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Smiling Joe Crowned Champion Apprentice

1 Aug 2022

Smiling Joe Crowned Champion Apprentice

 

We could not be more proud of “Smiling” Joe Kamaruddin, our Te Akau apprentice, who joins an auspicious honour roll being crowned Champion Apprentice of the 2021/22 season … NZ Racing News reports:

 

Joe Kamaruddin thought he made a grave mistake when he moved to New Zealand several years ago, but the Malaysian native is thankful he stuck to his guns and is now bearing the fruits of his labour, soon to be crowned Champion Apprentice Jockey for the 2021/22 season.

Used to the warmer climes of Southeast Asia, Kamaruddin said it was a shock to the system when he first arrived to the freezing temperatures of New Zealand’s winter.

The cold nearly turned the now 29-year-old away from following his dream of becoming a jockey, but he was resolute in following his passion in New Zealand.

“In Singapore it is hot and the first day I worked at Te Akau (in Matamata) it was -1 degrees,” Kamaruddin said.

“I wanted to cry but thought to myself ‘you are here now Joe, if you want to be a jockey you have to keep going’.”

He pressed on and realised his dream of becoming a jockey, but his hardships were far from over.

“I worked hard and got my license,” he said. “I had my first ride at Awapuni on Richard Of Yorke. My first season wasn’t great, I didn’t ride a winner and I said to Jamie (Richards, trainer), can you give me one more chance and if I am not good I will give up.

“After that I rode Al Haram for my first win at Avondale. After another month I got my second winner at Te Rapa, and after that I got a bit of momentum and I went bang, bang, bang with my winners.”

Kamaruddin has gone from strength-to-strength and enjoyed a standout season this term, riding 62 winners to date and earning nearly $1.4 million in prizemoney, placing him atop the apprentice jockeys’ premiership, eight clear of nearest rival Kozzi Asano.

His tally landed him in the top five on the overall jockeys’ premiership, something that far exceeded his expectations at the start of the season.

“At the start of the season I just wanted to finish my two-kilogram claim, but I have been given some nice rides on good horses and I got it (apprentice premiership title),” he said.

Kamaruddin recorded four stakes wins this season and he said the highlight was riding Belle En Rouge to victory in the Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) for trainer Jamie Richards.

“Riding Belle En Rouge (to win the Eulogy) was a big highlight,” he said. “She gives me more confidence to ride horses.”

Joe Kamaruddin winning the Gr.3 Eulogy Stakes (1600m) aboard Belle En Rouge

Kamaruddin said he owes a lot of his success to his employers, Te Akau Racing, as well as outside trainers who have shown their faith in him.

“I am very lucky with the number of trainers that have supported me,” he said.

“I have been getting some nice rides and Tony Raklander, my manager, has been doing a great job.

“I want to say thank you to Te Akau Racing Stable – David Ellis, Mark Walker, and Jamie Richards.

“A lot of jockeys have helped me out a lot too, like Troy Harris, Opie Bosson, and Michael McNab.

“It is great to see Nabba (McNab) win the premiership. He is a nice guy and he is always helping me.

“My partner (Nardia Zainal) has been great too. Sometimes I am overthinking too much after riding at the races and she tells me not to worry and to keep going.”

Kamaruddin has long held ambitions of becoming a jockey, and he thought they were dashed in his homeland and Singapore, and he is glad that he took a chance and moved to New Zealand to follow his dream.

“I never thought I would be a jockey,” he said. “I first rode in Malaysia at Ipoh for five years but there were no chances for me. After that I rode my bike from Ipoh to Singapore, which took 15 or 16 hours.

“I thought I would get a job straight away in Singapore, but no, I had to wait a month or so and then I started riding trackwork.

“I was riding trackwork in Singapore for KY Young and one day someone asked me if I wanted to be a jockey and I said it has always been my dream. I couldn’t get a license so they said they could help me and they would talk with David Ellis.

“After a couple of weeks they said ‘Joe, are you ready to move to New Zealand?’ and I was very excited and said yes.”

His affable nature has struck a chord with trainers in New Zealand and he was dubbed ‘Smiling Joe’ for his bubbly demeanour. He immediately made an impression on Te Akau’s head trainer Mark Walker, who has been struck by his determination and talent in the saddle.

“Joe is a great young man,” Walker said. “He’s an excellent example of what hard work and determination can bring about.

“He had a pretty slow start to his apprenticeship as far as getting winners, but he kept trying his heart out, not just at work but race day as well, and once he got two or three winners everyone took note of just what a great attitude his has.

“Things have just continued to pick up for him. He’s leading his peers in the apprentice premiership and at Te Akau we’re all very proud of Joe.”

 

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