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Newmarket jockey Grace McEntee reflects on a positive All-Weather campaign

Newmarket’s Grace McEntee is halfway to achieving her winter goals after winning the Racing Excellence Apprentice Hands and Heel All-Weather series.

The 19-year-old jockey made triumphing in the nine-race event her number one target for 2019/20, having finished second in last year’s 2019 Apprentice Hands and Heels Series behind Gavin Ashton.

Victories at Southwell, Chelmsford and Wolverhampton helped to get the job done, with McEntee – daughter of trainer Phil – finishing eight points clear of Elisha Whittington in second.

Grace McEntee picks up the award alongside her mother and father (31715627)
Grace McEntee picks up the award alongside her mother and father (31715627)

“When I set out my targets at the start of the winter, winning the Hands and Heels was the main one,” she said.

“It was so tight between three of us for a long time and it was a lot more competitive than in some other years. Every point was crucial and I am very happy to have won it.”

McEntee’s other objective for the All-Weather campaign was to finish in the top three of the Champion Apprentice Jockey standings.

Newmarket apprentice Jockey Grace McEntee Picture Mark Westley. (31715734)
Newmarket apprentice Jockey Grace McEntee Picture Mark Westley. (31715734)

George Rooke’s return of 24 wins means he looks to have the top prize wrapped up, but McEntee is second with 14 and with racing having halted until at least the end of April due to the coronavirus pandemic, it appears she has hit another target.

“It has gone so well on the All-Weather. I have had more winners than ever before,” she added.

“I have got a lot more confidence, I now believe I can do it and the horses can sense that – they run for you.

“There have been a lot of rides for my dad which has been fantastic, and he is always going to support me regardless.

“But other trainers are now giving me opportunities on some real chances. It shows people are thinking that I am worth a shot and when it pays off with winners it is so rewarding.

“And I should also mention the British Racing School and the help they have given me, especially my coach Michael Tebbutt.”

While the pandemic has caused uncertainty as to when the Flat season will actually get under way, McEntee is looking forward to getting out on the turf.

There are no major hopes, but she is keen to build upon the confidence and momentum she has built up over recent months.

“I just need to keep the ball rolling and keep those outside rides coming,” she said.

“It is just about taking every opportunity that comes my way and making the most of it – there is no specific target or hopes.

“On the turf last year I rode for my dad but I did not get many outside chances. The more I can get of those this year, the better.”

Meanwhile, for dad Phil, he has been able to view Grace’s success from two viewpoints.

She is the go-to jockey at Phil’s Racefield Stables base on Hamilton Road, and he could not be more proud of her development and achievements.

“It is double edged for me as a father and a employer,” he said.

“She has had a great winter and had plenty of support from other trainers which is fantastic – she deserves it. Grace has developed a lot and she is starting to believe in herself. We are very proud of her.”