Zimbabwe’s O’Meara Rusike enhanced her status as one of the rising stars in the world of horse racing after clinching a memorable victory in the inaugural OKAPI Ladies International race at the horse racing spectacle L’Ormarins King’s Plate on Saturday.
The event, which was held in Cape Town, is formerly known as the Queen’s Plate.
Twenty-four-year-old Rusike won over 1200m aboard Pacific Green, bred and owned by Drakenstein Stud and trained by Justin Snaith.
Rusike, who works as a work rider in the UK for Ralph Beckett Racing, also took part in a similar event, the Magnolia Cup in the UK, where she made history as the first woman of African descent to take part in the race.
She was invited by the organiser of the OKAPI race personally after being her brilliant show in the Magnolia Cup.
Rusike was exposed to the equestrian world when her adoptive father, Perseverance Ganga, shared with her an advert placed in her country’s local newspaper, the Zimbabwean Jockey Academy.
At the time she was still in high school and her father asked if she would be interested in the profession.
Rusike then visited the academy and ended up enrolling for three years. She sat on her very first horse at the age of 18.
The Zimbabwean academy has since closed down due to financial difficulties but Rusike’s horse racing dream remained alive when she was offered a place at the South African Jockey Academy before making the move to the UK, where she currently works as a work rider.
A work rider is a person who rides horses on a stud farm, exercises and takes care of them but does not race them. A jockey can do the same as a work rider but they actually race the horses. Jockeys are also supposed to stick to a strict diet to control their weight, something work riders do not have to worry about.
“My dream was to become a successful jockey and one of the top ranktop-ranking in the world. [However] I took another path, which was a better path in my opinion. There is no pressure, I like working under pressure but not every single day. ,” she said in a recent interview with the Sowetan newspaper in South Africa.
She says though she will stay on at Ralph Beckett for the time being, she is thinking about becoming an assistant trainer in the US in the near future.