A golden opportunity to ride for six months in Singapore already had New Zealand jockey Alysha Collett bristling with excitement at the dawn of this new chapter of her promising riding career - but now it’s also come with a bonus thrill.
Despite being a well-known racing family in New Zealand racing, the Collett name had never featured at Kranji or Bukit Timah before.
That won’t be the case very soon with the 23-year-old rider from Pukekohe making her Kranji riding debut next week. But good things sure come in pairs as the name may now even be seen twice over at one glittering weekend!
Alysha Collett takes in her new surroundings in Singapore, picture Singapore Turf Club
By coincidence, elder brother Jason will also be riding for the first time in Singapore, but unlike Alysha, is only passing through for a flying visit at the Invitational Kranji Mile meeting on May 26. The Sydney-based jockey is riding Kiwi raider Ocean Emperor for trainer Gary Hennessy in the $1.5 million race, and local three-year-old Lord O’Reilly in the $1 million Group 1 Singapore Guineas (1600m).
Though the two Colletts are only three years apart, they never really had the chance to ride against each other. It’s taken a fortuitous chain of circumstances for brother and sister to possibly cross swords in the same race, more than 8,000 kilometres away from home.
“We’ve not ridden against each other for a while now. When I rode for Chris Waller in Sydney in 2012, he had only just arrived and then I went back home,” said Collett, who landed in Singapore on Tuesday morning and was seen at the tracks on Thursday morning, but not in her riding gear as her work permit was only just approved.
“So, I’m really excited to be riding against Jason here in Singapore in two and a half weeks’ time. We’re very competitive!”
Racing runs in the Collett blood. Parents Richard and Judy are ex-jockeys and now operate a successful stable, sister Tasha was a jockey and is now married to Kiwi rider Andrew Calder and cousin Samantha looks well on her way to a first New Zealand champion jockey title this season.
But sibling rivalry aside, Collett, a winner of around 400 races in seven years of riding, is more focused on the bigger picture at her new hunting ground. The ambitious lightweight jockey wants to make her mark in a jurisdiction she had set her sights on for a while now.
“I watch a lot of Singapore racing on TV. I think the get-on-the speed racing suits my riding style,” said Collett who left New Zealand sitting third on the log on 87 winners, 20 behind her cousin Samantha.
“I’ve spoken with a few New Zealand jockeys who’ve ridden here like Lisa Allpress and even Harry (A’Isisuhairi) Kasim, and they told me the same thing.
“I read about the Club’s criteria for expat jockeys, and knew I had to raise my profile first. It’s only about half a year after I came out of my apprenticeship that I really got going, finishing second on the premiership, and started winning Group races (all up one Group 1, four Group 2s and 14 at Group 3 and Listed level).
“I only applied after I had the profile to match up their criteria, especially after my Group 1 win in the Zabeel Classic (aboard Consensus) two years ago.
“With Donna Logan going over there, it’s all worked out well. I was hoping I’d get it and it sure came as a nice surprise when I was told I was successful.
“I rode a lot for Donna back home and I begin riding trackwork for her from tomorrow, but I’ve also met other trainers like Mark Walker, Stephen Gray, Bruce Marsh and Daniel Meagher. They like the fact that I can ride light at 49-50kgs.
“Mark had already left for Singapore to train when I started riding, but I met him a few times when he came back home. I also rode for Stephen’s father Kevin.”
Collett, who, on 97 winners, finished runner-up to veteran jockey Chris Johnson last year, said homesickness was not an issue as Singapore was not the first experience away despite being so young.
“I rode in Sydney and Brisbane for one and a half years (in 2012, riding 15 metropolitan winners in Sydney), and also rode in China for the Rider Horse Club two years ago. I won one race,” she said.
“I don’t know many people other than Donna, and obviously her husband Peter and assistant-trainer Graeme Forbes, but among the riders, I do know Harry as he rode as an apprentice jockey in New Zealand, and I also know some of the local apprentice jockeys who were based in New Zealand for a while like Khalid Marzuki and Smiley (Ruzaili Yatim).
“I’m here to keep progressing and gain as much experience as possible. I’ll ride trackwork for anyone, and hopefully I can get rides from other trainers as well – and ride as many winners as possible, of course.”
Logan has already indicated she would put Collett aboard her two-year-old Makkem Lad in the $90,000 Kranji Nursery Stakes (1000m), the first Leg of the Singapore Golden Horseshoe series next Friday week on May 18. The unraced son of Kuroshio won a barrier trial on Tuesday.