Coast jockey's fairytale return to the saddle
HORSE RACING: When Sunshine Coast jockey Tiffani Brooker thrust the Gatton Cup into the air, her smile couldn't have been more deserving.
It was a fairytale end to Saturday's 2000m race, where Brooker, after an 11-month hiatus, guided her mount Travistee to victory.
The group-three winning jockey, who turns 26 on Thursday, had just one ride at the Lockyer Valley Turf Club - one of her most important rides to date.
Last year, Brooker was sidelined with a back injury that created extreme pain, blurred vision and bad headaches.
It stemmed from a fall back in February, 2018, where she sprained her lower spine.
But when Sunshine Coast trainer Paul Jenkins asked Brooker to jockey Travistee in the Gatton Cup, she didn't think twice.
"She's (Travistee) got a bit of attitude, a typical female, Brooker said.
"But she's a classy horse and she knew what she was doing on Saturday.”
Brooker admitted there was pre-race nerves, but once the combination entered the barrier and the gates flew open, it was another day at the track.
"I think knowing the horse and Paul really helped,” she said.
Brooker almost stepped away from racing during her injury process, saying she had thoughts of pursuing different career pathways.
"It did take longer than I thought,” she said. "But I still had that drive and ambition to get back to where I was.
"I'm so glad to be back in the saddle, to come along to the race day and the support I received has been amazing. I'm incredibly humbled.”
The Gatton Cup formed the final leg of Racing Queensland's winter provincial stayers' series, earning Travistee a barrier in the $100,000 final at Ipswich on June 16.
Jenkins said he would nominate the mare in both the final and the Ipswich Cup, and decide on the weightings.
The former New Zealand trainer has worked with Brooker for a number of years and said the victory was even sweeter given the run of events.
"It was really for Tiff to be able to ride the horse,” he said. "She's tough, but she's a worker too.”
Jenkins also had a win at the Sunshine Coast on Friday with stablemate Love Squirrels.
"When you've only got a team of half a dozen, to have a couple winners on the weekend is no mean feat,” Jenkins said.