NEW Year’s Day 2018 will always live long in the memory of Courtney Pace.
It was the day the 28-year-old from Bendigo scored her first win as a trainer.
The occasion at Merton was made all the more special by Pace, who is the reigning Victorian picnic premiership jockey, also being the winning rider and a part-owner of six-year-old gelding Fold.
Pace’s breakthrough win arrived in just her third race in the training ranks, with a horse formerly trained by her father Arthur Pace.
“We bought him at the yearling sales a few years ago and Dad thought he would be a good horse for me to kick-off training with,” she said.
“He’s come through pretty quickly with a win.
“The whole family owns him and he’s progressing quite nicely and putting a few wins together.”
Fold was narrowly relegated into second pacing at Merton last New Year’s Day and scored three wins from 12 starts in 2017 at Ararat, Mansfield and Yea.
Pace admitted some surprise at her first win coming so early in her training career.
“I’ve only got three horses in work and only him racing at this point in time,” she said.”
“He’s a stayer, so he has to build up.
“He started off this preparation at Yea over a short trip and then went to Kyneton and I thought, considering they ran him off his legs early, he didn’t run a bad race.
“So I was pretty confident on Monday.
“He’s a nice horse. Once he’s fit and over a bit of distance he’s easy to place, so I was rapt on the day.”
Pace said given the hardships often experienced by fledgling trainers, she rated her first win as a mentor more fondly than her first in the saddle, which arrived at a picnic meeting at Healesville in 2005.
The dual picnic premiership jockey has picked up from where she left off last season.
A double at Merton, following on from a pair of victories at Drouin on Boxing Day, has given Pace 13 wins for the season.
That puts her seven ahead of closest rival Reece Goodwin at roughly the halfway point of the picnic season.
Pace’s remarkable strike rate includes 12 seconds and 11 thirds from 52 rides this season.
She remains gracious for the support of her now fellow trainers on the picnic circuit.
“I‘ve been getting a real solid book of rides each week,” she said.
“All their horses are putting in. If they’re not winning they’re placing or thereabouts and not far away from a win.
“I’ll be trying hard to keep that lead. It’s just one of those things where you have to keep working hard for six months and keep looking forward.”