She copped criticism for being too light in the amateur ranks, tried her hand for eight years as a trainer and is now a 38-year-old apprentice jockey with a burning ambition to be the best.
Sue Bigg is a little lady with a heart like Phar Lap and, if hard work and a relentless drive for success is any indication, she will make it to the top of her chosen profession.
Apprenticed to Gunnedah trainer Joseph Craig, she also rides work for Graham Shields and Gavin Groth and, most importantly, dons the silks on race day.
A love for thoroughbred racing has been with her since a child and while she never really contemplated being a professional jockey, she admits life has a “funny way of working itself out”.
“I wanted to ride in the amateur ranks at picnics but I copped plenty of criticism for being so light,” Bigg said.
“Riding at 48kg meant I had to lump plenty of lead around.
“In my late twenties I decided to give training a crack and worked a team of horses at home in Attunga and floated them for fast work to Tamworth Racecourse.
“While I enjoyed training, my passion was riding, so that’s what I decided to do,” she said.
Bigg joined the Lesley Jeffriess stable in Tamworth as an apprentice but, after 41 rides, suffered a major setback when a horse she working jumped the running rail, tossing her to the turf.
She badly broke her wrist in the fall and was sidelined for seven months before returning with Joseph Craig at
It is no trouble for her to work up to 20 horses of a morning at Riverside and, from 71 rides now, she has posted nine wins, five seconds and nine thirds.
“If you want something badly enough, there’s only one way to get it – work hard,” Bigg said.
“I wake to my alarm every morning at 4.15am, arrive at Riverside at 5.30am and start raking out stalls, tending to the horses and riding work for four different trainers.
“It’s nothing for me to work 20 horses on a Wednesday or Saturday morning when the grass is open for fast work,” she said.
Bigg’s partner Derryn Mullens trains a team of five horses at Attunga and also regularly floats his charges to Gunnedah for work.
Riverside (Gunnedah) trainers Craig (nine in work), Groth (16 in work) and Shields (three in work) are all quick to praise Bigg’s dedication and will to succeed.
Groth has only been using her trackwork services for the past month and is looking to give her three rides at next Monday’s Gunnedah TAB meeting.
“She is very talented with horses, is not afraid of hard work and aims up every morning, rain, hail or shine,” Groth said.
“I really like the fact she gets to know the horses at trackwork and that’s why I’ll be giving her plenty of opportunities to perform on raceday,” he said.
Bigg doesn’t mind being labelled the oldest apprentice jockey in the country and is not afraid to take advice from the best in the business.
When she started as an apprentice, she had to ride in 20 barrier trials at Rosehill Racecourse.
Champion Sydney hoops Hugh Bowman and Corey Brown gave her plenty of advice, which Bigg says has been a “true godsend”.
“Both jockeys gave me advice on handling horses in the starting stalls and how hard to go during races at crucial times over different distances,” Bigg said.
“I admire both jockeys and I really hung on every word they had to say while I was in Sydney,” she said.
Bigg’s hard work at Gunnedah every morning, and afternoon, has rewarded her with a full book of rides at next Monday’s TAB meeting.
She will climb aboard three of Groth’s charges, ride one for her boss Joseph Craig and two for Mullens.
Today she is in Glen Innes and, at time of writing, she had rides in the first two races and one in the last aboard Groth’s Leige Law.