Apprentice jockeys old and new celebrated at graduation ceremony

A vintage crop of apprentice jockeys have officially completed their four-year stint in Racing Victoria’s (RV) acclaimed Apprentice Jockey Training Program (AJTP), with Michael Poy, Thomas Stockdale and Lewis German all receiving awards at tonight’s graduation ceremony at Flemington Racecourse.

The trio, who between them have already ridden more than 500 winners, were celebrated alongside their fellow graduates Mikaela Lawrence and Teo Nugent, who recently joined the exclusive Group 1 club when he steered Portland Sky to victory in the Neds Oakleigh Plate (1100m) at Caulfield.

German took home the major trophy as the Victorian Jockeys’ Association Outstanding Apprentice Jockey, Poy was named the RV Elite Apprentice Jockey and Stockdale won the Andrew Gilbert Sport Science Award sponsored by Exercise Research Australia (ERA).

The Outstanding Apprentice Jockey Award recognises excellence in all aspects of an apprenticeship, including on-track performance, dedication to personal development and industry ambassador qualities; the Elite Apprentice Jockey Award acknowledges the exceptional riding achievements of one of the graduating apprentices; and the Sport Science Award rewards outstanding achievement by an apprentice in the fields of health and fitness. It is named in honour of Victorian apprentice jockey Andrew Gilbert, who tragically lost his life in a race fall in 2001.

The other award winners on the night were fourth-year apprentice Madison Lloyd, who received a $1,000 grant courtesy of the Victorian Wakeful Club’s AJTP Scholarship program, and third-year apprentice Carleen Hefel, the winner of the inaugural Mikaela Claridge Leading Female Apprentice Jockey Award.

That award was named in honour of the late apprentice jockey who tragically lost her life in a trackwork accident in 2019. Claridge’s family were in attendance tonight to see the trophy handed for the first time to Hefel, who registered 41 wins and 72 minor placings in her first full season of competitive riding.

As well as the five jockeys whose time in the AJTP has come to an end, the evening also marked the official induction of six new recruits into the program.

Maddi Price (who is apprenticed to trainer Jamie Edwards), Hannah Edgley (Ben Brisbourne), Shanae O’Meara (Austy Coffey), Sheridan Clarke (Phillip Stokes), Matt Chadwick (Julien Welsh) and Heidi Gillie (Ciaron Maher) were all officially welcomed into the AJTP.

For the next four years, they will be tutored by jockey coaches Darren Gauci and Alf Matthews on the art of race riding, as well as receiving education and advice from numerous leading professionals at the Victorian Institute of Sport, RV, ERA and other sporting organisations.

RV Chief Executive, Giles Thompson, said this was a very special evening as RV not only celebrated the achievements of its apprentice jockey graduates, but also extended a very warm welcome to its newest students.

“The progress our graduating apprentices have all made over these past four years, not only as riders but also as human beings, will in many ways form the backbone of their careers, and indeed their lives.

“Some of them arrived as virtual novices but after four years of hard work and dedication, they all leave the program having learned some invaluable lessons not only from our staff in the Apprentice Jockey Training Program, but also from the various specialists whose contributions make our program so rewarding.

“The perseverance and self-belief they have all demonstrated during their time in the Apprentice Jockey Training Program, and out on the racetrack, will stand them in good stead for the rest of their careers.

“I want to congratulate our graduating apprentices on their careers to date and wish them continued success in the racing industry. I’m sure their achievements, including Teo’s recent maiden Group 1 victory, will also inspire our six new recruits as they embark on their four-year training program.

“The interest in securing a place in the Apprentice Jockey Training Program is incredibly high and the six young riders we have officially inducted this evening have demonstrated the right qualities to develop into wonderful athletes.

“Whilst tonight was a night for celebration, it is also one for reflection and to that end we thank the Claridge family for the opportunity to perpetuate Mikaela’s memory with the introduction of an award named in her honour for our leading female apprentice. She was a much-loved member of the Apprentice Jockey Training Program who is dearly missed by her many friends and fellow riders.”

For more information on the six new apprentice jockeys in the AJTP, please click here.