Kristy Bennett is preparing for the next phase of her career to unfold, a challenging period that can often bring junior riders undone.

A demanding and searching test for apprentice riders is the loss of their claim when they transition and compete as senior jockey’s.

Past history suggests it can be a nerve racking experience that quite often has led to talented riders regrettably leaving the sport.

Without the security of a claim to lean on when they come out of their time, apprentice jockeys can fall by the wayside.

With her apprenticeship about to end very soon, Bennett is determined not to follow that path and become a racing statistic.

She’s eager to make her next professional phase a smooth one and shore up her position as a senior jockey.

Without any bloodlines to racing, Bennett believes she’s invested too much time and hard work to just walk away from racing.

“I’ve had support from a lot of trainers over the years, people like Leanne Howlett, Chris Gilbert and even Paula Wagg,” Bennett said.

“They always have your corner and tell you that they understand it’s going to be hard, even other jockeys, but you have to keep showing up.

“You don’t want to let people down and after all the years it would be a shame to just give it up because it’s hard.

“One day it’s going to turn around and a lot of other jockeys have been through it.”

One of those jockeys was Peter Hall, a decorated rider who retired last year to take up a position as jockey coach for Racing and Wagering Western Australia (RWWA).

The dual Group 1 hero won a host of major races, but his early struggles as an apprentice gave Bennett motivation and a source of comfort.

“Peter Hall said he wasn’t much of an apprentice and didn’t get a lot of opportunities,” Bennett said.

“He went away and come back as a senior and eventually started riding for Mr Peters and had heaps of opportunities.

“Kyra Yuill struggled for a bit and came back to have 100 winners in a season.

“I don’t want to give up, that’s for sure.

“If I did, I feel like I would be letting a lot of people down.”

Staring down racing hardships and fighting back is not uncommon for Bennett.

As a 17-year-old she walked away from the sport for two years after struggling to cope with the demands of being an apprentice jockey.

After a stint as track work rider for Melbourne trainer Peter Moody, she came back home and rode her first Saturday winner on Patristic at Ascot.

Last year Bennett rode in her first Group event when host trainer David Harrison gave her the nod on Media Baron in the Asian Beau Stakes (1400m).

Bennett might not have enjoyed all the success she craved as an apprentice, but there is one particular meeting that stands out as memorable.

“I’m proud of never giving up and always showing up, but my biggest achievement to date would be my treble on Perth Cup Day,” Bennett said.

“That was pretty big and pretty massive.

“I had my partner, who is my biggest supporter and all his friends were there.”

While she continues to strive for metropolitan openings, Bennett is content to crisscross the state in search of regular rides.

“I’m happy to travel wherever,” said Bennett.

“You know the old saying: have saddle will travel.

“The money looks the same no matter where you go.

“In the country people support you and sometimes you enjoy it more because they get more out of it.”

Racing, as in most sports, has a plethora of armchair experts who are willing to vent their opinions on a range of matters.

Bennett’s had to digest her own fair share of disappointments and criticism along her journey, but says despite the external noise she is her own worst critic.

However, when she reflects on how far she’s progressed since her debut four years ago, she’s satisfied with her role in racing.

“I take my job a bit too personally which is a good and bad thing,” Bennett said.

“It’s only because I care about it so much.

“Sometimes you have to learn to use your weaknesses as a strength.

“At least it shows I’m passionate.

“I was just happy if I could make it to my first race meeting.

“I wasn’t sure how I was going to go and if I was good enough back then.

“But I have to remember how far I have come.

“I didn’t think I’d make it to race day, now I ride Saturdays.

“I’m pretty proud of myself for that.”

Julio Santarelli