Luckless Alysha Collett gives Sydney a go as Singapore lockdown means another setback

Alysha Collett was enjoying a good season in Singapore before racing was halted earlier this month. Photo: Trish Dunell

Talented Kiwi jockey Alysha Collett, the young rider whose career looked to be finally back on track after the horrific fall in October 2018 that kept her out of action for nine months, is putting a brave face on another setback that has hit her up-and-down career. 

The 26-year-old, who needed complicated spinal surgery after the incident at Kranji in Singapore, has become the latest Singapore-based rider to be forced to take a hiatus from the jurisdiction, with racing there currently on hold because of coronavirus. 

Collett, who was the seventh highest-ranked female jockey in the world less than three years ago, before her first stint in Singapore (where races don't count towards the TRC Global Rankings), was due fly to Sydney on Sunday as she looks to ride there for the time being to derive some sort of income, although she hasn’t given up on a return to Singapore once racing is back up and running.

Initially one of the nations that contained the virus better than most, Singapore has seen cases soar beyond 12,000 in recent days, with the majority of cases being foreign workers living in confined dormitory accommodation.

“On Tuesday, when we hit the two-week mark for the month lockdown, the Singapore Government extended it for another month because the cases on average were about 1,000 a day, but we’ve only had about 20 cases of community transmission a day,” Collett said. “I think they’re containing it well enough, but the whole country is in lockdown for at least another six weeks.”

With not a lot of room for spelling horses in Singapore, light training continues at Kranji, but the services of jockeys have not been required. “Because of animal welfare issues, horses are still getting out of their boxes and going for walks, swimming and slow work,” Collett said.

“Every trainer is allowed a percentage of their workforce to keep the horses happy and doing something. I haven’t ridden a horse in three weeks since the last race meeting. Jockeys are in lockdown along with the rest of the country and are deemed non-essential workers.”

Racing in Singapore has been suspended until June 1, but, with horses unable to undertake fast work or trial, that resumption date could come under further pressure depending on the containment of the virus.    

Collett, a member of one of New Zealand's most famous racing families, will follow in the footsteps of riders Michael Rodd, Patrick Moloney and Daniel Moor as she heads to Australia while Singapore racing is on hold. “We are blessed that we are able to go over to other countries and ride,” Collett said. “A couple of us were granted leave that has been approved by the Turf Club. We just leave until Singapore racing is back up and running again.

“I am not too sure what the South African jockeys are doing. They find out in a few weeks if South Africa is racing again, but the likelihood of them going is high as well, just to keep an income. 

“Otherwise we are potentially three months stranded without work and we don’t get the government assistance, which I completely understand. They’ve got to look after their own people.”

Enjoying a good season

Collett has been buoyed by the positivity of a number of the Singapore-based trainers, while the Singapore Turf Club has pushed back some of its feature races. “Every trainer that I have spoken with has actually been really positive,” she said. “People like Donna Logan and Riccardo le Grange have taken a positive approach and they are ready to go when they get the go-ahead. 

“The Turf Club made an announcement yesterday that the Lion City Cup and Kranji Mile will be run at a later date now, so that is encouraging for us.”

Collett was enjoying a good season in Singapore before racing ceased earlier this month, sitting ninth on the premiership. “I was getting good support and I was really looking forward to the big races coming up,” she said. “I had some nice mounts in those races, but you can’t do much about that. Things were tracking along well.”

The 26-year-old is looking forward to returning to Sydney, a jurisdiction she has ridden in previously and where her jockey brother Jason plies his trade, alongside his partner, trainer Clare Cunningham. 

“I still have to do the two weeks in isolation when I arrive in Sydney and Racing NSW have requested that I do extra isolation plus have a couple of tests to say that I am negative to Covid-19. I am definitely okay with that. The isolation will be boring but it is just nice to be in the process to potentially be back riding again.”

With Jason Collett restricted to solely riding in the metropolitan area, there could be an opportunity for his younger sister to ride horses for Cunningham that race in a region outside of the city. “I haven’t discussed yet with a manager as to where I would be going yet, I am just waiting for a license to come through and then I will go from there,” Collett said. 

The G1-winning rider has kept in touch with parents Richard and Judy, who train at Pukekohe in New Zealand, and are soon to be back training once restrictions at home come off on Tuesday. 

“They’re lucky they’ve got the farm and some animals. My sister Tash and brother in-law Andrew [Calder, jockey] have been there with the kids, so it sounds pretty full-on. They said they have been a bit bored in lockdown and a trip to the supermarket is quite exciting.”

Collett enjoyed a stint working with New Zealand racing broadcaster Trackside when she was home recovering from her injuries last year, but she said opportunities on that front had been limited, other than helping her partner, race caller Luke Marlow. 

“While I was suspended, I had one night that I did on TV, doing some selections from the ring, but that was just a one off as Luke was short of a person,” Collett said. “There hasn’t been many opportunities in the media for me up here, but it was a good experience back in New Zealand and it was something I enjoyed

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