get legged aboard a thoroughbred, then weight is always an issue, for any jockey, female or male.
“It’s definitely a struggle it’s hard to always try and think what you are putting in your mouth and what you will have to do to work that off,” she said.
“It can be hard at times, not getting to go out and enjoy yourself but it’s something you have to sacrifice.”
“It’s in my blood, I love it. I actually rode my first racehorse when I was two years old,” she said. “I was always around the horses. I have always wanted to be a jockey.”
Her claim that it’s in the blood is no idle boast.
Her parents, Brett and Mary, were both jockeys as was her grandfather, Mick and her brother Andrew.
The early mornings, she insists, is something she grew up with in the Mallyon household.
“I even remember when I was out for nine months with my broken back and I would always wake up early and I couldn’t get back to sleep, my body clock is trained now, that’s just the way it is.”
Other dreams must go too. Not only did the champion Victorian apprentice happily forgo a lucrative modelling offer in the bright lights of New York, her other sporting pursuits have gone by the wayside.
“I played basketball for eight years and netball for four years and really got into them, I was going to pursue basketball but had to give up that and focus on race riding,” she said.
“When I was growing up I would tell all my friends that I was going to the races in the middle of winter and they would be like ‘What races, they only race in Spring’, but people seem to have a better understanding of what we do.”
And she is making quite the impact. A champion apprentice already, with almost 20 city winners under her belt and a better strike rate (winners to runners) than established riding superstars like Glen Boss and Craig Williams.
With one eye already on Flemington for Cup Day she says that’s it really is the best carnival and they are the best horses.
“I want to be the best. I’ve still got a long way to go but I do want to be the best.”
And you wouldn’t bet against it.