Kathy O’Hara set to continue her form surge at Canterbury

Unlike most of us, Kathy O’Hara probably didn’t want last year to end, with a recent form surge earning her a new nickname: “Miss Consistency”.

The jockey is expecting some good-natured ribbing from her peers after reading that description of her from Sydney’s leading form expert, colleague Ron Dufficy in last Monday’s The Daily Telegraph.

“I did see that, it was very kind of Ron,’’ O’Hara said.

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“It’s nice to read something like that about yourself as I guess that is what you need to be as a jockey.

“I just try to take my opportunities, make the most of everything I can.’’

As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, O’Hara ended what was a tumultuous 2020 by riding a brace of winners at the each of the two city meetings at Warwick Farm and Royal Randwick.

Bowery Breeze brought up a winning double for Kathy O’Hara at Randwick last Saturday. Photo: Grant GuySource:The Daily Telegraph

But her “Miss Consistency” tag has been derived from years of riding competitively at the top level of Sydney racing, according to Dufficy.

“Kathy is a tried and true performer, she goes about her work with little fanfare,’’ Dufficy said.

“She doesn’t go looking for accolades but just keeps chipping away and working hard.

“She rides a lot of trackwork and goes everywhere to ride in races. When she is given a chance on a nice horse, she doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.’’

O’Hara is poised to continue her winning form with a full book of rides at the New Year’s Day Canterbury twilight meeting later today including the much-improved Spaceboy in the Listed $150,000 Christmas Classic (1200m).

Consistency is also a word that can be used to describe the Gary Portelli-trained Spaceboy who has always been blessed with loads of speed, invariably leading in his races but maintaining that position had been a problem earlier in his career.

In fact, Spaceboy went winless in nine starts before finally breaking his maiden in May.

The often-maligned sprinter then struck a rich vein of form during winter, reeling of three successive wins before he was spelled.

O’Hara has struck a real affinity with Spaceboy. She remains the only jockey to win on the sprinter and has retained the ride this campaign which has yielded three minor placings in four starts including a narrow loss to Invictus Salute in the Listed Razor Sharp Stakes.

Spaceboy (left) and Kathy O’Hara are chasing success in the Christmas Classic at Canterbury on Friday night. Photo: Jenny Evans/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images

“Spaceboy’s only real failure this campaign was on that quite firm track at Randwick,’’ O’Hara said.

“Outside of that, he has been really honest and consistent.

“He is definitely a confidence kind of horse. He has a gentle nature but in his races he’s very willing, he tries hard and he’s gained in confidence this year.’’

Spaceboy is rated at $10 in early TAB Fixed Odds betting to breakthrough at stakes level in the Christmas Classic. Godolphin’s Athiri is favourite at $3.50.

Canterbury is a track that has tended to favour leaders in recent months which suits Spaceboy who is drawn to advantage in gate four. The Portelli sprinter is also very effective on rain-affected going which augurs well for his chances tonight.

“Spaceboy is very quick and he doesn’t need much encouraging, either,’’ O’Hara said.

“He’s naturally fast on his own, he wants to be out there doing his thing so Canterbury is an ideal track for him.’’

O’Hara’s other rides at Canterbury are Virgo (race 1), Dane Central (race 2), For Valour (race 3), Joigny (race 4), Hinchbeast (race 5), Lord Zoulander (race 7) and Bob’s Your Uncle (race 8).

She then backs up on Saturday at Randwick’s Kensington track with another eight rides including unbeaten Vreneli (race 4).

But Canterbury’s New Year’s Day twilight meeting will give O’Hara reason to pause and reflect on where it all began for her – at Gilgandra on January 1, 2003, when she rode her first winner, Downiere.

The Bjorn Baker-trained Hinchbeast will be ridden by Kathy O’Hara at Canterbury. Photo: Grant GuySource:The Daily Telegraph

O’Hara, who starts her 20th season as a jockey later this year, remembers the Downiere race as if it was yesterday.

“I had been trialling Downiere and she helped me get my licence to ride in races,’’ O’Hara recalled.

“She was in a 800m race at Gilgandra but on New Year’s Eve we had a lot of rain so they had to actually move the start of her race to 1000m because at the 800m it was flooded.

“Moving it to the 1000m wasn’t ideal for us but luckily Downiere still scraped home. I remember we straightened a long way clear but she only fell in by a head.

“I wasn’t sure she had won, it was such a close finish but when I got the verdict that I had won it was very exciting.’’

Within three years of riding her first winner at Gilgandra, O’Hara was making her mark in Sydney racing, a rapid rise she had never envisaged.

“After I won on Downiere, I wasn’t sure how long I would be riding, actually I didn’t give it much of a thought to be honest,’’ O’Hara said.

“But right through my career I’ve kept myself to small goals. I have taken it as it comes because I was in uncharted territory most of my career.’’

Nearly two decades later, and the jockey they now call “Miss Consistency” has ridden nearly 1000 career winners and counting.

O’Hara has two Group 1 wins to her credit on Ofcouresican in the 2012 Coolmore Classic and Single Gaze in the 2016 Vinery Stud Stakes, plus another 37 stakes success, and she has ridden in most of the major races including the Golden Slipper, Caulfield Cup and Melbourne Cup.

Kathy O’Hara celebrates her Vinery Stud Stakes win on Single Gaze.Source:News Corp Australia

She was the first female rider to win a Sydney jockey premiership with her apprentice title success in 2004-05, helping to break down the barriers and promote gender equality in the Sydney riding ranks.

There were many years when O’Hara was the only female riding regularly at metropolitan meetings but a quiet revolution is taking placing in NSW racing.

O’Hara now shares the ladies jockey rooms on Sydney racetracks with the likes of Rachel King, Winona Costin, Jess Taylor, Louise Day and Cejay Graham.

On provincial and country racetracks, the numbers of women jockeys are increasing and they now outnumber the men in the apprentice riding ranks.

“There is that stigma that goes with being a female jockey,’’ O’Hara admitted. “But it has changed a lot over my career which is good to see.

“I think it is getting easier for the girls now, it is much different to when I started and hopefully one day it won’t even be a discussion .’’

Originally published asRacing’s Miss Consistency keeps riding winners

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