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Could Sammy Jo Bell be the new Tony McCoy?

By Joanne Seeney

Published 06/08/2015

Jockey Sammy Jo Bell
Jockey Sammy Jo Bell
Sammy Jo (right) enjoying a day out as a punter

Meet Sammy Jo Bell, the young jockey who is hoping to emulate her idol AP McCoy and become one of Northern Ireland's top riders.

The 24-year-old apprentice from Templepatrick, Co Antrim, is proving her worth in the winning stakes with great style.

She's having the best season of her racing career, with 24 wins under her belt.

She has managed to win more than £100,000 in prize money -much to the trainers' and owners' delight.

Sammy Jo is preparing for the race of her life this Saturday when she rides in the Dubai Duty Free Shergar Cup at Ascot.

She has seized her opportunity following an injury to one of the other top women jockeys, Cathy Gannon.

"It's amazing to have been selected and it's the biggest thing so far in my career," Sammy Jo told the Belfast Telegraph.

"But I won't be told until tomorrow what horse I'm riding so I will have to wait and see but I will be glad to ride any horse.

"I'm just so glad to have been selected."

While some comparisons may be drawn between Sammy Jo, who is a flat jockey, and the famous AP McCoy from Moneyglass, a former jump jockey, because they are both from Co Antrim, the reality is that Sammy Jo has a long way to go before she could even hope of emulating McCoy's fantastic career.

So far she has ridden in 153 races since the start of the season.

While she has enjoyed her biggest number of wins this year, she would need to amass 42 victories before she could be classed as a professional jockey.

If she does reach the very top, she would be one of a very small number of women who race at that level in the UK.

AP has an outstanding record that only elite jockeys plying their trade at the very pinnacle of the sport could realistically target.

He is her idol and she said: "I was nominated for a sportswoman of the month award in which the public can vote and I nearly fell off my horse when I saw a tweet from AP on Twitter encouraging people to support me."

Known as Samantha on the race card, she prefers to be called Sammy Jo.

She spent time with trainer Jim Bolger - who McCoy also worked with initially - and Kevin Prendergast before joining Richard Fahey in Yorkshire two years ago.

She was motivated to come to Britain by the success achieved by Hayley Turner and Cathy Gannon, two jockeys whom she finds inspirational. Sammy Jo now lives in Malton, outside York, but travels extensively throughout England to take part in race meetings.

A visit home to Templepatrick is a treat for the single woman who is constantly on the go.

"I really don't get much chance to get home until after the season ends and then I love to go home and just chill out," she said.

She's now in her fifth season having left home at 17 to pursue her riding career after attending Ballyclare High School.

"It's the best season I've ever had," said Sammy Jo as she raced in her car to a meeting in Pontefract.

"Things just seemed to go really well for me and I've had plenty of rides and loads of winners. That's what I wanted to happen and it has and I have surprised myself at how much I want to win."

She says she was encouraged to ride by her parents for "as long as I can remember," having been taught to ride at the age of four.

Belfast Telegraph

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