FROM JOCKEY TO STEWARD: ELLIE ASPHAR’S CAREER TRANSITION

13
Jul

Former jockey Ellie Asphar is appreciating her new position as cadet harness steward.

Asphar swapped codes after her riding career ended abruptly and all too soon.

The only clue to Asphar’s previous role is the riding bag and jockey silks she has stashed away at home.

Reluctantly, Asphar couldn’t plan her own exit from racing, her fate sealed after copping nasty facial injuries in a track accident.

Asphar regrets she can no longer ride in races again, but the medical advice against her returning was too compelling.

“I had an accident in October last year and pretty much broke my face,” Asphar told The Races WA.

“I had an orbital blowout in my eye and had to get a plate put in after developing double vision in my peripherals.

“I also had a broken cheekbone and a broken eye socket.

“I have a plate on my eyebrow and a plate just next to my nose near my cheek.

“I also broke my nose and they put that back together as well.

“They thought the double vision would clear itself eventually, but I had complications.

“All the fatty tissues around my eye disappeared and it sunk back in the socket.

“A second surgery is ahead of me and the double vision might be there forever or it might slowly get better.

“I don’t think it will get fixed before the operation if it does get fixed.

“I can deal with it on a normal day because it’s in my peripherals, but in a high pressure racing environment where I have to have quick looks over my shoulder, I can’t be second guessing on what I’m seeing.

“It’s a risk for me and my fellow riders and it’s just not worth it.”

The unwitting partner in Asphar’s sickening injury toll is an up and coming horse from the Simon Miller yard.

While Asphar nurses’ painful scars, this mare has gone on to record a healthy winning spree.

“It was the good horse that fell over, Amasenus, who won six in a row,” Asphar said.

“It’s bittersweet when she wins, but at the same time you think, oh, okay.

“It wasn’t her fault and these freak accidents do happen.

“Unfortunately, it was just bad circumstances, I suppose.”

Riding had been a great adventure for Asphar, but replacing what you cherish and replicating the same buzz is a challenge for any jockey or athlete.

How do you find another passion and how can you turn it into a career opportunity where you can make a living?

The pathway isn’t always clear for jockeys and Asphar admits her transition has not been without its challenges.

“It was definitely an upsetting decision,” Asphar said.

“At this time of the year I would normally be riding in Broome.

“I still have all my racing gear and I’m definitely not over it.

“I more miss it when I see the horses that I’ve ridden go around.”

While sad she can no longer ride competitively, Asphar is pleased she’s been able to retain a link to racing.

“The people in harness are a great bunch of people,” Asphar said.

“It’s nice to still be within the industry.

“The industry is more a lifestyle and not just a job.

“I’m enjoying it.”

Asphar rode her final race at Belmont last September, nine years after making her debut at Geraldton.

She booted home 173 winners from 2897 rides, her first came aboard Honor’s Secret at Esperance.

Asphar hopes her new appointment can provide motivation and guidance for other jockeys to follow.

“It’s good knowing that once riding is over it’s not the end,” Asphar said.

“You can still make a career in the same industry doing something else.

“You don’t have to go off and train.

“People often think when you finish as a jockey you become a trainer.

“But there are other branches out there.

“I was a lost little soul for a bit, but it’s good to have some direction.”

Julio Santarelli