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Shakira Bailey lands in the perfect place in the Sunshine State

Tue 7 May 2024

By Jordan Gerrans

It is perfectly fitting that apprentice hoop Shakira Bailey made her race riding debut on the eve of the 2024 Queensland Racing Carnival.

The rich winter period of the Sunshine State’s racing season is the entire reason the 21-year-old Victorian now resides in the northern state.

Bailey travelled north with Group-level galloper Young Werther around this time last year to look after the horse for Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Danny O'Brien.

Like many visiting trainers to Queensland over the winter, O'Brien stabled his stayer at Barry Lockwood’s Eagle Farm barn.

Just a short time later, the former high-level competitive barrel racer was calling the respected Brisbane trainer ‘boss’ as he took her under his wing as an apprentice.

The experienced Lockwood handed his emerging jockey her first race ride at Kilcoy last Friday afternoon.

While it was not a winning debut, the light-weight hoop was beaming to be at the races after being knocked back from the Victorian apprentice program a couple of times.

Bailey and It's Raining Again went around in the QTIS Three-Year-Old Benchmark 60 Handicap over 1200 metres on Friday, finishing just under seven lengths behind the winner.

“It was a good experience – I held my nerves together pretty well,” the young rider said.

“He was just a little slow away and if you are slow away on that track then you can’t really dig up or anything like that because it is such a tight track.

“He was a really good horse for me to have my first ride on, with him being a sit and steer horse.

“As a horse, he does everything on his own and travels beautifully. He was a really good horse for me to have my first ride on.”

The three-year-old gelding had been a regular partner of Bailey’s at track work in her time in Queensland so he guided her in her debut.

O'Brien’s Young Werther had three runs in feature races during the winter of 2023 with his best finish being third in the Group 3 Tatt’s Cup over 2400 metres.

Despite Young Werther not walking away with a major prize, it all worked out perfectly for his travelling companion.

“Luckily enough I was stabled with Barry and I figured out that I can do my apprenticeship up here and kick off earlier than I could in Victoria,” she said.

“I ended up becoming Barry’s apprentice here and went from there.

“I always wanted to move up here anyway and now being stabled at Barry’s is probably the best opportunity for me and has opened a lot of doors for me.”

Bailey looked after the son of Tavistock’s track work as well as everything else needed to keep him up to the mark for his assignments.

Not long before the Queensland trip Bailey was still a teenager.

It took plenty of faith from the powerful Victorian barn to send a top galloper away with the up-and-comer.

“Danny put a lot of trust in me to send me up here on my own,” she said.

“I looked after him and made sure I was doing everything right.”

Bailey was always destined for a career in racing after growing up around the barrel racing scene and getting a full-time job as a stable hand once she stepped away from her high school studies.

The fast and furious sport of barrel racing prepared her nicely for a tilt as a professional jockey.

She travelled away interstate from Victoria to compete in the sport at rodeos as a teenager.

“It was always going to be something to do with horses for me,” she said.

“Once I started riding track work and getting more serious about my career then I sort of had to do less barrel racing.

“Barrel racing makes you quite competitive as well as liking to go fast.”

As well as Lockwood, trainers Lauren Abbott, Desleigh Forster and Lawrie Mayfield-Smith, among others, helped Bailey in her pursuit of going through the number of trial rides required to be cleared to ride on race day.