Carleen Hefel and her master, Julien Welsh

Hefel hoping for a dream debut at Moe

If first-year apprentice Carleen Hefel is feeling nervous ahead of her race debut at Moe tomorrow – on the $3.50 favourite, no less – she is hiding it well.

Perhaps her relatively calm demeanour is due to her close association with Quenton, on whom Hefel will experience her first taste of competitive action in the Ladbrokes Class 1 Handicap (1017m).

The 29-year-old is apprenticed to Cranbourne trainer Julien Welsh, who had no hesitation in asking her to partner Quenton having entrusted her with track-riding duties since she joined the stable as a mature apprentice three months ago. 

The speedy three-year-old filly is the joint favourite with most bookmakers after claiming one win and a second from three career starts, but despite the added pressure Hefel is determined to enjoy the occasion.     

“I found out I was going to make my debut last week,” she revealed. 

“I was obviously excited, I’m sure I’ll have a few nerves before the race but it’s nice to know that Julien has confidence in me and thinks I’m ready. 

“It also helps that I know Quenton so well, because I ride her out most days. She likes to race up on the speed and she’s been working really well, so let’s hope the market is right and she is difficult to catch!” 

Hefel, whose parents Mary and Phil and partner Michael will be trackside, will have 90 minutes to wait for her second career start, having picked up the ride on Influential Girl in the last race of the day. 

Hefel was on board for Influential Girl’s most recent trial at Cranbourne, where she finished second behind the smart mare Abyssinian.

At $6.50 Influential Girl is also well in the market, but Hefel will ignore the price and focus instead on the tuition she has received from her coaches Darren Gauci and the recently-departed Matt Pumpa in the Apprentice Jockey Training Program. 

“I was hoping to get my first ride in mid-year, so it feels like I’m on track and I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made since joining the program,” she said.       
“I’ve dreamed of becoming a jockey from a young age, and after working in stables as a track rider I felt ready to make the step up.        

“I have to thank Racing Victoria for the help and advice they’ve given me so far, I’m really enjoying it and hopefully I can put everything I’ve learned into practice tomorrow.”